Many code schools are interested in your profile as it appears on paper: a resume, cover letter, and your online presence (LinkedIn, GitHub, etc). These schools will make their decision based on an in-person (or Skype) interview, where they can get a feel for why you are choosing code school, what drives you, and how well you will interview for your first job in tech. Others will ask you for a small, creative project to set yourself apart from the other candidates.
Learning how to tout your own awesomeness in an in-person interview is difficult enough, but committing it to video? Writing an essay? It turns out that the code school application is similar to a college application: your extra-curricular activities matter. The creative component of these applications should not be considered optional (Hackbright Academy even promises that a silly video submission won’t hurt your chances of admission). Code schools are looking for people who are passionate about something, and the creative component is your opportunity to show it off.
Do you play video games? Board games? Fantasy football? When I was preparing my applications, I listed out all the things I had done and enjoyed in recent memory. I enjoy curling, bridge, and tap dancing. I love to read, and to tinker with tutorials. Since I couldn’t fill an entire video or essay on any one of these topics, I decided to create an infographic. Whatever you spend your non-working hours thinking about is worth talking about.
I looked for adjectives for all the great adventures I have had, I grabbed images that illustrated the fun things in my life. I was getting pretty good at using GIMP, so I picked the five most interesting things, slapped them into colored bands, and added brief descriptions. I threw the adjectives at the bottom, and hit the save button. I was embarrassed by it then, and I am a little red-faced about it now. It was fun to put together, and I was pretty sure it would die a quick death once I did or did not get into code school.
Break it down into components
Dev Bootcamp asks their applicants to create a video showing how they would teach a pet topic. The topic is your choice, so pick something that stands out. The people reviewing the video are not looking to learn a new video game skill from you — what they are looking for is how well you communicate, and how much you empathize with your student. Break the task down into chunks that any reasonable person could follow. Practice with a friend or family member before creating your video. The content is not as important as the process.
Even if it is optional, it isn’t
If your code school does not require a creative component to the application, or if they say that it is optional, do it anyway. Whenever you have the opportunity to do more than was asked for, you should. It will demonstrate your willingness to go the extra mile, not only for the application but in your learning as well.
I found my infographic as I was reviewing my own application materials. Surely anything you put together could be more awesome than that:
However you can express yourself, do it. Even if you feel that it is embarrassing or corny. Do something interesting. Better than that, be something interesting. Do something unusual and then write about it. Take a class. Join a sports team. Take up a hobby — knitting, bridge, anything where you have to learn patterns or rules.
Heck, if you enjoy the exercise so much, there is a code school that is dedicated to teaching people how to use technology to create art.