So You Want to Go to Code School

A Guide to Choosing a Code School and Succeeding When You Get There

What if You Don’t Get Into Code School the First Time?

I didn’t get into code school the first time I applied. I set my sights on a program but didn’t make the first cut. Even though I had some programming experience, my application did not stand out enough to score me an interview. I was disappointed, but took advantage of the opportunity to firm up my financial footing and beef up my application. If your heart is set on a particular school, city, and program, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get in the first time you apply.

Work on your GitHub profile

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Code school isn’t the only way to learn how to code, and downtime between application cycles is the perfect opportunity to learn and practice. After all, how do you know if you will enjoy coding as a career if you haven’t ever tried it? If you don’t already have one, get yourself a GitHub account. GitHub is an online repository for code that uses Git version control to track changes. You will be using these or similar tools every day as a software developer, so you can’t be familiar enough with these tools.

Every time you go through a tutorial, dabble in a new language, or start a new project, you should add your source code to GitHub. You may be shy about posting unfinished code on the internet, but no one will be looking until you are applying to code school (or your first job).

Take an online course

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Coursera, EdX, and Stanford Online offer free learn-to-program or expand-your-skill-set courses. Taking some of these online offerings will not only beef up your application by showing your dedication to learning to code, but it will also help you be more prepared for the program. You can use these tools to learn programming in a new language, how to process handle Big Data, or create a video game. The forums will connect you with the community at large, and there may be a meetup where students get together in person to watch the videos or work through problems.

Work on your soft skills

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Your code school application should contain more than just code. The admissions people look for well-rounded applications. Learning to code is like learning any other new skill, and if you haven’t done that in a while, it is time to flex your brain by picking up something new. Find something to do that isn’t coding and take a deep dive. Try a workshop, or an art class. Join a sports team, or Meetup about a topic that seems interesting. Your admissions interview will go much better if you can talk about a time when you took a risk and it paid off – or, if it didn’t, what you learned from the experience. If you have dozens of incomplete projects in your wake, pick one and finish it. Showing that you have a track record of starting and finishing a project will help: past success is the biggest indicator of future success.

Get in touch with the school

Talk to people who are involved in your code school’s community. The school itself may organize workshops, lectures, or tours. Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can to explore the curriculum and meet the teachers. You may get some helpful tips from teachers or former students on how to improve your application. Also, keep in mind that there are many schools available. Your first choice does not have to be your only choice. Explore other options and other schools.

Code school admissions is not a straightforward first-come-first-served process. Building a cohort of students takes consideration, and schools are looking for a variety of backgrounds, skill levels, and personalities. If you don’t get into code school the first time you apply, ask why! They may be able to give you some tips on how to further improve your application.