Hard-Hitting Coding Bootcamp Questions to Ask

Finding the one bootcamp that is in the best position to help you achieve your specific goals is a straightforward process. You ask hard-hitting question to get beyond the marketing noise and uncover the coding bootcamp's core values.

This chapter gives you a no-nonsense framework with precise questions and expected answers so you can evaluate your top coding bootcamps on the most important factors and compare them side-by-side.

How to Research Coding Bootcamps

After looking at all the websites, reading reviews and testimonials, it's time to get personal. Getting on the phone is - by far - the fastest way to filter out all the marketing and sales noise from the different coding bootcamps and get useful information. Especially when you're asking hard-hitting questions that cut to the core of what the program’s values are.

For the majority of coding bootcamps getting on the phone with somebody to get your questions answered will be pretty simple: go to the specific website and enter your email or contact information. Somebody will reach out to you shortly.

Once you're on the phone, most coding bootcamps will give you a highly polished sales script, focusing on the best aspects of their program with the single goal of having you sign-up for their program. That's to be expected.

Listening to the sales script is often times not very helpful, especially when you want to compare different coding bootcamps. Obviously, each sales representative is likely to highlight different aspects that often times focus on things that don't matter (read Chapter 6 to understand what really matters).

This means you should focus your energy on asking relevant questions and receiving good answers, rather than listen to a sales script. Doing so will help you make a good decision and compare the bootcamps more objectively.

This means you need to complete some pre-work before jumping on the phone. Before scheduling your first call, write down a list of questions that you want to have answered during the talk. Put those question into a document and make sure you write down the answers in detail so you remember them later on.

Underneath your own list of questions, you should include our set of 9 hard-hitting questions that you can find below.

High Impact Questions For Choosing a Coding Bootcamp

It's simple: Asking detailed questions, leads to insightful answers!

Below you find a list of high impact question to ask during your conversation with a coding bootcamp. We selected each question carefully and made sure they're hitting directly at what really matters. To prepare you better we also included explanations on why it is important to ask each question and what kind of answers you need to hear.

Things to Remember:

Take Notes

During your phone call make sure you take notes on all the answers to your questions. Good notes will help you make smart decisions and help you compare several coding bootcamps. In addition, write down how you've felt during the conversation. For example, write down “I felt good because, I had a really honest and open conversation with [Name of the person you talked to]”.

Don’t feel bad about asking hard questions

If you haven’t asked direct questions below before, you may feel a bit rude or pushy. This is absolutely ok, and you shouldn’t worry about feeling a bit uncomfortable about asking them. After all, you're about to spend a considerable amount of money.

Most importantly

Drive the conversation by asking the following high impact questions.

Will I be prepared to achieve my personal and professional goal of ... ?

Why this question matters

Achieving your personal and profession coding goals by participating in a coding bootcamp is what should matter the most to you. By explicitly stating your coding goal and asking this question, you'll find out rather quickly if their program is going to prepare you to achieve your goals or not. If the coding bootcamp will not prepare you to achieve your coding goals, nothing else matters. You can move on to the next coding bootcamp.

What you want to hear

After explaining your coding goal in detail, you should hear a definitive "yes", followed up with stories about specific students and graduates that achieved similar goals than you through the coding bootcamp you're talking with.

Do your students work together on group projects where they build an advanced web application as a team?

Why this question matters

Working and coding collaboratively with other students will give you a real-world insight into how today’s top development teams work and interact with each other. Missing out on a collaborative coding experience, where you team up with multiple students is a big loss and makes you less competitive to any hiring manager.

What you want to hear

You want to hear a clear “yes” to this answer. Make sure you get a good understanding of how complex the web application that gets created by the team really is. You want to hear that complex logic and algorithms are necessary to build the application. Anything like a Reddit or Instagram clone is too simple and won't impress any hiring managers or professional web developers.

Can I talk to my coding instructor or code mentor before I sign up?

Why this question matters

You’re making a big decision about which coding bootcamp to attend. The biggest driver of coding bootcamp quality and student success is a top-notch coding instructor. Make sure you talk to your instructor and coding mentor.

What you want to hear

Talking to your instructor/mentor will allow you to vet two important things:

  1. Make sure you personally connect with your instructor and you feel like s/he can teach you valuable skills.
  2. You’ll want to determine her technical skills.

CAUTION

If you are unable to talk to your instructor before signing up, you’re paying for a black-box. Don’t make that mistake.

When did you, personally, learn how to code?

Why this question matters

Trusting a non-coding sales or admissions person, when it comes to telling you how to learn to code doesn't sound like a smart idea. Make sure the person who helps you make a decision has a technical background.

What you want to hear

You want to hear that the person who you're talking with, actually has technical skills. If they don't, ask to talk to an instructor or someone with more technical skills before you continue your research process.

Do I have direct access to my instructor or code mentor when I need help?

Why this question matters

Everyone is unique, so having direct access to an experienced code mentor and instructor to get personalized support will help you learn more, faster. Also, you shouldn't invest all that money to be stranded without technical help for several days because of scheduling conflicts.

What you want to hear

You want to hear that you’ll have plenty of individual and direct access to technical people that know how to code and are able to explain technical concepts. This means, you should have your code mentors email address and also get additional technical support via additional channels (online forum, office hours, etc.)

How many coding instructors are working full-time, with the main responsibility of teaching students?

Why this question matters

It’s hard to believe, but plenty of coding bootcamps don't employ any full-time staff who know how to code. They save costs by hiring part-time developers to teach their students. This technical skills "gap" leaves students hanging when they need help the most and clearly identifies coding bootcamps who don't seem to value their students education enough.

What you want to hear

You want to hear that the bootcamp has full-time coding instructors and mentors. Having a 1-on-1 code mentorship set-up is ideal. If 1-on-1 mentorship is not available, get a ratio of full-time coding instructor employees per student.

  • A ratio below 1:10 is good
  • A ratio of 1:30 is average
  • Having only part-time mentors and code instructors is the worst possible situation.

Can you tell me how much time - in percent - students are spending on soft-skills, high-level technical overview and hands-on coding?

Why this question matters

Coding is best learned by doing. This means that hands-on coding needs to be the highest priority focus in a bootcamp that should get over 80 percent of the available time. If hands-on coding doesn’t get at least 80 percent of the attention, you’re very likely to not receive the necessary skills to be ready for the real world.

What you want to hear

You want to hear that the time distribution between the three areas breaks down as follows:

  • 85% hands-on coding
  • 10% technical overview
  • 5% soft skills

What starting salaries do your job seeking students get in their job offer letters?

Why this question matters

Many coding bootcamps receive a 10 percent referral fee when you accept a job with one of their hiring partners. This makes your own incentives - get a high paying job - and the coding bootcamps incentives - get you any job - misaligned. A $10,000 difference in yearly salary means a lot to your quality of life, but very little ($1,000 in referral fees) to the coding bootcamp.

What you want to hear

Hearing anything under $65k/year as a web developer is a bad sign. Fancy co-founder titles and equity don’t count at all. You need to pay your bills, first and foremost, so don't drink the startup kool-aid.

Have you ever rejected students who wanted to be part of your coding bootcamp?

Why this question matters

People have different personal and professional coding goals. A coding bootcamp can't cater to everyone and some students are just not a good match, especially their goals don’t align with what the coding bootcamp has to offer.

What you want to hear

You need to hear a clear “Yes” to this answer. Followed by an explanation that some students have the wrong expectations and goals and won’t get what they want out of the program.

You should have 9 clear answers to the following hard-hitting questions:

  • Will I be prepared to achieve my personal and professional goal of ... ?
  • Can I talk to my coding instructor or code mentor before I sign up?
  • When did you, personally, learn how to code?
  • Do I have direct access to my instructor or code mentor when I need help?
  • How many coding instructors are working full-time, with the main responsibility of teaching students?
  • Can you tell me how much time - in percent - students are spending on soft-skills, high-level technical overview and hands-on coding?
  • What starting salaries do your job seeking students get in their job offer letters?
  • Have you ever rejected a students that wanted to be part of your coding bootcamp?
  • Do your students work together on a group project where they build a real web application together?
Chapter 7Alec Babala