1. Prepare mentally
More than anything, you will need to be mentally focused for the 50 to 80 hours each week that you’ll spend learning to code. This time will consist of class, labs, homework, and team projects. While you can’t predict all major life events, you can do your best to plan around them. To the best of your ability, ensure that all personal affairs are in order before applying for the course.
2. Get support from family and friends
This is a huge undertaking, and a major time commitment. Unlike being a college student or working in a full-time job, you will not have as much free time as you had before. It’s critical that you have the support of your family and friends, and that they know you’re going to go MIA for a few weeks. The more that you can prep them for this adjustment, the better. It will allow you to be as focused as possible for the full timespan.
3. Plan your finances
Determining how you are going to pay for the course prior to applying will make your transition smoother and be one less thing to worry about during your studies. Outside of covering the costs of the course, you’ll need to factor in parking, transportation, food, laptop, housing, and other necessary expenses. If you are unsure of how to budget, reach out to the program that you are applying for and they can fill you in on what to expect.
4. Research the city
If the program is in a new city, do plenty of research! The sticker shock of moving to a new area can be an adjustment, especially if you are moving to a booming ‘tech hub.’ The cost of living in these areas is much higher than the national average. Research apartment costs, average meal prices, commute times, and transportation options. If you are considering staying in the area long term, take a good look at the job market, as well.
5. Seek out alumni
Connect with alumni to find out what to expect from the course. There are several ways to get in touch with former students, whether through the school directly or connecting with them via social media. Many students also write blog articles detailing their experiences, which can provide a wealth of behind-the-scenes information.
6. Find out who the instructors are (and what their street cred is)
One of the most vital areas to investigate is who the teachers are. Don’t be afraid to ask what type of work and teaching experience they have. Their knowledge of current technology and how well they’re able to work with a variety of learning styles will have a huge impact on what you get out of the course.
7. Ask about the other resources available to students
Find out what the workspace is like. Ask for a tour, inquire about how many hours of access you have to the building etc. If you need to provide your own computer, as well as what other supplies/ out of pocket expenses you can expect. It also never hurts to ask about any student discounts that you may qualify for.
8. Clearing your schedule for the workload
It is also important to not over-burden yourself with extracurricular activities during this time. Rest is important! Try to make your ‘not work’ hours as free as possible. This will allow your mind much needed time to decompress. As mentioned previously, many students work well into the evening. Expect to spend roughly 50 to 80 hours per week working. This dedicated time allows you to completely focus on your career transition.
9. Consider the school’s ideal candidate
When you’re applying, it’s important to know what exactly the school is looking for and what you’re expecting to get out of a particular program. That being said, not all ‘code schools’ are the same. Some are really geared towards beginners and less on the career development, whereas other programs are focused on the latter. If you’re still in the beginning stages of your studies, it is imperative that you research what courses cover, i.e. are things going to be over your head, or is this course material below at your experience level? The more research that you do, such as speaking to instructors, former students, and reviewing course syllabi, the better prepared you will be to make a decision that is a mutual fit.
10. Decide where you expect to be at the end of this program
One final (and, potentially, the most important) point to consider is where you see yourself at the end of this program, and where you want to be. Is this just a launching point to propel you into more training? Do you want to be career-ready? Having realistic time and financial estimates in place can help to keep you motivated and on track throughout the entire process!