Often, students ask early in the admissions process why they should pick one school over another, or if they should choose a code school over a four-year program.
Schools show the effectiveness of their program in a lot of different ways—everything from student testimonials and placement numbers to money-back guarantees and average starting salaries.
These are all good things! Schools should have a successful student body, with graduates who are doing well in their careers.
But you’re not looking for an education method that worked for someone else. You’re looking for a school that works for you, your budget, your schedule, your goals, and your learning style.
Here are eight things to consider as you figure out which school is best for you.
1. Read the Fine Print
Read the fine print on everything—money-back guarantees, placement stats, code of conducts, passing requirements, etc. If a school has a job-offer or money-back guarantee, ask what you will have to do during or after the program to stay eligible. Will you be able to realistically meet those requirements while also conducting an effective job search?
With placement stats, are all student numbers being reported on, or is it only a portion of the school’s student body? Is the school upfront about who the numbers include and exclude?
2. Review the Curriculum
The topics covered in a specific class are often available on the school’s course pages. Compare this list (especially in advanced-level classes) with job posts to see if you’ll be learning topics that are in demand in the tech industry.
A lot of schools across the US teach courses on the same languages and topics. While this indicates what skills are in demand, look past course titles and see if the course concepts, frameworks, and tools are in line with what employers look for.
One of the most crucial aspects to a strong software or coding program is whether the school is updating and advancing the curriculum to meet the demands of an evolving industry. Ask questions, like when was the curriculum last updated? How do you ensure your curriculum includes the latest trends in technology?
3. Consider the Teaching Methods
How much of your time in the program will be spent in lecture, and how much will be spent working with your peers? What is the teacher to student ratio? Are the instructors full time or part time? How accessible are the instructors? How much of your learning is self-directed? Are you being taught cookie-cutter techniques, or are you learning how to think more broadly about a problem and how to come up with multiple solutions?
Learning specific technologies and best practices is crucial—but you also need to learn how to learn. When you graduate, you won’t know how to do everything, but you should know how to troubleshoot, research, read documentation, and get the information you need. This skill is imperative if you want to stay up on an ever-evolving tech landscape.
At Code Fellows, we use a method called “stacked modules” in a classroom with a 1:6 ratio of instructional staff to students. Stacked modules mean students learn a new concept every day. Concepts build on each other, and proficiency in a specific subject is achieved much quicker. You are completely immersed in the environment that allows for a much quicker pace of learning and ensures knowledge retention.
4. Talk to Graduates
Read online reviews. Talk to graduates in person. Reach out to them on LinkedIn. Ask what their biggest struggles were, and how they overcame them.
Accelerated learning is not easy. Make sure you know what the student experience is like, and that it’s an environment and a pace you’re ready for. Talking to people who have been there will help you know what it will take to be successful.
At Code Fellows, we regularly post student stories, like those of Caleb, Morgan, and Kevin, on our blog to give you an idea of the student experience, and what it took for grads to land a job in the industry. You can also check out Course Report and SwitchUp, two platforms where graduates of programs across the country share their experiences.
5. Meet the Instructors
Many schools have events or panels with their instructors so prospective students can talk to the people they’ll be learning from. If you get the chance to attend an event with instructors, ask them about their backgrounds and why they like teaching the curriculum. An instructor’s enthusiasm for the topic can completely transform your learning experience.
At Code Fellows, our instructors are passionate about the concepts they teach, and are passionate about their own learning and growth. They are plugged into the industry to stay up on the latest changes in technology and provide the best education possible.
6. Check Out the Learning Environment
Get on campus! Are people sitting together, eating lunch together, and learning together? Do people seem to enjoy being there? The feel and energy of the campus speaks volumes for the kind of community you’ll experience.
7. Research the School’s Connection to the Industry
Schools that are actively involved in your city’s tech industry will teach the skills needed by the local market, and have a reputation you can leverage as you apply to jobs.
When you graduate, will you be able to tap into a network of alumni who are already working in your city? Will hiring managers nod when you say you graduated from X school, or will you get the dreaded, “…where?” response?
8. Ask About Non-technical Training and Support
What kind of support will you have after you graduate? Regardless of what path you choose, your learning and your success starts and ends with you, the effort you put in, and how seriously you take the program.
However, we know it’s a lot easier with additional support. Career coaching, alerts about open jobs, interview practice, and face-to-face opportunities with people in the industry are some of the additional help that schools provide to their grads.
For example, here at Code Fellows, our Career Transition Services provides students with over 40 hours of instruction and assignments to help them build their personal brand, network, and interpersonal skills. This training helps them become strong team members in the companies they join, and sets them up to become strong leaders in the tech industry.
After graduation, our Career Accelerator Program helps graduates prepare for and conduct their job search. We facilitate mentor drop-in hours, professional portfolio reviews, and mock interviews with hiring companies. We also provide opportunities for our graduates to connect with companies through Partner Power Hours, our Friday lecture series featuring guest speakers from tech companies in the area. We organize software testing workshops where students practice debugging software and logging issues, and industry networking events hosted at the offices of our partner companies.
When our graduates are ready to apply, they can create a profile on our Talent Portal, a platform designed to remove hiring company bias. They get customized job alerts for open positions, and can be connected with hiring companies and partner organizations.
Ok, now that you know how to do your due diligence as you research schools, give it a trial run! Join us on campus for an upcoming event where you can ask us each one of these questions.