Common Mistakes Made by Coding Bootcamp Students and How to Avoid Them
Coding bootcamps have become a popular alternative to traditional computer science education, allowing people from all backgrounds to enter lucrative and fulfilling careers in tech. However, not everyone who enrolls in a bootcamp is able to finish. In this article, we dissect the common bootcamp mistakes that prevent people from reaching the finish line.
A coding bootcamp curriculum packs thousands of hours of study into a program lasting anywhere from six to 12 months. This means that to succeed you need to give it your all. Not doing so is perhaps the biggest mistake bootcamp students make, but there are others. We analyze these common bootcamp mistakes below and give you tips to ensure you accomplish all your coding bootcamp goals.
5 Common Mistakes That Lead to Bootcamp Failure
Some bootcamp students fail because they are unwilling to put forth the effort required to complete the challenging and extremely condensed curriculum. Other students simply become discouraged because they feel they are not as good as their peers. We take a look at these and other common bootcamp mistakes below.
Not Going All In
Perhaps the number one mistake people make when entering a bootcamp is thinking it will be easy. There is no such thing as an easy bootcamp. What sets coding bootcamps apart from other ways of learning code is the intensity of the curriculum, which crams years of study into six to 12 months. This means that to make it through a bootcamp, you need to be mentally prepared and ready to give it your all.
Part of giving it your all while at bootcamp is completing every assignment to the best of your ability. If you want to leave bootcamp as a developer, do not skip homework. In fact, embrace every chance to practice. For example, if a peer is having difficulty with a problem, jump on the opportunity to give them a hand. Teaching others can help the information to take root in your head.
Although putting out maximum effort is important, it is equally important to know when to take a break. Having some time to relax and disconnect every day is critical to avoid one of the biggest scourges of the bootcamp student: coding burnout. Likewise, eating properly and not neglecting your social life are behaviors that will help you reach the finish line in tip-top condition.
As you progress through your bootcamp, keep an eye on how you are feeling mentally and physically. Watch out for common burnout symptoms like exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm, and subpar performance.
Not Leveraging the Careers Team
We already discussed the intense curriculum, but there is another feature that sets coding bootcamps apart. The best coding bootcamps have professional careers teams ready to assist you during your program and, in many cases, also after graduation. The career services team of a bootcamp has a lot to offer, and many students fail to utilize it fully.
Make sure to reach out to the careers team as soon as possible to see what they can do for you. You don’t need to wait until a few weeks before graduation to work with them on your resume or to practice pitching yourself as part of a mock interview.
Many bootcamps also organize workshops, hackathons, and networking events that you should join to reinforce the skills you learn in class, expand your professional circle, and, ultimately, fast-track your way into your first developer role.
Insufficient Focus on Networking
As we said, take advantage of any and all career services offered by your coding bootcamp. One of these services will undoubtedly be networking events where you meet established professionals as well as junior developers. In the tech industry, just like in any other sector, it is not only what you know but also who you know. A contact you cultivate during your program could be the key to getting your foot at the door of your dream company.
As you go through the program you will meet all kinds of people, whether at class, workshops, or social gatherings. Show interest in who they are and be helpful if they need anything from you. Being open, curious, and courteous is a surefire way to expand your circle of influence.
Falling Victim to Imposter Syndrome
We mentioned the scourge of burnout, but there is perhaps a bigger, scarier monster lurking in the background for many a developer. Feeling like you are not as good as your peers, that you just don’t have what it takes to be a developer, or that you are simply not a “born coder,” is a common condition. It is often referred to as “imposter syndrome”.
Many people fall prey to this fallacy, especially people that have no technical background. The reality is that if you are capable of completing your assignments and churning out well-developed projects, you are the “real deal.” Our advice: don’t focus on these premature fears. Instead, bring your attention to your studies and to producing the best work you can.
Other Common Bootcamp Problems to Keep an Eye Out For
The list of potential problems experienced by bootcamp students extends beyond the top five analyzed above. Here are some other common bootcamp mistakes that students fall victim to.
- Not learning the basics beforehand. The majority of students who manage to complete bootcamp have learned coding fundamentals to some extent before joining their programs. If you are a complete newbie, we recommend taking a preparatory course before day one. Many coding bootcamps have free prep courses for this exact purpose.
- Choosing the wrong bootcamp format. A sure way to fail a bootcamp is to choose the wrong modality. For example, if you are fully employed, a full-time bootcamp might just be more than you can chew, leaving you with virtually no leisure time between work and study. In this case, consider a part-time option instead.
- Comparing yourself to peers. A common fallacy among bootcamp students is thinking there is something wrong with you because your classmates seem to “get it” faster than you. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant. Putting the focus on others will only slow you down. Instead, keep your head on your studies and your progress.
- Not asking for help. If you are struggling with an exercise or concept, let it be known. Reach out to your instructor, and they will gladly provide the push you need to solve the problem or comprehend that perplexing concept. Being too proud to ask for help, especially as you learn the fundamentals, won’t get you far.
- Being a perfectionist. You should always strive for high standards in your work but be mindful of the fact that there is no such thing as perfection. You may come up with a solution to a problem that is not perfect but that is “good enough.” Instead of continuing to work on the same problem, move on to the next thing so that you can continue learning and acquiring experience.
What Is the Average Coding Bootcamp Success Rate?
According to data distilled from reports by the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR), 79 percent of bootcamp students secure a job within 180 days of graduation. This is moderately higher than the employment rate for recent college grads with computer science degrees, which, according to a report from National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), is 70.1 percent.
Another measure of bootcamp student success is how many actually manage to graduate from their programs. While it is hard to find industry-wide figures, we can get a good idea of graduation rates by looking at individual schools.
According to CIRR reports, 95.7 percent of students enrolled in Codesmith’s remote full stack development graduate on time. On the other hand, only 70 percent of students in Tech Elevator’s full stack development course, hosted at Wilmington in North Carolina, finish on schedule.
Top Tips to Ensure Success After a Coding Bootcamp
Now that we know what common bootcamp mistakes to avoid, let’s consider the practices and habits that will enhance your chances of success post-graduation. Always do these five things to become the best developer you can be.
As a developer, your learning journey will never be over. That is what makes this such a great career choice: there will always be some new tool to learn, some new system to test out, or a more efficient way of doing something. Graduation from a bootcamp is merely the beginning of this learning journey.
After your bootcamp, you’ll have a solid grasp of coding basics, expertise in one or several coding languages, and a good command of a few related tools. However, the more you deepen that expertise, the higher your chances will be of getting hired or accessing a larger salary.
Keep an eye also on the tools that could help you land jobs with the companies you’d love to work for. For example, if you want to work as an Apple developer, you should definitely learn Swift. If Facebook is your dream employer, consider learning the IDE Nuclide or testing tools like PHPUnit and Jest.
Focus On Mastering the Fundamentals
Let us add a caveat to our previous point: yes, always learn, but focus on the fundamentals first. Many programmers go out of their way to learn a specific tool or software currently en vogue without having built a solid enough foundation. They are blindly chasing the latest tech trend in a rush to get a job.
Build a Strong Portfolio
The idea here is to graduate from your bootcamp with more than enough proof that you can keep up with the responsibilities of a programmer job. While at bootcamp, choose to work on projects that you find interesting and stimulating and that showcase in-demand skills. If you have a specific industry or type of company in mind for work after graduation, target projects that align with them.
We also recommend thinking ahead to after graduation. Look for collaboration opportunities with your peers once the bootcamp is over. Perhaps they are interested in building a specific type of app and could use a hand. Perhaps you yourself have an idea in mind that a fellow student can help you bring to fruition.
Take Pride in Your Background
Never hide the fact that you had a life and a career before you entered the programming world. In fact, during job interviews as well as in your resume, make it a point to highlight any previous experience you have outside of tech. This experience may set you apart from your peers and may be a determining factor in getting the job.
Think about how the soft and technical skills you learned in previous roles apply to your new life as a developer. For example, an editor transitioning to a front end development career would be remiss not to mention their experience creating content that attracts and converts users. This experience may just be what tilts the balance in their favor.
Avoid Narrow Labeling
As you graduate from your bootcamp and begin your job search, don’t be too quick to put yourself in a box. Keep your options open by using broader terminology when creating your professional profile. You may have just finished a web development bootcamp, but rather than calling yourself “web developer” in your LinkedIn profile, you may want to adopt a more general label like “junior developer”.
This will help your resume make it further in the hiring process of more job openings. As a result, you’ll end up with more job offers. Although your web development training may not have covered all the tools required for a junior developer position, you can quickly learn anything new that the position requires.
What Are the Main Reasons People Fail Bootcamp?
There are four main reasons why some people fail bootcamp: lack of effort, lack of motivation, lack of preparation, and burnout. First, some fail because they are unwilling to put forth the effort required to complete the challenging and extremely condensed curriculum.
Secondly, and very much connected to the previous point, is motivation. Students that don’t know why they want to become developers are generally unwilling to invest copious amounts of time and effort into their program. Likewise, those that are just interested in earning a bigger salary may find that this is not enough motivation to make it to the end of the program.
The next reason is a lack of preparation as many students come into their programs with zero programming knowledge. It is always of great help to at least learn coding basics, which you can easily do by joining a prep course. Finally, there is burnout. Burnout can easily rear its ugly head if you are unable to keep a balanced schedule that includes leisure and plenty of social activity.
What Happens if You Fail Bootcamp?
Failing a coding bootcamp is not uncommon. Some coding bootcamps can be extremely challenging programs that take a great deal of commitment. Not everyone has the mettle, discipline, and more importantly, determination to reach the finish line. The good news is that failing a bootcamp is not the end of the world.
You may be given the option to retake the program. This can be a good option if you feel like you can do better the next time around, perhaps by being better prepared. Alternatively, some bootcamps may allow you to change to a later cohort, giving you more time to get ready. Schools that have a job placement guarantee may even reimburse your tuition.
You can also take your failure as an opportunity for self-reflection. Why exactly did you fail? What kind of support or preparation were you lacking? Do you need more preparation before you attempt your next program? In some cases, it may be wise to reconsider your career choices. Becoming a programmer is not for everyone and failing your bootcamp could be an indication that you are just not invested enough in this career path.
Is a Coding Bootcamp Right for Me?
A coding bootcamp is the right option for you if you are looking for a way to gain technical skills quickly and cost-efficiently. They are a great alternative to pursuing a computer science degree and this is evident in the fact that the job placement rate is higher among bootcamp grads than among holders of computer science degrees.
However, completing a bootcamp is not easy and some students never get to the end of their program. There are many bootcamp mistakes people make that contribute to them failing their program, such as lack of effort or leading an unbalanced life that leads to burnout. Keeping an eye out for these common mistakes and following the success tips in this article will ensure you make the most of your bootcamp experience.
Common Coding Bootcamp Mistakes FAQ
Yes, coding bootcamps are hard. They are purposely hard because they teach all the skills needed for a specific tech-related role in a short period of time. This amounts to condensing years of study into just six months to one year. As a bootcamp student, you need to be mentally prepared to work hard.
There are a few bootcamps known for their difficulty and intensity, such as Fullstack Academy, Hack Reactor, and App Academy. If you are not the type to shy away from a challenge, you may want to consider one of these schools. You’ll master the fundamentals of your chosen subject through a rigorous process that involves plenty of hands-on work.
Coding bootcamps work on the principle of “learning by doing.” Students are taught a specific concept or tool and are then challenged to put their knowledge into practice by completing a project, often working in tandem with a peer. Other notable features of the bootcamp curriculum include intensity of study and an emphasis on skills demanded by employers.
Some coding bootcamps are more suitable for beginners than others. This is because they spend more time going over the fundamentals. Some bootcamps that are ideal for beginners include Flatiron School, General Assembly, and Thinkful.