Are paid bootcamp prep programs a scam?

Coding bootcamps have made so many waves in tech that acceptance into a top-tier bootcamp is akin to receiving an admissions letter from an Ivy League college. In the spirit of capitalism, courses have popped up offering introductory lessons designed to get you through the application process at competitive bootcamp programs. These classes cost anywhere from $200 – $4,000 USD and are available as evening and remote sessions. I believe these courses are completely unnecessary, and anyone motivated enough to complete a rigorous bootcamp program should be able to pass the technical interview with no issues.

Bootcamps are a for-profit business in a finite market – this means the odds are in your favor. Bootcamps want you to enroll at their program – each student brings in $15 – $25K in revenue, and a rejected student will simply walk across the street and enroll in another equally recognizable bootcamp. You are the customer. No matter how prestigious or selective a bootcamp looks, they need as many students like yourself as possible to remain profitable. If you show any aptitude for programming, you will get in with no issues.

Everything you learn at a bootcamp preparation program can be learned by yourself.

In fact, this is true for both bootcamp prep and the bootcamp program. All of the resources you need to learn to code are freely available on the internet. However, it’s much easier to reach the proficiency guaranteed by a bootcamp preparation program (20 – 40 hours of work) than to teach yourself the entire curriculum of a bootcamp (1,000+ hours of work).

A friend recently reached out to me asking for advice prior to interviewing at a very selective program. He had no previous coding experience, and the following was enough to pass the technical interview. Follow this curriculum and you’ll be in great shape to enroll at a top bootcamp. Everything is FREE – if you’re asked to enter a credit card, you’ve gone too far down the rabbit hole.

Which language do I learn?

Some bootcamp programs will require that you interview in their primary language. At the time of writing, JavaScript is king (many programs are teaching an entirely JS stack). If you need to learn a different language, it might be worthwhile to use the following guide anyways – the logic is all the same, only syntax and built in functions change.

Bootcamp Prep Curriculum (20 – 40 hours)

  1. Complete the Codecademy JavaScript track.
    • Really understand loops – bootcamp interview processes can’t be too difficult (they are looking for almost beginners, after all), so many of the interview questions are simply testing your loop logic.
    • Same as above, but with conditionals (if, else if, else, etc.).
    • Don’t just look at the hints and type what’s shown on the screen. Try to understand when to use each function.
  2. Complete selections from the FreeCodeCamp Front End Development Certification. Don’t bother with their estimated time-to-complete – you should be able to speed through these tracks in a few hours.
    1. Basic JavaScript
      • Much of this will be review; don’t get cocky – do it anyways. Sometimes seeing how multiple programs explain concepts can solidify the knowledge in your mind.
    2. Object Oriented and Functional Programming
    3. Basic Algorithm Scripting
    4. Intermediate Algorithm Scripting
      • When you’ve reached this point, you’re ready to ace the admissions interview. Don’t worry too much if you can’t solve these problems, many (bad) programmers struggle to implement these solutions efficiently.

I hope you’re able to get into the bootcamp of your choice. Keep in mind – although a bootcamp’s name may carry some weight, most results come from how hard you grind during the program.

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