My Life as a Hack Reactor Student: The Art of Applying to a Coding Bootcamp

This post is the second part of a multi-part series titled, “My Life as a Hack Reactor Student”.

What to take into consideration before applying

When you apply to a coding bootcamp, one thing to keep in mind is the amount of time you spend there. How many hours a day must you be in class? How long is the bootcamp? For Hack Reactor ATX’s immersive program, you have to be on campus from Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM (except lunch and dinner), and Saturday from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM (except lunch). Including one week for a break in the middle, the bootcamp lasts 12 weeks. That’s 11 hours a day and 5 days a week , plus ~8.5 hours on Saturday — do the math, and that’s 63.5 hours a week that you spend here at Hack Reactor.

By now, you can probably deduce that there is no space available for a job when you’re going through a program like Hack Reactor’s immersive program. You have to dedicate your entire time to this. Unfortunately, unless you have a job where you can go to Hack Reactor and then in the evenings work at max 2 hrs/day and make your living (you’d probably be much better off than most software engineers at that point), you won’t be able to rely on yourself as a source of income. You’ll need to either save for this, or look outwards for cash. If you can, get a loan to help support yourself.

I tried to apply for a loan, but even with a cosigner, I was not eligible. To help support me, my partner set up a system with me where he could loan me the money until I got a job. Honestly, I feel personally blessed to have him in my life for him to help me in this way. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to support myself while I was at Hack Reactor.

It’s not that scary

As far as the time requirement and responsibilities are concerned, it seems daunting, but it’s actually not that bad once you’re in it and you’ve adjusted to the rhythm. Here, the environment is relaxed. They stress the importance of taking care of yourself and meeting your body’s needs. If you’re fatigued, you won’t be able to program in the right state of mind. So here, you’re allowed to excuse yourself and take a power nap when you’re not in a lecture.

After 11 hours of bootcamp, anybody would be worn out by the time they’re done for the day. It happens here, but it is also completely ordinary for students to stay an extra hour or two after 8:00 PM just so they can have additional time to review over what they just learned. The students here are driven to learn, not to complete the requirements (although you’re better off completing them). The knowledge is the driving motivation.

Another note about the time requirements is that it is actually really beneficial not having to juggle multiple obligations and focus on one subject. You don’t have to worry about the stress of a job piling on top of your responsibilities here at Hack Reactor. It’s easier to pick up on what you’re learning here when you don’t have to think about how Karen from accounts receivable gave you a nasty look on Monday and then told Chad, the boss, how you haven’t been reaching your quota at work.

As the counselor here puts it, “Time is warped”. The days blend and it feels like it goes by so slowly. But then all of a sudden, the 12 weeks goes by and you’re left feeling like you needed more time to enjoy it. So when you get here, enjoy the time while you still can.

The art of applying

After I signed up on Hack Reactor’s website and solved their coding challenge/application, I made the mistake of scheduling my interview only two days after I applied. If you’re thinking about going to Hack Reactor, schedule your interview at least a couple of weeks after you apply to give yourself time to practice. They have small coding challenges you can do on their website to help you prepare for their program.

I sent in my application on a Saturday and scheduled my interview for Tuesday, thinking the interview “wasn’t going to be a big deal”. After I did some research shortly after on what to expect during the interview, I realized that it actually was a big deal. Your application alone is not enough. You have to demonstrate your skills and personality to an interviewer to get in. I spent a caffeinated 8 hours on Sunday and another caffeinated 8 hours on Monday working through their free prep problems, and at the end I got through 50% of it. So again, give yourself time to prepare for the interview.

The takeaway

All in all, if you’re interested in Hack Reactor or another immersive bootcamp, or maybe you’ve just gotten accepted, prepare to spend all of your waking hours programming. Prepare to spend it with people you’ve never met before and who you will create long lasting bonds with. Understand that you must make this your number one above all else for the time that you’re here because this is a big decision. If you have the drive and the willingness to take all you can get out of this bootcamp, it will impact you in the most positive way for the rest of your life.

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