Make School: A Truthful Overview Sprinkled with Heartful Sentiments
To be honest, it’s been quite odd living between the two worlds of Make School and Minerva. Now, with iOS development knowledge on my back, my first app in the app store, and the best two-month friends ever gone back home across the world, my life seems altogether different — again. The time I’ve spent here already has been invaluable, and I won’t forget all the expereinces I’ve had while a student at Make School.
The Make School Summer Academy is a two-month programming camp that teaches iOS development, app design, and entrepereneurship through project-based learning and promises each student their own app in the store by the end. The truth is though — they can only meet you halfway, and if you are new to iOS development and aren’t prepared to work your @$$ off, then you can’t expect an amazing app, or any app for that matter. Don’t expect to be a pro when you finish the Summer Academy. What they are quite good at though is providing advice, debugging, and support throughout the program and what you can expect when you leave is to have met some truly amazing people.
The curriculum at Make School is fairly dynamic and changes as the Summer Academy progresses. For the first two weeks, each day is spent mostly working on online tutorials made by Make School with some welcome speeches, Swift lectures, and get-to-know-each-other games thrown in here and there. Truthfully, most students (including me) are getting used to the Swift language and learning how to use X-Code (the program for making iOS apps) during this time and find it difficult to focus on learning how to actually design and program apps. The pre-recorded lectures, though informative and well-intentioned, are nonetheless lectures, tending to put most students to sleep after five minutes and are more useful when watched separately when needed. The first two weeks are really unrepresentative of the whole experience, and don’t necessarily need to count towards what I consider the “real” Make School — when we start making our own apps.
Week three is the start of brainstorming and app design and when the program’s focus shifts towards indentifying what the the customer wants and formulating simple app solutions to common problems. Students are forced to critically think about the specific qualities of the mobile app market, and this mindset of analyzing the market is indeed valuable. The app idea must be simple, yet useful to someone, and absolutely must involve something the maker is passionate about as this is truly the best source of motivation.
Week four is when “real” Make School finally begins, when the first line of code is written without instruction — this is when the learning curve can skyrocket or stagnate, depending on the passion behind the app idea picked. The “help queue” fills up with debugging questions and everyone should be hard at work turning their idea into something real. This is when the most useful app development and programming skills are best learned because they are immediately applicable. For the next four weeks, passion and happiness ebb in and out like the tide as goals are met, or more often broken, re-evaluated, and re-defined to be more realistic. Perhaps the most difficult and important thing to learn is how to compromise with one’s self. Many ideas start out with much to lofty goals and must be simplified, for if they aren't, the app is almost certain to fail. There truly is nothing like creating something all your own, as it becomes a part of you and helps define what you are capable of. Still, we must not be blinded by our pride, as the secret to success in the app market is to be constantly changing, forever mutable, and consistently iterating.
Make School’s motto — Fun, Simple, Remarkable. You have to love what you’re making and draw pleasure, fun, from it as do other people when they use it. Your app must be simple, for that is what fickle mobile app users demand, as all apps are by nature supposed to be convenient and mind-numbingly easy to understand. Finally, your app has to be different and memorable in some way than any other — it must offer something unique and remarkable.
The final two weeks are the most insane. During this time, everyone realizes how far away they are from their goal. For most, this inspires the hardest working schedule possible (known as “crunch mode”) during which more work is done on the app than the previous six weeks combined. I suppose though that the extra work stress helps take the mind off the second realiazation that all the awesome peoople you’ve met and fun times you’ve had will soon come to a close.
All In all, making an app isn’t easy — but Make School prepares its students much better for the real world of app ideation, development, and marketing than just taking a class on app development.
As for me, I’m really going to miss those I met and I’m immensly glad I had the amazing opportunity. Like most things, there is an optimal balance between working on the app and making social connections, and the few that find this perfect balance achieve the most success.