You’ve made it. You’ve been accepted to the coding bootcamp of your dreams (hopefully, Claim Academy). You’ve committed your time, money and energy to launch your career in programming, IT, software development, or any of the myriad career paths you may choose after learning to code.
Like anything in life, the best way to get the most out of a large investment is to prepare as best you can.
In this article, we’re outlining 5 ways to prep for this life-changing learning opportunity. Though some of these suggestions may seem obvious, it’s important to consider the basics and take them seriously. Otherwise, you may be wasting your time.
Let’s dive in.
#1. CLEAR YOUR CALENDAR
First and foremost… you must eliminate distractions.
Weddings, parties and trips all sound like great ways to celebrate… but only after you walk away from the classroom with your certificate of completion. Prior to bootcamp, we advise you to clear your calendar as much as possible for the duration of your 12-week course. It’s hard to fit fun events into your weekends when you need that time to relax your mind, attend to chores at home, and, of course, complete any outstanding assignments.
While looking at your calendar, consider your finances. Get everything in order so you don’t have to stress about paying bills or spending within budget while your focus is set primarily on learning dense coding concepts.
It’s also helpful to communicate to your friends and family that you’ll be mainly “off grid” as you focus on learning as much as possible for 12 weeks. This will help prevent those tempting texts from your favorite people asking you to socialize when you should be sleeping (more on this later).
#2. BUY SCHOOL SUPPLIES
Remember strolling into Office Depot or the Dollar Store as a 2nd-grader and picking out your favorite pens and pencils, notebooks, and crayons? I, for one, always looked forward to this inevitable summer errand (shoutout to pencil grips and Lisa Frank).
Before you start bootcamp, reclaim that childlike enthusiasm and go get yourself some fresh supplies for the classroom. You’ll walk in to your first day feeling prepared and ready to take lots of notes. Speaking of note-taking… our instructors highly advise writing down notes in class to improve comprehension. Experts agree that writing things down is better than typing them out… that is, if you want to learn quickly. In our context, for example, drawing out a wireframe is WAY faster and easier to do on a piece of paper.
If you’re looking for advice on how to choose a laptop for bootcamp, check out an older blog post here on the subject.
Final suggestions for essential supplies include noise canceling headphones and a reusable water bottle. Of course, hydration is an everyday need, but it is especially important to hydrate while coding. It’s quite easy to forget to drink water when you’re bent over a laptop for hours on end.
#3. DEVELOP HABITS FOR PHYSICAL FITNESS
As obvious as it is, if you don’t already have them, start developing habits to stay in ship-shape so you can max out your attentiveness at bootcamp. To start, give your body the proper fuel it needs to perform. If you haven’t heard of superfoods, do a quick Google search. Blueberries, avocados, and Greek yogurt are just a few examples of healthy food that is easy to eat on the go.
Speaking of food, our team works to make it easy for our students to hole up comfortably in the Claim Academy building to study or work. Our kitchenette area has a refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker, so feel free to bring snacks, your favorite coffee creamer, or any other refreshments that make your time here grinding it out as pleasant as possible.
Prepare to eat on-site as much as possible to save money and time. Meal planner apps like Eat This Much are helpful for managing cost; you can create a custom meal plans and adjust your weekly or daily budget to ensure you avoid spending too much on food, or worse, “stress-eating” junk food out of desperation and poor planning.
If you’re somewhat of a night owl, remember this: you still need to get as close to 8 hours of sleep per night as humanly possible. Consistent deep sleep is crucial to prepare your body for full, productive days.
Additionally, though you may normally get away with counting trips to the grocery store as “exercise”, once you’re enrolled in bootcamp, you’ll need to make a more intentional effort to carve time for physical activity. In order for you to be successful when you’re plugged in and coding for hours, you need to get up and move around periodically. Go outside and walk around the block, ride a bike, run a mile, lift weights or take an exercise class. Don’t run yourself down. You’ll lack focus, or worse, catch a seasonal cold.
Speaking of focus… ever hear of the mind-body connection?
#4. TAKE CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
We can’t emphasize this enough: it’s really important that you manage stress well in a bootcamp environment. This means that you must work to relieve your own stress while also protecting yourself from taking on your fellow students’ stress.
Aside from physical activity, many people find mental exercises like meditation helpful to sort through the feelings of being overwhelmed or anxious. Check out apps like Headspace or Aura to access short, 10 or 15 minute meditations which you can plug into your day as your guaranteed “brain break.”
On the subject of mental fitness, as you prepare to start your course, work to train your brain to learn in a circular fashion. This means revisiting topics over again that didn’t quite stick the first time you heard them. The Circular Learning Model is a helpful tool for making the most of your classroom and post-class study hours. Practice using this method with the pre-course work we provide. For any concepts that feel muddier than others, revisit that section and practice exercises over again.
#5. START BUILDING YOUR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK
Never lose sight of the ultimate goal: job placement. You’re paying to become an all-star coder so you can score a well-paying job, right?
Many graduates suggest joining Meetup groups in your local area. In her post on Medium, bootcamp grad Jessica Dembe explains, “I went to meetups and let it be known that I was a coding bootcamp student who is looking for a job. I mean, that is how I got the job that I have now! So definitely attend meetups and let people know about your story.” Think about how to describe yourself, or tell your story, in a compelling way. Then: practice, practice, practice.
There are plenty of tools on the internet to lay the groundwork for exploring jobs both locally and in remote cities. For example, the review site SwitchUp offers a rolling list of jobs in tech that they keep updated. (SwitchUp also is a great resource for more helpful tips from bootcamp grads across the country; we highly recommend visiting their blog to explore these insights by topic).
Other ways to prepare for selling yourself to future employers include setting up a LinkedIn profile — read through this stellar advice on getting the most out of LinkedIn — exploring various career paths in technology, and connecting with past graduates for coffee or lunch to chat about their experience getting hired after bootcamp. We’d be happy to facilitate these meetings if you wanted to connect with any of our graduates.
In short, there are a ton of ways to prepare for bootcamp. Don’t neglect these 5 important “to-do’s”. Got any other ideas? Comment below!