I wrote a review here about Fullstack Academy in NYC, but I left out the experience of actually attending the school. I want to speak specifically on doing a part-time bootcamp program, because there isn’t much out there on that.
First, I’ll break down the schedule of part-time at Fullstack Academy. The program spans 6 months rather than 3 months. Because of how long the program is, it’s only offered twice per year. I made the decision in the summer of 2017 to attend Fullstack Academy, but I had to wait until January 2018 for the next cohort of the part-time program. Instead of coming into class every weekday, the classes take place on nights and weekends. There’s class for around 3 hours every Tuesday and Thursday. There’s also one weekend about every month with class for almost the whole weekend from morning to night. If you add that up, it comes out to much less time for instruction than the full-time program. Because of that, those who do this part-time program need to put in a lot of time outside of class to grasp everything. That’s on top of responsibilities like a day job and even family for some. On the other hand, those in the full-time program spend around 40 hours a week in class.
Second, let’s look at the price difference. The part-time program costs $15,680, as opposed to the full-time program that costs $17,610. That’s about $2,000 less for the part-time program, but I’m not sure if it’s enough of a difference with all things considered. You get much less time with instructors, and there are other disadvantages that we’ll explore in a bit. Also, the full-time program routinely has discounts of $1,000 or $500.
Instruction, support, and environment are really what you’re supposed to be paying for. All the info you can get from a bootcamp is out there online for much cheaper or free. The top-ranked bootcamp App Academy has even recently put out their whole curriculum for free in a program called App Academy Open. This just goes to show how much the value of a bootcamp’s actual curriculum is. If that’s not really what part-time students are paying for, the why should they pay almost as much as the full-time students? According to my calculations, part-time students spend around 40% less time in class than full-time students do. You could argue that the career services make up other value for the students, but I discuss here on how bootcamp grads still need to do so much on their own to land jobs. I do consider the price tag of coding bootcamps in general to be too high for the value they bring.
Due to the nature of a part-time program, it brings a different type of students. The students are most likely working a full-time job at the same time. That’s what I did. I wrote about my reasoning for doing the part-time program here, which was all financial in the end. Thankfully, I had a very lax job. I was even able to do a lot of work on projects and assignments at my job. I know most people don’t have this privilege. I actually gave the advice to some classmates that they should be focusing on what they’re learning from bootcamp over what they’re doing at their day jobs, since they’re trying to switch careers anyway.
My cohort had around 20 students, and around half of them weren’t looking to make a career switch to become developers. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it can dampen the experience of those who are completely focused on becoming developers. For example, I was the only one out of my final project group of 4 students who was going for the career switch. Naturally, I’d be more motivated to work on the project and impress prospective employers. If anyone cares about this, part-time students also tend to be older. I was the youngest one in my cohort, and I found myself hanging out with full-time students outside of class. They were closer to my age and came in during the weekends like I did.
Unfortunately, the part-time program always felt like an afterthought. The other students in my cohort and I sometimes felt that we weren’t treated on the same level as the full-time students. At times, it felt like the career services team forgot about us. The positives about the part-time program include having more time to absorb knowledge. Our instructor Eric Katz had years of industry experience and tried to structure the curriculum to prioritize what he felt was important in the real world. On top of our regular assignments, he also gave us little projects to do on weekends. I always felt like he cared about us, which I really appreciated.
The biggest advantage to doing a part-time program is having a paycheck coming in throughout the program and afterward. Job search can be very stressful, and worrying about money can add fuel to the fire. When I was getting turned down by companies left and right, I thought to myself numerous times that I was so glad I didn’t quit my job to do a full-time bootcamp program. I didn’t have that pressure of being unemployed. As much as I wanted to start a new career in tech right away, I told myself that I could afford to be patient. Eventually, all the hard work and patience did pay off when I got my first job as a developer.
Although I do question the price point of the part-time program versus the full-time program, having steady income was big for me. In fact, I was even able to make back the tuition money throughout the program just from my day job. Since I saved diligently for the months leading up to starting the program, I also didn’t need to take out a loan or anything like that. By not stopping my income, I was able to continue to provide for myself and my family while working toward my financial goals. Did I make the right move going part-time for the bootcamp? I think I sure as hell did.