Choosing a Programming Bootcamp: App Academy vs Hack Reactor (1/3)

Hack Reactor

When I first started writing this post, I thought I'd put together a short story of how I applied to two of the leading programming bootcamps, my experience with their interviews, and how I made the final decision. Since then, it's evolved into somewhat of a behemoth, so I've decided to publish a 3-post series instead.

If you're only interested in App Academy or Hack Reactor, feel free to skip ahead to the relevant post. Otherwise, read on!

Tale of the tape

App Academy Hack Reactor
Tuition 18% or $18,000 $17,780
Language Ruby on Rails JS & frameworks
Duration 9am-6pm x 5 x 12 9am-8pm x 6 x 12
Interviews 1 test, 2 Skype 1 Skype
Location SF & NY SF

A bit of background

I'm a consultant for a fairly well-known company, and I have a few years of experience doing sysadmin / datacenter type stuff. So, while that may give me a bit of an edge over applicants without any programming experience, the only code I've ever written has consisted of mostly short shell scripts. In order to apply to these schools and be competitive, I had to do a fair bit of homework!

My journey started in early 2014, when I thought of a cool web application I wanted to build. I thought, hell, one day, it might even earn me a few bucks on the side or turn into a startup. The only problem: I didn't know the first thing about writing a web app.

My first instinct was to learn Ruby on Rails in my spare time, RoR being a great framework for rapid prototyping and all. I discovered that The Flatiron School has open sourced their prework, and I went to town. After a few months, I realized that I still didn't feel very confident, and could benefit from learning common patterns, best practices, and collaborating with others in a more formal setting.

And that started off my search for a programming bootcamp.

The short list

Since I live in NJ, a bootcamp located in NYC seemed like the obvious choice. I also figured that since I'll be effectively unemployed for the duration of the program, I might as well get the most out of my time. This meant that I decided to apply to only "the best" schools.

Naturally, I have to admit that this is all very subjective. A quick browse of Quora shows no shortage of these programs, which all seem to have cropped up after Dev Bootcamp paved the way in early 2012. However, the better programs are very open about their placement / salary statistics, are active on Quora and other social media, and have a ton of glowing reviews all over the web. This Quora answer pretty much defined my short list:

  • MakerSquare
  • Hack Reactor
  • Flatiron School
  • Dev Bootcamp
  • App Academy
  • Launch Academy

I immediately ruled out MakerSquare and Launch Academy due to their locations. I wanted to get into the startup scene, and I had much better chances of doing so in SF or NYC. Although the Flatiron School program sounded appealing, I was turned off by their intention to groom their graduates into Junior Web Developers, and not startup founders, or Software Engineers. I can't find the exact quote now, but I seem to recall a Quora answer (or something) to that effect.

That left me with Hack Reactor, App Academy, and Dev Bootcamp. I suppose I have a bit of an admission to make: I ruled out Dev Bootcamp because of the Engineering Empathy component of their curriculum. I'm sure the program is valuable, and I don't want to pass judgement not having been through it myself. That being said, I'd like to think I communicate well with others and, frankly, the idea of sitting in a circle and sharing my innermost feelings weirds me out. There, I said it.

Finally, I was down to just two choices: Hack Reactor or App Academy. I decided that $18k + living expenses in San Francisco was more than I could afford, and I happily began the application process to App Academy...

Read Part 2.

Valentyn Boginskey
Valentyn Boginskey

Valentyn is a system administrator turning web developer. He is passionate about privacy and virtual currencies. In his spare time, he enjoys mountain biking, skiing, backpacking, and racing go-karts.