Student Diary: Starting Week 4 of App Academy’s Full-time Course

A November cohort member speaks

So it’s my fourth week of App Academy and I’m pushing through. A quote I try to live by that keeps coming to my mind as I move along the bootcamp is one by American entrepreneur Jim Rohn. He said: “What type of person would you be [if you were to leave wherever you were… better]?” My experience at the bootcamp so far is a testament that that quote can be quite true.

App Academy students are seriously second-to-none. I’ve been through two other coding schools and the peers that I collaborate with at this bootcamp are definitely of a different caliber. Did I say different? I hate being judgmental but I can’t help but say they are of a higher caliber. They are focused, thorough, quick, sharp, and personable. They are everything that I want as peers. I have had experience working with other individuals in the past and it was seriously like dragging a cement block tied to a thick chain until the end of the course.

Nothing against those other two schools. One was based out of Hawaii and the other out of Central America. From what I’ve experienced living in about eight countries and three states is that those areas definitely have more of a laid-back bootcamp educational atmosphere in their professional school approach when compared to places like New York or San Francisco.

Advice For New a/A students

First of all, the best advice I can give you is to go to the tutoring sessions that are offered one month before the start of the course. Even if I understood the majority of the material already, I picked up so many tidbits and got to work on cool stuff while there. I also got connected to good friends and peers who had hustle. I highly value those type of people over the naturally-gifted. I also see these relationships will not only benefit my life, but my career as well. The people at App Academy are terrific. They select people really well and I don’t know how they do it but the people coming through have a sense of respectfulness and ambition. It’s the complete opposite of crabs in a bucket (get pulled down), and more like ants (working together to come up with a solution).

OK. Let’s talk about the nitty-gritty strategic advice I can provide about the bootcamp so far:

  1. The most important is to make sure your commute is as short as possible. I have peers commuting 45-60 min, most from Oakland, and I tell you what, they don’t look too good Wednesday through Friday. I know a few people who decided to move from the East Bay-Oakland area to the city just because they wanted to make sure they didn’t spend time commuting and get sleep.
  2. SLEEP!!!! Do your daily quiz and survey or else you’ll get a strike (I’ll get to this later one) but do remember to sleep. You just can’t absorb anything without sleep.
  3. Pay attention to the assessments. I can almost hear people freaking out since I said quiz above. Yes, there are daily quizzes but don’t freak out. It’s the semi-weekly assessments that you should worry about as those are the ones that count. Basically every week you get an assessment and need to make sure you pass them. I don’t know how the passing score is calculated because we don’t even know what the passing score is until after the assessment but you get one free fail and one retake. The free fail is basically an assessment that you basically fail and you get to stay in the course without needing to retake the assessment. Retake is explanatory. You do not get a choice which assessments you free fail on or retake. It just happens in the order you fail any assessment. The first you fail you use your free fail. The second you fail, you get to retake to see if you stay in the course.

What can you do to prepare for the assessments?

  1. Do the homework
  2. Go over the quizzes
  3. Focus during the lectures and pair programming projects
  4. Practice (at the end of each week they will send out practice assessments so you’ll know the format and what to look for)

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity

Lunch Food

mealpal coding bootcamp

Everyday you have a 75-minute lunch. There are lots of places to eat nearby. I’m not a great person to ask about that but the following is what I know.

There is a Subway right across the street and the Sub-of-the-day is less than $7 (good to stretch through 2 meals). If you’re planning on going there often, get the mobile app so you can score points and discounts for food.

Also there is a Safeway three blocks away for groceries. Then Chinatown is a 10 minute walk and there’s tons of cheap food there. To note with this, you won’t be able to store any food at a/A but they do have a kitchen (no stove/oven).

Other than that what I have seen are people subscribing to Mealpal. You pay about $6 per meal (STAY TUNED FOR A SECRET) and during lunch you get to choose from different participating restaurants where you’d like to get your lunch from. The app allows you to see the portion sizing and the rating. I’ve heard good things. But be wary that if you choose meals that are not in the large portion size, you will usually be left hungry. The price is the same no matter where you go so why not get the best bang for your buck right? From what I understand, they only do lunch at the moment.

Did you stay tuned? Nice! Because here is an insider tip for Mealpal. There is a way to get discounts. Super simple! Basically what you do is create an account and don’t subscribe. That’s it! Mealpal will simply want you to sign up and send you coupons to entice you to sign up. Some have reported meals under $2. Although I’ve also heard it’s extremely rare to get meals that cheap, it is pretty easy to get a $40 coupon making each meal about $3.50. THEN what you do once you do sign up, create a new account with a different email and start the entire process all over again with the coupons. Endless cheap meals!

Set Your Alarm!

app_academy_student_diary

I’m not talking about only for when you wake up daily. I am talking about check-ins. Three times a day, students like me need to check in on their Web Application showing that they’re present or receive a strike. Students are allotted 10 strikes or you have a possibility of getting dismissed. The check-in times are 9 AM, 1:30 PM, and 4 PM. Every programmer has a smart-enough phone that is able to program alarms for Monday to Friday. SO DO IT! Set your alarm for five minutes before each of those check-in times, so you don’t miss it. Believe me, it is so easy to forget. I call myself responsible even though I got a strike because I was so wrapped-up in code. But it doesn’t matter if you are present. What matters is that you are on their wi-fi, on their web app, and press the button check-in.

Strikes

If you get enough strikes against you, you can get kicked out of the program. But you shouldn’t really be concerned about it. Besides their check-ins, the App Academy rules concerning strikes and other things are really not bad at all. Basically you have to do the homework (which varies in difficulty), do the daily quiz (about 5–10 questions long), do the survey (feedback to App Academy on how they are doing, how you are doing, and how your pair-programming partner is doing), and don’t disrupt anyone or your own learning. The only one that stings is that there are no cell phones allowed at times. But that is really a minor problem so it’s not a problem at all.

Where to live 

Preface to all of this, I swear I wouldn’t recommend this place if it wasn’t good. While it’s not the Painted Ladies (pic above), you’ll be able to go on Google and Yelp and see that all the reviews are five stars. I live here so I can even attest to that.

The place is called Pyramid Residences and it’s amazing. So amazing that seven of my peers live here in the same building. No, no, no, I know what you’re thinking, we each have our own unit (yes “unit”, not “room”). Crazy right? Not like those shared room Hack Houses. In fact, one of my peers just moved in two days ago after finishing week three at the bootcamp. 

The reasons to live there are simple. It is only a 10-minute walk to App Academy and one block away from Chinatown (where you can find cheap food and supplies). You can literally get anywhere you want in less than 15 minute walk and even if it is downtown, it’s quiet.

It is very clean too. There is this guy constantly cleaning throughout the building so you don’t have to worry about seeing nasty stuff.

The bathrooms are terrific. The toilet is in its own separate room, about 50 square feet big, and the shower is its own room too (so you get to shower alone in the shower room). The cool thing is that the shower room is separated in two different rooms by a curtain so one area stays dry and the other is where you take a shower. It has a really good amount of space for changing and drying off.

All, I’ve looked and looked for a while. You won’t find a better place than here. I can even introduce you to my building-mates if you’d like. But if you do move in, I’d totally appreciate it if you say I referred you, so I can eat another day.

Last words

Other than that, there’s not much I can tell you. You’ll do pair programming and lecture almost everyday. The curriculum is well-made. The staff will “usually” have a “good time” party on Friday after class. They have about three microwaves available, two full size refrigerators, commercial coffee machine with coffee, sink, and miscellaneous kitchen supplies. Other than that, feel free to reach out.

Good luck to you all. Aloha!

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