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Coding Bootcamp Reviews: How to Read & Evaluate Student Reviews

May 5, 2022

With the rise of the coding boot camp, reviews are everywhere.

The boot camp industry's projected growth combined with the tech industry's insatiable demand for software engineering and web development talent isn't showing signs of slowing down. Fortunately, the current coding bootcamp student and its graduates are reviewing their experience for the next generation. Unfortunately, user-generated reviews are being called into question due to the average user's experience with e-commerce product sites. In the last few years, incredibly thorough analysis and reporting revealed large-scale astroturfing initiatives on Amazon and other e-commerce sites. The products that arrived were reported to be subpar, and the glowing reviews drove people to make purchases less and less reliable. Whether they're pay-for-play, PR companies, or bad actors, the core way we've used the internet - sharing an opinion of a product, experience - was revealed to be compromised.

How can a data science or programming bootcamp combat a generalized distrust in anonymized reviews from other online experiences? How do we ensure that a prospective coding boot camp student receives the best available information for one of the most important investments they'll make in their early or mid-career? For later career or retired professionals, how do we make sure that a coding bootcamp investment will give them training for a freelance career (a web developer could be just what the doctor ordered for local companies with ancient websites) in their city or town? Before we answer this, we first need to look at the types of bootcamp reviews, and then we can explore how to help read user-generated student reviews from coding boot camp graduates.

Coding bootcamps typically have two types of reviews. The first is editorial reviews. This is where an education professional, former coding bootcamp student, instructor, or coding bootcamp CEO will give you a first-hand account of the quality and what to expect to learn, the types of coding languages, and a thorough breakdown of what makes this coding bootcamp unique. (Or in some cases, not unique.)

The second type of review is the anonymized student review. You've likely seen a variation of these in most places on the internet, most famously below Amazon products, inside Google Maps, in online retail stores, among many other places. For coding bootcamps, anonymized reviews are typically left by full-stack developers, software engineer, or data science student graduates from an in-person or online coding bootcamp. The reviews range from glowing (the majority) to highly critical (the loudest). To no one’s surprise, many are highly polarizing and convey a different experience than the student before and the student after.

For the most part, students who graduate from a coding boot camp are likely to leave the review to communicate that their future education as a software engineer will provide them with the same coding skill they just received. It's no surprise as to why they would want to give you feedback: as a coding student of their program completes their course and succeeds, the better the bootcamp looks.

These student reviews play an important role in attracting hiring managers within the industry as well. Due to the recent growth of the coding bootcamp as an alternative to a four-year software engineering degree, recruiters might need to know a bit more about the curriculum and preparedness of its graduates.

Suppose you graduate from a coding boot camp. You’ve seen that your coding boot camp is highly rated by students and companies in the industry. However, some hiring managers might be unfamiliar with your particular coding school. Outside of their due diligence, decision-makers will want to learn more about bootcamps when they perform a search. What’s the most likely result they’ll see first? Spoiler alert: They’ll see student reviews.And while they might not be able to scrutinize each review, we’re going to teach you how to use a comparison tool, as well as ask the right questions when reading these reviews.

How to Read Coding Bootcamp Reviews and Ratings

Before any other steps, the first thing to do when evaluating a coding bootcamp is to search Google News. You'll quickly be able to skim any recent positive and negative coverage around a coding bootcamp that you're interested in attending.

That sounds like common sense, right? Not necessarily. Most of the coding bootcamp searches occur in the search engines or through word-of-mouth by another developer who's gone through the coding bootcamp. Those are fine. However, recent news within the boot camp may surface with major announcements or red flags.

Comparing coding boot camps is an incredibly important part of the process. Unfortunately, the way the typical search engine setup makes it incredibly difficult to compare the budgets and graduation rates, job placements, statistics, coding skills, and career services seamlessly.

A side-by-side comparison is a more optimal way to compare the intricacies of the coding bootcamp’s curriculum and cost with your wants and needs for your education.

Each of our bootcamp profiles includes an editorial analysis that looks at the strengths  Who see and prioritize outcomes and budget with the intent of educating the student to make smart decisions for themselves and their families.

We see the review portion of the coding bootcamp program as an important way to educate and nudge our future coding professionals to ask the admissions representatives at each coding school the right questions.

Comparing Student Reviews of the Best Coding Bootcamps

Between the questions around incentives, the number of review platforms, Google maps, and Facebook properties, we've put together a helpful comparison tool and a list of questions for prospective coding boot camp students:

  • What types of options will an in-person, hybrid, or online coding bootcamp offer me for this specific level and flexibility I'm looking for?
  • Are the reviews for this coding bootcamp positive and do they all say very similar statements about the coding bootcamp education?
  • How transparent are the anonymized student reviews in discussing the job placement metrics that the students of the coding boot camp graduates say they achieve?
  • What does the coding bootcamp graduate that left the review feel about the education or instructors at their particular coding boot camp?
  • Does the coding bootcamp recommend you have a formal computer science background? Some advanced bootcamps may require this, but most others (e.g. General Assembly, Coding Dojo, etc.) are built for all ability levels.
  • Did the coding boot camp student report a significant change in coding skill or have a sense of "readiness?" (particularly those without a background in software engineering or previous computer science degree). It's important to read closely for this. If you don't have a formal computer science degree, you'd want to look closely to see how prepared they felt to enter the workforce as an entry-level employee.
  • Is the review detailed enough to tell whether the student has a formal software engineering background or current works as a software engineer? Does it sound like they had previous coding skills? This would provide color on why one of the student reviewers found the curriculum simple or challenging.
  • How did students feel about the programming language(s) taught in this coding bootcamp in the specific curriculum? Did they give a sense of the programming boot camp placing enough emphasis on fundamental HTML/CSS (for a web developer), Python/R/SQL/Java (for a data science bootcamp), etc. Try to get a sense of whether a shorter bootcamp that graduates you faster still provides deep knowledge of the programming language(s) needed to succeed as a developer.
  • Do they reference or comment on editorial reviews or student interviews on Best Coding Bootcamp or Course Report?
  • Was there a particular course that was the best or most popular one to join? If a school offers different bootcamps specializing in web development, data science, or UX design, was there a large volume of reviews mentioning one specific programming boot camp?
  • Where did these students see the most opportunity to graduate and apply their technical skills? Did the coding bootcamp student reviews demonstrate that they had a strong advantage over other coding bootcamp graduates applying for the same jobs?
  • Do the job placement reviews and career services insights on those anonymized student reviews align with the job placement metrics and outcomes data listed on the bootcamp website or from your research in speaking with a coding bootcamp admissions representative?

Best Coding Bootcamps factors in low student trust in anonymized reviews

There's an entire cottage industry emerging to influence reviews, manipulate user sentiment, and manufacture interest based on search results. It's not hard to see why. Search engines will prioritize higher reviewed products and customers will see what marketers refer to as social proof. To generate that type of interest, companies will often provide incentives to review their products with a gift card or with another type of incentive that will promote a more positive opinion.

Entire industries and e-commerce platforms are facing significant backlash for disingenuous reviews of a product. The problem's become so mainstream for products that are $15, but now imagine the problem for a product or service that's $15,000. CNET reported on the headaches Amazon is facing that the company’s started to implement anti-manipulation policies for their customer reviews, the integrity of their brand is being affected by the anonymized social reviews left on the product, PR companies are licking their lips to engage in black hat tactics and manufacture consent for the client.

Reviews for the education and coding bootcamp industry haven't yet reached a critical place where site owners are identifying and removing fake student reviews that astroturf their coding experience. Still, the incentives aren't always in the favor of the coding bootcamp student who wants to change careers but relies entirely on reviews that are questionably authentic or genuine.

We understand the concern. We do see some real value in student coding bootcamp reviews and use them as a data point in our bootcamp comparison tools, particularly Course Report. Though to give more weight to objective metrics (cost, coding skill, programming language, job guarantee, salary, etc.), we see these reviews as part of the puzzle.

Put differently, Best Coding Bootcamps recommends all of our prospective students use anonymized reviews as a tool in their toolbelt rather than the entire toolbox. The first reason is that everyone has a different experience in their coding bootcamp. (That's not a major revelation as that’s probably similar to the high school or undergrad experience you and a friend may share.) The second is because the industry doesn't have a mechanism to verify the authenticity of coding bootcamp reviews. There’s no Twitter verification for bootcamp reviews to guarantee that the bootcamp review you’re reading is entirely verified and written by a graduate / coding bootcamp student.

We also recommend when you’re combing through student reviews, you're also connecting with former coding bootcamp students on LinkedIn or a friend you might know who's attended one of the coding courses. We also suggest you either speak to hiring managers at some of the companies you're interested in eventually working at following your completion of the bootcamp and determining what they look for when hiring entry-level developers.

Again, we certainly see student reviews as an important data point in an arsenal. We think that there's a unique perspective that coding bootcamps students can offer future web development professionals or those who want to hone their coding skills. Just be aware that an anonymized review about a job guarantee or job placement data needs more verification and legwork from you to make sure that the future investment you're going to make in the program is going to line up with the public reviews.

Becoming a software developer? Use logic.

Coding bootcamp reviews are an important evaluation tool for a future software developer. We find the best way to evaluate coding boot camps is to think about your search holistically between student reviews, program comparisons, and understanding what type of education you want.

Starting with those questions and having a way to filter the thousands of student reviews you'll peruse lead you to a more complete decision faster than simply reading reviews on a site and hoping you have a 'Eureka!" moment. Students deserve the clearest lens for what feels like an incredibly murky search. We believe that anonymized student reviews are a small piece of the puzzle and hope that you take the preparation, budgeting and selection process alongside student reviews.

Looking to compare bootcamps and make a decision best on your personalized criteria? Use our bootcamp comparison tool and get matched to the right program for you.