The Most Important Prep for an Immersive Coding Program? It’s Not the Pre-Work

The past few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the onboarding experience for students entering General Assembly’s WDI (Web Development Immersive) program. WDI is a 3-month immersive learning experience where students normally spend 9am – 8/9pm on weekdays and their entire weekends immersed in learning programming. Because it is such an intense program and the learning curve is so steep, most immersive programs naturally advise students to start preparing before they arrive on day one.

Pretty standard is the concept of “pre-work”: 50-100 hours or some other high number designed to elevate the student’s entry level and to provide a baseline familiarity with certain concepts. At GA, students go through tutorials and exercises including lessons on Git, Ruby, HTML/CSS and more.

A lot of people stop here. And that’s really dangerous. Because your ability to succeed or fail in an immersive coding program is not just dependent on how much you can learn about web development before you start. That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Your ability to succeed or fail is also based upon how much you know about yourself. To really succeed, you should do a complete self inventory of who you are and decide how you’ll build upon your strengths during this upcoming transformative journey. Take time to look at your strengths, weaknesses, your learning style, the characteristics you exhibit in certain scenarios, goals for WDI, goals for after WDI, goals for life, your inspirations, what areas of programming you more naturally enjoy, and how you can hold yourself to commitments.

Why is this so important during an immersive program? Immersive programs are transformative journeys. Anything that accelerates your growth in such a short amount of time will ask a lot of you. These programs challenge you to fail and recover quickly. They ask you to meet lots of new people, undergo new challenges, and keep an intense level of focus. For goodness sake they also ask you to change your sleeping and eating habits and see less of your family and friends! They ask you to acknowledge things you didn’t know about yourself and find answers to unknowns.

If you can get a jump start on acknowledging and understanding your starting point, then you can pass through an immersive learning experience enjoying every part of the journey. If you focus more on transforming the way you think, act, and behave more than just improving your knowledge of coding, then every transformation becomes easier, including learning to become a developer.

You can jumpstart transforming yourself beyond the coding pre-work with some of the following questions and techniques:

Recognize your Strengths and Weaknesses
  • What are you good at? What can you leverage to help you in this program?
  • What can you improve on? At work? In your personal life? With others? With yourself?
Evaluate your Learning Style & Understand the One You’re Entering
  • How would you describe yourself as a student the last time you were a student in a learning environment?
  • How do you typically learn best?
  • How is the learning environment you’re joining designed?
  • What part of the learning environment will be most challenging for you?
  • How will you get the most out of this program?
  • What part of the pre-work most intrigued you?
  • Which part did you enjoy the least?
Identify Effective Characteristics for Success
  • Think about a time you accomplished something you’re really proud of – what types of behaviors did you exhibit?
  • What types of behaviors could have caused you to fail?
  • How would you bounce back from those scenarios?
  • What traits do you think successful grads of this program exhibited while they were in it?
  • What do you think you’ll have to change about your current behaviors to succeed?
Research and Get Inspired
Set Goals 
(For during and after the program – not only about how you’ll succeed as a developer but also about who you want to be as a person)
  • What do you want to get out of the program you’re joining?
  • Where do you want to be in a year?
  • What are your career goals?
  • What do you want people to say about you at the end of your life?
  • How will you measure softer goals like changes in your behavior?

Hold Yourself Accountable

  • How will you measure and track the goals you’ve set?
  • Who are you sharing your goals with? How are they going to hold you accountable?

The more you experiment with new things, the easier doing new things becomes. The most important part about prepping for a coding immersive is not about getting a head start on the material. It’s about doing a complete self inventory of who you are and deciding what you’ll do about what you’ve found. It’s about taking advantage of the opportunity to transform yourself into a web developer and aiding that transformation by transforming yourself in multiple ways.

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