Confessions of a $20K bootcamp graduate. (Hack Reactor)by@norimaki
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54,203 reads

Confessions of a $20K bootcamp graduate. (Hack Reactor)

by NoriMaki ArareJune 8th, 2016
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A quick reminder: Hack Reactor was created in late 2012 by DevBootcamp grads.
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A quick reminder: Hack Reactor was created in late 2012 by DevBootcamp grads.

In this article I’ll review the curriculum of the bootcamp and the reality graduates are facing.

The curriculum

~45 per class 90 per floor. 180 at any given time. The “Elite” program generates a cool $3.56M every 3 month.

The first week is here to set your expectations, they have hours of lectures specifically on what to expect for the next 11 weeks. They offer you to drop out within the first week with a refund, minus the $2K+ deposit you paid. Ironically the number of lectures drops dramatically after the first week. After which lectures are every other day, 1 hour long each, for the first 6 weeks. The second 6 weeks you’re basically learning on your own.

The material is divided in “sprints”, you have to understand and remember the topic in 2 days, hacking through it, while paired with another student. After a 2 day sprint you see a rushed video you’re supposed to learn from, if you need help during the sprints you get in queue to get help from a recent graduate who himself barely knows the material to help you.

To resume: You’re getting an hour long lecture, after which you have two days to work on the new topic, after which you get a 1h long video of the instructor explaining how he would have solved the assignment. (apparently that’s worth 20K)

The students assigned to help during the sprints have graduated just before you started. They offer certain students to work part time as instructional help for 3 month after they graduated. Unfortunately they are not experts. They do not know best practices that comes with real work experience, that they don’t have.

Mind you, the first 6 weeks (instructional weeks) you have to use 4 years old mac mini, plugged in to a shamefully slow internet. With wireless peripherals that keep breaking all the while you’re trying to hack your way through the curriculum. You would expect more for the price you’re paying.

The third month you’ll work on your thesis project with a team chosen for you. You’ll receive endless lectures on how to find a job and how to present yourself. They have squeezed the actual technical teaching time to the first 6 weeks. The second half is cruise control.

The reality

Learning one language isn’t enough. There are too many bootcamp grads nowadays, people want you to know more than one paradigm. Hack Reactor only teaches javascript. And a lot of veteran programmers, however wrong they might be, regard it as a lesser language. For an “Elite program” I would have expected to learn at least one additional language, maybe a back end one such as Python or Java. It would make grads much more competitive in the job search.

The reason you don’t see bad reviews is the alumni program, they invite you to meet your old classmates in “reunions” about once a year and they promise they’ll help you review your resume at anytime in the future should you decide to go back on the job hunt. But between us grads, we talk about how overpriced the program was. I even had an interview where the interviewer happened to be a hack reactor graduate, he was complaining about the latter.

The idea itself is becoming outdated. They just updated their outcomes data going from 99% of grads find a job in 3 months, to 98% of grads find a job in 6 month that just does not seem reasonable by any standards.

Another observation, most people who get in, are already qualified people, with top university degrees. These very people will now take up to 6 month to find a full stack job with this pseudo degree.

In reality anyone actively looking for a job can find one within 6 month. These statistics are really there to wow you, but after a short analysis, you realize how little is means.

I was lucky to have found a job after a couple month but I know dozens of intelligent graduates who are currently still looking for a job several months after graduation. Having Hack Reactor on their resume might actually repel potential employers, not because of the name but simply because it’s a bootcamp. Most employers don’t know the difference between bootcamps.

They have just increased the tuition by $2,000 it now is $19,780. Why increase tuition knowing the cost hasn’t changed but your outcomes stats have worsened ? I’m guessing they want to cash in as much as they can while they can.

I felt the need to write this for potential students who are interested in the program. I wish, that myself, read something like this before signing up. You should know what you’re getting into. In my opinion, it’s not worth the price. Study the material yourself (see the medium article by Andrew Charlebois) or join a cheaper bootcamp. You’ll learn the same and you’ll be $20K richer.

I have included the current curriculum (publicly available at the time of publishing) to give you an idea of what the program teaches.

Technical learning part of the program ~6 weeks

  • Orientation and Precourse Review
  • Data Modeling and Classes
  • Data Structures and Complexity Analysis
  • Inheritance Patterns
  • Algorithms
  • D3Browser apps, jQuery, and AJAX
  • MVC and BackboneES6, APIs, and React
  • Servers and Node
  • Server-side Techniques
  • Databases
  • Authentication
  • Deployment
  • Angular
  • MVP Project
  • Greenfield Project
  • Technical Assessment (full day assessment on what you learned for the first 6 weeks)
  • Solo Week (one week off)

Thesis project part of the program, lectures are now all about job search ~6 weeks

  • Senior Schedule Begins
  • Legacy Project
  • Post Development
  • Professional Resume
  • Thesis Project Kickoff / Thesis Sprint 1
  • Thesis Sprint 2
  • Thesis Sprint 3
  • Thesis Sprint 4
  • Thesis Sprint 5
  • Thesis Sprint 6
  • Thesis Sprint 7
  • Thesis Sprint 8
  • Thesis Sprint 9
  • Thesis Sprint 10
  • Thesis Sprint 11
  • Thesis Sprint 12
  • Hiring Sprint
  • Career Search Sprint

If you want to make a successful bootcamp just follow the recipe: 1. Go to a bootcamp yourself to learn the tricks 2. Hire smart people to help you with student’s moral support, and designing a curriculum 3. Use guerilla marketing and tech blogs to raise attention 4. Only let in people who could already get a job without coming to the bootcamp 5. Publish numbers like 99% get a job or 3% acceptance rate by manipulating the fine print.


Hack Reactor is not the best learning program out there, they’re trying to save a concept that was working 2 years ago and that is no more. Their promises aren’t as appealing as they used to be, and it’s definitely not worth the $19,780 that they are asking. Specially when hiring has dropped

If you have any questions about my experience or would like to know more, feel free to message me. I encourage all recent Hack Reactor graduates to write about their own experiences to raise awareness about the program.

Nori Maki Arare