What's the Alternative?

Once I had decided that I needed to quit my job to really make any real progress in learning to code, the next step was to decide exactly how I would go about learning. Below are the avenues I considered, along with some of the key features of each of them (hindsight included!). If you’ve come to the same conclusion in your life as I did in the fall of 2015, that you need to make big changes to get where you want to go, hopefully this list of alternatives to joining our program will help you come to the right decision for you.

Although I made these decisions with the goal of learning how to code in mind, I imagine the same options exist for practically any other subject you want to commmit to mastering.


Back to University (on campus Masters student)

Going back to university was the obvious choice, and definitely the one that society tells you to take. You would hope that spending a year studying at university being taught by esteemed lecturers is the best, most thorough way of learn something new. But at what cost?

  • 1 year in 1 city.
  • Hands on teaching from faculty.
  • A piece of paper at the end telling the world how clever you are.
  • Fees vary, largely dependent on which country and university you study in.
  • Importantly for me: In my country fees are very expensive, meaning no money left to travel.
  • Classmates that you can learn with. Ready-made support and professional network.

I ultimately decided against this for a number of reasons. Firstly, what I wanted to achieve (being able to build my own websites, apps, and software) didn’t require me to have the prestigious piece of paper. So the next question is can I learn what is taught at university without paying the fees. The answer to this is an emphatic yes, as outlined on our page entirely dedicated to online education. Maybe I wouldn’t learn the subject as thoroughly as I might at university, but the money I would save by skipping tuition fees buys me time, time that can be spent learning just as thoroughly. It might take me two years instead of one, but I’ll still get there.


Bootcamp style education

With going back to university crossed off the list, the next option I considered was a bootcamp. In the world of coding, short, intense bootcamps have exploded in popularity. They set out to turn the average Joe into an employable Junior Developer in 12 weeks. This means they teach you the absolute essentials of the skill in order to be employable. Here's the important info:

  • 3 months in 1 city.
  • Intense study, usually 60+ hours a week of commitment.
  • Hands on teaching from instructors.
  • Generally quite expensive (£8,000 for Makers Academy, $15,000 for Flatiron School).
  • Usually geared towards employability upon completion.
  • Classmates you can learn with. Ready-made network.

These bootcamps were a lot more appealing to me. They didn’t require me to sacrifice a whole year of my life to get where I wanted. However, they’re still very expensive, especially when you consider it’s only 12 weeks of learning. Also, although there has been a huge rise in the number of these bootcamps, there aren’t that many around, and their curriculums are usually very different. If I didn’t want to study exactly what they were teaching, I was out of luck. I’m also not sure whether these exist outside of the subject of programming. If they do I imagine the same issues will apply, price being the main one. I came back to the same conclusions as I had when considering university. I thought I could learn what they were teaching on my own for much cheaper, if not free.


Move into your parents' basement

This was next on my list of considerations. Obviously it’s only an option if you have a generous family who will put a roof over your head and feed you whilst you study. 

  • Probably the cheapest option, depending on how generous your parents are.
  • Cost depends on what course you decide to take, many are free
  • Maybe also the quickest option. Zero distractions, can focus all day everyday on your studying.
  • Very lonely. With no income socialising with friends in employment is expensive in western society.

Scott Young has proven that this is a viable option (although perhaps not strictly from a basement), he completed a Computer Science Degree from MIT in 12 months and only spent $2,000 doing so. One thing that he didn’t talk about was how this method affected his social life. If you quit your job to study full time, I would imagine you would need to live quite frugally. One aspect of this frugal living in my case anyway, would be moving back in with your parents. This would obviously save on rent, and potentially on general living costs, such as food. But the other aspect of the required frugality is cutting back on your social life. Less meeting friends at the weekends, certainly less human interaction all round. You’re not at the water cooler at work or in lectures with classmates. At worst, this can have really serious effects on your mental health such as depression. At best you’ll feel like you’re missing out on life when your friends go abroad for a long weekend, and you’re stuck at home because you can’t afford it.


Solo Edumad

If you’ve read our story, then you know this is the route I took. It allowed me to study independently, saving on tuition fees. I could live frugally whilst not being a burden on my parents or sacrificing my social life. The countries I lived in had extremely low costs of living by western standards so I could still enjoy life without blowing the money I’d saved to sustain me.

  • As many cities as you’d like, for as long as you’d like (or until you run out of money)
  • Cost depends on which course you decide to take, many are free.
  • Little to no contact with teachers/instructors, varies depending on which course you take
  • No community of classmates or people pursing similar goals.

The problems I had with this approach are outlined in our story. In a nutshell, a community didn’t exist that I could easily fit into. The majority of my time was spent with Backpackers who are extremely distracting if you have a goal to work towards. Getting drunk every night and visiting temples all day doesn’t leave much time or energy to do something productive.


Remote Year

I discovered Remote Year a couple of months into my Edumadic Journey. It sounded great. The handpicked group of Digital Nomads would travel to 12 different cities in 12 months. It gave you a community of people to travel with and stuck to the philosophy of slow travel that I was already sold on.

  • 12 different cities over 12 months (a month in each).
  • Large groups, they estimate 75 on each trip.
  • Total program fees of $27,000. average of $2,250 a month.
  • We imagine that accommodation is luxury at this price point.
  • Traveling with a large group of very successful, established people (Digital Nomads). Great networking opportunity.
  • Inaccessible price point for Edumads and Wantrepeneurs.

There were two problems with Remote Years' offering. Firstly, the cost. I certainly did not have $2,250 a month to spend on program fees. Having travelled in many of the cities they visit, I know for that amount of money you could live like a king. I didn’t need to live like a king, nor could I afford to. Secondly, this trip was specifically targeted toward Digital Nomads. I wasn’t one so was unsure whether I’d even be considered for the program. I also didn’t know how much I’d have in common with the other people on the trip. I imagine to afford $27,000 in fees you’d have to be a very successful business person or professional. I wasn’t either.


Do Nothing

This is an option that people tend to not really consider as a real alternative, with positives and negatives. For me this would have meant continuing in my job, and trying to learn at the weekends and in the evenings. I think it's important to treat this just like you would with the other options presented, and pay particular attention to the negatives of not taking any action.

  • Continue to spend weekends and evenings studying. 
  • Limited social life, at least if I wanted to make progress learning.
  • Past experience suggested that progress toward my goal would continue to be very slow.
  • No strain on finances as I would keep my existing job.

Doing nothing is what most people would refer to as the safest option. I'd keep my job which would keep my bank account healthy whilst I studied. I'd continue to make slow progress, if I kept at it. That was a big if. Making slow progress is very demotivating. Especially when that progress comes at the cost of your social life. If it became so demotivating that I stopped then obviously I wouldn't achieve my goals. If I didn't achieve my goals I would continue living the life I had been, which was ultimately one I was unhappy with, otherwise I wouldn't be trying to change it in the first place. So really the risk that comes with doing nothing is living an unhappy life.

I'd say that was the biggest risk of all.