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Pro Tips on How to Survive Your First Week at Northcoders

Doing something new, whether it's starting a new job, moving house, or enrolling on a coding bootcamp like Northcoders, can be pretty nerve-wracking when you're not quite sure what to expect.

Will everything go smoothly? Do you have everything you need? Is there a 'right' or 'wrong' way of doing things? These are all completely normal concerns to have before any big change in your life. 

We want everyone who studies with us to feel fully prepared and confident going into their first week, so we thought we'd turn to the people most qualified to let you know what you can do to survive (and thrive) at Northcoders: our 300+ strong community of students and graduates! 

Go back a few steps

Man standing on a path in a forest "It's hard to let things go at the end of the day. You can be worried you won't know what's going on when you come back to it. When you solve a problem, try undoing the last couple of steps before calling it a day. That way, the next day, the first task you have is guaranteed to be something you know how to do." - Jonny.


Neon sign on a background of foliage saying and breathe"Don't worry about the parts of the pre-course that you may have struggled with. You'll go over it all again with tutors in the first block." – Robin. 

The moment of understanding clicks for everyone at different times.

Take a break

Women sitting with cup of coffee reading a book on her lap"It’s okay to accept defeat. If a function isn't doing what you want it to do, go home, take a shower, go for a walk, take some time out, and then give it a go again. Rinse and repeat until it gets resolved." – Umair

Use visual aids

ink sketch of three small website layouts

  1. A bad attitude to have is 'no-one else is asking questions, so they must understand it, so I should understand it’. If you don't get something, speak up. There are no stupid questions.
  2. Don't shut up! In pair programming, speak through what you are doing with your partner, and explain why. Similarly, if you are working solo, go through your thought process in the same way.
  3. Use visual aids. The best way to understand new concepts is to see them in action. Don't understand how a function is processing something? Make a flow chart from start to finish of the process, or ask a tutor for help making one. - Nick

Don't think about anyone else

Man standing alone on a mountain"The first week is the scariest because it's new and fast-paced. Don't think about anyone else around you or how well they are doing, just listen. If you don't understand, ask immediately. If you do understand, answer the question.

"You're here to learn and get the most out of it for you. If you don't understand, tell the tutor and make them go over it with you until you do. Do extra work over the weekend until you do. You will get there. The moment of understanding clicks for everyone at different times." - Romy 

Don't be afraid to ask questions

Neon sign saying go up and never stop

"If your laptop needs a HDMI adaptor to support another monitor, buy one. It's a bit annoying when your pairing partner can't share their screen with you properly (especially when they have a screen with glossy finish) and you can't really follow along with what they are doing in the pairing process.

"For the ADD people: don't be afraid to ask questions but, equally, do more work in the evenings if you don't get something. Find a good resource, whether it’s YouTube or Medium and cement what you are learning when you have zero distractions.

"Some will advise against this but, personally, I don't absorb information well in lectures where I can be easily distracted by other people or by what's going on out of the window. If I lose focus for a couple of minutes then I've lost the rest of the lecture. So if this is you, sit at the front, ask questions and find some quiet time in the evenings to go over the material." - Tim

Watch YouTube

Screenshot of YouTube homepage"About halfway through the course I started watching a YouTube video or two on the subject we were covering the next day. Nothing major, no coding or deep dives, just a video or two, but I found that having the lightest base of knowledge going into the lecture meant that much more stuck and I retained much more information." - John 

Do not convince yourself that everyone else will know loads more than you.

Know you're supposed to be here

women sitting in a cafe and smiling"Say to yourself, ‘I am supposed to be here’. Repeat as needed. Do not convince yourself that everyone else will know loads more than you. You got on the course, you’ve done the pre-course, you’re right where you’re supposed to be." - Hazel 

Stay curious

Cat standing on back paws trying to see into a window

  1. Be yourself, even if it's scary.
  2. Respect your classmates and the tutors.
  3. Stay curious. There will always be more to learn.
  4. Look after your body and mind. Time off should be spent away from stressful code.
  5. Most of your learning will be passive. Things that don't make sense now will click in time.
  6. Laugh, hard. - Dan

This is just the beginning

Looking for some more advice on what to do (and what to avoid) while you're learning to code? Check out 10 tips these developers wished they'd known before they started coding

Lucy Adams
After discovering Northcoders and sharing the vision, she came on board to spread the word about Northcoders to help change lives. She thinks you should learn to code because it's an incredibly rewarding skill!

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