Finally Finished Launch School JS109, Here’s the Story.
I registered for the Prep courses in early October but wasn’t that serious until I began JS101 on December 22nd. Other than the like one genuine attempt I made at studying for the course in college (which lasted all of 30 minutes) the only other coding experience I have is with this other bootcamp which claimed to be a Java for Beginners bootcamp with possible employment after 3 months, but after the first day I saw it wasn’t gonna teach me anything. I literally knew from the first day that this wasn’t for me, they moved way too fast, the lecturer seemed uninterested in teaching and only in showing slides. At first when I left I felt like a quitter. I had only wound up trying to get into coding after Covid hit and the time at home after getting laid off put me in an existential crisis. I needed a career change from my dead-end minimum wage job and after months of research interrupted by bouts of laziness and being down real bad, I realized I had graduated college without a real skill. I needed to learn a literal marketable skill. I’m not a salesman, and customer service taught me I don’t really like customers. Economics taught me theories and concepts and such but I couldn’t really break in anywhere because Econ grads usually go to grad school and that just wasn’t in the cards for me. After even more research I stumbled upon my old enemy: Programming. Yet this time, I started liking the idea of a challenge. Learning a skill that was high in demand, very well paying, complex as 🤬, and would grant me the freedom to work anywhere in the world. So after the trial and error with the other coding bootcamp, I found Launch School in a Google search and really liked their idea of Mastery of the basics. I loved what I saw. Fast forward to now and I’ve completed both JS109 Assessments (March 23rd), with a consistent 20–30 hours per week of studying 📚 The actual course material I finished in like 2 weeks, but the remaining 2 and a half months were spent studying for the written (which I took twice and finished on January 22nd) and the live coding (which I also took twice, and finished on March 23rd. More on this in the next paragraphs). Prior to starting the courses I had gone through a ton of the Medium posts from other Launch students and found a good timeline would be to finish the first course in around 3 months, so I made that my goal. I thank the universe it took me 3 months and a day 🥲😇
The Written Exam.
After the coursework, when I saw the study guide for the written exam, I was like ‘3 hours plus open notes this finna be a breeze!’ Wrong. I had all my notes prepared and I had damn near memorized the Intro to Programming book on the open shelf, plus the course material. I focused intently on what was emphasized in the study guide and felt beyond ready, and in a way, I was. The problem: anxiety. Soon as the test started and I saw that first question, I folded like laundry. I started rambling in my written responses, questioning myself on topics I had just been super secure in. I apple crumbled 🥲 For every question, I was writing dissertations instead of just answering the specific question asked of me. And why was I doing that: I wanted to make sure that if I didn’t get the exact right answer, I’d at least get points for displaying partial knowledge of the topics. This method maybe would’ve worked but I didn’t account for something else: time. All that typing had really built up, I ended up submitting my test 7 minutes late. Automatic 10 points off. I was hoping the corrections I made to the exam after they sent it back for revisions would help me out, but no deal! Not Yet.
I was down, real down, but not out. I used the week to recalibrate, I copied all the questions from the exam and answered them as succinctly and precisely as possible. In this, I learned so many topics and concepts I had somehow overlooked in my initial studying. When the week was up I registered for the nearest time I could and low-key, I was holding out faith it’ll be the same exact questions I received 😏 that way I already got the PERFECT answers 😏😏 Wrong again, the questions were formatted similarly but not the exact same as the other one. Yet, this time around when a question kinda tripped me up or maybe not directly what I remember, I was calm and collected, and I breathed away the nervousness. I set a timer for each question, leaving aside around 15 minutes in the end for edits and corrections and ended up submitting the exam this time with about 30 seconds left, fully edited. I knew I passed soon as I submitted so I wasn’t too angsty, and when I got the confirmation, I took the next day off to celebrate ✌🏿
The Live Coding.
I almost 💩 bricks when I saw the sets of easy JS101 practice problems. My confidence had fully deflated. Why? Because the study guide for the live session, amongst other topics it specifies for you to study, makes it clear that if you can’t solve the easy problems with general ease, don’t even think about setting up the live exam. I was not ready, but I was determined to get there. I began with the videos on the PEDAC process. The guide gives you 4 videos where you watch others code and go through their process, but I’d recommend going back to the course material where the PEDAC process was covered by each step. One thing I’ve found is that the most important step is the first one: UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM. Once you actually know what is being asked of you it becomes so much easier to break down a large problem into a series of smaller, easier problems. When I went back to the practice problems after spending a few days really studying the PEDAC process, solving the easy problems became a rush. I was floored at how just a week or 2 ago, these problems made me question if I really belong in this program and now, I’m confidently solving these problems. Sometimes too confidently. I got cocky after like easy 4 😏 Skipping important steps because a solution probably came to me while reading the problem. Huge mistake. It worked for most of the easy problems and a few of the mediums, but all in all this was making me build bad coding habits, and I was gonna learn the hard way. Thus brings me to last week, my first live session. You’re probably asking: ‘Posi, if you felt so confident, how did you not pass the first time?’ In all honesty there are 2 reasons: I was nervous as hell. Again 🙃 And the bad habit I had built of skipping steps in the process without fully understanding the problem finally caught up to me. The hour leading up to the exam I had to pee 8 times. Literally 8 😑 After the third time I thought, ‘this is odd’ and started counting every time I had to go. Ended up at 8. When I saw the first question I once again froze. I managed to get all but a few test cases to pass but took too long to realize I needed a ≤ sign instead of just <. Had I paid more attention to my process I would have caught that. 25 minutes to go, and now beginning question 2. Feeling the weight of time, I rushed the process again and didn’t fully read the problem and test cases, leading to me writing the correct code for my problem, except my problem wasn’t the actual problem being asked by the exam. With 3 minutes to go, and several minutes of panicked confusion as to why my tests weren’t hitting, I finally went back and re-read the problem and saw my errors. I turned Sonic. My hands were typing miles a minute to come up with anything tangible, but when that hour was complete, and homeboy was like ‘yeah I gotta go’ and hung up the zoom call, and I still ain’t finish the second problem, I knew then: I had 🤬 up. Again. The depression was real. At this point I’m really starting to feel like maybe I’m not cut out for this. I was relieved that I could take it again in a week, and thought I’d use that week to really go hard with my studying. But that didn’t happen. In the week leading up to the second live attempt I solved only one problem: the one that tripped me up on the exam. And I got it down, full process, in like 7 minutes. This was bittersweet for me. On one hand I knew that i had been ready for the exam and this was further proof, on the other it sucked knowing I let my lack of discipline and focus delay me. I had the process, and I didn’t properly use it when it mattered 😔 It was hard for me to study or even look at problems, I felt I had learned everything I can at this stage, and that the reason I didn’t pass wasn’t for lack of knowledge of the material, but because when under a bit of pressure from the material I froze and forgot everything I knew, instead of trusting the process to guide me. I had to learn to breath and not just panic at the first sign of code not going perfect. I had to acknowledge that no matter the problem they give me, I’m gonna have the tools in my arsenal to solve it. I just gotta be present and creative. My second attempt was given by Elizabeth, the TA whom I’d met when she was the lead for each of the 4 study groups I attended in preparation. Her presence was a Godsend, it calmed me down knowing I was performing in front of someone I had coded in front of before and she really gave me the space to correct my mistakes when the code didn’t run as intended. Not that my other invigilator wasn’t great either, but my problems with Launch School, especially at this stage because it’s really my first time having to be a student again in years, are all internal so that familiar voice on the other end really boosted my confidence. I managed to solve both problems within 46 minutes and knew soon as I submitted that I passed. Thus, the high I’m currently riding 😎😎😎😎😎😎😎
My biggest advice: keep calm and trust the process. I failed twice because I did not keep calm and trust the process. After studying the PEDAC process for a good amount of time, you will find solving larger problems easier. Once you read the material, read it again. Repetition does build muscle memory. I wish I hadn’t gotten those Not Yets, but I needed to learn how to study and learn again, how to take tests under pressure again. I came into this program with little to no programming experience. The course I failed in college, I just never showed up to class after the third day so my impression was that programming was impossible. It is not. For anyone struggling in studying for 109, or just wants a perspective from someone who’s only starting this programmer’s journey, this one is for you. I currently should not be excited about pursuing a career in programming, due to my perception of coding from college, yet here I am, fully dived in. Learn from my failures, BREATH if you’re feeling nervous, and above all,