What we do

The Recurse Center runs educational programming retreats in New York City. The retreats are free, self-directed, project based, and for anyone who wants to get dramatically better at programming.

You attend RC as part of a group of people, called a batch. Batches start every six weeks, and you can attend RC for either one, six or twelve weeks. At RC, you spend your time working at the edge of your programming abilities in a rigorous, supportive, and friendly environment.

RC is for people of all ages and experience levels. While you need to know how to program to attend RC, we’ve had Recursers attend with as little as six months of programming experience and as much as 30 years of professional programming experience.

Our goal is for RC to be an environment where you can thrive, push yourself, and do great work. RC is self-directed and built to give you as much control over your education as possible. We don’t have teachers or a curriculum, and there’s very little required structure. While here, you’ll pick the projects you work on, the people you work with, and you’ll create or opt into the structure you need to do your best work.

Recursers working in the space

The most important thing you’ll do at RC is push yourself as a programmer. You will pick projects at the edge of your understanding, and work on them either alone or with others. You will reflect on your goals and progress, go down rabbit holes, and learn things that you did not expect to learn. You will also struggle, get distracted, lose your way, and sometimes wonder if you’re making any progress at all. Doing good work is not easy. Our goal is to create an environment that supports you in staying engaged when the going gets hard.

We want you to thrive at RC regardless of your race, gender, and programming background. We offer need-based grants for people from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in programming. We want you to be able to focus on programming, and not be distracted by feeling like you don’t belong.

To help create a productive environment, we have four lightweight social rules. The social rules name and identify behaviors that make for a worse learning environment and act as a release valve so that frustrations don't build up over time.

Being in an environment as self-directed as RC can be a challenge, but your fellow Recursers are here to help. The RC community is full of smart, friendly people who can talk through your goals with you, help you pick projects and structure your time, answer your questions, give you code review, and support you emotionally. Recursers all have different backgrounds and experience levels, but everyone at RC is here to become better programmers and to help each other in doing so.

All the software you’ll write at RC will be free and open source. A large part of the educational value of RC comes from your interactions with your batchmates and alumni, and writing code that can be read, used, and improved by others in the community is an important part of that.

Our philosophy

Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners. — John Holt

We believe that education is “the product of the activity of the learner,” and that people learn most effectively when they are in control of and have responsibility for their own education. That’s why RC is self-directed, not coercive. It is also why we value intrinsic motivation over external motivation. Our approach is dramatically different than that of the modern school system, which tells people what, when, how, and where they must learn.

Self-direction does not imply isolation or a lack of structure. Rather, it implies that collaboration should be voluntary and structure shouldn’t be externally imposed. Nearly all of us benefit from supportive peers, collaborators, and domain experts. And nearly all of us would find learning hard or impossible without any kind of structure. But there is no one approach that works optimally for everyone, and the methods and systems we use to learn must be ones that fit our own goals, preferences, and learning styles. RC gives you the freedom to choose those that work best for you.

RC’s philosophy is heavily influenced by unschooling, the educational movement founded by John Holt in the 1970s. Unschooling starts with the belief that people are naturally curious, and that school drains us of our curiosity. We don’t need grades or tests to motivate us to learn how to walk or talk, and as toddlers we are endlessly curious and excited to explore the world. The process of schooling — that is, compulsory education dictated by teachers and backed by fear of punishment or embarrassment — demotivates us and keeps us from developing our capacity to set our own paths. RC provides a space that supports rather than hinders curiosity and self-direction.

Recursers pairing on a code review

Never graduate

RC doesn’t end when your batch ends. We have an active and engaged alumni community of over 1,500 smart, enthusiastic, and helpful programmers all over the world. RC is open to alumni every Thursday as well as during evenings and weekends, so if you live in New York (or are in from out of town), you can continue to work in our space and attend events long after your batch ends. You can also stay involved from anywhere in the world on our vibrant online forums.

No matter how long it’s been since your batch, if you’re looking for a new job RC provides a full suite of career services including job placement, negotiating advice, job search planning, and interview prep.

We host regular social events for alumni in New York, and alumni all over the world host their own programming sessions, potlucks, hikes, game nights, and other get-togethers. Every summer we host Never Graduate Week, our yearly alumni reunion, where you can spend a week working at the edge of your programming abilities, meeting alumni from other batches, and reliving your glory days at RC.

If one week a year isn’t enough, you can even apply to do another batch of RC. We love welcoming alumni back and getting to see how they’ve grown and changed since their last batch.

Most importantly, the friendships you make at RC will last far into the future.

Game night at the Recurse Center


RC was founded in 2011 and was named Hacker School until March 2015. To learn more, check out Five Years of RC and our User's Manual for a brief history.