Hacker School is now the Recurse Center. Read more.
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Frequently Asked Questions

Admissions

When do admissions open?
Applications are currently open. You can apply now. We accept applications on a rolling basis, and open applications for batches about five months in advance. We have applications for our next four batches open at all times. You can see which batches are accepting applications on our batch schedule.
What's the admissions process?

There are three phases of our admissions process: an application and two rounds of interviews. We make admissions decisions at the end of each phase.

The first step is to submit a brief written application. After that, you will either receive an invitation to interview or an e-mail notifying you that we don’t think the Recurse Center is a fit at this time.

If you are invited to interview, you’ll be sent a link to book a time slot. The first interview is a general conversation so that we can learn more about your interests as a programmer, what you’re working on, why you want to attend the Recurse Center, and what you hope to get out of it. There are no trick questions, and you won’t be expected to program anything during the first interview. We may ask some technical questions about the code you submitted or projects you’re working on. You'll also have an opportunity to ask us questions to help you figure out if the Recurse Center is a good fit.

If you are invited to a second interview, you'll be pair programming with one of the Recurse Center facilitators on some code you've written. At the Recurse Center, pairing usually means two people at one computer, but for this pairing we'll use collaboration software so we can work with you remotely on your code.

This is meant to be low-stress, so you'll pick a piece of your code you're already familiar with, and you'll decide what we're going to do with it. You'll also have the opportunity to choose one of a handful of suggested pairing tasks we've devised if you prefer.

Keep in mind these tips for picking a good project:

  • Pick something relatively self-contained.
  • Pick something you've written from scratch (i.e., not using a framework like Rails or Django).
  • Know what you'd like to do, like adding a small feature or refactoring the code.
  • Remember that the pairing is only 25 minutes, so pick something that could be reasonably accomplished in 10-15 minutes.

If your code isn't already online, you can put it in a Gist. We use different collaboration software depending on what operating system you're using.

If you're on Linux, we'll use a free application called TeamViewer that will allow us both to share and use your computer's screen.

If you're on Windows or Mac OS X, we'll use a free application called Copilot. You need an invitation code to download it, so you may not be able to get it ahead of time. The download is small (a few megabytes), but please download the TeamViewer client before the interview as a backup.

If you can't use Copilot or TeamViewer, we can also use a web-based collaborative text editor – be sure you can copy text between your editor and the browser.

What's the admissions timeline?

As we accept and respond to applications on a rolling basis, our timeline varies. On average, it takes us one and a half weeks to review an application. In review we try to prioritize applications to the nearest batch.

Our interview process can take anywhere from one week to three weeks depending on your schedule and when you book your interviews. We usually have two days of interview slots open per week, and you will have access to our interview booker as soon as you are invited to interview. We do our best to give decisions within two days of when you interview.

You can see which batches are accepting applications on our batch schedule.

Is there a deadline for when I need to apply by?

We close applications for a batch about two weeks before the batch begins, or when the batch is full, depending on which happens first.

If you're admitted but the batch you applied to is full, you'll have the option of either joining a wait list or attending the following batch.

Should I submit an application for each batch I'm able to attend?

No, you should only apply for the batch you'd most like to attend. If you're admitted but your preferred batch is full, you'll have the option to attend a different batch.

I applied and wasn't admitted. Can I reapply?
You're welcome to reapply, but please wait at least three months after the decision on your previous application. It's not uncommon for us to admit people who we had previously rejected. In fact, 6% of all Recursers applied at least twice before being admitted. For people who are reapplying, we can most about seeing what has changed since the last time they applied.
Can you tell me why I wasn't admitted or give me feedback on my application?
We've unfortunately decided to stop giving individualized admissions feedback. You can read more about why we made this decision here.
Am I eligible for a grant?

When you apply to the Recurse Center, you’ll be able to select the race(s) and gender identifications with which you identify and apply for a grant. If you are a member of a group that is historically underrepresented in tech, you are eligible for a grant. We currently offer grants to:

  • People who identify as women (cis or trans)
  • People who identify as Black, Latino/a, Native American and/or Pacific Islander, regardless of gender.

You can learn more about our grants program here.

Logistics

When does the next batch start?

Here is the schedule of our upcoming batches:

Batch Dates Accepting applications Notes
Spring 2, 2015 Mar 30th - Jul 2nd Not yet There will be a break from May 11th to May 22nd. If you're coming from outside the U.S. and are unsure if you can be in the country for more than 90 days, please email admissions@recurse.com
Summer 1, 2015 May 26th - Aug 13th Yes As the Monday of the first week of this batch is Memorial Day, the Recurse Center will be closed. The batch will begin on Tuesday, May 26th.
Summer 2, 2015 Jul 6th - Sep 24th Yes
Fall 1, 2015 Aug 17th - Nov 5th Yes
Fall 2, 2015 Sep 28th - Dec 17th Yes
How much does attending the Recurse Center cost?
Attendance is free for everyone (see below for how we make money). Living in New York City can be expensive, though it's possible to make it work on a limited budget. We also offer need-based grants for living expenses to people from historically underrepresented groups in programming.
How big is the Recurse Center?
Our batches are currently about 30 people, not including us (Nick, Dave, Sonali, Alan, Mary, Rachel, Tom, and Zach). We accept as many people as we think we can accommodate and keep the batch good. Our batches overlap, and so there are usually 50-60 people at the Recurse Center at any given time.
How old are most Recursers?
Recursers have ranged in age from late teens to late 50s, though most are in their late 20s or early 30s.
How many women are at the Recurse Center?
The Recurse Center is typically 30-45% women. Read this blog post to learn more.
What kinds of people go to the Recurse Center?
Recursers come from an extraordinarily diverse range of backgrounds, from very experienced programmers to people who have only been programming for a few months. You can read about some past Recursers on our alumni profiles page.
Do you offer scholarships for living expenses?

We offer a limited number of need-based grants for people from groups that are historically underrepresented in programming. The grants range in size from $500 to $7,000 (before taxes). You can apply for a grant simply by checking the box that you need financial assistance on our application form.

Once you are admitted, you will be able to request a grant amount. You’ll also be asked to provide a brief statement on your current financial situation and why you need a grant to attend the Recurse Center.

Please note: the Recurse Center is free for everyone. These grants are for living expenses during the batch; please request a grant only if you are unable to attend without financial assistance.

We do our best to fulfill every grant request. Once you have been admitted and have requested a grant, we'll give you an answer within a few weeks.

What's the time commitment?

We meet Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays for three months. Our hours are 10:30am to 8:30pm Mondays (we stay late to have dinner together) and 10:30am to 6:30pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Additionally, all Recursers have 24/7 access to the space, and we commonly have optional events and other activities on Fridays and in the evenings.

Can I miss X days/weeks of my batch at the Recurse Center?

It's okay to miss one or two days of your batch because of prior engagements, however, it's not okay to miss more than that (e.g., a full week). If you would need to miss more than a couple of days of a batch, you should attend another batch.

I only need to miss one day, but it's the first day of the batch. Is that okay?

No, unfortunately. The first day of a batch is different from the rest, and we think it's essential that everyone is there for it. If you can't make it, you should choose another batch that fits your schedule better.

New York

Where is the Recurse Center?
We're in New York City, near the intersection of Broadway and Grand St in Manhattan.
How much does it cost to live in New York for three months?

This varies tremendously depending on people's lifestyles and personal circumstances (e.g., if they have dependents, student loans, etc.), but most Recursers are able to live on between $1,500 and $4,000/month. This means people typically need between $6,000 and $10,000 for the entire batch, again, depending on how they want to live (e.g., nicer apartments and shorter commutes are more expensive). Many Recursers sublet and/or room together during their batch.

The Recurse Center is in SoHo, a neighborhood with very high rent prices. We are, however, highly accessible by public transportation and are a less than 30 minutes from many more affordable neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

To make the Recurse Center more accessible to people from historically underrepresented groups in programming, we offer need-based grants for living expenses.

How hard is it to find a short-term sublet in New York?
New York's real estate market can be intense, but finding a sublet is very doable. In fact, that's what most Recursers do: over 70% of people who come to the Recurse Center move to New York to do it, and they almost all do short-term sublets or rent places on Airbnb. Hundreds of alumni have done this in the past.
Can I visit the Recurse Center?
Probably not. We have a limited amount of space, and priority goes to our alumni and invited speakers.
Do I have to be in New York?
Yes, you need to be in the New York area for the full three months. (One Recurser commuted from New Haven and never missed a day, but you probably don't want to do that.)

Structure

How does anyone learn if there are no formal teachers or curricula?

In place of formal teachers we have facilitators (Alan, Mary, and Tom), residents, and fellow Recursers who help find the best way to learn what you want. Instead of a fixed curriculum, we have an individualized approach. If you're weak on CS theory or want to explore functional programming, we'll help you find a path to learn it.

We've found that everyone learns a lot when a group of smart, curious people get in a room together to write code and help each other grow.

Do you have lectures?

Almost never. We much more frequently break into groups or pairs to help each other understand something new.

We also occasionally host guest speakers. These talks expose Recursers to new ideas and, more important, serve as an excuse to get Recursers interacting with speakers (you can always watch lectures online if you want, but you can't interact with a video).

Is this a Rails or Django training program?
No, we're language and framework agnostic.
Does the Recurse Center grant degrees or certificates?
No. The reasons to attend the Recurse Center are to become a better programmer, to join a growing and tight-knit alumni network, and to get a free t-shirt.

Commitment

I'd like to start my own company. Should I attend the Recurse Center?
It depends, but if your primary interest is starting a company, you should apply to Y Combinator.
I'm a contract programmer. Can I do client work at the Recurse Center?
No, the Recurse Center is not a coworking space.

Experience

I don't know how to program. Can I attend the Recurse Center?
No, sorry. The Recurse Center is currently only for people who already know how to code. Think of it like a writers workshop. We're here to help people become great novelists, but you have to already know English and be comfortable writing essays.
How much programming experience do I need to attend the Recurse Center?

You need to have programmed enough to know that you enjoy programming and are able to write short programs from scratch. This requirement is as much for you as it is for us, since most of our time here is spent programming, and if you don't like programming, you won't like the Recurse Center.

This doesn't mean you need to be single-mindedly obsessed with coding or regularly spend 12 hours a day doing it; it just means the prospect of three months focusing on becoming a better programmer should sound like fun and not a chore.

If you get excited thinking about how programming languages are written, or solve Project Euler problems for fun, or get a burst of joy every time you squash a bug, you're almost certainly a good fit for the Recurse Center.

The lower bound for experience for people who have successfully done a batch at the Recurse Center seems to be about two months. That is, we've had exceptional Recursers who started their batch with as little as two months of programming experience and who have done enormously well.

International applicants

I'm not a US citizen. Can I attend the Recurse Center?
Yes, assuming you can legally be in New York for the entirety of the batch (just under three months). We don't pay you, and we're not an official academic institution, so you shouldn't need a work or student visa. We've had people come from more than 30 countries to attend the Recurse Center.
How many people come from outside the US?
About 30% of Recursers come from outside the US. You can learn more about who comes to the Recurse Center on our blog.
Can you sponsor visas?
No, sorry :(

The business

How does the Recurse Center make money?

Companies pay us to recruit. If after your batch you want a job, either immediately or down the line, we will help you find one. If you don't want one, that's fine too; there is no obligation to take a new job after your batch.

If you do want a job after your batch, we will help you every step of the way. We work with over 60 companies, and we help current and past Recursers with everything from deciding which companies to talk to, to interview prep, to negotiations.

While we can’t absolutely guarantee jobs, the overwhelming majority of people who want jobs after attending the Recurse Center get them.

Why/how did you start the Recurse Center?
Read this blog post.
How can I help?
We're always looking for space, scholarships, and sponsors for future batches. Please contact us for details.
Are you funded?
We were part of the Summer 2010 Y Combinator batch and have received additional funding from Founder Collective, SV Angel and a small set of angel investors. We also received a Flash Grant from the Shuttleworth Foundation.
What's the correct way to write your name?

When referring to us in a sentence, our name is written as the Recurse Center (note the lowercase "the," capitalized "Recurse" and "Center," and space between the two), and can be abbreviated as RC. Written on its own (i.e., not in a sentence), we are simply Recurse Center.

People who are attending or who have attended the Recurse Center are Recursers or RCers. Past Recursers are also known as alums, alumni or alumnae.