Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Recurse Center?
The Recurse Center is a free, self-directed, educational retreat for people who want to get better at programming, whether they've been coding for three decades or three months. You can find out more on our about page.
- 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.
- Is this a bootcamp?
- No. RC is an educational retreat for people who already know how to program, and for programmers of all experience levels. We don't have teachers, curriculum, or classes, and our goal is to create the best place for you to grow as a programmer, not to turn you into a professional programmer in three months – many Recursers are already professional programmers before they come to RC. Also, unlike bootcamps, RC is self-directed, community-driven and free to attend.
- How much does attending the Recurse Center cost?
The Recurse Center is free for everyone. We don’t need to charge for attendance since we make money from companies paying us to hire our alumni. Living in New York City can be expensive, though it's possible to make it work on a limited budget.
We offer need-based grants for living expenses to people from historically underrepresented groups in programming. 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.
Again, RC is free for everyone, these grants are only 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.
- How does the Recurse Center make money?
Companies pay us to recruit our alumni. 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 100 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 guarantee jobs, the overwhelming majority of people who want jobs after attending the Recurse Center get them.
- How do I apply?
Who should apply
- I don't know how to program. Can I attend RC Retreat?
No, sorry. RC Retreat is only for people who already know how to code. Think of it like a writers' workshop. We're here to help people become better novelists, but you have to already know English and be comfortable writing essays.
- How much programming experience do I need to attend RC Retreat?
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 of RC Retreat seems to be a few 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.
- Is there a minimum age for attending RC Retreat?
- There’s no lower bound on age as long as you meet our admissions criteria and can commit to being in New York City for the duration of your batch. If you are under 18, we ask that you get your parent or guardian to sign a waver.
- I'd like to start my own company. Should I attend RC Retreat?
- 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.
- 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 an RC interviewer 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.
We typically use Skype for screen-sharing. However, Skype's not always reliable, especially on Linux, so we ask that you also have a Google Hangouts account. This way you and your interviewer can switch if you have technical difficulties.
Please do not use Skype's web client, since it does not support screen-sharing.
- 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 several days of interview slots open each 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 four 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.
- 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.
- Does requesting a grant affect my chances of being admitted?
No. We do not consider if people have requested financial aid when making admissions decisions. In fact, we hide grant requests from application reviewers by default, and interviewers cannot see whether or not an applicant has requested a grant.
- 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.
- 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 care most about seeing what has changed since the last time they applied.
- 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 your batch. We don't pay you, and we're not an official academic institution, so you won't be eligible for a work or student visa through us. We've had people come from all over the world to attend the Recurse Center.
- How many Recursers 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.
- When does the next batch start?
Here is the schedule of our upcoming batches:
Batch Dates Accepting applications Notes Spring 2, 2017 Mar 27th - Jun 29th Yes Please note that there will be a two week break from May 8th - May 19th. While this batch includes 12 weeks of time at RC, it spans 14 weeks. (This does not apply to you if you're applying for a half batch.) Summer 1, 2017 May 22nd - Aug 10th Yes Summer 2, 2017 Jul 5th - Sep 21st Yes The Summer 2, 2017 batch will start on Wednesday, July 5th, due to the Fourth of July holiday. For the first week, this batch will be in session from Wednesday through Friday to make up for one of the lost days. The rest of the batch will follow a regular schedule (in session Monday - Thursday). Fall 1, 2017 Aug 14th - Nov 2nd Yes Fall 2, 2017 Sep 25th - Dec 14th Not yet RC will be closed on Wednesday, 11/22 and Thursday, 11/23 for the Thanksgiving holiday. Winter 1, 2017 Nov 6th, 2017 - Feb 8th, 2018 Not yet Batches will not be in session from December 18th, 2017 through January 1st, 2018, for the winter holidays.
- What's the time commitment?
You can attend RC Retreat for either a full batch (12 weeks) or a half-batch (six weeks). We meet Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Our hours are 10:30am to 6:30pm. We commonly have optional events and other activities on Fridays and in the evenings, such as technical talks, job fairs, game nights and art nights.
Additionally, all current Recursers have 24/7 access to the space.
- Can I miss X days/weeks of my batch?
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. A large part of the educational value of RC comes from your interactions with your batchmates and alumni, and being around consistently during your batch is an important part of that.
- 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 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.
- Where is the Recurse Center?
- We're in New York City, near the intersection of Broadway and Grand St in Manhattan.
- Do I have to be in New York?
- Yes, you need to be in the New York area for the entirety of your batch. Some folks commute daily from New Jersey (or even Connecticut), but we recommend you find a closer place to stay if possible.
- How much does it cost to live in New York for three months?
This varies tremendously depending on your lifestyles and personal circumstances (e.g., if you have dependents, student loans, etc.), but most Recursers are able to live on between $1,500 and $4,000/month. This means you'll probably need between $6,000 and $10,000 for the entire batch, again, depending on how you 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 less than 30 minutes from many more affordable neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.
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?
No. We unfortunately can't take visitors due to the layout and occupancy requirements of our space. If you're interested in hearing more about what RC is like, check out the rest of this FAQ, our about page, and our manual. You are also welcome to email us.
Please do not drop by the space unannounced.
- How does anyone learn if there are no teachers or curricula?
While at RC, people work on programming projects, self-study using books or online courses, and teach and learn from each other both informally and in casual workshops and seminars. We believe that people learn best when given the freedom to focus on what interests them, rather than having to follow a fixed curriculum.
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.
- How many women are at the Recurse Center?
- Recurse Center batches are typically 30-45% women. Read this blog post to learn more.
- 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.
- Does the Recurse Center grant degrees or certificates?
- No. The reasons to attend the Recurse Center are to become a better programmer, to work on projects you're excited about, to join the world's best programming community, and to get a free t-shirt.
- Do you have a Code of Conduct?
Not currently. There are several things about our environment that make this feasible. We have four social rules that help us set expectations and give people a way to give others feedback on harmful behaviors. Part of the responsibilities of our full-time staff is to maintain and improve our social environment. We do our best to encourage inclusion and diversity within batches, which also contributes to having an environment that's safer for everyone. Since RC is a closed space and folks must apply to attend, we're able to maintain our environment through these measures. None of this is to say that we'll never have a CoC, or that we don't think they're valuable; we might and we do.
If you're looking for a good code of conduct, check out the one for !!con, a conference started by members of the RC community.
- 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. Past Recursers are also known as alums, alumni or alumnae.