I left MIT to start Make School. I'm the guy in this video. Thanks to Reddit it was actually in the top 10 most viewed videos in the US the day it was released and generated many AMA requests!

Some background: In 2009/2010 my co-founder and I taught ourselves mobile development and launched iPhone Apps. We quickly realized that learning how to build and launch products was teaching us more relevant skills in a better way than our college CS curriculum. There was a huge missed opportunity in CS education to teach students industry-relevant skills, with a project-based curriculum, and without putting students into debt. Over the years, our dissatisfaction with college grew.

We left school to start our own in 2012 with funding from Y Combinator and later from Alexis Ohanian and others. We run intensive summer programs teaching app development and as our programs and teaching style grew in popularity we launched our 2 year program this year. We created it to provide students with the college education we wish we had had.

We built the curriculum by talking to Silicon Valley companies to make sure we were teaching the technologies and skills that will best prepare our students for a career in tech. There's no up-front tuition cost - instead you pay us back through internship earnings and 25% of your first two years' salary, aligning our incentives with students and doing our part to fight the college debt crisis.

My Proof: http://imgur.com/qjDqtzY

Comments: 65 • Responses: 18  • Date: 

beaverteeth9212 karma

How do you ensure that students are learning skills that are going to be relevant in the future, and not just whatever is popular in 2015?

JRManifold0 karma

CS fundamentals and product development are timeless skills. We blend learning skills you can use day 1 on the job with a deeper understanding of how things operate and the ability to face a set of problems, break them down, and build a product to solve them.

skankopotamus10 karma

I'm curious about the legality of taking a portion of someone's salary for the first two years of their career. Can you explain that for me? How can you assign a concrete value to the education if it's based purely on their post-graduation income, which will surely vary substantially from one had to the next?

Are there minimums and maximums in place to address situations where someone graduates and then either goes off to work at Pizza Hut, or starts their own company and makes millions? I have to imagine that in the former case it would create a financial hardship, and in the latter case they would probably try to fight it if you ask for an exorbitant amount of money.

arthurd423 karma

If you start your own company just pay yourself $1 and submit all your living/entertainment expenses for reimbursement to the company. That way you only pay $0.25 to make school ;)

JRManifold2 karma

Darn, foiled again!

JRManifold1 karma

It's called an Income Share Agreement and we are not the first to implement this type of contract (lenders have used it in the past as a replacement for traditional loans)

Repayment will vary from one student to the next and we feel that's fair. There is no minimum, though if you are making below a certain amount you can pause repayment so it doesn't become a financial burden, and there is a maximum if you earn a really high income. If you start your own company we actually void repayment in exchange for shares in your company.

Pyromine9 karma

My friend is currently at Make School and I considered applying. From my conversations with them, they've said it feels paced both too slow and too fast, and she felt that there was at times not sufficient rigor. Can you think of any reasons they would voice that as their critique?

JRManifold7 karma

We didn't pace the iOS portion of curriculum well - it was super rigorous but not super engaging, and theoretically awesome curriculum is useless if students don't engage with it. Your friend is probably on of the students who didn't engage with that curriculum (if I'm wrong let me know), and that's our fault not hers. We're fixing that for the next phase as we move on to web development. Ask your friend how they feel at the end of Jan :)

That's probably at the crux of the issue. The other aspect is that when we have to pick between front loading learning how to build great products and the technologies that power them, or learning the fundamental concepts that underlie those technologies, we tend to teach the former first. This means that students sometimes feel like they are missing rigot because they are used to learning fundamentals first. I think this sentiment will fade over time as students go through more of the curriculum, we're still only 3 months in.

If you're considering applying, PM me and I'll hop on the phone and we can discuss problems with incumbents, with Make School, and what we're doing to fix it.

menamejmaw3 karma

Would you consider a flex plan on that 25%? It seems pretty steep for people who might want to live elsewhere than one of the start-up hubs with markets not as high-paying...

JRManifold3 karma

Fairly certain the model will have to evolve and become more flexible over time, but you have to start with someone. Absolutely would consider it.

imsamhi3 karma

Hey Jeremy. I'm a big fan of what MakeSchool is doing. What edTech products/ tools does MakeSchool use?

JRManifold3 karma

We develop most of our tools in-house but we are using HackerRank this year to auto-grade the programming evaluation we designed.

Xams23873 karma

Hey just curious, how have other colleges reacted to you doing this?

Also, how have employers treated your graduates, or those who have brought up your school to them?

JRManifold3 karma

We are friendly with all colleges we directly interact with. Colleges are full of people with varied opinions and as far as I can tell many feel that what we are doing is interesting. They usually aren't blind to the problems in higher ed.

Employers are almost exclusively positive, with some of the bigger and more bureaucratic ones being a little skeptical that we aren't degree granting, but it's becoming less and less of an issue - we have partnerships now with companies as big as Lyft and LinkedIn.

HiSoArshavin2 karma

I saw a video of your school in your interview with Ms. Ling. I like the concept. My question to you is this: It seems that the 100k+ jobs are ever increasingly shifting to the tech industry, and that with increased automation this is only going to continue. So do you have plans to collaborate with big companies in Silicon Valley such as FB and Google where you provide them with a pipeline of recruiters, or do you wish to stay independent?

Also - your student profile: From what i saw in the video there were alot of Asian/White students in the classes? I dont think thats a bad thing at all, but do you care about increasing access to computer knowledge / science to kids of color/non represented minorites?

The reason i ask is that I'm currently a senior at Pomona College but I had the chance to take some classes at Harvey Mudd. They were life changing honestly and it exposed me to a world of which i knew nothing about. I was able to participate in a Hackathon and even won a tech consulting case competition as a result of the 1 class. So imo, I think it would be helpful, but maybe I'm biased.

JRManifold0 karma

"It seems that the 100k+ jobs are ever increasingly shifting to the tech industry, and that with increased automation this is only going to continue." I agree.

We already have partnerships with 20+ tech companies for recruiting including LinkedIn, Lyft, Tilt, Teespring, Hipmunk, Edmodo, Dailymotion, and others. We are still very independent, but it does mean that they recognize that we are a valuable hiring pipeline for them.

Student profile: ~20% of our students are from minority groups underrepresented in tech. The video doesn't do a great job of highlighting that. With no tuition of front for our 2 year program and a comprehensive scholarship program for our Summer Academy (50% of students receive some form of financial aid) we have been able to draw an incredibly socioeconomically diverse group of students.

We are very active in promoting CS education to under represented minorities through free curriculum we are building, events we host and sponsor, workshops we run, and collaborations with key organizations (some really exciting ones soon to be announced)

I love Hackathons :) I've been to over 40 including in Taiwan, China, and Japan.

HiSoArshavin2 karma

Thanks for the response.

My next question is - What is the minimum age limit for the Summer Academy? - I have a younger sister and Im doing my best to get her involved in computer science

2) How does someone build their programming/developer skills adequately on their own? I've tried doing codeacademy and other sites, but its very intensive and with minimal guidance its quite difficult. Where would you recommend a person to start?

VLKN2 karma

I can help answer question two - I've spent the last year and a half specifically learning objective-c and swift to become an iOS developer. Before then, I had a only year of formal CS education in python and Java.

I can tell you right now that the only way to learn how to do it is to find out a very specific thing you want to learn, throw yourself at a specific topic, and start doing tutorials until you know enough to try building your own project.

For example, I wanted to make games. I figured making 2d mobile games would be a great place to start. I settled on iOS games, because I owned an iPhone and a Mac. I figured "hey, flappy bird was a SUPER simple game. I've seen people post videos online where they clone it live. Why don't I watch one of those videos and try to follow along?" Then I realized people made tutorial videos and blog posts about how to do very simple iOS projects. I started doing these tutorials, and I built Flappy Bird, Angry Birds, and 2048. Along the way I had to learn tons of basic CS principles, namely data types, data structures, looping structures, and pointers. I also learned a TON of stuff about Objective-C and how the iOS frameworks are used. Eventually, I set my sights on designing my own iPhone game, and 4 weeks later, had made PushPush.

The same thing can be said for ANY kind of development. My biggest pieces of advice are: * Take the time to set up and learn how to use the right tools. If you want to learn web dev, learn Chrome, a text editor, and the terminal very well. If you want to learn iOS, learn XCode. If you want to do 3D game dev, learn Unity. etc. The in-browser learning is great, but it doesn't replace the feeling of success you get from using the tools the right way, and you'll have to learn it eventually anyway.

  • Don't get caught up in the basics. Start building something first. If you don't get a sense of accomplishment right away, try something else.

  • Start small. Don't try to learn game dev by having your first game try to be an mmo. Don't try to make your first website a "better Google." Set realistic expectations of yourself, and try to understand how long it might take to do something.

  • Don't be afraid to make mistakes! SO many people I meet are scared of having their code crash when they first start. Don't be! Go slowly, do your best to understand what your code does, and learn how to use Git or another source control tool. If something breaks, roll back your changes and try again.

  • Stick to it! Learning a programming language is just as hard, if not harder, than learning some real languages. And like real languages, you need to practice every day.

I hope my advice helps! Of course, you could always just go to Make School's summer academy to jumpstart you into iOS dev, or the Flatiron School to jump you into Web Dev. They're a HUGE help.

JRManifold1 karma

Don't get caught up in the basics. Start building something first. If you don't get a sense of accomplishment right away, try something else.

Yes! Though it is important at some point to devote time to going back and understanding everything you've done.

Start small. Don't try to learn game dev by having your first game try to be an mmo. Don't try to make your first website a "better Google." Set realistic expectations of yourself, and try to understand how long it might take to do something.


you need to practice every day.

1000 times yes!

JRManifold1 karma

1) 13! We have programs for beginner, intermediate, and advanced - she can apply here if she's going to be 13 by this summer: www.makeschool.com/summer-academy.

2) It's hard. I honestly wasn't very good at doing it on my own which is why I started a physical school, not an online one - awesome mentors in the room make all the difference. I've found the content at teamtreehouse.com for beginner-intermediate to be very good and we also have a free online class targeted at intermediate-advanced students here: www.makeschool.com/online-academy

redfroman1 karma

How did you get MIT to use your curriculum?

JRManifold1 karma

Hey fellow redfroman ;)

My advisor at MIT helped introduce the class in Jan 2013.

arthurd421 karma

Does make school prepare students for SQL and DB design/development?

JRManifold1 karma

Not explicitly though it is covered in the context of our web development curriculum. I can't think of a single student who has or is planning on applying for a DBA job.

arthurd421 karma

I can't think of a single student who has or is planning on applying for a DBA job.

As a developer every job I've had required knowledge of SQL and DB design at some point. Honestly I wouldn't hire someone who did not have these skills...

JRManifold1 karma

Absolutely agreed, you can't be a good developer without understanding that part of the stack. I thought you were asking whether we were preparing for DB focused careers, my bad. We absolutely cover DB, and not just SQL - we expose students to Mongo for web and various data persistence methods on mobile.

Qscfr1 karma

Hey! I remember seeing you at Make Hacks! Make Hacks really did change my life for the better. I really appreciate it.

My question is what can a student do in college to become more successful that Make School encourages?

I know you guys do local interning and create apps for them. I definitely will try to do that in college.

JRManifold1 karma

Glad to hear it! Scope out reasonable projects, and complete them. Make sure the outcome is tangible (something a human can interact with ideally) and that the code is all on Github. Scope is important because a completed awesome project will help you 10X more than a nearly-but-never completed super awesome project.

If you are doing this and learning new technologies in the process - essentially challenging yourself to not always use what you already know - internships and job offers will be much easier to come by. Your portfolio speaks volumes!

Also consider finding a coding buddy like you would a gym buddy to get in the habit of working on these projects regularly.

Finally, do pay attention and study hard in your CS fundamentals courses.

HolyShipBatman1 karma

First let me say how interesting of a concept this is! Second let me ask my question: I'm in the military now and have things like the Montgomery GI bill and the Post 9/11 GI Bill for basically a free tuition to any accredited University or college. Since it pays for things like tuition and living expenses would you accept that as payment in lieu of the 25% of salary for two years after graduation?

JRManifold2 karma

We are always open to a custom payment arrangement if it makes sense for both parties but note that we are not currently accredited so I'm not sure this fully applies. We do have a student who is active duty Air Force, lemme ask him for more info.

answers_to_kv1 karma

I saw your video on Seeker Stories on YouTube recently and I thought what you were doing was pretty damn cool . I'm wondering though, do you have any plans for foreign students in the future? Also, I heard you have a strict acceptance policy, is there any sort of exam you have to take to be accepted? How does your acceptance policy work?

JRManifold3 karma

We do currently take a limited number of foreign students in our 2 year program and a large number for our summer program (from over 20 different countries last summer!). As we navigate the regulations around awarding student visas we will be able to accept more!

QueDiantre1 karma

Could you describe how Make School took its current form? As I understand, you went through several iterations before settling on a college alternative. Also, what's the most unexpected challenge of running a school?

JRManifold2 karma

We started running a summer program for 30 high school students. They launched apps, went to good colleges, got awesome internships at companies like Apple and Facebook. A little word of mouth spread about our program as a result.

The next summer 60 students signed up including about 20 college students. By the next summer it was 120 with about a 50/50 HS/college split and students from all over the world. We were getting amazing feedback, students telling us they learned more in 2 months with us than in 3 years in college.

This inspired us to offer a longer form program. 11 students from our 2014 Summer Academy stayed to do a gap year with us. They got hired by companies like Pandora and Snapchat as software engineers. This made us realize we had the potential to compete head on with the traditional educational system and so we launched the 2 year program.

We now have 26 students currently enrolled in the 2 year program and graduated 210 from our last Summer Academy :)

id0-rsa1 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA, I think Make School is a great idea and I think it has serious potential to disrupt the higher education market.

I have a question about curriculum. I imagine that one of your biggest challenges is finding instructors that are both technically qualified and good at teaching. Do you think that there is a market for companies that provide teaching/curriculum as a service? In other words, a company would come by the school and do something along the lines of a 1-5 day workshop on a specific topic. I'd imagine incorporating a handful of those into your curriculum would lighten the load on your instructors who are probably pretty overloaded.

I ask because I'm the creator of a cryptanalysis coding challenge website: id0-rsa.pub, and I enjoy teaching people security and cryptography from a coding perspective. I've been toying around with the idea of starting a company that would offer security/cryptography workshops for coders.

JRManifold4 karma

Finding great instructors is top priority. We are finding that good at teaching is not the same as good at lecturing, and since we're mostly phasing out lectures it turns out we can hire people who are technically qualified and amazing in a 1 on 1 or 1 on 10 setting but don't need to be able to lecture in front of a crowd.

Good question about teaching as a service. This program mostly targets professionals and gets companies to pay them to train their engineers: https://codepath.com/. We do some of this too - a couple Japanese companies actually send their engineers to our summer program to have them learn mobile development.

Where are you located geographically? Would love to have you come by and do a session on security and crypto - PM me if you're interested :)