Supporting a coding camper
April 2, 2021 2:51 PM   Subscribe

I just cosigned a loan so my daughter (27) can go to coding camp. I know very well that cosigning anything is not a good deal for the cosigner. I am happy and proud of her that she's doing this, but not 100% sanguine. It is true that I am able to pay off the entire loan (though not all at once) should I need to. My question is: How up in her business should I be?

My daughter has been a very troubled young woman. She has a steady job, is in a good live-in relationship now with a terrific guy, and is not drinking. I believe she is in a good place; I believe she can succeed. However, she has not been in any kind of school since she dropped out of high school in her senior year. I just want to support her in this as much as would help, and "protecting my investment" gives me an in to do that. What should I ask of her now, while she is excited about the future and grateful to me for making it possible, that will her help succeed?
posted by pH Indicating Socks to Human Relations (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If she hasn't already enrolled with a particular program, I just wanted to mention that some coding programs offer deferred tuition until the student gets a job later.
posted by pinochiette at 3:29 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]

What is your concern, that she won’t attend, that she won’t pay or something else? I’d ask her how she plans to let you know that she’s on track with these things for your own reassurance.
posted by Jubey at 3:30 PM on April 2

Well, you can't talk about "protecting your investment" since you have not invested anything. She's still the one who is making all the payments and you will only be liable if she defaults.

But you do have an interest in protecting yourself from that liability and minimizing your risk of having to make her payments for her. So, as far as protecting yourself goes, think very narrowly along the lines of how you can ensure that she keeps paying them on time.

Reasonable demands that you can make as a cosigner:
- Verify that she has a source of reliable and adequate income with which to make these payments
- She needs to check in with you every month to confirm that she has successfully made her payment on the due date
- She must inform you as soon as she thinks she might be in danger of missing a payment

Direct questions which you can reasonably insist on her answering, but it would be unreasonable to demand verification (if she is willing to share, that's great):
- does she have a backup plan in case she loses her income unexpectedly
- whether her source of income is adequate to accommodate these payments comfortably, or will she need to be on a significantly tighter budget

Casual questions to ask without pushing, in a tone that communicates no pressure, and let it go if she is unwilling to answer:
- if there is to be a significantly tighter budget, what are her specific plans for reducing expenditure
- does she feel comfortable committing to such a tight budget or will she feel deprived (which would make it harder for her to stick to it)
- what are some difficulties she foresees with sticking to her tight budget? What are some warning signs she might notice in herself when she is about to break it? (simply acknowledging to you can act as a powerful habit-breaker for her when temptation arises)

You also sound like you would really like to support and encourage her to successfully complete this class. This is not about protecting yourself or mitigating your financial risk... this is about you wanting your child to do well. It's coming from your parental side, not your financial risk manager side. It's totally fine to feel it, and it's fantastic that your daughter has such a supportive parent. However, it's important to make the distinction for yourself. You would feel this way even if you weren't cosigning her loan! This has nothing to do with you being her cosigner. DO NOT EVEN HINT to her that you feel more entitled to provide support and encouragement because you cosigned her loan ,and that makes you feel like you have more of a right to ask for information about whether she's attending class or what kind of grades she's getting! Being a cosigner doesn't entitle you to any of this, and is likely to drive her hackles up.

But happily for you, being a concerned parent does allow you to ask her all these things... just as long as you're not doing or acting differently than if you hadn't cosigned her loan.
posted by MiraK at 3:33 PM on April 2 [15 favorites]

Congratulations to your daughter for getting sober and figuring out a new direction in her life. That's so huge, and I cannot imagine how proud and relieved you must feel. I'd maybe focus mostly on that, as well as asking her about her long-term plans - what are her dreams? People tend to learn better when they're motivated, so I'd keep it positive, and encourage her to reach out to the instructor if she ever feels over her head. You could also try learning a little bit about whatever industry she hopes to get into - not to give her advice, but just as a way of showing an interest in her future. But certainly, also having some basic financial planning discussions with her based on what MiraK wrote above is a worthwhile thing to do as well.
posted by coffeecat at 3:58 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]

For me, in mom mode, I would want to know how she was doing in her program (partly to know how she is doing and partly because she needs to complete the program to earn the income the pay back the loan.) My style would be tell her that I really want to know how things are going but I want to be respectful so that it feels supportive and not nagging and also that she can be truthful with me, even if things getting hard (which from what I've heard, it is a grueling program and almost everyone struggles to get though it.) And then ask her, how she thinks we can do this so it works for her.

My struggling daughter is used to this from me so she might tell me that she will let me know but I can't ask. I would say, "it would be really hard to not ask if you never says anything, how about if schedule a specific phone call that will include an update" I would also say," if you are having problems I want to know". And she'll say but "I don't want to tell you because you'll judge me" and then I will offer what if I promise to only say "that sounds hard, I know you'll figure it out" Or maybe would it be Ok if I ask if you have a plan?

But then I have to work really, really hard to respect that this is her project, not mine. Fear of disappointing me is not going to make her work harder, it is just going to make her feel worse if she fails. So I see my job as being 100% on her side while still being super respectful of the fact that this is her life and she is in charge, even if I don't agree with her choices. You've seen her do so much to turn herself around it will be tempting to want to get in there with lots of advice to help her be successful. In my experience, with my own kid, I need to really hold back and respectfully ask if they want advice before offering it.

Also, if she fails she will be devastated. If you have to pay off her loans, she will feel awful about it. That sense of failure will threaten her sense of self worth and sobriety. So you need to be totally prepared that if she fails, you will send the message that you still love her and you support her in doing what she needs to do to turn things around. (Doesn't mean you need to co-sign the next loan but you send the message that you still love her and you believe in her ability to get herself to a good life that works for her.)
posted by metahawk at 4:32 PM on April 2 [12 favorites]

I get the sense that you're partly responding to a recent AskMe question where people unanimously agreed it was a very bad idea to cosign a lease for a new friend.

This is your KID, cosigning for her is a GREAT idea. That's what good parents do, in my opinion.

Just make an agreement that she promises to tell you if she's in financial trouble and might mess up the payment schedule, and maybe discuss how you'll proceed in that case. And maybe ask that she sends payment receipts to you (if that's not super intrusive, I dunno how often that happens).

And reassure her that you believe in her and you're proud of her, and you believe she can handle the schoolwork and the finances but you won't blow a gasket if she messes up. She probably needs to hear those things A LOT more vehemently and frequently than you think!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 4:47 PM on April 2 [14 favorites]

I think MiraK's suggestions are great but I'll note that they're great because they're about the loan. If you use this as an "in" to get after her or make demands about other aspects of her life that she hasn't invited you into and may not be comfortable about, which is what it sounds like you're asking to do, she will perceive that you're using money—not even money, just the possibility of a future bailout—to buy her openness and compliance. And she won't really be wrong, will she?

Helping guarantee her loan for school entitles you to make sure she's paying back the loan. It doesn't entitle you to make sure she's getting the most out of school.
posted by babelfish at 5:02 PM on April 2 [18 favorites]

Ask her what sort of support she needs.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:05 PM on April 2 [21 favorites]

The overall goal is for her to succeed at coding camp and get a better career, right?

Does she code at all? Do you? Does her guy? If she has never tried it, I might suggest some free resources before she/you commit a sizeable enough amount of money to require a loan! Coding is a very peculiar interest. It's like gardening or practicing piano - misery for some and joy for others. I'd be happy to suggest some resources if that seems promising.

If she has already committed the money, I'd say the most important thing is that she get into the culture of coding. Is the camp in-person or virtual? She's gotta get a study group (maybe the entire cohort). She's gotta find people to study with, to ask stupid questions to. In the old days, that happened at the computer center, or before class, or after class. These days, that increasingly happens online, on chat boards. There are so many stupid ways to get stuck, she needs a technical support group. Even if a person does complete a coding camp, unless they enjoy it, they won't make a career of it. And you can determine that with some free sources, imo.

As to your direct question, how much up in her business should you be? I'd say, none. Unless you code or do similar technical work.
posted by cyclicker at 5:24 PM on April 2 [8 favorites]

I'm going to come at this just from the direction of how you can support her. This is based on my experience with lots of students and their struggles and successes.

Anything like "protecting your investment" sounds like pressure, and it sounds like stress for your daughter. That would be really counterproductive. Stress motivates people up to a point, but then it makes them give up. And the classes and assignments and concepts and difficulty of the whole thing will be giving her plenty of stress already.

Anything about an obligation to you might lead to feelings of shame if she starts to struggle, and that's a whole 'nother spiral of doom.

On the other hand, encouragement really helps. If you believe she can succeed, let her know that. If you know that she's smart, that she can work through challenges, and that she deserves what she's working toward, help her see that. She will probably feel out of place sometimes, and she will definitely feel challenged and exhausted at times. Support that helps her through those feelings can make a huge difference.

Beyond that, for anything more concrete, PhoBWanKenobi is right: ask her. If she's open to it, you can make suggestions, but things will only help if she believes they will and wants them. I'm thinking of things like adding additional accountability with regular check-ins (she shares her deadlines or plans with you, and you talk or text about how they're going at agreed times) or time management tools. Those sorts of things will be valuable if and only if she thinks they could help and wants them herself.
posted by whatnotever at 5:25 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]

I just finished a very difficult professional program, and my parents were very supportive and it helped a TON. I honestly don't think I could have done it without that support.

What they did was pick up slack for me domestically. They dog-sat for me twice a week and on exam days, and on the days when they dog-sat they also packed me a dinner (a portion of their dinner). This was a LIFE SAVER. Something else is that they would tack whatever small grocery items I needed onto their own grocery order, and give me those groceries when I would pick up my dog on dog-sitting days. That support has also been amazing.

That practical support so that I could concentrate on my work during crunch time and just when the study load was really heavy was so amazing and also brought us closer together. I don't know what is doable for you and your daughter, but if she's in another town maybe even ordering her takeout on the same night or two every week or hiring a cleaning service to help clean up once a month or something like that could be great on keeping her on track.

You can't force her to keep up with her commitment to the coding school, but you can make it as easy as possible for her to succeed. Mileage will vary but that's what helped me.
posted by nowadays at 5:35 PM on April 2 [18 favorites]

Coming at this from the perspective of a career-changer who learned to code (but not from a bootcamp) and now works in tech, your daughter may need a lot of emotional support and "you can do it, rah rah" at first. It can be a big transition and if she is prone to self-doubt it can be really intimidating to jump into this arena, at least it was for me. (It still is!) Anecdotally, many bootcamp instructors don't have a lot of experience in *teaching* and they may not understand how to communicate concepts effectively, especially if everyone in the class is at a different level. Your daughter may feel very slow and overwhelmed - I've found one of the things you have to get used to in this career field is feeling out of your element, since technologies are always changing and the problems you're solving are different every day, so mental fortitude is a surprisingly important quality to develop.

If you have the type of relationship with her where this would be constructive to suggest, I would suggest a lot of self-care (exercise, study routine, healthy eating, good sleep schedule) and to form those habits before the material gets more complex. Does she have a comfortable, safe, clean place to study? Does she have an ok laptop, chair and ergonomic setup so she won't damage her hands and back? Is her WiFi reliable? Does she have good headphones for Zoom sessions? You could make a deal with her that you will cover her increased internet bill if she can show she is regularly attending her classes.

If she does confide any self-doubt/stress to you, I would continue to praise her effort and bravery in putting herself out there. She should avoid comparing herself to other students (bootcamp students can be straight out of a CompSci undergrad degree or have never owned a computer, so it's going to be impossible to evaluate yourself based on your peers). Instead she should compare herself to where she was the previous week, and give herself amazing props that she's challenging herself so much!

Looking forward to graduation from the bootcamp, I would suggest that she research what type of jobs are out there and keep an open mind. It can be tough to get your first full-time engineering role post-bootcamp, and it might be useful to have a plan of finding a short-term technical support role right after the boot camp, and plan on continuing to study/interview while in that role, for example.
posted by rogerroger at 5:36 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]

she has not been in any kind of school since she dropped out of high school in her senior year

You don't say how easy she found academics back then, if she's done any coding or studying in the meantime, how her work ethic is, her confidence levels, whether she's worked at stressful demanding jobs, how she deals with pressure, frustration, or blows to her ego, etc. The thing is that even if she's great on all those fronts, going back to organized learning environments after a prolonged absence can often be really hard, especially when they're intensive ones. In her case, she might also fall into the trap of comparing herself unfavorably to fellow students with longer academic records.

So, as other comments have said, it's possible the best thing you can do is be there for her if she starts to get stressed, be encouraging if she starts to feel unsure that she can do it, and make sure she knows that in the end her mental well-being is actually more important than this program or even your loan. If she feels that there's a lot riding on this for her, and if she starts to feel unable to keep up, that can build into a huge spiral (in my personal experience).

If you feel that your relationship has been such that it would be hard for you to let her feel unconditionally supported, maybe you could help someone else fill that role for her, or just try to make sure she's got somebody who'll do it.
posted by trig at 5:54 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]

I am a parent and a parent of a mid 20s career changer who went to bootcamp as well as the parent of a child that has not completed college but seems to have found their way.

My advice to you is to stop thinking about this as an investment. I suggest that you back off and let your daughter make it or fail on her own. I would be verbally supportive but not set up check ins or set up success benchmarks. Trust her to do this. My parents paid for my college and truth be told I got very little out of it. When I decided to go to grad school (at night), I refused my parents money and paid for it on my own. I got much more out of it when it was my choice to go and my dime paying for it.

Your daughter seems to be in a good place. Let her make it or fail on her own. Be supportive. See if there is anything you can do for her. But don't make this a business deal or even check in on her progress. What if she tells you that she is fucking up? What is your plan then? "Make her" do better? Come on. IF she does not pay the tuition and you have to pay it, then work out a plan with her to pay you back.

I don't know your daughter, but the fact she is proactively taking this on after having some rocky periods to her life tells me to have confidence in her. She may not be the best student, but I am willing to bet she tries darn hard.

This is going to be as hard on you as it is on her. You will have to fight the urge to micro manage her schooling and life. Believe me, I know as a parent that you want to help your child as much as you can. The best help is to let her fly.
posted by AugustWest at 6:18 PM on April 2 [10 favorites]

Tangential to "how do I best support my daughter in this endeavour" & following on from rogerroger's comment:

> Anecdotally, many bootcamp instructors don't have a lot of experience in *teaching* and they may not understand how to communicate concepts effectively

Coding camps are generally solely-for-profit businesses. Some of them will be run more-or-less ethically and competently and work out as win-win deals for the coding camp and most of the students who sign on. But some coding camps may be dodgy businesses that work as out win-lose deals where the coding camp wins by charging fees or making loans and the student loses by being lumped with the fees/the liabilities but in return is not taught useful skills by competent instructors to land a decent entry-level programming job.

A google search of " coding bootcamp" digs up a bunch of Hacker News (software development & startup) discussion threads about coding bootcamps -- rich in both positive and negative code camp anecdotes. E.g. here's one opinionated take on list of the top scams [coding bootcamps in 2020] use to steal your money & the associated discussion thread rich in positive ("my bootcamp experience was life-changing and 100% positive [...] graduation rate was around 85%, and among the graduates, the 'true' job placement rate was probably around 90%") and negative ("as lead developer at startups in NYC and SF I interviewed roughly 30-40 bootcamp graduates looking for [ruby on rails software developer] jobs. The bar for a [junior] position was extremely low and still none of them were able to pass.") anecdotes.

Hopefully your daughter has -- through either due diligence or good fortune -- signed on to one of the more competently- and ethically- run coding camps. But there's also the chance that the coding camp may be a scam and may be taking advantage of her (and you).

Given a loan is already cosigned, thinking about doing due diligence on the specific choice of coding camp at this stage might be a bit late -- horse bolted; closing gate, etc. Talking about any of this with your daughter may be perceived as not being supportive of her decision to enroll or choices. Maybe if it was framed as "enrolling in a code camp is a great idea but some of them aren't well run, here's a list of some potential yellow / red flags to keep an eye out for -- if you see too many of them it might be worth pursuing a refund and switching to a different code camp".
posted by are-coral-made at 6:18 PM on April 2 [10 favorites]

What should I ask of her now, while she is excited about the future and grateful to me for making it possible, that will her help succeed?

I dunno, maybe it's just the internet blunting the tone but this phrasing rubs me the wrong way. Like you're trying to "trick" her or game her into succeeding despite herself. Even the way you call it an investment (when you haven't actually spent, and ideally won't spend, any money)...makes it seem like even though you say you believe in her success, you're going into this with the assumption that she'll fuck up, not pay, and leave you on the hook.

This isn't to say that what you did isn't generous. I cosigned loans for my siblings when they were in college, even though I myself was a broke-ass 20-something, and they still are paying those off so I know that you have absorbed risk here, and how scary it is to absorb risk for someone else when you yourself aren't exactly rolling high. You took a chance on your daughter when she has probably blown through a fair few chances already and that is the action of a brave and loving parent who truly does want the best for their kid.

I just wonder if maybe the decision isn't giving you a little of the shpilkes, as my grandma would say, and you're trying to get reassurance and security for yourself under the guise of support for her.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:30 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]

Coming at this from the perspective of a career-changer who learned to code (but not from a bootcamp) and now works in tech, your daughter may need a lot of emotional support and "you can do it, rah rah" at first.

Oh God, yeah, this! (I am also a career-changer who learned to code. It's the best thing I ever did for myself, I am so glad I changed career paths, I'm in this for life now.) Your code will fail 99 times before it all comes together and passes ONCE and that means you get to move onto the next thing that fails 99 times, etc. The advantage of even a virtual bootcamp is that everyone is failing together, but please make sure your daughter knows it's okay to break things and for stuff to not run and to spend three hours going line by line until you find the £$%^£$ typo or learn the completely stupid fact that null is coded as an integer or whatever.
I'm sorry, I don't know how to help with anything else, but definitely plan to be her cheerleader, and make sure she knows it's okay to suck at it at first! Everyone sucks at it at first! It'll get better, I promise, and it's a hugely rewarding career track, both creatively, the options open, and, frankly, monetarily.
posted by kalimac at 7:37 PM on April 2 [8 favorites]

Offer to help her find (and finance) a different coding camp if this one doesn't actually have a record of placing graduates with backgrounds like hers. Help her. Please don't treat her like a naive child whatever you do.

Be patient if she's not found the perfect camp starting out, and make sure she's patient with herself. Even with all the "go women in STEM" hype going on, there are going to be people with a leg up on her not only academically, but socially -- there is a social aspect to this. And a confidence aspect; believing you can actually write a program is the thing that lets you actually focus on it enough to write it. Believing you can find or work out an answer is what lets you do that.

Lack of self-belief is why so many women just... threw up their hands in beginning programming classes I attended. They were so distracted by thoughts of "This is too hard! I can't do this! Why am I even trying?" that their minds didn't have room for "calmly consider the avenues available for help; calmly think about the problem" etc.

She doesn't need _any_ hints that you don't think she can do this. Or that, if she fails, the world will end.
posted by amtho at 7:43 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]

I went through the UC Berkeley Extension / U2 Coding Bootcamp in Spring of 2020 (the "Code in Place" cohort) so feel free to ask me any questions about boot camp. Most coding bootcamps are similar.

Keep in mind that coding bootcamp are generally high stress, and some people really believe it'd solve all their problems (it doesn't, I'm STILL unemployed, I'm still looking). I've had about 5 out of 20 drop out in the first week. I find the Bootcamp relatively easy, but then I've been programming for about 3+ decades in one way or another. If she had never been programming, she'll find out VERY quickly whether she has any aptitude for it. Then it's a matter of "can I learn this or should I do something else".
posted by kschang at 11:32 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

Oh jeez, this is fraught. I'm such a child. Sober at 26. There is really no good advice, except maybe that you show that you are acting on good faith.
Don't make your relationship hinge on her doing well in this, since she may just not be up to the task yet. Move the onus of all responsibility to her, truly. This means a lot of a "what do you want to do?" type of approach.
You're a controlling co-dependent overbearing parent, in the eyes of such a child. It's never fair, that. I used to be this child, now I'm in the other position towards my brother. It's pretty awful and it feels like there is no space between being neglectful and being overbearing, often I feel like both.
The only rock you can hold on to is simply to not take on additional responsobility. You have supplied the money/collateral, you can broach the subject from time to time, but to avoid conflict and guilt and drama, you avoid anything more than monitoring and asking.
The young sober addict lives in a very unreliable body. I did. So getting a sense of security by getting them to make promises just adds on stress, and the promises are not real. They don't know what they are good for, they've never done this before.
So don't ask for promises. Be flexible. Your will should be visible, but the time table is set by the other person.
All of this is based on successes and failures in my life, it is designed to set boundaries around co-dependent instincts. Those instincts are natural, but they tend to become a bit warped when you have too much responsibility and not enough authority to manage that responsibility. As it always is with addicts and their caretakers/loved ones.
And it also depends on if you have the kind of relationship where you can have honest discussions about how things are going. That needs trust, and trust needs boundaries. They need to know that their stressful task (as a bootcamp certainly is) isn't going to revolve around the worries that have (understandibly) built up in you as someone next of kin to an active addict.
Since these things are very varied, and I don't know your particular circumstances, take all of this with a pinch of salt, take what you can use and leave the rest.
posted by svenni at 11:57 PM on April 2 [9 favorites]

I've thought about this. I think it's possible that you could help by giving her more support, if she needs it. But you may not be the person to give it to her directly.

Can she afford counseling/therapy? Ongoing? Make sure she can. Does she need child care, or some other way to have safe, calm time to study and work? Make sure she has that. Does she need a new computer or software?

And don't assume she'll ask for any of this. Just make sure it's there, and that she will use it -- maybe don't overwhelm her with all the support at one time. Just, be aware of the resources that are necessary to succeed at this -- time, space, good nutrition, sleep, hope -- and gently make sure they're there. She may even need a getaway at a boring place where she can just focus, or she may need you to invite her boyfriend/other live-in people away to give her time to first clean, then focus.

Just help her. Don't give too much at one time, both to avoid freaking her out and to avoid making yourself resentful. But this is a great time for emotional labor.

And if you're on good terms with her sweetie, so much the better. If you're not, and if you could be, that would probably help give you info you need and help her feel stronger too.

Do not ask questions about how things are going. Tell her you're not going to ask questions - she probably already feels exposed and vulnerable. Let this be her thing.
posted by amtho at 7:54 AM on April 3

I don’t think you should ask anything of your daughter. People in her situation get practically zero support and I don’t think conditional support / support with strings, is helpful. You did a really good thing by co-signing her loan, and I agree with nouvelle-personne that that is a thing good parents do, assuming they can afford it. But I don’t think it entitles you to anything, and I think that using it as leverage to insist on updates or promises or whatever would just add to her stress.

I say this as a person whose sister has a tough life. Our mother provides my sister with tiny amounts of money sometimes, but makes her jump through hoops for it, like asking her to show that she has researched the cheapest X before our mother will pay for it, or asking her to provide her payment history on Y before she will help her catch up on a late payment. I find it super weird. People in my sister’s situation, and presumably your daughter’s as well: they face a lot of doubt and skepticism and scrutiny, and I think it grinds them down.

I think the best thing you can do for your daughter is to believe in her and be her cheerleader, unconditionally. It’s not the only thing she needs, but it something YOU can give her, that is probably hard for her to get elsewhere.
posted by Susan PG at 8:39 AM on April 3 [3 favorites]

What I would say if I were you:
"Sometimes these programs have hidden expenses, things you need to buy that will make it a lot easier to focus on the program itself, or you might notice that other students have access to services or objects that help them spend more time on studying. Please let me know if you notice anything like this that you need some help in being able to afford, because I want you to have what you need to succeed."

Says me, whose entire course of education could have been changed if I would have been able to afford a $400 piece of software. Could have passed that class without it if I had enough time to hang out in the computer lab for a solid 8 hours in a row instead of having to go off to my job in a chain restaurant to cover my rent... Instructors are not very understanding when "no other student has this problem".
posted by yohko at 12:10 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]

I would like to echo and amplify yohko's comment. I got a computer science degree without owning a personal computer, and while working my way through school. Needless to say, grad school was not even remotely in the picture, and I ended up just staying in my school-job after I graduated even though it actively made me sad to do so.
posted by amtho at 6:30 AM on April 5

In some states you can collect unemployment while you’re in school or training.
posted by bendy at 9:59 PM on April 6

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