Turns out coding isn’t just a great tool for K–12 education. Those who graduated before the current push to incorporate coding instruction in schools now have a chance to learn software development in a tuition-free academy, opening a path to employment for students who don’t want to attend traditional college but have a high level of programming aptitude and dedication. The program can also ensure that the brightest coders graduating from high school have the opportunity to continue their education in an environment designed to emulate the work they’ll encounter after graduation.

After operating successfully in France for three years, coding university 42 has launched in the United States. The school plans to open a 200,000-square-foot location in Fremont, California, with the goal of serving 10,000 students in the next five years.

Anyone between the ages of 18–30 can apply to be part of a four-week coding challenge. Those selected will have the opportunity to learn software development in a hands-on, teacher-free environment over the course of three to five years. Financial status and academic performance don’t factor into admission — only talent and motivation are judged. The Silicon Valley location will include a limited number of dorm rooms for students with the most financial need.

The process is competitive, however. In France, 200,000 people have applied, and only 2,500 students were selected.

The academy uses project-based and peer-to-peer learning to prepare students for real-world programming challenges. The campus will be open 24/7 so students can work on the schedule that works best for them. Students are also required to complete internships at various stages in the program.

42 hopes to increase the number of working software programmers in the United States and provide pathways to high-paying employment for minorities and those from families with lower socioeconomic status. Because it’s free — founder Xavier Niel funded 42 with $100 million of his own money and business partnerships provide ongoing funding — students won’t need to take out student loans to be part of the academy.

Interested applicants can take a series of online assessments to begin the application process. Courses begin in November 2016.

Looking for new tools to integrate coding into the K–12 classroom? Learn how MIT’s App Inventor is teaching students to code.