What is Starter School?

Starter School is the grad school for people who want to learn how to build software and start companies. In 9 months, full-time Monday through Friday, you will learn how to build a web application that you care about. You'll be immersed in engaging classroom sessions with hands-on labs, deep-dive workshops, and focused product development. You'll apply what you're learning to your own ideas at every step.

Why are you doing this?

We chose to learn how to build software because we identified meaningful problems that we wanted to solve through technology. We invested a full year's time teaching ourselves by watching online lectures, reading books, and completing exercises, only to realize that we were getting good at completing tutorials, not building functional products and gaining real world experience. When we couldn't find a place to learn the skills and gain the experience we needed, we decided to create one. This is the school that we wished we had while struggling for that year. We believe that enabling more people to make their ideas real with software is one of the best ways to influence positive change in the world.

Who is this for?

Starter School is for people ready to take charge of their lives. You're passionate about making an idea real with software and you're willing to invest the time and energy to learn how to do it, no matter how hard it gets. You're excited to help others learn and collaborate with them to help solve their problems as well.

Why is building a product so important?

You are not a pawn. You are not a code monkey. You are a visionary. Pawns get trained to do one job, are manipulated to do the bidding of others, and are easily replaced if something goes wrong. Instead of being a cog in a wheel, you will become the designer of the machine itself. Building products from start to finish engages you in all aspects of the creative process that is software development and entrepreneurship.

We don't want to use rewards or punishment as a means to teach you, or to drive you to artificial deadlines or goals so that you're packaged and ready to get shipped off to your cubicle. We want you to have the intrinsic motivation to drive forward and be inspired to invest 100% of your energy into this program. Working on an idea that you care about is the best way to do that.

What exactly is product development?

Product development is the process of bringing a new product or service to market. We see it as the alchemy of programming, design, and business decisions to provide something of value to people through a software solution to a human problem. One of our product development instructors is Ryan Singer, product manager at Basecamp. Check out his blog to learn about some of the product development concepts we'll be teaching during Starter School.

What should I do to prepare?

We recommend reading both Rework and Getting Real from Basecamp. If what you read reinforces the potential value of this program for you, then you're set.

What is the time commitment?

Starter School is a full-time commitment - Monday through Friday, with some nights and weekends too. While our classes and instructors are amazing, Starter School is not just about classes, it's also about the countless hours you will spend outside of class making your ideas real. Be prepared to put in at least 40-50 hours a week on focused product development time, participating in workshops, attending evening electives on special topics, and even weekends working with fellow starters on projects to propel your learning.

We are pouring our lives into making Starter School the greatest educational experience ever, and we want students who will do the same.

Are you planning to expand beyond Chicago?

No. We aren't interested in scaling or expanding to as many places as possible in order to maximize our profits. When you scale you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin and you lose the ability to sincerely and effectively reach individuals. Instead of funneling as many people as possible through our program and identifying additional markets for us to expand to, we're choosing to teach fewer people and ensure they get way more out of it. We want to teach in the way that we know is the most valuable and effective - in-person, immersively, and delivered by the people who are the best at what they do.

Will I be employable after Starter School?

We don't guarantee placement. But if you work hard and commit yourself to practicing and applying what you learn regularly, it's likely that if your app or business doesn't work out there will be people and organizations that will want to work with you. You will be one of just a few people that completed one of the most intense and rigorous software schools in the world. If you finish Starter School, the question won't be, "Can I get a job?" but instead, "Should I choose this job or make my own?"

How do you decide who gets in?

We choose people who make it obvious to us that they will make Starter School their number one priority. We don't filter on the basis of how you look or where you're from, we aren't exclusive based on assessed aptitude, or on how many tutorials you've completed before we accept you into our program. We screen for willingness to go all the way no matter what challenges come up. You need to show us that you are going to succeed by sheer will because you're willing to put in 100% of yourself in order to make something amazing happen.

Can I really learn how to start a company at a school?

Honestly, you don't need to go to school to learn how to start a company. Where we come in is maximizing your potential with the skills and the knowledge to give you a strong foundation with practical and applicable content. We're not saying that by going to Starter School your product will have guaranteed success. And like any educational experience, what you put into it will match what you get out of it. Showing up for some classes will not make you an expert programmer, designer, or entrepreneur. But 9 months at Starter School will give you the best chance to succeed by learning and applying the essential skills necessary to ship your idea. The expectation is that after you complete Starter School you will pursue mastery of these skills through years of dedicated hard work doing what you love.

Can't I learn a lot of this online?

We learned that completing online tutorials can sometimes help you pick up a few concepts, but more often all you get good at is completing a tutorial. The real challenge is taking those concepts and applying them to things that you care about. And that's where having an in-person environment that's dynamic and responsive to your needs can accelerate your learning more than you ever could if you only relied on online content. We encourage you to try learning these concepts online, and then hit us up when you want to apply them to something real in a meaningful way.

Will Starter School help me become a highly paid web developer or designer?

It's possible, many of our alumni from The Starter League are making impressive wages at the places they work after completing our program. But if your motivation is primarily monetary, then Starter School isn't for you. Rewards such as the promise of a job, or the likelihood of a six figure salary are only smokescreen "how" answers (become a web developer, get a job) to what are really "why" questions (why do I want to become a web developer, designer, or entrepreneur?). Are you doing it to get a job? To make money? To do something cool? To start a company? To solve a meaningful problem? These are questions you should consider before you apply.

Your instructors seem successful at what they do, but are they good teachers?

Your education at Starter School is a blend of high-quality instruction and exposure to real world experience. We have some of the best beginner-focused teachers in the world for both entrepreneurship and software development. But we also have expert practitioners that care about sharing their knowledge. Our teachers will give you a strong foundation of skills that our experts will then reinforce by giving hands-on feedback to apply to your product. It is exponentially more valuable to get trained by, and to observe, experts than to be taught in a mediocre way by mediocre people, or via a series faceless digital tutorials and screencasts. Fusing quality instruction and expert insight will lead to the most applied education you've ever had.

What are my payment options?

Tuition for Starter School is $12,000 per quarter, excluding housing, materials, and personal expenses. A refundable deposit of $3,000 will be required in order to confirm your acceptance to the full, 9 month program. One week before the start of each quarter a payment of $12,000 must be made. For example, the Fall quarter begins on September 29, so a payment of $12,000 would be due no later than September 22.

Are there any scholarships, loan programs, or financial aid?

You can apply for a few select scholarships after you submit an application. We are working with loan providers to create accessible financing options down the road, but they aren't available just yet. We're also in the process of creating our own fundraising platform to help students raise money for the program. In the meantime, please contact us at support@starterschool.com to learn more.

Do you require an equity stake in my idea?

No, we do not take equity in your idea. Our focus is to help you ship a product and build a company in 9 months, with no strings attached.

Will there be assistance with housing for Starter School?

We have a private email list for incoming students to communicate with each other and figure out housing accommodations. Our students have been able to find apartments using Craigslist and airbnb.com. Some students even choose to stay together during their time in Chicago. Here is a breakdown of average neighborhood rentals.

What is the application process?

After you submit your application you will hear from us within a week. If we feel that you could be a potential fit for the program, we will contact you to schedule an in-person or video interview as soon as we can. We may follow up with a second round interview if necessary. The whole process from application to decision will take about three weeks.

Can I visit the school?

Absolutely! Email us at hello@starterschool.com to set up a time to swing by.

Do you offer any degrees or certification?

The purpose of a degree or certification is typically to prove to someone else that you went through an experience that is reputable and representative of your skills and work ethic. At Starter School we cut the noise. Completing our program won't get you a shiny piece of paper, but it will show that you can build and ship a product, which means infinitely more than any certificate or degree. What you have done, and showing what you can do, are the only true testaments of knowledge and skill.

Are you accredited?

We are not. There are pros and cons to seeking accreditation. It gives us access to government money, but it also requires a more rigid structure for how our school can operate (grades, reports, slow-moving approval mechanisms). Not being accredited has enabled us to be agile and flexible so we can easily improve our program without bureaucracy.

Do you accept students from other countries?

Yes, but we don't have the ability to sponsor student visas yet. For a couple months, a tourist visa is usually fine, but since this program is longer it may be a challenge. If you need additional help, feel free to contact us and we'll see what we can do.

Do I need to bring a laptop?

We provide Macbooks for the development portion of class, so you won't need a laptop during that time. For the rest of the time, bringing a Mac laptop is strongly encouraged. Windows or Linux can work too, but all of the machines we have and use are iMacs and Macbooks, so a laptop with OSX Mavericks would be best.

How does your partnership with Basecamp work?

Basecamp invested in The Starter League (the company behind Starter School) in the Fall of 2012. They believe in our vision to educate the next generation of successful starters, programmers, and designers, and they are impressed by the impact we've had in such a short amount of time. Their leadership works closely with ours on the strategic direction of the program, as well as advising us on our internal product development efforts (we build software too). Additionally, some employees at Basecamp are mentors and teachers for the school.



Tuition for Starter School is $12,000 per quarter, excluding housing, materials, and personal expenses. A refundable deposit of $3,000 will be required in order to confirm your acceptance. One week before the start of each quarter a payment of $12,000 must be made. For example, the Winter quarter begins on January 6, so a payment of $12,000 would be due no later than December 30.

Cost Breakdown
Fall quarter -$12,000
Winter quarter $12,000
Spring quarter $12,000
Total $24,000

Do you offer loans and scholarships?

Currenty we don't offer loans or financial aid. However, we are actively working with loan providers and the government to make Starter School more affordable. In the meantime, please reach out to us at support@starterschool.com so we can learn more about your situation.

How have other students financed their tuition?

Our students have creatively raised funds for Starter School in numberous ways. They've sourced online donations, secured company sponsorship, created friends and family loans, and even sold their cars. The students who have given up the most tend to get the most out of the program. They treat it like a serious, life-changing investment— which is exactly what it is.

A New Way to Pay For Starter School

We are excited to announce a partnership with Upstart, a platform that allows individuals to get financial investment to pursue their dream careers. This partnership allows current students and future Starter School students to raise funding for Starter School tuition.

Here are the requirements to qualify for Upstart:

  1. You must be a U.S. citizen, or permanent resident currently living in the US
  2. Be at least 18 years old;
  3. Have a valid e-mail account;
  4. Have a verifiable name, date of birth, and social security number
  5. Have graduated from a 4-year (bachelor's degree) accredited college in 1995 or later or be accepted by and soon to enroll in a 4-year accredited (bachelor's degree) college;
  6. Have an account at a U.S. financial institution with a routing transit number; and
  7. Meet our minimum credit requirements.