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The Fellowship

Too many aspiring charter founders don't make it to day one.

Charters are often founded by leaders with strong academic or day-to-day school operational experience but who may otherwise not yet be equipped to tackle the massive business, operational, legal, and political challenges facing early-stage charter startups. These challenges often divert founder-leaders from focusing on what is important and usually in their wheelhouse – delivering high-quality education — and may even create obstacles that prevent a school’s launch.

Z Combinator equips you to launch strong on day one, while making incredible connections with other charter founders.

Z Combinator empowers Fellows with the tools, resources, and knowledge they need to launch their schools strong during "Year 0" (pre-launch year).

Mentoring & Cohort Experience

Interactive Training & Hands-On Learning

School Launch Resource Creation


The Fellowship Timeline

Fellows Selected

June 2024

Session II: 7 days

Sept 2024

Virtual 1-hour Session



Session I: 12 days 

Oct 2024

Virtual 1-hour Session


Session III: 5 days

  • Whom should I contact if I have more questions?
    If you have additional questions about Z Combinator, please contact us at
  • What is the application process?
    Stage 1: Z Combinator accepts applications for the 2024-25 Z Combinator Fellowship Program starting on a rolling basis. Our application window closes once all openings are filled. Stage 2: Z Combinator invites select Fellowship candidates to complete a brief video interview. Stage 3: Z Combinator invites finalists to a virtual 30 min. live interview. Stage 4: Fellowship invitations are sent on a rolling basis.
  • If I am unable to attend all sessions, should I still apply?
    No. Because the Z Combinator Fellowship is grant-funded, we must ensure that all Fellows will attend each session and will not be able to admit anyone who is only able to partially complete the Fellowship. Fellowship dates for the 2024-25 Fellowship are as follows: Session I: Mon., July 15, 2024 – Fri., July 26, 2024 (including travel to/from NYC) Session II: Sun., September 22, 2024 – Sat., September 28, 2024 (including travel to/from NYC) Virtual 1-hour Session: Oct., 2024 (Zoom meeting) Virtual 1-hour Session: Nov., 2024 (Zoom meeting) Session III: Mon., Jan. 13, 2025 – Fri., Jan. 17, 2025 (including travel to/from NYC)
  • When is the 2024-25 Fellowship application deadline?
    Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until all Fellowship spots are filled.
  • Am I eligible to apply for the Z Combinator Fellowship?
    The 2024-25 Z Combinator Fellowship Program supports charter school founders who are opening their schools in the Fall of 2025. If you fit this criteria, apply now!
  • What is the time commitment for Z Combinator?
    Fellows are expected to attend all ~25 days in-person in NYC and two virtual sessions as well as complete deliverables between sessions. You should expect to spend a minimum of 20 hours working on deliverables between each session, though you may spend much more time, as all your hard work will lead to an even stronger school launch!
  • Is there a cost associated with being a part of the program?
    The Z Combinator Fellowship is fully funded. We cover the cost of tuition, transportation, lodging, and food.
  • When are the 2024-25 Z Combinator sessions?
    The fellowship begins on Mon., July 15, 2024. Please ensure your availability for these days when applying; you must attend all days to participate in Z Combinator. Session dates are as follows: Session I: Mon., July 15, 2024 – Fri., July 26, 2024 (including travel to/from NYC) Session II: Sun., September 22, 2024 – Sat., September 28, 2024 (including travel to/from NYC) Virtual 1-hour Session: Oct., 2024 (Zoom meeting) Virtual 1-hour Session: Nov., 2024 (Zoom meeting) Session III: Mon., Jan. 13, 2025 – Fri., Jan. 17, 2025 (including travel to/from NYC)
  • What is the Z Combinator dress code?
    As you will be in Zeta schools, professional dress is required. Zeta implements a "business casual" dress code, which means: (1) well maintained button-down shirt or professionally appropriate top, (2) professionally appropriate dress slacks or skirt, (3) professionally appropriate dress, (4) dress socks/hose, and (5) close-toe dress shoes. When touring, observing, or shadowing in schools, single-color sneakers are also appropriate for walking/standing comfort. Zeta occasionally implements dress-down days as specified in advance, which means: (1) professionally appropriate top and jeans or equivalent (no holes, rips, etc.), professionally appropriate shoes (does not include flip flops, beach shoes, gym shoes, etc.).
  • Cohort Experience
    Z Combinator creates a close-knit cohort experience, including an online community forum for real-time conversation and requests for support. ​ Z Combinator Fellows make connections and relationships with each other that last beyond the program.
  • Alumni Community
    Z Combinator is all about creating communities of continuous learners. We provide virtual opportunities to keep learning (like open access to some of our in-house professional learning opportunities) and are already working on ways to keep our first two cohorts on their path to success. Our network of Z Combinator Fellow Alumni is crucial to our mission of ensuring every child in America has access to free, high-quality public education, pre-K to 12th grade.
  • Office Hours
    Connecting is a crucial part of Z Combinator. We offer optional and as-needed virtual office hours with Zeta leaders in between in-person sessions to dive deeper on topics raised during workshops and to provide additional, timely support on school launch resource creation. This might look like small-group virtual pitch practice before an upcoming donor meeting, a 1:1 feedback session on your school launch plan with a Zeta leader, a group problem-solving session on your enrollment tactics, or other meetings to address questions that arise throughout your experience.
  • 3 In-Person and 2 Virtual Sessions
    Z Combinator Fellows spend 24 days across 3 sessions in New York City at Zeta Charter Schools for intensive, hands-on learning. During these sessions, Fellows join Zeta’s network leaders for business and operations sessions (e.g., People Operations, Budgeting, Family Outreach); embed with Zeta leaders and teachers for interactive workshops during Zeta’s summer training and professional learning program; and engage in facilitated school launch planning from vision-setting to forming your tactical check-list leading up to Day 1; We balance our intensive, hands-on sessions during the day with opportunities to connect and rejuvenate with Z Combinator Fellows in our beautiful city in the evening.
  • The New York Experience
    We want you to have a wonderful experience while you visit and learn in the Big Apple! Fellows receive Z Combinator swag and participate in cohort outings to classic NYC experiences. (Past outings have included Broadway hits Hamilton and Lion King and a Mets baseball game. Future outings may vary.) Z Combinator also covers the cost of lodging, food, and transportation throughout your stay.
  • School Launch Resource Creation
    Through workshops, coaching, and individualized support, Fellows leave Z Combinator with a wide variety of exemplar Zeta resources and customized school launch deliverables, which include: a personal development plan, a polished fundraising pitch deck, a school launch project plan, an academic scope & sequence, a Year One budget, an organizational hiring/staffing plan, and so much more!
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