Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Breakthrough San Francisco?

Breakthrough San Francisco is a tuition-free, academic enrichment program with three parts: a summer program, a school year program, and a high school program.

Each summer until graduation from middle school, Breakthrough students attend our intensive six-week summer program, taking rigorous classes in reading, writing, math, and science in addition to electives such as dance, arts and crafts, and soccer. Each day includes time for small group advising, community building, and leadership development activities.

During the school year, our after-school program takes place on Mondays and Wednesdays (for 5-6th graders) or Tuesdays and Thursdays (for 7-8th graders). After-school consists of personalized tutoring as well as enrichment classes. In addition, we offer extensive guidance on applying to middle and high schools. 99% of our current high school students are attending college-preparatory schools, including charter, district, faith-based, and independent schools.

During their 9-12th grade years, Breakthrough students attend our high school program, coming to Breakthrough for monthly grade-level workshops on Saturdays. They also take part in college admissions support, including ACT test prep, college campus visits, and individualized admissions counseling. 100% of students in our first five graduating classes have enrolled in college, including 90% in four-year schools.

2. Is Breakthrough San Francisco for me?

Each year, we look for 4th graders from public schools around San Francisco. A very limited number of 5th grade students may be accepted to fill spots created by attrition. Breakthrough students are motivated, hard-working individuals who are excited to make new friends while learning and having fun. Breakthrough students ALL aspire to go to college and are willing to push themselves to excel academically. We are looking for students who are willing to make mistakes, learn from them, and push themselves to their fullest potential. If all of these things describe you, you might be a great Breakthrough student.

3. Why should I participate in Breakthrough?

Breakthrough is not your average program. Here, we have small classes of 8-10 students. The teachers are college students – just a little bit older than you! They work hard to make the experience fun and unforgettable. Our courses range from Human Anatomy, where you might dissect a frog, to Literature, where you might create a play about a Gary Soto story. At Breakthrough, all students work very hard. In the summer, you attend class all day and complete approximately one hour of homework each night. During the school-year, you come to Breakthrough in the afternoon for tutoring and enrichment. At the same time, we have lots of fun – we tell jokes, make new friends, and travel around the city.

4. What is the commitment?

Accepted students make an eight-year commitment (see chart below). Students are required to attend for six weeks during the summers before 5th-8th grades, and two days per week after school during their 5th-8th grade years. Once in high school, Breakthrough students receive ongoing support, including Saturday workshops, ACT/SAT test prep, college campus visits, and college admissions support.

Summer Program 

(summers before 5th – 8th grade)

  • Six week academically intensive program
  • 8:30 am – 3:30 pm (Mon – Fri)
  • Optional after-school available Mon – Fri until 5:30 pm

After-School Program 

(5th – 8th grade school years)

  • Tutoring and enrichment classes twice a week
  • 4:30 – 6:30 pm (5 – 6th grade Mon & Wed, 7 – 8th grade Tue & Thu)
  • Fall Semester: October – December
  • Spring Semester: February – May

Middle and High School Guidance

(5th & 8th grade school years)

  • Mandatory workshops and individual meetings for students and families to discuss middle and high school options

High School Program 

(9th – 12th grade school years)

  • Monthly Saturday workshops
  • ACT/SAT Prep
  • College campus visits
  • College admissions support

5. Who are the teachers at Breakthrough?

The Breakthrough teachers are talented, diverse college students from top-tier universities around the country. They undergo an intensive teacher training program in which they learn to design rigorous, engaging classes and use instructional strategies that teach to the way the brain works! They work with professional teachers who have demonstrated effectiveness in the classroom to ensure that students leave the classroom with the skills they need to be successful in the most challenging middle schools, high schools, and colleges. Breakthrough students often say the Breakthrough teachers are the most engaging, enthusiastic, and fun teachers they’ve ever worked with!

6. How much does Breakthrough cost?

Breakthrough is 100% free for all students! This includes all summer and after-school programming, field trips, and support applying to middle and high schools.  Therefore, we are looking for families with a compelling economic need for a tuition-free program. All Breakthrough students meet at least three out of the five following criteria:

  • Qualify for free or reduced lunch at school.
  • Will be the first in their family to attend a four-year college.
  • Speak a language other than English at home.
  • Live in a single-parent household.
  • Attend an under-resourced school in San Francisco (SFUSD, charter, and most faith-based schools).

The true payment from Breakthrough families is their commitment to the program (ensuring that students attend every day during the summer, twice a week through the school year, attending all family meetings and workshops, etc.).

7. Is transportation provided?

Breakthrough students come from over 45 schools across San Francisco. Due to this fact we unfortunately cannot provide transportation for students to or from Breakthrough.  We do, however, connect families with each other for carpooling. All students arrive at Breakthrough by car, bus, walking, or carpooling.

8. Is there homework?

During the summer, yes! Breakthrough is an academic program for students who want to work hard, learn more, and have fun. Students will be assigned approximately one hour of homework per night in the summer. It is required that students complete all homework at Breakthrough. During the school year we do not assign homework.

9. How do I apply?

The application process is now open for current fourth graders! Please click here to learn more. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions by emailing or calling (415) 568-3669.

10. When do I find out if I’ve been accepted into the program?

Students will be notified by mid March if they are invited for an interview. Final decision letters will be emailed on March 31, 2023.

11. Will Breakthrough be in-person or virtual this summer?

We plan to be fully in-person in summer 2023. Dates will be Tue, June 20 – Fri, July 28, 2023, from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm each day.

12. If I’m not admitted, what should I do?

If you’re not accepted to Breakthrough, give yourself credit for taking a risk and trying something new. You won’t get every opportunity you try for, but it’s important to keep trying! Also keep in mind that there are other great programs in the Bay Area. Some of the programs you might want to look into:

13. What happens to Breakthrough students after their eighth grade year?

Breakthrough students are required to participate throughout their four years of high school – however, the commitment looks different. Students attend monthly grade-level workshops on Saturdays. They also take part in college admissions support, including ACT/SAT test prep, college campus visits, and individualized admissions counseling. Students have summers available to pursue other opportunities or to volunteer in our summer program!


14. Any important advice?

Remember that Breakthrough is selective. That means that there are many applicants who are all very hard working and talented; however, there are a limited number of spaces available. While you may or may not be admitted, this will be a great learning process for you regardless. Write a rough draft so your work is your best. Write neatly. Be yourself and have fun!