Who can afford arts boarding school?
Interlochen Arts Academy admission and education leadership provide insight that disrupts boarding school stereotypes.
A private arts boarding school is the preferred option for many families with artistically gifted students. For some, however, the idea of attending boarding school comes with certain negative assumptions. Some families assume that boarding school will be way too expensive, or that it's reserved exclusively for families who’ve made boarding school a tradition for generations. But are these assumptions based on facts?
Interlochen Arts Academy has taken an energetic approach to dispelling these concerns. Generous donors and a dedicated financial aid and admissions team help address income disparity in applications. As a result of Interlochen’s outstanding student preparation, many families are set up to save thousands of dollars in college admissions. A welcoming atmosphere allows for honest conversations about affordability. And an Interlochen education offers value that only compounds over time.
Here, admissions staff members and a recent graduate share their perspectives on who can afford boarding school.
Generous aid that disrupts stereotypes
“It's a very vulnerable topic to talk about,” says 2023 Academy graduate Tiffany Blandin. The acting major from Chicago, Illinois says that Interlochen’s generous financial aid was the difference that allowed her to attend here all four years of high school. “I'm the first in my family to ever go to a boarding school.”
Interlochen Arts Academy has a strong tradition of welcoming students from a variety of financial and cultural backgrounds. Since its founding in 1928, the school’s network of generous supporters has helped provide funds for many students. Nearly 80% of Interlochen’s incoming students are awarded financial aid, a percentage that is over 30% higher than many competing schools. The school offers both talent scholarships and need-based assistance. For some students, this aid makes all the difference in the world when it comes to attending Interlochen.
It's a very vulnerable topic to talk about. I'm the first in my family to ever go to a boarding school.
Executive Dean of Admission Ken LaBate describes the conversations he has with prospective students and their families. While some families pass down a tradition of attending boarding school, others send first-generation students.
“Many of our students find us through online research and their families have never even thought about sending their students to boarding school,” he says. “I'm talking with families who say, ‘This was unexpected, but my student really wants to do it. You can see their potential, and you've offered them admission. Now we've got to figure out if we can make it work financially.’”
Generous aid allows Interlochen to admit a pool of talented young artists, with a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences.
“There's no stigma attached to financial aid,” LaBate adds. “Interlochen welcomes students from all different walks of life.”
A financial advantage in college admissions
Not only does Interlochen offer generous financial aid, but the school also promises added value for families as their students enter the next stage of life: college. Students work closely with college counselors who help ensure they craft compelling applications that open doors to the best institutions in higher education, from Harvard University to Curtis Institute of Music.
Within their arts disciplines, Interlochen students also have access to master teachers who help them perfect their portfolios to showcase their talents. Oftentimes these documents, videos, or other visuals help a student stand out in the admissions process, leading to generous college scholarships.
The numbers confirm this positive trend. For Interlochen’s graduating class of 2023, the average scholarship award earned was $29,000. In total, seniors were offered 14.3 million dollars in college aid, significantly reducing the burden on families.
Sydney Davis, Associate Director of Admission and Academy Music, can speak from personal experience on this topic. She studied clarinet at Arts Academy before earning admission into several outstanding colleges.
“The caliber of schools I was able to apply for was changed because I went to Interlochen, and I received large scholarships to all the schools I applied to,” she says. “Interlochen made it possible for me to go to Juilliard because I received those scholarships.”
Interlochen is willing to work with anyone. We've seen everything, so no situation is scary or too much for us to help with. We're very open to conversations.
Keeping conversations open
Interlochen fosters an environment where students feel safe discussing their needs with students and staff, receiving both financial and emotional support for the challenges of boarding school. During her time at Interlochen, Blandin was able to discuss finances openly with her close friends. For her, these conversations were incredibly enlightening.
“Being able to have those conversations and understanding their backgrounds, and being able to relate, sympathize, or just listen is something that has been very refreshing. It’s eye-opening, because you start to see a more 3D version of them.”
Over the course of four years, Blandin’s family stayed in close touch with staff in admissions and financial aid, forging open communication lines that Blandin deeply appreciates.
“They're very giving, very understanding, very friendly. And they’re also just willing to accommodate our needs, which is great,” she says.
Her parents also connected with Interlochen’s Parent Board which allowed them to share financial aid questions and opportunities. Blandin leveraged several outside scholarships to cut her tuition even further.
Interlochen’s admissions team works hard to make families feel comfortable having all of these conversations.
“It is definitely scary to put your net worth on paper and have someone make judgments from it,” says Davis. “But Interlochen is willing to work with anyone. We've seen everything, so no situation is scary or too much for us to help with. We're very open to conversations. We understand that life is crazy and things happen, and we're always willing to work with people.”
The value of an arts education
The true value of Interlochen, however, lies in a full and successful life in the arts. Blandin, for instance, is attending Carnegie-Mellon University with scholarships. Beyond college graduation, she dreams of moving to New York and continuing to pursue her acting gifts while starting her own business.
After receiving mentorship from world-class instructors in their arts disciplines, Academy graduates can look forward to meaningful and productive futures doing the work they love. The only barriers will be the ones they set for themselves.
For students who still aren’t sure whether Interlochen is right for them, Davis has one piece of advice: just apply.
“Every family's financial situation is going to be different, and there is a place for everyone at the Academy,” she says. “Our goal by 2028 is to meet the full need of every family. We're not there yet, but we're getting closer every day. Interlochen is a place where all kinds of different people from different backgrounds have come together. Students shouldn't make choices to apply only based on their financial status.”
Interlochen disrupts common boarding school stereotypes by fostering a welcoming environment for all its students. Here, honest conversations lead to real solutions for families. And the value of an arts education isn’t just confined to college admissions—Interlochen prepares students for a life of continued excellence.
“We are committed to breaking down barriers that can stand in the way of a world-class arts education,” says provost Camille Colatosti. “This is the place where young artists turn their passion and potential into purpose. If you are ready to meet that challenge, you will find a home at Interlochen.”
Contact our Financial Aid team at firstname.lastname@example.org.