Who can afford arts boarding school?

Interlochen Arts Academy admission and education leadership provide insight that disrupts boarding school stereotypes.

Three students walking (Who can afford arts boarding school)

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 assumptions. Some families believe that boarding school will be far too expensive, or that it's reserved exclusively for families who have made it a tradition for generations. But are these expectations based on fact? 

Interlochen Arts Academy has taken an energetic approach to dispelling these concerns. Generous donors and a dedicated financial aid and admission team help provide resources for families with need. A welcoming atmosphere allows for honest conversations about affordability. And an Interlochen education offers value that only compounds over time—providing students an advantage in college and beyond. We spoke with Interlochen Arts Academy admission staff and students to share their perspectives on who can afford arts boarding school.

Generous aid that disrupts stereotypes

“It's a very vulnerable topic to talk about,” says Academy senior 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 merit-based scholarships and need-based assistance. For some students, this aid makes all the difference. 

Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Colby Carson describes the conversations he has with prospective students and their families. While some families pass down a tradition of attending boarding school, many send first-generation students. “More often than not, these students are really talented young artists who have unique passions. They have the potential. They've found us through online research and their families have never thought about sending their students to boarding school. I'm having conversations with families saying, ‘This was unexpected and my student really wants to do it. And you've seen this passion and you've seen this potential. You've offered them admission. But 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. “Here, there are people from all different walks of life,” Carson adds. 

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. A former admissions counselor at The Juilliard School, Carson has an insider’s perspective. “I've sat on the other side of the desk in college admission and I’ve seen applications come in from everywhere in the world. And there's something special about Interlochen students. It's clear that they are dedicated to what they do, and it's clear that they have supports.” 

The support they receive in high school opens doors for them in college. Interlochen students have access to master teachers who help them perfect their artistic portfolios to showcase their talents. Often, 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. 96% of Interlochen graduates report being admitted into one of their top three preferred colleges. And in 2022, Interlochen’s graduating class of 250 received more than 500 scholarship offers, totaling nearly $16 million—the highest scholarship total of any graduating class in the Academy's history. 

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 found herself able to discuss finances openly with her close friends. For her, the conversations were 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 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.” Her parents are also connected with Interlochen’s Parent Board which has allowed them to share financial aid questions and opportunities. Blandin has since leveraged several outside scholarships to reduce her tuition even further. 

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, has been accepted with scholarships to Carnegie Mellon University for fall 2022. Beyond college graduation, she dreams of moving to New York and continuing to pursue her acting gifts while starting her own business. 

Katie Luellen, Executive Dean of Enrollment Management, says that students like Blandin are well prepared to excel in their chosen fields. “That combination of critical and creative thinking creates the most nimble and successful outcomes,” she says. “What we find is that when a student is doing what they love to do, everything else gets better.” After receiving mentorship from world-class instructors in their respective disciplines, Arts 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, Luellen has one piece of advice: just apply. “You won't know if you get in until you apply. And you won't know what your financial aid package is until you get in.” 

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 and opportunity.  

Contact our Financial Aid team at finaid@interlochen.org.