Idyllwild Arts Academy - Review #5

Read more details about Idyllwild Arts Academy on their 2024 profile page.
Idyllwild Arts Academy

About the Author:

Years Attended Boarding School:
Sports and Activities:
Our son is not a big "activity" kind of guy, but his favorite events to attend have been student performances and exhibitions of all kinds, from vocals to songwriting to fashion shows. The kids are often so busy that they don't have a lot of extra time for extracurriculars, but if your schedule allows, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in almost anything that interests you, from politics, to culture, and even to food! They do a great job including many cultures and nationalities in their food selections.
College Enrolled:
Home Town, State:
Big Bear Lake, CA

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
Idyllwild Arts Academy provides a holistic education for students while allowing them to focus on their craft. Our son started here in August of 2019 as a freshman violin major, and has had a fantastic experience. IAA has top-notch teachers, both in academics and in the arts. What is unique about IAA of course is that it's a boarding school, so not only do the kids become family to each other, but also to their teachers. They know each other on a first-name basis and there is a sense of community there that is unmatched, we believe, by any other school.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
I can't answer this for our son.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I don't think our son has any regrets! There were some tough moments, and I think he wishes he were a more outgoing person (the beginning of school as a freshman can be tough, and he didn't enjoy the "icebreaker" activities at all!) who was completely comfortable with new people, but it's a personal challenge he will have to work on. The whole experience has been really good.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
We think he loved having close friendships there and having so much independence.


1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Our son has found the academics to be rigorous and engaging. Of course, there will always be those teachers that are "less favorite" than others, but for the most part, he has really loved all of his teachers over the years, and says there are many he will truly miss when he graduates. He has been challenged in all the right ways--for example, in social studies junior year, American History was taught from a Native American perspective, and he was fascinated by this, as in the past it was taught from a white perspective. It allowed for deep conversations and a mindset shift for him. We have been most impressed by the writing instruction--he has grown by leaps and bounds in his ability to put his thoughts into words, to think and express himself critically regarding literature from all walks of life, and we feel he will be very well prepared for college essays and college on the whole.


1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
There is mandatory physical education in 9th and 10th grades, and not much after that. Most of these kids are not super-interested in athletics, including our son. There are lots of opportunities to hike, and just going from class to class is a workout--they walk everywhere!

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
Our son is in the music program as a violinist. His teacher, Todor Pelev, has been instrumental (no pun intended!) to his growth as an artist. Everyone in the music program has been incredibly challenging, professional, and experienced in so many areas of this art. They even keep in touch with him during the summers to offer lessons online, advice for applying to college, and any other support he needs. The music theory classes have been very challenging, in a good way, for him. It has forced him to learn a whole new aspect of music, one that he wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise. Because of covid, his opportunities to perform and compete have been very limited, so it's hard to speak to those, but I imagine in a normal year, there are lots of those.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
We know he loved the field trips he did get to take, but there haven't been many due to covid. I think in normal years there are many field trips to the Los Angeles and San Diego area for amusement parks or just to explore.

Dorm Life:

1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
I think this might be the most challenging but also perhaps the most rewarding part. He has had 3 different roommates from 3 different countries (China, Bulgaria, and the US), and they have been vastly different experiences. One of them was not the best experience, but this is real life! Being an only child, he never had to share space with anyone or deal with conflict, and this gave him that experience. During junior and senior years, they get to choose their roommates, and he is now rooming with his best friend, and that has been wonderful. I think as teenagers they are always hungry, and food can be a huge commodity. Highly recommend getting a plastic storage tub and keeping snacks in it (there are mice there, it's in the middle of a forest) so that you can grab something when you get hungry between classes/practice or late at night, as the dining hall is not open all the time and sometimes your schedule will conflict with mealtime. Our son loses weight when he's there just because he's so busy!


1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
The food has been pretty good for the most part--they have lots of choices. This is a great place to socialize and get to know other kids, and to just relax and be themselves. They recently changed their catering company, and our son reports that the food has improved. I know they offer vegetarian/vegan choices at every meal, but I'm not sure about food allergies/gluten, etc. Definitely worth checking into. They feature foods from around the world on a regular basis, and especially on international holidays. They even try to incorporate family recipes into the menu sometimes! The dining hall is large and very welcoming, featuring flags from all over the world. There are large tables that they sit at, and some smaller circular ones for the smaller groups. I think the only complaint has been that it's sometimes hard to line his schedule up with mealtimes, and sometimes he misses a meal here and there.

Social and Town Life:

1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
They do have town privileges on most weekends, with shuttles running to town and back most of the day. They get a lot of independence, and get to roam around with friends, which is really fun for them. There are lots of good restaurants and shopping, and they can even get groceries weekly (there are small refrigerators in the dorms) so they have a little stash of food/drink. They're allowed to have a kettle and/or coffee machine so they can make hot drinks, a favorite especially among the older kids. Our son's roommate loves his Nespresso and keeps oat milk in their fridge for his matcha lattes!
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
The best thing about the school is how international it is. I believe 30 countries are represented there, and the kids learn to interact with people from around the world--so important! American kids get to learn that they are not the center of the universe, which is a good thing! The kids are generally really friendly and our son has not experienced (other than the usual adolescent social issues) any bullying or unkindness like he did at our local public school when he lived with us. We are grateful for the social fabric there--we think it has helped him grow so much as a person, and he will be leaps and bounds ahead of kids who haven't experienced the diversity that is at Idyllwild when they head off to college.
Read more details about Idyllwild Arts Academy on their 2024 profile page.

Alumni Reviews Review School

Idyllwild Arts Academy Alumni #1
Class of 2020
5.00 1/19/2024
Idyllwild Arts Academy
Idyllwild Arts Academy's focus on the arts is well-known. Intensive training in a variety of artistic disciplines, such as dance, music, theater, visual arts, and creative writing, is integrated into the curriculum. Along with intensive. . .
Idyllwild Arts Academy Alumni #2
Class of 2016
5.00 8/11/2023
Idyllwild Arts Academy
Comprehensive Arts Education: Idyllwild Arts Academy's dedication to providing a comprehensive arts education is one of its standout features. The academy offers a wide variety of artistic disciplines, including music, dance, visual arts, drama, film. . .
Idyllwild Arts Academy Alumni #3
Class of 2018
5.00 8/5/2023
Idyllwild Arts Academy
The academy lays a lot of emphasis on encouraging its students' creativity, focus, and artistic expression. A strong academic program is combined with a demanding arts curriculum to give children a well-rounded education. Students are. . .
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Quick Stats (2024)

  • Enrollment: 280 students
  • Yearly Tuition (Boarding Students): $75,900
  • Yearly Tuition (Day Students): $34,000
  • Acceptance rate: 65%
  • Average class size: 12 students
  • Application Deadline: None / Rolling
  • Source: Verified school update