Interlochen or Walnut Hill - worth it?

<p>My daughter is a strong soprano with a passion for musical theatre and she hopes to apply at the top MT schools for college. She's currently a good student in a well-regarded local prep school and most of her MT experience is in community theatre. The problem we are beginning to see this year (10th grade) is that she is being stretched too thin with a full school day, typically 3 hrs of rehearsal at night and 4-6 hrs of homework, in addition to squeezing in voice lessons, etc. She has been very stressed out about school, her grades have slipped a little and she is considering not taking any AP classes next year b/c of the difficuly balancing the challenging academics with her theatre commitments. There are only so many hours in the day, and many of them are spent in the car driving from one place to the next!</p>

<p>We are considering a performing arts boarding school for her junior and senior years b/c we feel it would provide the balance between the arts training she needs and strong academics, all in one place. My impression is that she would be able to have more success acedemically at a school designed to balance the two. Also, she would be able to take acting and dance classes in addition to having performance opportunities, which she does not have time to do during her school year at home. It has also been suggested to us that going to one of the top PA boarding schools like Interlochen or Walnut Hill would help her get into the better MT college programs. (not so much b/c of the names, but b/c of the training and time to focus on academics.) I do believe they would be able to prepare her well for college auditions.</p>

<p>However, the price tag on these schools is huge! If I knew the academics and training she would recieve during Jr./Sr. years would help her get into top schools or would help her get scholarships, it would be totally worth it. Otherwise, she may be better off continuing at her current school with perhaps non-AP classes to help her balance with her theatre rehearsals, etc., and attending pre-college summer programs like CMU to prepare for college auditions. </p>

<p>We would love some advice from any of you with knowledge about these schools as far as helping prepare students for successful MT college admissions. Also, how do these two schools differ? (Interlochen and Walnut Hill) What are their strengths and weaknesses? Thanks!</p>

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<p>I have four children between the ages of 15 and 19. My second oldest came to us in the fall of her sophomore year of high school asking if we would consider letting her go to Interlochen. She had a friend from local professional theatre who went there and he said it was amazing. My husband said, "No way!" at first but our D was persistent and did her research on the pros and cons of her going to Interlochen for her last two years of high school. She continued to take full advantage of all the opportunities we had locally, maintained excellent grades and stayed out of trouble. By Thanksgiving, we felt that she had earned the opportunity to go to campus for a visit and audition with the understanding that we still weren't sure. I drove her 500 miles in a huge snow storm the first weekend of Feb. I still can't believe we made it! I was blown away by the learning that went on there, both academically and artistically. She ended up doing her last two years of high school there as a theatre major. It was the best decision we could've made. She thrived at Interlochen. When college auditions roled around last year, she wasn't sure if she wanted to go the classical voice, straight acting, or MT route, so she auditioned for several schools in each area. She ended up getting into 14 programs, including Eastman, Oberlin, New England, Carnegie-Mellon, and Oklahoma City for Vocal Performance, Fordham for Acting, and Pace, Emerson, NYU-Steinhardt, Oklahoma City, U. of Miami(FL), and Webster for MT. The scholarship monies she received for academics and talent far outweighed what we spent in tuition at Interlochen and we have no doubt that her training at Interlochen is why she had such a successful audition process. Many of her Interlochen friends have similar stories. Yes, Interlochen is worth it! My D is now thriving in college and she says that Interlochen prepared her so well. My youngest D did the six-week MT summer intensive last year and will be going back this summer with the plan of doing her last two years of high school there. Hope this helps.</p>

<p>I have a similar story to tell about my son who transferred to Walnut Hill after his freshman year from a competitive but traditional private high school. The exposure he had to rigorous arts training undoubtedly improved his preparation for college auditions. The context also put him (and us) in a much more informed position about which college programs were the ones likely to be a good fit for his artistic interests. He fared well in his many college auditions, as did LetsSing's d, and for him, getting into CMU's MT program meant he had achieved his top goal. The discipline learned in rigorous arts hs programs is valuable. Not all students who attend these schools adapt to it well and not all students who don't attend arts high schools lack it. Walnut Hill worked for him, though, so I know it was the right decision to have made in his case. He also attended summer programs, so I'm not sure "either/or" is the way to think about this. If you do opt for summer programs, be sure to consider Northwestern's Cherubs program. He felt it demanded a focus that readied him to make the most of his senior year prep for auditions and we noted that many of his fellow Cherubs were admitted at CMU the following year. Good luck with your own efforts to think this through because I remember it was a big decision for our family!</p>

<p>Thanks, guys, for the info! Boarding school is really a financial stretch for us, so if we do it we won't be able to do summer programs, too. If she continues in her local private school we are planning to apply for CMU's summer program this year and Cherubs the next (plus a few others.)</p>

<p>One of our thoughts on the expense is that being in an environment where she has a more balanced schedule, she should be able to do better academically in addition to receiving arts training she needs. We hope that it will enable her to qualify for scholarships for college, which would make up for some of the extra HS expense. Question for you re: scholarships - Are there many MT programs out there offering scholarships? Do most people get them for academics or talent? Are they more common at the smaller, lesser-known colleges, or do the "big guys" give them away, too? How hard is it to get scholarships for MT? Do you have to be in the top few of your class?</p>

<p>Interlochen has excellent financial aid, so don't let finances stand in your way. Definitely apply, especially since your D would have two years there. Our only regret is that our D had only her senior year there--she just didn't realize that she wanted that environment until she was already in her junior year. The training and academics are top notch!</p>

<p>In terms of college financial aid here is a link to a recent conversation on the Theatre forum. <a href=""&gt;;/a> </p>

<p>I will bump the discussion from the MT forum as well. <a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>The sense I get is that colleges have more merit aid for academics than talent, but that some schools do have talent merit money as well. </p>

<p>With the current economic situation I would believe that more and more schools might allocate more of their financial aid dollars based more upon financial need as demonstrated on the FAFSA. Anecdotally speaking it sounds as if that has been the experience of people on this site. </p>

<p>College financial aid packages are a combination of loans and (sometimes) scholarships. I think the link below and the thread I bumped with give an idea of some of the schools that in the past have had talent merit money. </p>

<p>Students who attend schools like Walnut Hill and Interlochen are very successful in college auditions, so are students who do not attend schools like these. If your D chooses to go to a school like Interlochen or Walnut Hill it has to be to take advantage of the educational opportunities available to her there over the next two years. The college outcomes are too hard to predict. I think kedstuff's advice in post #4 is spot on... "The exposure he had to rigorous arts training undoubtedly improved his preparation for college auditions. The context also put him (and us) in a much more informed position about which college programs were the ones likely to be a good fit for his artistic interests.... The discipline learned in rigorous arts hs programs is valuable. Not all students who attend these schools adapt to it well and not all students who don't attend arts high schools lack it." </p>

<p>It is probably worth it to apply to Interlochen and Walnut Hill , and make a decision once your D has the acceptances and financial aid packages in hand. Since applications seem to be due for most summer programs rather early, you could also apply to a few of those in case you make the decision not to attend a PA boarding school. There is no one "right" choice, just different ones. Once you have all of the information it will be easier to weigh the pros and cons of each decision.</p>

<p>Thanks, KatMT, for those links and your great advice.</p>

<p>This is such a deeply personal decision and I'm sure the first hand reports you've gotten have been very helpful. Let me also add that many (if not most) of our kids who are already in college theatre programs did not attend schools like Interlochen and Walnut Hill, so it is obviously possible to get into great schools without doing so. If you are banking on talent scholarships as part of the return on investment of attending a private program, I would think again. In my experience, the predominance of the dollars offered are, as KatMT pointed out, for financial aid. After that, academic merit scholarships receive the next highest amount, with talent receiving the least in terms of individual awards and the total pot available.</p>

<p>Many of our kids very successfully balanced challenging academic course loads with rehearsals, lessons, community service, extracurricular activities, etc. Depending on the type of program and school your daughter is looking for, that's another route to go. Beefing up her resume at this point with time-consuming community theater roles is not necessarily the only ticket should she decide to stay at home. Concentrating on school and lessons is certainly a viable option, especially if you supplement it with audition coaching as college gets closer. </p>

<p>I’m not trying to dissuade you from pursuing either of the wonderful private school opportunities you mentioned, just pointing out that there is another road that has worked for many of our families.</p>

<p>Perischack, good points to consider. Thanks!</p>

<p>I agree that you need to be very careful when you discussing merit aid with people to distinguish between talent/ academic merit aid (no financial need) and talent/ merit aid packages that are part of a financial aid package. They are not the same.</p>

<p>D is at NYU-Steinhardt as a VP (MT) major. She receives a talent merit aid scholarship (no need.) Her grades were high and she was originally supposed to receive academic merit aid (a long story), but in the end it was switched to talent merit aid as academic was no longer available without need.</p>

<p>D did not go to a performing arts school--some of her classmates at NYU did, but the majority did not. However, she did attend the NYU Steinhardt summer MT program before senior year. I believe that did help her gain her scholarship money since she went into the admission process as someone that they knew and liked.</p>

<p>D took voice lessons, made all-state, studied dance over the years and did her hs musicals--leading roles as a junior and senior. Sophomore summer she went on a teen tour, junior year summer she worked in a camp. Performing arts camp when she was younger. No community theatre whatsoever. Additionally she had very strong EC's that showed leadership--she founded and directed an acapella group, was the school president, etc.</p>

<p>In the end, I believe it was her voice training, overall raw "talent" and her ability to learn and work hard that NYU saw her display during the 3-week program that helped her gain admission and her scholarship.</p>

<p>Whereas I would not talk anyone out of a PA boarding school if it is affordable, I would certainly not consider it a pre-requisite for admission to top programs or merit aid.</p>

<p>i was a theater major at walnut hill and i'd be happy to answer any questions you might have. i was both a day student and a boarding student and was very involved. i came to walnut hill my sophomore year and left after the end of my junior year.</p>