8 common misconceptions about financing your Interlochen Arts Academy education

  • A group of "welcome wagon" students welcome their peers to Interlochen Arts Academy.

Much like college, Interlochen Arts Academy is an investment. The knowledge you will gain here, both academic and artistic, will last a lifetime and prepare you for a vibrant future in the arts and beyond.

If you’ve looked at the cost of attendance and think it’s something you and your family could not afford, don’t be discouraged. At Interlochen, we firmly believe that finances shouldn’t be a barrier to amazing artistic and academic experiences.

While your family’s financial situation is unique, thousands of students just like you have found a way to finance their dream of attending Interlochen Arts Academy. Here are a few of the biggest misconceptions we hear about financial aid, tuition, and the value of Interlochen—and the realities you might not expect:

  1. I won’t qualify for aid. The average annual household income of families who receive aid at Interlochen is $106,000. When you apply for aid, a real person looks at your application, and we work hard to make it possible for all students who are admitted to Interlochen to be able to enroll. You won't know how much aid you’re eligible for until you apply.
  2. The FAST form is the same as FAFSA. FAST is a third-party financial aid processor for secondary schools that works to provide standardized and impartial processing in a confidential setting. FAST calculates estimated family contribution slightly differently than the FAFSA, so you may get a different number than an older sibling applying for college. All of Interlochen’s financial aid funds are provided by the institution and its donors—there are no federal grants available—so there’s no need to file the FAFSA for your Interlochen application.
  3. 529 savings plans are only for college. You can actually borrow from your 529 plan to cover a portion of your secondary tuition.
  4. At an arts high school, merit aid is everything. While Interlochen does offer merit scholarships, most of the funding that we offer is need-based.
  5. There are hidden costs or fees that aren’t included in the tuition price. We work very hard to include almost all costs into the tuition price and to help you outline a full estimated cost of attendance before you enroll. Coming to Interlochen means that some costs will shift to us, such as your private lessons and food. Families can make individual decisions about additional expenses that make the most sense to them.
  6. I should save my money for college instead. Interlochen students receive nearly three times more college scholarships than the average public or charter school student. In 2019, Arts Academy students received an average of $27,869 in scholarship funds. Comparatively, the average award for full-time college students in 2018-19 was $9,520. This speaks to the value of the training and college counseling at Interlochen. In addition, some of our graduates skip college entirely and enter their chosen field upon graduation—such as 2019 Arts Academy dance graduate Austin Dabney, who joined the Boston Ballet this fall.
  7. I can apply anytime and aid will be available. Spots are limited at Interlochen Arts Academy, and we expect to have more returning students this year than ever before. Financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to apply early.
  8. If I only go for senior year, it will be cheaper. Students entering grades 9-11 pay a lower tuition price and have greater access to institutional funding than one-year seniors. If you enter Interlochen as a freshman, sophomore, or junior, you’ll be eligible for the lower tuition price during your senior year. You’ll also pay the lower price if you choose to stay for a post-graduate year.

Want to discuss your financial aid options? Contact our Financial Aid team at finaid@interlochen.org.

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