The Outdoor Academy

The Outdoor Academy is an accredited semester school for high school sophomores, and select juniors, who are looking for academic success and personal enrichment.
We deliver rigorous academics infused with experiential education and wilderness adventure in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina.
With 26-28 other classmates, our students learn to build small, close-knit community and essential life skills that will launch them back to their sending school ahead of their peers, socially and academically.

Top Placements

The Outdoor Academy places among the top 20% of private schools in North Carolina for:

School Overview

School TypeSchool with Special Program Emphasis
School Membership(s)School Assoc.National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)
Association for Experiential Education (AEE)
Religious AffiliationNonsectarian
Grades OfferedGrades 10-11
Year Founded1995
Summer School OfferedYes
Summer Program DetailsLink to Summer Program Details

Student Body

Total Students28 students
Student Body TypeCo-ed
% Students of Color
State avg.: 18%
Students by Grade The Outdoor Academy Student By Grade

Academics and Faculty

Total Classroom Teachers10 teachers
Student : Teacher Ratio3:1
National avg.: 13:1
% Faculty w/Advanced Degree
List of Courses OfferedLink to List of Courses
Matriculation DataMatric. DataLink to Matriculation Data
Classroom Dress CodeCasual
(Outdoorsy and prepared)

Finances and Admission

Admission DeadlineFeb. 15 / rolling
Yearly Tuition Cost$31,750
% on Financial Aid
Average Financial Aid Grant$8,000
Admissions DirectorJulie Holt
Admissions AssociateKatie Rowlett


Total ExtracurricularsTotal Extra-curric.11 extracurriculars
ExtracurricularsExtra-curric.Club or Organization:
Communication & Conflict Resolution, Community Development, Environmental Awareness, Leadership Development

Arts and Music Programs:
Art Program, Blacksmithing, Crafts, Woodworking

Recreational Athletic Programs:
Backpacking, Paddling, Rock Climbing

School Notes

  • If you`re hearing any of the buzzwords about 21st century education these days, they sound a lot like The Outdoor Academy. Character. Collaboration. Communication. Creative and critical thinking. These are exactly what The Outdoor Academy has been doing for over 20 years. 
  • We`ve built a school founded upon Four Cornerstones: Intellect, Environment, Community, and Craft. In everything we do, we develop the character required for life-long success by practicing our Seven Principles: Simple Living, Work Ethic, Curiosity, Integrity, Stewardship, Self-reliance, and Gratitude.
  • Our intellectual experience goes beyond just academics to cultivate a life of the mind. OA students come to know their own thoughts and ideas, to take responsibility for their education, and to ask good questions. The question we ask most often is "What do you think "Our environmental education curriculum empowers students to find their place in the world, create practical sustainable solutions, and effect positive change. Our wilderness trips develop technical skills, leadership and teamwork, and a true sense of the unique biome of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The thriving Garden to Table program allows students to help produce our seasonal fruits and vegetables and gain valuable knowledge of gardening, cooking, and food preservation.By intentionally building the connections and personal responsibility necessary to create a close-knit community, OA teaches students to live well together and be their best selves. This is, of course, the heart of what we do and where our principles are really put into practice. Sharing work, meals, and life together requires all of us to do our part, to keep our word, and always to give thanks. An emphasis on craft means not just creating art and doing work with our hands but also expecting quality in everything we do. An afternoon spent hammering at the forge, throwing pots at the ceramics studio, or playing bluegrass on the Cheoah steps creates an awareness of beauty in our lives and develops a sense of appreciation of the process of creation. By emphasizing the craft of hands and minds, OA students learn to take true ownership for their work, their education, and their lives.These cornerstones and principles truly work because of the unique challenges set before them throughout the semester. That`s where we build persistence, resilience, grit. That`s the mountain we climb, the stack of wood we split, the essay where a thought is expressed just right. It`s the place where the student joins the school and is launched into a greater sense of self and place. This is the work we do and have been doing for a long time. So, spread the word: we`re so traditional that we`re cutting edge.

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School Reviews

  5.00 out of 5  (8 reviews)
We visited Outdoor Academy for an Open House a year before my eldest attended. We shadowed classes, and a teacher asked her students to tell us their thoughts. This one boy looked at the kids in our group and said, "just do it. Come here. You won`t regret it." It is an extraordinary place that we feel so fortunate to have discovered - we'd never heard of semester schools. Tonight, both of my sons and the youngest's friend, who also went to OA, spent hours telling stories and laughing together. It is a very special place with faculty and staff who are at OA because they believe passionately in experiential education. It's not easy to make the decision to go away for a semester, but the bonds that these kids make with each other and the adults at OA are lifelong. They loved being without the pressures of social media and their phones, and even though they are once again addicted, I can ask them to put their phones away and they never get angry - they just do it! At OA, they experienced being in classes where the teachers asked more questions than they talked. They became adept at chopping wood, making fires, hiking and camping, paddling and rock climbing. They carved spoons, made knives, repaired stairs, helped in the kitchen, kept their cabin warm with only firewood, etc. They met kids from around the country and forged friendships the old-fashioned way ... by looking them in the eye and learning how to really, really talk! It's truly an amazing place!
- Posted by
I can't say enough about the O.A. experience for our daughter, due to the fabulous wilderness program and the compassionate and inspirational staff. This is the semester experience that every teenager needs to help them find a positive path to their lives, coupled with the complete exit from social media for 4 months, from peer pressure, from vaping, alcohol, drugs, cliques, and stress. OA was such a valuable personal development boost for our daughter and as a result for our family.
- Posted by
I will never be able to stress enough how much this school meant to me. Sophomore year was a very transitional one for me, and being able to step away from all of the chaos that was my high school was incredibly gratifying. Through attending The Outdoor Academy, I have gained a greater insight into not only how wonderful it feels to be a part of such an intentional community, but also how I want to set up my communities in the future. Whether that be in college or in my life in general, Outdoor Academy has prepared me in the best way possible to blaze my own unique trail.
- Posted by
The Outdoor Academy changed my life. There was a strong sense of community, lovely faculty and staff, a beautiful campus, and places to hike. Sophomore year was a great time to go (although challenging at the beginning), I left feeling much more mature and independent and true to myself. The outdoor education was a wonderful way to connect deeper with peers and faculty, and the classes were meaningful and intentional. I will never forget this place, it will always hold a special place in my heart.
- Posted by
Outdoor Academy will forever be one of the communities in my life that I hold closest to my heart. There are not the words in written language to describe the depth of gratitude I have for this amazing semester school. The teachers at OA were at the heart of the experience for me. The pure intentionality, commitment, and care that each teacher possesses gave me some of the biggest role models in my life. To this day I still reflect on the lesson I learned during my semester at OA and the values I solidified that have helped me live a life I am very happy with. The classes are engaging and help students explore ideas on a deeper level. The outdoor programming was spectacular and gave me the gifts of my most cherished adventures. Outdoor Academy is a beautiful place, a gift, and something I will always cherish. I encourage anyone and everyone to consider the school!
- Posted by
My son attended OA four years ago and now my daughter is attending. I consider sending my children to OA to be the best parenting decision I have made. It is difficult to let your child go away for a semester but the benefits to them far outweigh any cost to you as the parent. I wanted my children to experience a different type of learning, the kind in which they would be fully engaged, would develop a real relationship with their teachers, and learn about their talents in a way that traditional school simply can't give them. I wanted them to learn independence and self-reliance. I wanted them to understand what it means to be part of a community and to become more reflective about their actions. I wanted them to disengage for a significant period of time from social media and be able to find the quiet within themselves so that they could turn to it again and again throughout their lives. I cannot say enough to convey what a quality experience OA is. It has given my children all that I hoped for and more.
- Posted by
You''ve returned to us a much more mature, patient daughter than we sent you. Katie's experience at The Outdoor Academy was such an IMPORTANT influence on her life. I was tempted to say that it changed her dramatically, but what it actually did was call forth interests and abilities that were always there but deeply hidden -- so that she is more fully herself now as a result of her time with all of you.
- Posted by
Going to The Outdoor Academy was the best (and hardest) decision I ever made up to this point in my life. There was truly no words to describe how much my OA experience meant to me. It's just something that you have to experience for yourself. Over those four months, I became the person I truly want to be. I grew into a stronger, more confident, more resilient, and just overall happier person while I was at OA. Leaving my home life behind was somewhat hard, but it was always worth it. I'm not going to pretend those four months at OA were easy, but with the support of my teachers and my fellow classmates, I was able to grow enormously as a person. The OA experience is about taking a chance of leaving your "comfort zone" behind, meeting amazing people (both teachers and students), learning a lot academically, becoming comfortable in the wilderness, and learning more about yourself and who you want to be.
- Posted by

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Did You Know?
The average private school tuition in North Carolina is $8,547 for elementary schools and $10,582 for high schools (read more about average private school tuition across the country).
The average acceptance rate in North Carolina is 86% (read more about average acceptance rates across the country).