International families pursuing U.S. boarding school, and specifically ski academies, often have unique considerations and questions as they embark on the Sun Valley Ski Academy (SVSA) application and enrollment process. We hope that by sharing one family’s experience, we can shed light on the search and application process and the value of choosing to join our vibrant community.
Here, Julia, whose son Jake is a boarding student and alpine skier, shares insight into her family’s decision making process and experience at Sun Valley Ski Academy to date. The American/British family lives in Switzerland, where Jake grew up skiing, and were seeking a high school experience where English was the primary language and that provided both athletic and academic excellence.
What initially inspired your family to consider Community School?
We were searching for a school where our son could continue skiing and training at a high level during his last two years of high school that offered an academic program that was intellectually exciting. Finding that combination was a tall order. Community School gives Jake the opportunity to ski hard and have deep, thoughtful classroom conversations on subjects beyond the typical high school course requirements.
As you began to explore the school, what was most appealing to your family about the academic and athletic programming offered here?
In addition to the balance of rigorous academics and excellent ski programming, Community School offers for-credit summer courses that Upper School students can take to lighten their winter course requirements. This was a huge selling point for us. Jake is a very keen student, and taking courses in the summer means that his winter work will be a little bit lighter during ski season.
Were there other factors—practical or intangible—that played a role as you made the decision to pursue an application and ultimately enroll Jake at Community School?
The final decision came down to two schools that were the only places we felt gave Jake the dynamic learning experience he craved and the access to sports that he loves. Jake chose Community School because he prefered the smaller, family feeling of the residence hall and very much liked the dorm staff; he thought that Residence Hall Chef Tracey Caraluzzi's cooking was tops, and he liked the outdoor lifestyle in Sun Valley. Ultimately, Jake relied on his instinct that he would be happy at Community School based on his meetings with many members of the faculty during our visit.
As a family currently living in Europe, what was the appeal of a US ski academy, and, specifically, of Sun Valley Ski Academy?
Jake was interested in finding a school program in English. We researched options in England, but we found it challenging to find a program where we felt that the academics were as strong a focus as the ski program.
What would you tell other families about the Sun Valley, Idaho location of Community School and what role that played in your decision?
Rationally, it doesn't make sense to send Jake halfway across the world to go to school. We miss him. But we know it has been worth it when Jake recently told us that choosing his classes for spring term was hard because there were so many things that he found interesting. Jake has also taken full advantage of the outdoor programming that the school offers; he feels at home in the mountains and is thrilled to have so many trips planned with the school. This wouldn't be possible in most other boarding school locations.
Now that Jake has had time to settle in, how would you describe his experience and yours, as parents?
Jake had been away from home for weeks at a time prior to enrolling at Community School because of his skiing program in Europe. However, it has been an adjustment for all of us having him gone for such an extended period of time. The time change makes scheduled calls important, so that we can touch base regularly. However, the faculty, students, and community at large are amazingly kind and friendly. Jake felt welcome from day one.
Are there specific programming, social, or personal experiences that you have found especially noteworthy?
Beyond the Outdoor Program, there was recently a community-building program (Breaking Down the Walls) in the Upper School that had quite an impact on Jake. The focus of the program was to make students aware that they are not alone in their worries and to have them communicate with and support one another in deeper ways.
Anything else you feel would be helpful for other parents and prospective students?
As you engage in the school search process and after enrollment, ask lots and lots of questions. There are many people around to help you and your child in the first few months of school as you navigate paperwork, dorm room needs, communications and other factors.