Admissions FAQ

Admissions Process

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School Culture & Philosophy

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  • What is the average class size?

    Middle school classes are typically 13-18 students; high school classes are 12-16 (although some elective courses may be much smaller.)
  • Do you accept many applicants from public schools?

    Absolutely! In fact, each year about 50% of our newly enrolled students come from public schools. Others come from Montessori or Waldorf programs, language immersion programs, and other independent schools.
  • Do most of your students live on the west side/near downtown?

    Our families come from all over the Portland area and suburban communities.
  • What if my student isn’t an artist?

    There’s no one “type” of Northwest Academy student—and not all of our students identify as artists! What they do share is an enjoyment of the creative process.

    We believe that every child has innate creativity, and we’re eager to help your student discover theirs. Northwest Academy’s mission is not to educate only artists—we strive to provide a supportive atmosphere for every student and to nurture their curiosity in both academic and creative disciplines.
  • How diverse is Northwest Academy?

    Northwest Academy recognizes that a diverse and inclusive community includes diversity of identity, socio-economic background, learning style, race and ethnicity. The pairing of arts and academics that is the hallmark of Northwest Academy’s curricular mission is conducive to all students. Individuality is celebrated as a source of vibrancy and diverse perspectives in the community. Learn more about our diversity, equity and inclusion values here.
  • How do you help new students integrate socially? How do you handle conflict?

    At the beginning of every school year we prioritize building community in the classroom, within grade-levels and across high school and middle school cohorts, respectively. Connection is fostered through grade-wide retreats and other structured opportunities, including our all-school block party, which is unabashedly fun!

    A hallmark of our school culture is mutual respect and support, and our students are compassionate and kind. Classes such as Learning Lab (middle school) and High School Seminar address adolescent social/emotional issues directly in the curriculum, but also give students a supportive, supervised environment to talk things out. Our Restorative Response Coordinator can help address conflict; faculty and staff school-wide share a commitment to fairness, open communication, and trust between students and adults.

Urban Campus

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  • Do students go off campus?

    Middle school students travel between buildings with supervision, and periodically go off campus with a teacher for special events or field trips. High school students may earn an off-campus pass as long as their grades and conduct are up to standard, and must check in and check out with staff when leaving.
  • What is it like going to school downtown?

    Downtown Portland is an integral part of our school experience. Field trips, performances, and coursework at PSU, the Portland Art Museum, the Northwest Film Center, and Portland’5 Centers for the Arts take place throughout the school year. The downtown environment infuses our days as students move between five campus buildings. Interacting with Portland’s urban center helps students become confident, savvy citizens tuned in to the opportunities and challenges of life in a major city.
  • Will my student be safe?

    Student safety is paramount at Northwest Academy. In addition to the teachers and staff who move with students between buildings, we have a campus safety team who keeps us connected to our neighbors and are vigilant about any safety concerns that arise.


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  • How does math placement work?

    Math course placement is based on proficiency as determined by assessment scores, placement testing (if needed), teacher referrals, and a survey of the student’s approach to math learning. We strive to place each student in a class that will challenge them appropriately.
  • What are your world language electives?

    Northwest Academy offers introductory French, Mandarin, and Spanish for students who begin their language learning in middle school, and advanced Spanish and Mandarin for students coming from immersion programs in those languages. High school students may take American Sign Language, continue with French, Mandarin, Spanish, or participate in independent language study with an outside teacher/tutor (with approval) to fulfill their graduation requirements.
  • Do you have an athletics department/sports?

    We do not offer traditional athletics at Northwest Academy. However, your child can still participate in varsity sports. Contact PPS or your neighborhood school for information about joining their athletics program as a non-enrolled student.
  • Do you offer P.E.?

    Physical education at Northwest Academy comes in the form of dance and other studio-based movement. All middle school students take a dance class each year, and 8th graders have the additional option of Tai Chi; high school students may take elective
    dance, yoga, fitness, and Tai Chi classes.

Middle School

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  • How much homework will my student have?

    Our teachers take a very intentional approach to homework, assigning work that benefits from the home environment (as opposed to “overflow” work from class). On average, we anticipate middle school students having 1-2 hours of homework daily.
  • How does world language learning work in Middle School?

    For students with little or no experience in world languages, we offer Language Lab, a survey course that exposes 6th graders to etymology and the “why” of studying a language. From there, they may choose French or Spanish in 7th and 8th grade. For students coming from an immersive language background in Spanish or Mandarin Chinese, we offer advanced classes. All classes after Language Lab are taught in the target language and according to ACTFL guidelines.
  • Does every 6th grader have to take tap dance?

    Yes! We believe—and the evidence bears out—that even students who dread their first tap class end up recognizing the fun in this art form. Even if they’re not destined to be dancers, students benefit from the physical, social, and intellectual challenge of taking on something new. In our middle school, everyone is a beginner at something —whether it’s academic or artistic —and learning how to strive (and sometimes fail) with the support of teachers and peers helps them grow both braver and more compassionate.

High School

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  • What is the progression of science classes?

    To graduate, students are required to complete three years of science, typically biology (includes human anatomy and physiology); chemistry; and physics or astronomy. Students may also take a science elective such as biology of global climate change, advanced biology and environmental science, advanced physics, scientific writing, or may propose an independent study project with a faculty advisor.
  • What percentage of graduates go on to college?

    100% of our graduating seniors who apply to college get in, many to their first-choice programs. Not every Northwest Academy decides to matriculate at a traditional college or university. We do have graduates who choose a gap year, travel, continue advanced study in the arts, or begin their professional careers.
  • What college counseling support do you offer?

    Our highly personalized college counseling program supports students as they determine which schools will fulfill their academic needs and be a good fit. The college counselor meets with students throughout their senior year to guide them through the
    selection and application process. More than 60 colleges and universities visit Northwest Academy each year to meet with prospective applicants. Learn more about our College Counseling program.
  • Do you offer SAT prep?

    Rather than offering test-specific preparation for college aptitude tests, we encourage students to thrive in their coursework as the best preparation for future success. We set aside time during the fall for 10th and 11th graders to take the PSAT on campus, and support our 11th and 12th graders as they prepare independently for their college entrance requirements.
  • Do you offer AP/IB classes?

    No, but students in 3rd and 4th-year humanities and advanced math, science, and world languages are eligible for college credit via the PSU challenge program.

Nuts & Bolts

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  • What is your daily schedule?

    Class (during a traditional in-person school year) is from 8:30 AM to 3:50 PM each day. Northwest Academy students take 8 courses a year on a “wave” schedule: 5-6 class periods per day, with most courses meeting 3 times a week.
  • How does drop-off/pick-up work?

    Middle school students are dropped off in front of the Buchan Building (Unitarian Church), which opens at 8:10 am for early arrivals, where they wait in a common area with supervision. From there, students proceed to class at 8:30 am with their teachers.

    High school students check in at the Main building as early as 7:50 am. Pick-up is a bustling time at SW 12th and Main; most parents pick up curbside. Middle school parents pick up at the Buchan Building and High school parents pick up in front of the Main Building.
  • Do you offer a bus service?

    We do not offer bus service, but we are happy to help families coordinate carpools or transit solutions. Northwest Academy's downtown location is easily accessible. Many students choose public transportation, walk, or ride their bikes to campus. TriMet’s Trip Planner gives you step-by-step travel directions from your location by bus, light rail, or streetcar.
  • Do you offer hot lunch?

    Northwest Academy does not serve lunch. High school students have access to a kitchen area in the commons at lunchtime and may also leave campus for lunch.


Please fill out an inquiry form (or log in if you have already filled out our inquiry form) to reserve your spot for a visit to our campus.
Contact with questions.

Diversity Statement

A commitment to equity and inclusion lies at the heart of Northwest Academy’s culture, and we strive to carry it out through our arts and academic partnerships. We value the uniqueness of each student, family member, teacher, and staff member; their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives create a culture rich with mutual respect and authenticity. The Northwest Academy community values all ethnicities, races, cultures, religions, economic backgrounds, family structures, sexual and gender identities, and abilities. Ongoing efforts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential to our staff and to our students’ abilities to develop into thoughtful and creative global citizens. Reach out to the DICE team at

Questions? Contact Us!

If you would like to learn more about Northwest Academy for your student, please fill out this online inquiry form or contact us at or 503-223-3367 x104.