We know you probably have a lot of questions as you prepare for your semester at The Outdoor Academy. This page has answers!

If you can’t find your question here or on the Resources and Forms page, get in touch with us!



How should I get to/from OA? Where should we stay in the area?

If you will need to fly, Asheville is the closest airport, and has close hotels and rental cars available. Greenville-Spartanburg is also nearby, and both airports have connecting flights to Charlotte, Atlanta, and other large hubs.

Please send your flight information to the Admissions Office and Dean of Students well in advance if you are flying solo and will need to be picked up at the airport on Opening Day. 

For other recommendations, check out our list of local things to do and places to stay.


How do the phones work? Where do I send mail?

Address letters to: 

(Student name)
43 Hart Rd
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768.

Student Phone: Parents and guardians will receive the student phone number on Opening Day. Students may use the phone during free time and are encouraged to write letters to friends as an additional way of staying in touch with those back home.

What about boxes and care packages?

Everyone loves getting a care package. We are also trying to practice our principle of simple living. We don’t need a lot of stuff, and there is limited space in our dorms. One care package during the semester is fine, especially for a birthday. However, we ask that this be a rare, special occurrence and not more frequently than that.

Things that are great for a care package:

  • Crafting supplies are a great care package gift! Knitting, embroidery, friendship bracelet supplies, carving knives, art supplies, coloring books, art kits, etc.
  • Tea is an excellent surprise! Students love to swap herbal and caffeinated tea flavors. Non-caffeinated coffee is welcome as well.
  • Small, fun things to be shared with friends such as temporary tattoos, henna, wash-out hair dye, sudoku and crossword puzzle books, etc.
  • Stationary, postcards, and other writing supplies.
  • Magazines and newspapers. Appropriate content only, please.

Things to avoid:

  • We ask that no food be sent. We often have a number of food allergies and sensitivities, and ask that all food come from our kitchen.
  • Similarly, we ask that no powdered hot chocolate, apple cider mix, or any liquid drinks be sent. Only tea or decaf coffee, please!
What about packages from Amazon?

Sometimes there’s an emergency purchase that needs to happen, such as a lost headlamp that needs to be replaced. However, we ask that no Amazon packages or online orders be sent during the semester. We want to move away from the “instant gratification of desire” to encourage our community to be satisfied and make do with what we have.

The easiest way to get an emergency item is either directly from family or through our school store (see below).

Thank you for respecting this culture of simple living at OA.

How does the School Store work?

At the beginning of the semester, you will set up your school store account with our Office Manager. Then, during the semester, you can purchase stamps, pens, pencils, notebook paper, and other school supplies if you run out. You can also purchase some awesome OA swag like Nalgene water bottles, shirts, and Crazy Creek chairs.

If there is a specific need that comes up during the semester, such as a broken watch that needs to be replaced, we can run to a nearby store. However, this is the exception. Remember, simple living is our goal!

Please do your best to bring enough shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and other bathroom products to last through the semester. If you do need more, you can either request it through the store or have someone mail you more.

How should I plan to stay in (physical) shape during my semester?

We know many students are athletes and want to stay in shape for sports. We are moving every day at The Outdoor Academy, walking to classes, hiking up a small hill each morning for Morning Watch, and exercising our bodies throughout the week during work crew and outdoor programming classes. Each student will have a choice period during the day, and many students choose to take a run or work out during this time. We have basketball nets and tennis courts, an athletic field and soccer goals, yoga mats and weights. If you want to bring any special equipment for a sport, please reach out to the Dean of Students.

How should I plan to stay in (mental) shape during my semester?

Though we are not a therapeutic school, we know that many teenagers (and most people!) are working through life challenges. If a student has been seeing a therapist in the year before their semester at OA, we encourage them to continue seeing them via telehealth while at OA, or to work with a local therapist in person. The Residential Life team will reach out to families before the semester begins to see how best we can support student’s mental health while away from home. We often find that students experience an increase in positive mental health while at OA because of the lack of technology and social media, the increase of being outside in the fresh air, and the sense of belonging and meaningful connections that are formed within our small, close-knit community.



Wait, can I wear "normal" clothes at OA?

Short answer: yes, of course! As the packing list reminds you, we ask that your clothes be functional and durable so that you can just as easily be lounging in your dorm or walking the trails during Science class no matter what you are wearing. However, your on-campus clothes do not need to be synthetic “trek” clothes or “outdoorsy” items. That is why there are two separate sections to the packing list with different amounts of each item.

Leave items that are fragile, delicate, or of great sentimental value at home. Also, please make sure the clothes you bring keep you appropriately covered and comfortable without needing to be constantly adjusted.

Trunk vs. duffle vs. suitcase.... how should I pack?

Duffle bags are awesome and easy to store, so use them if you have them. Metal trunks or a sturdy suitcase are also great (less than 12 inches high fits under the beds), but they can be expensive.

The most important thing is to pack your outdoor gear in one bag (backpack or duffle), and the rest of your belongings in another duffle, suitcase, or trunk, as we will be needing to access the outdoor gear ASAP for Orientation Trek.

What will my dorm space be like? What storage does it have?

Each student has a cubby with five large shelves, each shelf measuring approximately 26 inches wide, 13 inches deep, and 11 inches high. If you want to bring some baskets or shelf dividers to help keep smaller things like socks and underwear organized, feel free. You will keep all your clothes, books, toiletry caddy and personal items in your cubby.

Students carry their toiletries to and from the bathroom in the cabin, so a small toiletry caddy that fits on a shelf is great.

See below for a picture of a dorm space as well as a cubby with Katie for scale. There is around 12.5 inches clearance under the beds.



Dorm Decorations

We want to encourage you to follow our “Simple Living” Principle, so feel free to make your space warm and welcoming, but don’t go huge with decorations.

Students often like to bring photos of family, friends, and pets to put up around their bed. A string and clothespins work nicely for this. A small stuffed animal, a favorite quilt, or a string of twinkly lights are also great ideas (fire code requires they be run by batteries, not plugged in). Please don’t bring stickers, glow-in-the-dark stars, or other things that are hard to remove.

Books, Music, and USBs

Books: Definitely bring some books to read! Generally students bring no more than 4-5 books, and we’ll get a pretty great lending library going as you and your semester start sharing them throughout the cabins.

Music: We ask each student to send us a Spotify playlist of 15 songs (specific instructions will be emailed to you) that can be played in the music room or during meal clean-ups. Please do not bring any CDs, USBs, or any music devices. We have a collection of records and CDs in the music building that you are welcome to use.

USBs and flash drives: Please do not bring a USB, flash drive, hard drive, or any electronics (except your phone if you are flying, which we will store while you are here). We will provide you with a flash drive if needed for school papers, so please do not bring your own.


You are welcome to bring your own instrument, and we have a climate-controlled music building to store them in. We have plenty of guitars, mandolins, and other bluegrass instruments that you can use during the semester if you don’t want to bring yours or want to learn a new instrument. We also have a piano, a drum kit, and many hand-drums.

Laundry Detergent

We provide laundry detergent (7th Generation), so you do not need to bring your own.

Handwarmers and blankets

Because most of our classes will be outside,  hand warmers might be nice for chilly days on campus or while out on trek. Some students bring a small fleece blanket to get cozy while sitting outside in their Crazy Creek for class. These are optional – your sleeping bag is also a great outdoor layer!