I attended this school for two years, and I've had good experiences, but I have two cautionary pointers to give to you. I'll start with the good.
Academically, this a rigorous school but you receive a lot of help. If you're special needs or have an LD, this is an awesome school to go to and you will receive a lot of help. You WILL have to earn your keep here, they're not required to keep you here so you have to work hard. However, this is paid in dividends, because you have an awesome time here and you're accepted regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity.
Socially, the students are friendly (more touchy-feely than most schools, so that's a plus/minus depending on who you are) and there are probably more girls than guys here. I'd argue that this is probably the best school for an LGBTQ student in this city. The arts curriculum is bar none and you are taught by people who are knowledgeable about their field and are very professional.
Clubs are plentiful here, and you will find a lot of like-minded people here.
That's the good, but here's some cautionary pointers.
1. While this is a great school for LGBTQ students, it's also very progressive. I would consider it a bit intolerant to those who would consider themselves conservative. I've supported Trump in this past election and I was very open about my nationalist leanings, but I encountered some cold shoulders and dare I say, some harassment and gossip from others. I was harassed by another student for my views who labeled me a misogynist. I talked with some teachers in my department about this but I never received any help and it only got attention when I flipped my lid on this person. (This was last year.) I was told that I was being offensive, but none of my views would be consider offensive. I have respect for women (you could tell by my group of friends).
2. You will get a lot of the progressive and SJW culture here, and you might find yourself stifled if you have right wing views. If that doesn't intimidate you, go for it.
Aside from those two, this is a terrific school and you will have good experiences if you go here. Just don't get caught off guard if you're a Nationalistic conservative such as I. I wouldn't call this place a bastion of free speech unless you're left leaning, so be prepared for that.
If you're going to attend here in the next 4-8 years, expect some butthurt about Trump.
Douglas Anderson is an amazing school. It's constantly updating, expanding, and improving. Students are challenged in BOTH the academics and the arts. The teachers are supportive and care a lot about their students. Most people believe this school is just for the arts. Well, it is an arts school; however, DA is very focused on academics. Academic classes are challenging. Anyway, colleges like kids that go to an arts school, better than kids that go to regular schools (because they tend to be more well-rounded). A Douglas Anderson student with a 4.6 weighted GPA applied to Duke University (an outstanding medical school in North Carolina). A Stanton (a more academically-focused school in Jacksonville) student also applied to Duke with a 4.9 weighted GPA. While the Stanton student was denied acceptance to Duke, the Douglas Anderson student was accepted into the school with a full ride (she didn't have to pay any tuition).
If you want to pursue the arts after college (which a little under half of graduates actually do), DA is probably the best choice. Many who go to school here end up on Broadway or in a band (notable bands that had Douglas Anderson students in them are Yellowcard, Limp Bizkit, and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus). Our vocal department has won a Grammy. Our cinematic arts department has many students that participate in the Jacksonville Film Festival. We have our own student newspaper, run by our creative writing department. Our Jazz ensemble group won first place in the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival in New York. The jazz band was also featured in an award-winning documentary called "Chops". Here at DA, we do sometimes compete (within our arts areas, against other schools), but it's not excessively. Faculty actually keep it to a bare minimum, so that students don't miss class often. I, honestly, love DA. i couldn't have gone anywhere else for high school. The people are so nice, students included. I have never seen any bulling (or fights) going on. At all. We all pretty much respect each other. There isn't very much of a status quota either. DA is a great school. I am a better person, and a happier person, than I was coming here.
We love this school. My child is thriving in music and acedemics. The offering of additional classes via Florida Virtual School is wonderful. We travel from Camden County, GA just for the opportunity to attend this wonderful school. And yes, if you live in Camden County GA you are eligible to audition for DA. If you get in you can take the bus from First Coast HS by Pecan Park Rd.
Douglas Anderson School of the Arts is a shining beacon of creativity and hope for the Jacksonville and surrounding areas. In my time at DA as a Theatre Major, I learned more about myself, my craft and being a young professional than I could have anywhere else. What the school captures so magnificently is the ability to prepare young artists for a professional road ahead of them - that goes beyond their chosen art. DA taught me about time management, professionalism, responsibility, being detail-oriented, being specific and being a well-rounded individual. I'm very excited for the future, with the addition of the new buildings. (if only they were there when I attended!) I recommend Douglas Anderson to anyone serious about strengthening their craft and re-vitalizing themselves as young professionals. I'd give anything to do it again - truly. At times, it can be a dark atmosphere - but that as is life. If you attend, you are charged with figuring out how to make the dark atmosphere a light and hopeful atmosphere for yourself. It's an incredible school. Check it out - go to a performance, journey through the gallery, immerse yourself in a shining jewel that Jacksonville has.
Very disorganized. No timely communication to students or parents. Multiple schedule changes for new students throughout first months of being in high school for freshmen. No support or contact by principal. New Vice principal placed in 2014 not caring toward students. Such a shame. Great previous reputation. They dropped the ball on the students this year. Maybe too focused on million dollar building project.
DA is definitely an art school, and not good for much else. The academics are mediocre, there are no sports teams, and school clubs are minimal and disorganized. The art classes are good, but they're packed with students, so one-on-one time with teachers doesn't exist. If you enter as a Freshman and stay for all four years there's a chance that you might get to know the teachers and get a part in a production (coming from a performance theatre major). If you're a performer transfer to DA from another school during a time other than Freshman year, good luck getting cast or getting any kind of solid arts education, because they don't accommodate transfer students very well. But read many reviews; many other arts areas are good.
My son is in an incoming freshman this year and while I am astounded at the educational support for these students and the track record academically and in the art areas, the school's organizational and communication skills are extremely lacking. If I were not a diligent researcher I would not have known much of what I have learned about scheduling, transportation, etc over the past few days. We just sat through orientation which was all about dress code info, no cells during school (which parents complained about), and letting us know about the great additions to the school that should be open next academic year. There was a q&a session but it was flooded more with complaints about the fact that the students are expected to be picked up by 4pm or repeat questions. Notifying us that the student's schedule may not be the one they actually use. A finalized schedule will be given on the first day of school. Supply lists will not be given until during the first week either. I would have liked to have seen a "new to DA packet" (even online), outlining all the information with pertinent phone numbers, a calendar, bus schedule, etc. Put teacher's supply lists online and save paper.
Student/ Sister of alumni Douglas Anderson is an outstanding, competitive and profession arts school with dedicated staff and students. Our academics are amazing, and I my arts area, cinematic arts, there isn't as much a sense of team as family. However, the main reason I write this is to inform a reader that most awful reviews with no credible points (I.e. those saying that students at DA are doomed for life) are most likely bitter students who were turned away, students who were kicked out because they were unable to love up to DA's high standards, or the parents of these children. Before you turn away from the school, simply take a tour and you will be blown away by our talent. I assure you of it.