Firstly, let me say that I'm a Scholars alumna who attended all the way from kindergarten through eighth grade. It was an interesting experience.
The thing that has benefited me the most is definitely the accelerated classes. I'm already taking Chemistry, English II and Pre-Calc as a freshman, much to the surprise of some of my classmates. I'm actually finding high school rather easy, even though I'm in the IB (International Baccalaureate) program. The intense (and occasionally superfluous) workload at Scholars certainly makes 9th grade standards seem lax.
Other than a homework load that suffers from spasmodic bouts of absurd excessiveness, the other thing I disliked about Scholars was the social atmosphere. Although it was gratifying to be with peers who were (generally) equally as committed to academics as myself, the unrelenting torrent of "geekdom" could get tiring. As an extension of this, the academically oriented atmosphere generates a lot of competition and a huge amount of arrogance in those students who consistently achieve high marks. Furthermore, because of small class sizes and little introduction of new students, the social situation quickly becomes stagnant. If you want to learn how to make new friends, don't go to Scholars.
All in all, Scholars is a decent school with rigorous standards when it comes to the amount (and generally quality) of work one is expected to do, but it students generally suffer from severe social awkwardness by the time they manage to free themselves from the quagmire of nerdiness that is Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy.
TL;DR Scholars was academically challenging, which I appreciated, but I shed no tears when it was time to graduate. I shed, like, negative five tears (which isn't physically possible, but just go with it for the sake of the metaphor).
Scholars makes its students determined, that's for sure. Without determination, you crash and burn. It also makes you stressed beyond belief. Furthermore, the environment of academic competition could get pretty cut-throat. Scholars Academy doesn't produce sweet people by nature. You exit either cowed or arrogant.
If your child is 'gifted" in math and science, then Scholars is a good option. When our son began at Scholars in 2006, the school was smaller, well-rounded, and embraced the education of all types of gifted students. But over the years, there has been a definite push for the school to move in the direction of math and science. I wish we would have realized this sooner and not kept him there for middle school.
Sometimes, you get so much work that your brain (figuratively) leaves you a resignation notice and squeezes out of your ear to vacation in Malibu. Sometimes you get no homework at all. Most of the time, it's the former rather than the latter.
When we first applied to Scholars Academy for our son, we really didn't have a plan B for him. He is gifted, but he also learns differently from other kids. Not every moment has been perfect. The curriculum is challenging and moves very fast. There are times that he seems to be falling behind even though he is learning because he fails to keep up with the workload. This is frustrating for him, but as he grows, he improves and it teaches him a lesson about the value of hard work. This is an important lesson for a gifted child because they are used to "getting" things quickly without much work. The world can be a cruel place for someone who isn't used to working.
The most surprising benefit to this school has been watching our son make friends who share his interests. He hasn't really been able to do that in any other setting.