Jul 12, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

When we hear the phrases “Los Angeles” and “exclusive schools,” thoughts of Beverly Hills may first come to mind. However, when it comes to exclusivity, one school located in Hawthorne, California saw hundreds of applications for just a dozen spots during its 2017 admissions cycle. We’re talking about Elon Musk’s Ad Astra.

Here’s a closer look at the school, along with why so many families aspire to send their kids to it, as recently reported by Ars Technica.

What is Ad Astra?

Located on the SpaceX campus, Ad Astra is an experimental non-profit school where students take on a variety of ambitious technical projects comprising everything from robots to nuclear politics. Musk’s aim in establishing the school? To “exceed traditional school metrics on all relevant subject matter through unique project-based learning experiences.”

Not only do Ad Astra students tackle unexpected topics, but they’re also allowed to opt out of subjects which don’t interest them, including music, languages and sports. They don’t get grades, and receive minimal formal assessments.

While fewer than 40 students between the ages of 7 and 14 are currently enrolled in Ad Astra, countless others aspire to join their numbers, which include Musk’s sons and a combination of offspring of SpaceX employees and high-achievers from local school districts.

Why Ad Astra?

Given Ad Astra’s stealth approach and experimental nature, questions naturally arise about its staying power and long-term potential. Still, the school is viewed as the brass rink for many Los Angeles families.

Says Christina Simon, an expert in all things Los Angeles private elementary schools, “There are people who could afford any of the private schools in LA but want that school in particular. It’s very much about Elon Musk and who he is.”

Even the application process is cloaked in mystery, but that's not a deterrent for families seeking admissions to Ad Astra.

“I talked to several parents who were going to take a chance and apply, even though it was impossible to verify that it was an Ad Astra application. That’s the level of interest in this school. I cannot imagine that happening with any other school, public or private,” continues Simon.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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