Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

What is FOP?

Harvard’s First-Year Outdoor Program (FOP) is the College’s oldest and largest pre-orientation program. Since 1979, FOP has taken thousands of incoming Harvard students into the outdoors to ease the adjustment from high school to college. Through a week of adventure-based experiences, groups of 6-8 incoming Harvard students and 2-3 upperclassmen leaders are able to escape from the stressors and expectations of the “front country”, and build lasting bonds and friendships that many students value throughout their entire career at Harvard.

FOP’s Mission
"The mission of FOP is to provide group adventure-based experiences that promote the development of social support and self-awareness for first-year students, and leadership development for members of the Harvard community."

Who Leads FOP?

Each FOP trip is led by 2-3 upperclassmen who have gone through FOP’s leader selection and training processes. Leaders apply starting the Spring of their first year, and go through both a written application and an interview process. Selected leaders then complete the on-campus training phase which includes weekly technical skills training sessions, various workshops, completion of Wilderness First Aid, and a 10-day training trip in the White Mountains.

Who Does FOP Impact?

FOP is Harvard’s largest pre-orientation program and each year, more than 400 incoming first-year students participate. All of these students benefit from a week of bonding with classmates, personal reflection, overcoming adversity, and a whole lot of fun. Students are then prepared and more confident going into college, as they have familiar faces and mentors they know they can rely on. FOP leaders also benefit from formal outdoor leadership training in which they are given interpersonal and conflict resolution frameworks to use on their trips and beyond. They also get practical experience in group and risk management and formal training in Wilderness First Aid.

Goals for Each Participant of the Program:

- Improve the transition from high school to college
- Make friends with fellow first-years and upperclassmen who can support and encourage each other
- Learn about cooperation, initiative, and endurance in a wilderness setting, leading to insights which may transfer to life at Harvard
- Develop a sense of community and a positive connection with Harvard as a whole


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