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Before you apply for a NOLS course, you must read this page.

Admission Procedure

Fill out and return the application. After reviewing your application, we will enroll you on the course of your choice, if there is space available. If appropriate, be sure to provide several choices in order of preference. NOLS' final acceptance of any student is subject to NOLS' receipt and review of all necessary forms and documents. NOLS reserves the right to deny admission to anyone that NOLS, in its sole discretion, believes is unable to meet the physical, mental, social or safety demands of our courses.

An enrollment packet containing a course description, equipment list, travel information and other materials to help you prepare for your course will be forwarded to you.

All forms and a $500 non-refundable deposit are due 14 days after the receipt of your packet. The remaining tuition is due 75 days before your course.

Student Behavior and Discipline

Final acceptance is contingent upon the receipt and review of the materials listed above. NOLS seeks students who are motivated to learn outdoor skills and develop leadership, are in good health, physically and emotionally, and are socially responsible.

NOLS is not an appropriate choice for individuals dealing with behavioral, motivational or rehabilitation issues. We will deny admission to anyone we believe to be unable to meet the physical, mental, social or safety demands of our courses.

NOLS will expel any student who exhibits behavior that, in our sole discretion, is unsafe or disrupts or distracts from the educational mission of their course. Harassment, use of drugs and alcohol, theft or misuse of property, low motivation and disregarding instructions are examples of behavior that will lead to expulsion. If a student is expelled there will be no refund.

Equal Opportunity

NOLS does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, sexual orientation, national origin, age or disability in the administration of its admission or employment policies. A qualified student is one who meets the NOLS Essential Eligibility Criteria (EEC) If NOLS reasonably determines that a disability could lead to an inappropriate level of danger to the student or others, based upon a particular activity, then that person may be ineligible for that particular course but would not be excluded from consideration for other opportunities offered by NOLS.

NOLS Cancellation Policies

For all semesters, academic years, and courses in India, if you cancel or leave for any reason:

  • between 30 and 60 days from the course starting date, NOLS will retain 25 percent of the course tuition.
  • between 15 and 29 days from the course starting date, NOLS will retain 50 percent of the course tuition.
  • less than 15 days prior to the course starting date and once the course has begun, there will be no refunds.

For all other courses, if you cancel or leave for any reason:

  • between 15 and 29 days prior to the course starting date, NOLS will retain 25 percent of the course tuition.
  • between 8 and 14 days prior to the course starting date, NOLS will retain 50 percent of the course tuition.
  • less than 8 days prior to the course starting date and once the course has begun, there will be no refunds.

NOLS Transfer Policies

For semesters, academic years, and courses in India, if you transfer from one course to another:

  • more than 60 days prior to the course starting date, there will be a $25 processing charge.
  • 60 days or less prior to the course starting date, regular cancellation and refund charges will apply.

For all other courses, if you transfer courses:

  • 30 or more days prior to the course starting date, there will be a $25 processing charge.
  • 29 days or less prior to the course starting date, regular cancellation and refund charges apply.

Risk Management

At NOLS we embrace the physical and emotional challenge of the natural environment to attain our learning objectives. NOLS courses are not easy and involve the pursuit of adventurous activities in rugged terrain in which there are real dangers. Risk, both physical and emotional, is an important element of a NOLS education. The uncertainty posed by nature combined with the judgments and abilities of students and staff leads to risk. Risk management, in this context, is the ability to make a decision when the outcome is uncertain and relies on our ability to perceive and quantify the risks we face. Risk management is taught and practiced on every course. NOLS is committed to promoting the physical and emotional well-being of all students and we are proud of our excellent record managing the risks of wilderness travel.

Wilderness adventure involves hazards: rockfall, fast-flowing rivers, and steep terrain can pose a risk to even the most experienced outdoor leader. Activities ranging from simple day hikes to climbing glaciers can, due to the unpredictable forces of nature or an error in judgment, become dangerous and potentially life-threatening.

Students transport their own gear; sleep outdoors, possibly in co-ed tent groups; prepare their own meals; and are expected to care for themselves in weather conditions that can be extreme. Each student plays an important role in the success of a NOLS course. Good physical conditioning and a positive mental attitude are essential.

Our courses are expeditions that travel through remote areas that can create complex situations should an emergency arise. The majority of medical incidents that might occur are simple and often treated in the field. A more serious incident, such as a fracture, will require evacuation to a medical facility. It is not uncommon to be days from medical help, but NOLS instructors are trained in wilderness first aid and backed by comprehensive wilderness emergency response and evacuation systems.

We carry satellite telephones, radios, or other electronic communication devices on each course for life threatening emergencies, but this does not guarantee communication from the field to our support bases. Portable telephones and radios can be unreliable depending on terrain, atmospheric conditions, and other variables.

It is important you understand that there are risks. Some adventure programs say that they can guarantee your safety. NOLS does not. The risk of injury, even serious injury or death, is always present in the outdoor environment. Indeed, much of the value of a NOLS course lies in learning how to identify hazards and adapt behavior to strive to avoid injury or illness.

A report on NOLS risk management and history is available here.

Leaders in Wilderness Education

When you come to NOLS, you will be attending the school that sets the standards in wilderness risk management, wilderness medicine, and student well-being. We have published one of the leading texts on wilderness medicine, and the Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS (WMI) is at the cutting edge of this growing field. We are the leaders in promoting professional standards in wilderness risk management and each year convene the Wilderness Risk Management Conference for outdoor educators and adventure program administrators.

Before you arrive on your NOLS course, thoroughly read all materials we send you and call us if you have questions.

NOLS Promotion

Occasionally, NOLS uses students' names, photos, and other images in promotional material, videos, and press releases.

Independent Student Travel

On many courses, one of the ways we help you develop into an outdoor leader is by giving you the opportunity to travel without instructors. Our students say that this is a highlight of their course and one of the best ways that they learn to be leaders.

By the second week, you will travel in student groups without instructors for a day at a time. To prepare for this you’ll have classes and gain practical experience in backcountry travel while being coached by your instructors as they help you develop your leadership skills.

If your instructors decide that your group is ready, the culminating experience of many courses is the student expedition where, for several days, you and a few of your coursemates will travel without an instructor. Your instructors help the course divide into groups, select a leader, and plan a route. You will know your instructors’ route and campsites (no more than a day away). You and your group make the daily leadership decisions but still have all the benefits of NOLS’ support systems.

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Photo: Marcelo Mascareño

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