Why NOLS Is Worth It

Credit: Betsy Winston

The Value of Investing in Yourself

Stories of Transformation from Our Alumni

Our Academic & Professional Edge

Our courses offer substantial academic benefits and are designed to complement college curricula and enhance gap year and gap semester experiences, providing an experiential and transferable educational journey that merges adventure with academia.

Students practice capsize drills at Beatriz in Bahia de Conception, Mexico.

The NOLS Diploma

Recognized by universities, employers, and professional circles alike, a National Outdoor Leadership School diploma is a symbol of your comprehensive achievements in leadership and outdoor education, demonstrating your commitment to personal growth and environmental stewardship and setting you apart in competitive environments.
Two girls stop for a break while backbacking in the Adirondacks

Transferable College Credit

NOLS is dedicated to integrating your wilderness education with academic achievements. Through partnerships with various universities, you have the opportunity to earn college credits while engaging in our immersive programs. These credits are often applicable to degrees in fields such as Environmental Science, Education, Leadership, and more. Aligning adventure with academia, NOLS helps you advance toward your degree in the most enriching settings.
Course participants white water rafting at the Gates of Lodore in Colorado.

Industry-Standard Certifications

Alongside the NOLS diploma, many of our courses provide the opportunity to earn additional certifications that are valued across various industries. Some of the certifications offered through our programs include Wilderness First Aid, Leave No Trace Level 1 or 2 Instructor, Level 1 Avalanche Training, Rock Climbing Training, Rock Rescue Training, and Swiftwater Rescue Training.
Instructor course in the Wrangell Mountains, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, in Alaska.

Networking & Advancement

Joining a NOLS course not only immerses you in a community of passionate outdoor and leadership enthusiasts, fostering lasting friendships and professional connections but also equips you with impactful experiences. These experiences, from showcasing leadership and risk management to personal growth, are invaluable in enhancing resumes, application essays, and interviews, setting you apart as a dynamic and resilient academic or professional candidate.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is NOLS worth the money?

NOLS courses have the power to change how people view the world around them. Every year, we have thousands of students say that NOLS is a worthy investment — not just for the course itself but for the enriching experience and continuous learning it offers. NOLS goes beyond traditional education and wilderness adventures, providing a deep and impactful journey that fosters personal, academic, and professional growth. Our curriculum is meticulously crafted to enhance leadership abilities, practical outdoor skills, and environmental stewardship. This comprehensive approach means that the skills and personal development acquired during each NOLS course deliver enduring value, transforming the financial commitment into a significant pathway toward continuous growth.

Does NOLS look good on a resume?

Absolutely. A NOLS diploma not only garners recognition and respect from universities, employers, and professional circles but also serves as a gateway to a close-knit and loyal community of NOLS alumni. This emblem of achievement in leadership and outdoor education marks you as a distinctive candidate in any competitive setting and the skills and experiences cultivated through NOLS courses—like leadership, risk management, and environmental stewardship—make your resume shine. 

Additionally, the connections formed with other NOLS alumni offer unique networking opportunities. As expressed by a prominent NOLS alum, "Every time I see NOLS on a resume, I make a personal effort to reach out to them. While not every interaction leads to employment, it identifies the individual as someone capable of contributing significantly to a strong team."

Does NOLS look good on a college application?

Yes, NOLS courses significantly enhance college applications by demonstrating a commitment to personal growth, leadership development, and environmental stewardship. The hands-on learning experience, the ability to earn college credits, and the development of critical life skills through NOLS are viewed positively by admissions committees, offering a unique edge to applicants.

What are the benefits of participating in a NOLS course?

NOLS courses offer a range of benefits, including leadership development, practical outdoor adventure skills, wilderness first aid training, risk management, and environmental stewardship. Participants gain transferable academic benefits, industry-standard certifications, and valuable life skills. The experience fosters personal growth, academic advancement, and professional development in unique and enriching settings.

What life skills and lessons are typically learned during a NOLS expedition?

Participants learn a variety of life skills, including decision-making, teamwork, leadership, resilience, and adaptability. NOLS expeditions also teach practical outdoor skills, environmental ethics, and risk management, alongside fostering a deep appreciation for nature and sustainability. Alumni stories highlight personal transformation,the discovery of self, and the cultivation of meaningful relationships.
In terms of personal and leadership development, what can one expect from a NOLS course?
NOLS courses offer unparalleled opportunities for personal growth and leadership development. Participants can expect to develop a strong sense of self, enhance their leadership style, and build confidence in their abilities to lead and work within teams. Courses are designed to push individuals out of their comfort zones, fostering growth, resilience, and a deep understanding of effective leadership in various situations.

How does the value provided by NOLS compare to the financial investment required?

The value of a NOLS course is well worth the financial investment when considering the breadth of skills, personal growth, and professional opportunities gained. In just one week of a NOLS course, participants learn to guide their own adventures, acquiring the confidence and skills to plan and execute outdoor expeditions independently. This hands-on experience is invaluable and unmatched by most other programs. Beyond the adventure, participants have the opportunity to earn college credits, valuable certifications, and a lifetime of benefits, including leadership skills, environmental stewardship, and personal development. These benefits often outweigh those of traditional semester abroad programs or guided tours. 

From a strictly financial perspective, a month-long NOLS course with a particular skills focus in a particular region is often more inexpensive than similar courses from other providers.

For example, a 30-day Rocky Mountain Backpacking Course for Ages 18+ offered through NOLS is notably $500-$1,000 less expensive than those offered by Outward Bound, providing similar or enhanced experiences at a more accessible price point. To further offset the monetary cost, NOLS also offers a sliding scale of affordability for students in need to make courses more accessible.