Apply to Lead

why apply


Thank you for your interest in becoming a leader for the First-Year Outdoor Program! Since 1979, FOP has worked to provide fun, inspiring, and safe pre-orientation trips for incoming first-year students using the lakes, mountains, and trails all over New England. We owe most of our success to our wonderful leader community. In 2019, 454 incoming first-year students (FOPpers) participated in 50 trips led by 106 student leaders across 5 states!

The mission of FOP is to provide group activities that promote the development of social support and self-awareness for first-year students, and leadership development for members of the Harvard community. The central values of FOP are compassion, the equality and intrinsic worth of all people regardless of identity, commitment to inclusive community-building, and responsible stewardship of the lands our program uses. FOP is dedicated to supporting a community of leaders with many different identities, backgrounds, and experiences.

Important Deadlines

Written responses due: Tuesday, December 21st 2021 at 11:59 p.m. EST**

Evaluations due: Thursday, December 23rd, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. EST

**If you or your evaluator need more time to complete the application, just email SC at

Types of Trips You Can Lead

FOP is scheduled to run in-person, though we remain wary of changing health and safety conditions.

In-Person Trips:  

  • Backpacking Trips: backcountry trips in which groups hike from campsite to campsite with packs to carry all of their belongings for the duration of their 6-day trip

  • Switch/Canoe Trips: backcountry trips that include both canoeing and backpacking portions. Leading a switch trip requires additional lifeguard certification training

  • Service Trips: backcountry trips that include one to two days of trail work with a trail service professional. Service work ranges from onsite construction to the clearing of trail debris

  • Site-Based & Cabin Trips: Students on site-based trips will camp in one site for the duration of FOP, while cabin trips will stay in a cabin. Both trips include a variety of adventure-based activities, such as day hikes, canoeing, or performing trail work. Previous settings for site-based and cabin trips have been the Harvard Forest and Merck Forest & Farmland!

What are We Looking for in a Leader?

Before discussing what makes a good FOP Leader, we would like to outline explicitly some characteristics that FOP does not consider when evaluating applicants:

  • Applicants do NOT need to have outdoors experience. FOP Leaders come from all levels of outdoors experience. We will teach trainees all necessary outdoor skills required to lead a successful trip. Anyone excited by the prospect of leading a community-building trip in an outdoor setting can apply! 
  • Applicants do NOT need to have participated in FOP to be a leader! Many of our leaders did not participate in FOP as first-years.
  • Applicants do NOT need to own equipment or pay for training. FOP will cover all of the necessary costs and allows leaders to rent equipment at no cost.

FOP is looking for applicants who convey strong interpersonal skills and who are able to foster a positive environment for group bonding and self-exploration. Since FOP is conducted in a backcountry setting, we look for applicants with a sound decision-making capacity. Potential leaders should have the desire to become comfortable in the outdoors, but no prior experience is necessary!

The strength of FOP depends on the involvement, support, and breadth of experiences of its leaders. FOP values having leaders of different ages, backgrounds, interests, identities, and perspectives. Applicants should also view the experience of leading a FOP trip as an opportunity to develop their leadership skills and engage with different perspectives. FOP takes feedback and growth seriously in the continued development of leaders.

Application Process

The first step in becoming a FOP leader is being selected as a trainee. Trainee selection consists of submitting a written application, 2 letters of evaluation, and, if selected, completing an in-person interview. A rough timeline of the process is as follows:

  1. Submit FOP leader application response form here with two letters of evaluation. (Written responses due: Tuesday, December 21st 2021 at 11:59 p.m. ESTEvaluations due: Thursday, December 23rd, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. EST)
  2. Applicants will be informed if they are selected for an interview. 
  3. Interviews will take place virtually from mid January through mid February.
  4. The Steering Committee will notify applicants about final decisions by email in late-February 2021. 

Letters of Evaluation Information:

  • Letters should be completed by people who have observed the applicant in a position of leadership or responsibility such as a high school teacher, extracurricular leader or co-leader, teammate, advisor, mentor, or employer. FOP participants may request a letter from their leader.
  • Generally, it is discouraged to submit an evaluation from a roommate or close friend. Likewise, it is often helpful to submit evaluations from individuals with diverse perspectives of the applicant. Please look at the letter of evaluation questions in advance and choose an appropriate individual.
  • Be sure to provide evaluators with your full name as entered on the response form and whether you (the applicant) have waived your right of access to the letter under FERPA. 

Trainees selected following the interview must complete a comprehensive training process throughout the spring semester, culminating in a nine-day training trip (COVID-19 allowing). Upon successful completion and evaluation, trainees are confirmed as leaders. 

Resources for Applicants

Information Sessions: learn more about applying and training to be a FOP leader!

Steering Committee Office Hours: You can also drop into designated SC Office Hours with application questions and other inquiries! (Reach out to SC at with any questions about Office Hours!)

  • Wednesday, December 8th, 12-2pm @ FOPpice (Matthews Basement)
  • Thursday, December 9th, 3-5pm @ Winthrop Dhall (big glass box room!)
  • Sunday December 12th, 11-1pm @ Quincy Dhall 
  • Wednesday, December 15th, 3-5pm @ Zoom link below
  • Thursday, December 16th, 2-4pm @ Zoom link below
  • Thursday, December 16th, 7-9pm @ Zoom link below
  • Monday, December 20th, 2-4pm @ Zoom link below
  • Link to Zoom OH!:

Anything Else?

  • All current first-years, sophomores, and juniors are eligible to apply (anyone who is graduating in Fall 2022 or later)
  • The cost of leader training is paid for by FOP. Equipment (including backpacks, clothing, and sleeping bags) can be borrowed from FOP at no cost to you

Applicants who have submitted applications in previous years are encouraged to consider applying again. Many leaders, including Steering Committee members, were not selected the previous times they applied, and have since become an integral part of the leader community.

Inquiries about logistics, especially training dates, the selection process, or requirements, should be directed to the Steering Committee via email (

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