Program Overview

introThe First-Year Outdoor Program (FOP) is Harvard’s largest and oldest pre-orientation program. Over 400 participants—representing nearly 25 percent of the incoming class—explore New England’s finest forests, mountains, and lakes in small groups during non-pandemic years. But FOP is not just an outdoors trip; it is an opportunity to build a sense of community, reflect on your hopes for college, and enter with both confidence and a network of close friends. No outdoor experience required. Trips are designed for all levels of experience and fitness, and are led by trained and experienced students.

Dates for FOP 2022

Move in is on August 17th. Students will move in directly to term housing and spend the first two days on campus preparing for their trips! Trips will be in the field from 19th through thr 24th, with students arriving back to campus late on the evening of the 24th. August 25th will be move-in for the rest of the incoming new students.

Our Mission and Purpose

Participants on our FOP trips, lovingly referred to as "FOPpers," are encouraged to ask questions and receive information from their leaders about life at Harvard in a safe environment for all participants. First-years quickly learn that no matter their background, they share many of the same hopes and fears about college. Participants will bond throughout the trip by overcoming challenges and having meaningful conversations with their fellow classmates.

After FOP, fellow FOPpers and leaders are often an emotional and social support system for first-years at Harvard. Armed with new information, a close group of friends, and guidance from 2-3 upperclass leaders, Harvard will seem much less daunting.

For more information about the types of trips FOP offers, see the trip types page.


Reflections from Graduating Seniors

Every year, we ask graduating seniors to look back on their FOP trip and tell us how they remember it:
  • "It was the best experience I've probably ever had, and I love my group so much that I can't express it in words. I wish I could do this every single year before school starts."

  • "Spending a week in the woods hiking and camping is probably the best way to get to know people quickly. This bond was very helpful and comforting when facing the many new and unfamiliar faces of Freshman year. It was a great welcoming experience."

  • "I was a little hesitant to go on FOP before I came to Harvard, but it was the absolute best way to start at Harvard. Everyone I have talked to who went on FOP is just as enthusiastic as I am about this program, and everyone who didn't go on FOP now wishes they had!"

  • "FOP allowed me to immerse myself, for a time, in the simplicity of nature and exercise; it took me away from the frantic pace and worries and fears of the modern world and helped me find my own sort of peace before starting school anew. I made friendships that will last a lifetime, laughed completely honestly for the first time in months, appreciated food like I never had, and returned to campus spiritually rejuvenated, cleansed from the inside out."

  • "It was the best beginning possible - my leaders were down-to-earth and made me believe that Harvard was a friendly place after all. Being in the woods, relaxing, and arriving at freshman week with a set of friends was great!"

  • "The unforgettable moments of peace and tranquility we were able to experience made all of the struggles worth it. I had never imagined what the power of a serene lake surrounded by mountains in the quiet of the morning, or the enveloping stars in pitch black night, or the panoramic view from a peak could all be like, and FOP introduced me to these wonders."

  • "I will remember FOP as the trip that gave me some of my best friends at Harvard. Knowing my leaders when I got onto campus gave me a sense of support, too. Our whole team bonded amazingly well over the course of our trip. I can't imagine starting school without having gone on FOP."

We hope four years from now, you will be able to look back on your trip and realize the difference it has made in your college experience.

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