Ah, college! Time to head for the hallowed halls of higher education. But first ... freshman orientation, that unavoidable schlep around campus and that prerequisite visit to the library with it's oh-so-interesting card catalog. While some schools live and die by the traditional (a.k.a. boring) methods of acclimating students to the college setting, other schools are adopting a "wilder" approach.

How about two high adventure-filled days of mountain climbing, hiking through thick underbrush or canoeing down the ol' Colorado River or Rio Grande? Sound like an ad for Boy Scout camp? Actually, it's the freshman orientation program at Pomona College; the U. of California, San Diego; and the U. of New Hampshire – just a few of the colleges and universities boasting freshman orientation programs set against the rugged backdrop of the wild.

Most of the "head-to-the-hills" programs are patterned after that of the 90-year-old Dartmouth U. Outing Club or Outward Bound, an international wilderness education program founded in Great Britain in 1941.

"I felt a lot better about coming to campus, I already knew a lot of people from orientation," says Georgetown U. freshman Lindsey Carlson, who backpacked with fellow classmates for five days through an Outward Bound program at her school.

Jeanine Ward-Roof, president of the National Orientation Director's Association swears by the programs. "You build self-esteem as you tackle obstacles. I mean, usually, in a residence hall, you don't have a chance to pitch a tent or canoe down a river with your hall mates," she says. "It forces you to interact."

By Robert S. Walters, U. of Tulsa/Photo courtesy of TKTK

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