Introduction to College with Dartmouth’s First-Year Trips


May 12, 2015

It’s that time of year – colleges around the country are finalizing their roster of students matriculating in the fall. Dartmouth, like many colleges and universities around the country, is in the home stretch in the planning to welcome these first-year students to campus later this summer. 

Dartmouth’s First-Year Trips are legendary. They provide an introduction to Dartmouth; they help build camaraderie among the first-year students; they all have some outdoor component, like hiking or kayaking; and they are entirely organized by students. These 5-day outings, celebrating their 80th anniversary in 2015, happen during the two-weeks each summer before the first-year class officially checks in on campus for orientation. The First-Year Trips, part of Dartmouth’s Outdoor Programs Office, have become much more organized and structured since they began in 1935. An organizing committee, called a directorate, works steadily for a year to coordinate the 10 sections of activities, each with 15 trips, and each trip with about 8-12 people.

“You don’t need to be outdoorsy to be part of the trips, either as a trip leader or a participant,” says Karampreet “Peety” Kaur, a member of the Dartmouth Class of 2015, the director of the First-Year Trips directorate this year. “We reached out to more than 300 student groups on campus to encourage current students to volunteer with the First-Year Trips. We did our best to make sure all students knew they could apply.”

First-Year Trips are not required, as they are not part of the official Dartmouth orientation for first-year students, but there is a strong tradition of participation. Last year, more than 93 percent of first-year students went on a trip (some athletes, for example, cannot participate in the First-Year Trips due to practice schedules). For participants, it’s a chance to leave their smart phones and tablets behind. Kaur explains that it’s important for the students to interact with and learn about each other during this time. “When do you get five days to just talk to people,” she says.

These kinds of community-building activities have become part of the college-going experience on campuses nationwide. The Dartmouth First-Year Trip Directorate is often a resource for other programs, and they have even presented at professional conferences and workshops. “Research shows that these kinds of programs improve retention and graduation rates, and also have a positive impact on academic performance,” says Kaur.

By the numbers:

20: First-Year Trip Directorate members

1,040: approximate number of first-year students will participate in summer 2015

300:  trip leaders from all over campus

100:  on the waiting list to be a trip leader

60:   croo members, who help organize logistics for each trip, each with a different specialty

75: approximate number of additional volunteers across campus, such as:

  • Outdoor Programs staff, who help with logistical support
  • EMS club and Ski Patrol, who provide with First Aid and CPR training

20: types of trips

  • cabin camping
  • canoeing
  • climbing and hiking
  • community service
  • fishing
  • hiking and yoga
  • hiking-least strenuous
  • hiking-moderate
  • hiking-harder
  • hiking-most strenuous
  • horseback riding
  • kayaking-flat water
  • kayaking-whitewater
  • mountain biking
  • nature exploration
  • nature photography
  • nature writing and art
  • organic farming
  • ropes course
  • trailwork


More details about the preparations and the trips themselves are shared on their blog: