Leadership Adventure Semester FAQs

Adventure Treks will not be running a gap semester for fall 2024. Please reach out to us at 828-698-0399 for questions about 2025 and beyond. 

Below, you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions about our Leadership Adventure Semester gap programs, from accreditation to itinerary to student life.

Are you an accredited program?

Yes! Adventure Treks has been fully vetted and accredited by the Gap Year Association. Accreditation is a time-intensive, rigorous process whereby Adventure Treks must meet or exceed hundreds of standards, from cross-culture awareness and communication, to documentation standards and admissions processes, to inclusion of service- and community-learning, to medical training standards.

We are proud that out of the hundreds of gap year programs out there, we are one of only 22 accredited programs with the GYA.

Do you offer academic credit?

Adventure Treks students can enroll in courses either at Portland State University or Western Carolina University to earn academic credit during their semester.

Read more about the courses offered here.

How much time is spent in Costa Rica?

At the end of each fall gap semester, students will travel as a group down to the Turrialba region of Costa Rica for about three weeks. There, they’ll basecamp at an eco-lodge and focus on honing their paddling skills through day and overnight canoe, kayaking, and whitewater rafting trips. Students will also shop at local markets, get to know locals, and hike to area waterfalls.

What training and certifications do your instructors have?

Adventure Treks instructors are the heart of our organization. Our gap instructors have worked, on average, with Adventure Treks for three seasons prior to the semester. We hire staff who have demonstrated exceptional backcountry knowledge, excellence in experiential and outdoor education, and have proven their ability to mentor students and build strong, intentional communities. Due to the higher level of technical skills our instructors need in areas like rock climbing, whitewater kayaking, and mountain biking, we prioritize hiring instructors with certifications including American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) single-pitch instructor, Professional Mountain Bike Instructor Association (PMBIA), and Swift Water Rescue (SWR) certifications. We have a rigorous hiring process for new instructors, including three to four director interviews, four reference checks, and a full background check. All instructors have wilderness first responder certifications (an intensive 80-hour wilderness medical training). Many of our instructors have higher medical or different outdoor certifications as well.

Gap instructors will attend at least one intensive week-long, field-based training and orientation; most instructors will attend two weeks of training and orientation. Here they will review Adventure Treks policies and procedures; cover wilderness, mental health, and behavioral scenarios; and familiarize themselves with our curriculum, gear, and backcountry locations. Their orientation also includes an overnight backpacking trip to provide time to scout trailheads and activity locations.

Will students have access to their cell phones, laptops, or other devices?

Students may bring their cell phones on the program, though they will not always have access to them. They will be stored for safekeeping for the majority of the semester, with designated use times. When students do have access to their phones and devices, we encourage limited use to ensure that they are fully engaged and present in their community.

We understand that throughout the semester, students may need to be applying to jobs or other programs, keeping in contact with friends and family, and staying current with local, national, and global news. We work with our students to find a hybrid model of technology use that works for everyone throughout the semester.

Students and instructors will upload blogs and photos to CampInTouch throughout the semester so their families may follow along with their adventures.

Can you provide gap semester references?

We are always happy to put you in touch with families and students who have participated in the Leadership Adventure Semester. Give us a call at 888-954-5555 or email us today to request references.

What does the curriculum look like?

Our curriculum is designed to start with foundational skills for all our activities; throughout the semester our programming gradually becomes more advanced, and our small group sizes allow us to meet each student where they are at their level as they progress. Along with the curriculum that focuses on hard skill development, we also teach what we call “essential life skills,” including basic auto maintenance, personal finances, and more. We believe in and model our lessons using experiential education.

We aim to help students define their strengths, areas of improvement, and natural leadership styles. Leadership opportunities are designated both inherently and intentionally throughout the semester, allowing students to step in and out of different roles in a supportive environment.

We also allow time for students to share their passions and interests, build lessons around topics they are most interested in, and develop a sense of place and understanding of the area we are inhabiting and recreating in.

What mental health support does AT offer?

Adventure Treks is not a therapeutic program and cannot accommodate students requiring regular therapy. However, some students may be able to continue sessions with their mental health professional through video chat throughout the semester. It is important to note that while in the backcountry, students will have limited to no access to mental health professionals. For more information, please read through our essential eligibility criteria or feel free to give us a call at 888-954-5555.

What does your tuition include?

Our tuition is all-inclusive*—even all outdoor equipment—with no hidden or extra costs. Other adventure programs not only require families to buy or rent gear, but also for laundry, photos, and even showers.

*If students choose to apply to Western Carolina University for academic credit, they are responsible for the cost of application and tuition. 

Can we use 529 funds to pay for the semester?

A 529 plan is an education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution that is designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. We recommend families who are interested in using funds from a 529 plan to pay for Adventure Treks programming reach out directly to their fiduciary/529 plan administrator. Each agency has different requirements depending on the plan and state, because of this, we recommend families contact their plan administrator directly to understand what may be possible.

Through our accreditation with the Gap Year Association and its partnership with Portland State University, Adventure Treks gap students are able to apply 529 funds toward their semester tuition. 

What are your cancellation and refund policies?

Please read our full cancellation and refund policy in our terms and conditions.

How do students manage their prescription medications?

Students will be responsible for managing the delivery and care of any current prescription medications they bring. They will be responsible for taking their medication regularly; this is not the responsibility of the instructors. Students will provide a thorough medical history that instructors will carry with them; this is crucial in the event of a doctor’s visit or emergency. Instructors will review all medication upon arrival to make sure it matches students’ medical history form.

Interruption in regularly taken psychiatric medications right before or during a semester is not permitted and may result in dismissal from the program, unless consulted by their physician (and Adventure Treks must be informed of the change). Due to the significant amount of time we spend in the backcountry, we encourage students to bring more than enough medication for the entirety of the program, or reach out to us ahead of time to develop a plan.

Instructors have first aid kits on their person at all times; we also have centrally located first aid kits at basecamp. These include over-the-counter medications, epinephrine doses, and other general first aid supplies. Instructors will provide these supplies until students take their wilderness first responder certification; after that, students will also carry a first aid kit during activities.

What is your drug, alcohol, and tobacco policy?

Adventure Treks programs are 100 percent alcohol-, tobacco-, and drug-free. The possession or use of alcohol, tobacco (or anything containing nicotine), marijuana, any vaping or e-cigarette device, or any illegal drug is cause for immediate expulsion from the trip. This policy is absolutely non-negotiable. If a student brings or uses any of these substances, they should expect to be caught and dismissed.

Misuse of prescription drugs is also grounds for dismissal.
What are the criteria for admission to a Leadership Adventure Gap Semester?

Students must submit an online application and deposit, fill out admissions forms, schedule an interview with an Adventure Treks director, and submit two professional and/or academic references. Adventure Treks seeks willing, eager, and active participants (we are not a court-mandated program, nor will we accept people who feel they are “forced” to attend). We entrust many responsibilities to our students, so our students must be reliable, invested in learning, and excited about becoming a better community member. Students must want to be a part of a program that is drug- and alcohol-free and be willing to be a part of a tight-knit community focused on supporting others and working toward being their best selves. To read more about specific criteria required for the program, read our essential eligibility criteria.

Apply Now for the Leadership Adventure Semester!