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Frequently Asked Questions

Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program (COÖP)

Who can sign up for the Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program (COÖP)?

COÖP is open to incoming first-years enrolling in Columbia College (CC) or The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). At this time, the program is not open to Barnard, General Studies (GS), transfer, or Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) students.

When does COÖP take place for 2017 incoming first-year students?

Move in for first-year student participants is Tuesday, August 22, 2017. The COÖP trips will depart on the morning of Wednesday, August 23 and return on Saturday, August 26.

If I am using COÖP equipment, how do I get it and how much does it cost?

We will be distributing equipment upon your arrival to campus. You will be given time to pack your belongings into the frame pack (HOP) or dry bag (ROP), if you choose to rent one, prior to departure. Sleeping bags and frame packs (HOP) are $5.00. Drybags (ROP) and bicycles (BOP) are free of charge. Equipment rentals can be paid via check made out to "Columbia University," with "COOP Rentals" in the memo line. Payments can be made upon arrival, or can be mailed to: 

COOP c/o Marnie Whalen
2920 Broadway
515 Lerner Hall MC 2601
New York, New York 10027

Does the menu accommodate people with special dietary needs (vegan, vegetarian, kosher, gluten-free)?

Our menu is vegetarian-friendly. In fact, all of our meals are vegetarian, with an option of tuna or the popular meat-stick. Vegans can also work with our menu, which consists of lots of rice, beans, fruits and veggies. While most of our food is kosher, we do not keep a kosher kitchen on the trail. Accommodations can be made for gluten allergies. If you have concerns about your diet, please email us.

What kind of food will I eat on the trip?

COÖP staples include GORP (similar to trail mix), macaroni and cheese, pita, hummus, oranges, s’mores, and much more. Come hungry!

If I wear contact lenses, what should I do?

Most contact lens wearers are fine on our trip, although some prefer to wear glasses for the four days. Whatever you decide, please bring a backup pair of glasses and/or an extra pair of contact lenses. Make sure to bring a flashlight for nighttime removal of lenses. Past COÖPers have also appreciated antibacterial hand gel.

Should my parents/family/loved ones come to the first day of NSOP?

Your families will receive registration information for Family Orientation, which occurs after you return from the COÖP trip and before the start of the New Student Orientation Program (NSOP). Families are welcome to stay until or return for Family Orientation. However, Family Orientation is not mandatory, and some COÖP families choose not to attend. Students are also welcome to arrive alone and have their parents meet them after the COÖP trip. If your parents/family are interested in staying in a hotel room, Columbia provides a list of area hotels.

Should I pack all my stuff for COÖP move-in?

Participants should plan to move in all of their belongings for the school year into their fall housing assignments when they arrive to campus on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. Move-in will begin at 8:00 a.m. and COÖP programming will begin promptly at 3:00 p.m. After 3:00 p.m., there will be no additional time to move into your room until after the trip. 

The New Student Orientation Program (NSOP) is mandatory for all students and begins on Sunday, August 27th. While students who did not attend a pre-orientation program will move in for the first time, families of COÖP students are welcome to help their student finish up any final move-in related tasks they have remaining on this date. Additionally, family orientation will begin on Sunday August 27th. If you have family members who would like to attend programming, we would love to welcome them back to campus! 

How do we get to Columbia, and where does my family park?

COÖP family caravans line up on Amsterdam near 116th street, where they will be met by a COÖP leader with a bin to help you unload your vehicle. While you move in to your room, your family can park anywhere around campus. Columbia Security will be available to guide you to where you can legally park your vehicle. (Get directions.)

Will I be able to spend time with family on the evening before the trip departure?

Students should be considered unavailable for any and all non-COÖP interactions beginning at 2:30 p.m. the afternoon before departure.

Who plans COÖP?

COÖP is a student-run program supervised out of Student Engagement, within Undergraduate Student Life. The student coordinators for the 2017 trip are Rowyn Paul (ROP), Emma Gomez (BOP), and Keefe Mitman (HOP); they can be reached via Our staff administrator is Marnie Whalen. She can be reached at (212) 854-9675 or emailed at

Whom should my parent(s) contact with questions?

We strongly encourage students to communicate with COÖP on their own. At the same time, we know that parents often have questions, and so we have provided these FAQs. If you should have further questions or concerns, please contact the program administrator, Marnie Whalen (, or one of the three student coordinators at

During the trip, we ask that parents keep in mind that COÖP functions best when students are immersed in nature and interact only with the other students for the duration of the trip. We recommend that parents reserve trying to reach their son/daughter for emergency situations.

Parents with emergencies should call Columbia University Public Safety at (212) 854-5555. Public Safety will contact the student coordinators and staff administrator at COÖP’s basecamp. A COÖP representative will then contact the parent as soon as possible.

Can cell phones or books be taken on the trip?

No. Our program’s philosophy involves a complete immersion in nature with a small group of students to promote bonding. Also, most of our trail locations are outside the majority of network providers’ signal range.

What safety precautions are taken?

COÖP takes safety precautions very seriously. All hiking and river canoeing leaders are Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certified. Biking leaders have taken a first aid and bike training course, and canoeing leaders take a canoe safety course. All trip leaders are CPR trained and certified. In addition, we train new leaders every spring to make sure that they know how to keep students both safe and comfortable on the trail.

Can medication be taken on the trip?

Yes. Participants should bring any necessary prescribed and over-the-counter medication. Their trip leaders will have the medical information provided during the registration process. If medications have changed after the submission of the program registration, students should submit that information to a COÖP coordinator by email. Please note, COÖP leaders are not permitted to administer EpiPens.

How are emergencies handled during COÖP?

COÖP is designed to surround its participants in nature and community. The time away from technology and cell phones allows the COÖP participant (COÖPers) to maximize their outdoor orientation experience. While COÖPers are out of reach during their four-day trip, COÖPers and their families should rest assured that COÖP takes safety very seriously.

COÖP invests a tremendous amount in training its leaders to prevent, prepare, and respond to emergencies that may come up. It has designed an experience that is both fun, but safe for its COÖPers and leaders. Accidents, however, can and do happen. In addition, life doesn’t stop while the students are attending COÖP. Emergencies back home also can happen.

In these situations, COÖP uses these emergency communication protocols to keep everyone informed.


Emergency at home

If something has occurred (death in the family, family emergency, etc.) that requires a COÖPer to be pulled early from his/her COÖP trip, please follow these protocols:

Have COÖPer’s emergency contact the Columbia University Public Safety office at 212-854-5555. Public Safety will put that person in contact with the proper administrators who can contact the COÖPer, and if necessary, get that COÖPer back to campus.

Depending on the time of day and situation, COÖP can reach most COÖPers in about an hour and can have a COÖPer back on campus in half a day.


Emergency on the trip

If a COÖPer is involved in an accident or medical emergency of some kind, the COÖP student leaders and Administrators work together to use their training and systems to (1) stabilize the situation, (2) secure help from a professional first responder (if necessary), and provide whatever needed medical treatment is required.

A COÖP and/or Undergraduate Student Life Administrator reaches out to the participant’s emergency contact to inform that person of the situation. If that person cannot be reached, Undergraduate Student Life then reaches out to other authorized contacts.

For related questions, please refer to the following Columbia websites:



505 Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Call: (212) 854-3611

Fax: (212) 854-6972

Office Hours
9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.