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Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a list of frequently asked questions from across the offices supporting Columbia College and Columbia Engineering collected here in one place for your convenience. You can browse by topic/department or search by keyword.

Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program (COÖP), Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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 21, 2018. 

The New Student Orientation Program (NSOP) is mandatory for all students and begins on Sunday, August 26th. 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 26th. If you have family members who would like to attend programming, we would love to welcome them back to campus! 

Please check back in the spring for more information about times and logisitics pertaining to move in processes. 

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.

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!

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.

When does COÖP take place for 2018 incoming first-year students?

Move in for first-year student participants is Tuesday, August 21, 2018. The COÖP trips will depart on the morning of Wednesday, August 22 and return on Saturday, August 25.

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

COÖP is open to incoming first-years enrolling in Columbia College (CC) or Columbia Enginering (SEAS). At this time, the program is not open to Barnard, General Studies (GS), transfer, or Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) students.

Who plans COÖP?

COÖP is an administrative, student-led program supervised out of Student Engagement, within Undergraduate Student Life. The student coordinators for the 2018 trip are Nick Rio (ROP), Sam Kodama (BOP), and Adekunle Balogun (HOP); they can be reached via The 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.

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.

Is financial aid available for COÖP participants?

Yes! If you are receiving financial aid from Columbia University, COÖP has multiple tiered financial aid opportunities for participants that cover up to the entire cost of the program. On the pre-orientation application, please indicate that you are receiving financial aid, and would be interested in this. You will receive notification of your financial aid award at the same time as you will be notified of your acceptance into the program. Please know that selecting an interest in financial aid has no affect on your application or admission to COÖP. 

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 $10.00. Drybags (ROP) and bicycles (BOP) are free of charge. Equipment rentals can be paid at time of registration. 

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.

Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program (COÖP), Student Engagement

How are applicants selected?

COÖP participants are selected through the pre-orientation application process which is open each year between mid April and mid May. Although the largest pre-orientation porgram, COÖP can only accomodate 225 first-year students. Therefore, applications are selected based on interest in the program experience, demonstrated desire to join the community, and creativity. 

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