Founded in 1965 by legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, this international non-profit organization is not your typical educational setting. NOLS takes people of all ages on remote wilderness expeditions, teaching technical outdoor skills, leadership, and environmental ethics in some of the world’s wildest and most awe-inspiring classrooms. What’s great about NOLS is you can learn all of these valuable life skills and get college credit for it through the University of Utah’s departments of Biology, Health Education, or Parks, Recreation, and Tourism.
With courses ranging from ten days to a full academic year, NOLS attracts highly motivated students who are interested in more than just being outside. The hands on, learn-by-doing approach means that their graduates get the skills they need to be competent, responsible wilderness travelers and leaders long after their course is over.
NOLS’ claim to fame is their leadership curriculum. They put their students in situations where they must act and therefore learn. The idea is that the curriculum offers lessons that transfer to a student’s life long after the end of the course in groups at school, in sports and at work.
Always wanted to kayak in Mexico? You can do that with NOLS, or go mountaineering in Alaska or trekking in India. NOLS has 13 different branches around the world that all fall under the greater NOLS umbrella. While students tend to be on the wealthier side, the school gives out tons of scholarships every year and makes it a point to expose people to the wilderness who might otherwise never have that opportunity.