Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply for an SFS Program?

Admissions, Advisors and Faculty, General, Programs

Carefully review the steps outlined by the Application Process section of our website, then complete our Online Application.

Be sure to check with your home school’s study abroad office to see if they have their own specific application process or additional requirements before you apply directly to SFS.

There is no fee to apply for an SFS program.

What is the application deadline for admissions?

Admissions, Advisors and Faculty, General

SFS reviews complete applications for admission (online application + all supplemental materials) to all programs on a rolling basis. We review applications on a first-come, first-served basis, so you are advised to apply as soon as possible to ensure priority consideration for your first-choice program. Students who apply after a program has reached maximum capacity are placed on a waitlist.

Be sure to check with your home school and comply with any application deadlines they may have.

How does academic credit work for an SFS Program?

Admissions, Advisors and Faculty

All SFS programs are credit-bearing, with 16-18 credits earned during a semester program and 4-8 credits earned during summer programs. Students should check with their academic advisors and/or study abroad office to find out how this credit may transfer to their home institution.

Click here for more information about academic credit and grades.

Does SFS offer financial aid?

Admissions, Advisors and Faculty, General

Yes, SFS offers need-based financial aid to students with demonstrated financial need. Click here to read more about SFS financial aid and to download our financial aid application.

We understand that finances are a significant concern to students and parents. At SFS, we believe studying abroad is an investment. Click here to read more about the benefits of studying abroad with SFS.

Do I have to submit my financial aid application with my application for admission?

Admissions, Advisors and Faculty, General

No; we recommend that students complete the financial aid application as soon as possible, but it is not a required component of the application. You are welcome to submit a financial aid application at any point during the application and enrollment process, including after acceptance to the program.

Can I attend a program after graduation or without being enrolled in school?

Admissions, General, Programs

Yes! Students over the age of 18 who have completed their undergraduate degree or who are otherwise not enrolled at a college or university are welcome to attend SFS programs.

Our programs can serve as great resume-builders and excellent hands on-experience to prepare students for future educational endeavors or for entering the professional world. We do not offer an option to audit our courses, so students who are not currently enrolled at a college or university are registered with the University of Minnesota, our School of Record — taking the courses for credit and earning an official transcript from the University of Minnesota. SFS course prerequisite and GPA requirements for semester programs still apply — see the Application Process page of our website for more information.

I am currently a high-school student interested in a gap year with SFS. Do I still need to fulfill the course prerequisite for semester programs?

Admissions, Advisors and Faculty, General

Yes! All students must be at least 18 years old and have completed one college-level course in ecology, biology, environmental science/studies, or a related field as determined by SFS. High school students may fulfill this prerequisite by (1) achieving a 4 or a 5 on the AP environmental science or AP bio exam; (2) taking a bio SAT II subject test and scoring above a 700; or (3) taking a course at a local college over the summer and submitting a transcript showing at least a C in the course before entering the program.

I am currently enrolled in the course that will satisfy the pre-requisite for SFS semester programs. I will complete the course before the start date for the program. Can I still apply to SFS while this course is in progress?

Admissions, Advisors and Faculty, General

Yes! Students may apply while their prerequisite course is in progress, as long as the course will be completed, and passed with a C or above before the start of the program. In this case, we ask students to send in a current university transcript along with the admissions application. Once the course is completed, SFS Admissions will request an updated copy of the transcript with the completed prerequisite course prior to the start of the program.

Does SFS offer graduate programs?

Admissions, General, Programs

SFS does not offer graduate programs; however, students who have recently completed an undergraduate degree are welcome to apply to an SFS program. Our summer programs are a popular option for people who are looking to gain field experience to better complete their education or to give direction for their next step. Students with undergraduate degrees should note that it is not possible to audit SFS courses, and a transcript with grades will be issued following completion of an SFS program.

Since SFS focuses on environmental issues, will I still experience local culture?

Advisors and Faculty, Programs

Yes, our programs offer many opportunities for you to interact with local community members and take part in cultural experiences.

Many of our faculty and staff are host-country nationals. We feel it is important for our students to understand local culture and learn from those most familiar with local issues. And while our programs do focus on environmental issues, we take an interdisciplinary approach which includes the social and economic side of issues. You might find yourself interviewing small farmers in Costa Rica, receiving guest lectures from Tanzanian game wardens, working side by side with Australian volunteers, or teaching children about native marine life in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Most semester programs also include a language and culture course. Through field trips, lectures, interviews, community service, and recreation, you will have many occasions to experience the culture of your host country.

How rigorous are the courses?

Advisors and Faculty, General, Programs

Our courses are rigorous, although not in the same ways as traditional college courses. Combining field trips, excursions, and research with classroom learning makes for long days, and tackling real-life issues raises difficult questions.

Many students say they learned more about environmental issues in one SFS program than they have in all their time at their home campus. Our programs are as challenging but rewarding, and will push you to learn and grow in new ways.

Are SFS programs only open to environmental science majors?

Advisors and Faculty, General, Programs

No. SFS programs are open to students from all academic backgrounds, although they are particularly attractive to students with an interest in the environment, and some experience with science is beneficial. Our programs draw students from many different majors, from economics to zoology. Our interdisciplinary approach to environmental case studies teaches students to look beyond the boundaries of their chosen discipline.

How many students participate in each program?

Advisors and Faculty, Programs

SFS program cohorts range in size from 12 to 34 students. Groups of this size are small enough to create a strong community and large enough to provide a diverse experience. Students experience a strong sense of camaraderie while developing valuable skills and maturing as individuals.

How many professors and staff members are there on each program?

Advisors and Faculty, Programs

Each SFS center has three full-time faculty members, whose specialties span the fields of ecology, natural resource management, and environmental policy and socioeconomics. SFS’ average student-to-professor ratio is around 8 to 1. Each center also has a Center Director/Program Manager and a Student Affairs Manager, plus a range of cooking staff, groundskeepers, academic assistants, and other support staff members.

Students, staff, and many faculty members live at our centers. We hire our faculty based on research and field experience, teaching ability, and interpersonal skills. For more information on individual faculty and staff members please see the Our Team page.

Have any students from my home school previously participated in SFS programs?

Admissions, Advisors and Faculty, Programs

Students from hundreds of schools have participated in SFS programs, so the answer is very likely yes! There is a large network of SFS graduates who are ready and eager to share their experiences with interested students. Contact our Admissions Office to find out if there are SFS alumni from your school or so they can put you in touch with an alum from the program you’re interested in.

Can I talk with previous students who have participated in SFS programs?

Admissions, Advisors and Faculty, General

Yes! Please contact SFS Admissions ( to be put in touch with previous students. They would be happy to talk with you and share their experience student-to-student.

Does my program have a mid-semester break, and when will I know the dates of the break?

Admissions, Advisors and Faculty, Programs, Safety and Student Life

We will not have the confirmed dates until the week before the program begins each semester. This is because our programs rely heavily on the schedule and availability of the places we visit/travel to. Those schedules can be hard to finalize until we are closer to the dates, so often they aren’t confirmed by the field staff until the beginning of the program. Please do not arrange travel or family visits until the dates are confirmed.

How can I find out more about SFS?

Admissions, General, Programs

Our Admissions Team would be happy to speak with you to discuss if SFS is the right fit for you or to provide any more information about our specific programs. You can get in touch with them via email or call (978) 741-3567.

If you’re not quite ready to reach out, there are plenty of tools on our website that can help you learn more about us. We recommend looking through our instagram, blog, program finder, and learning more about why SFS is so unique.

What makes SFS a unique study abroad experience?

Advisors and Faculty, General, Parents

Every study abroad program offers students the opportunity to experience something beneficial and life-changing.

Students gain a broader perspective of the world through the opportunity to see new places, experience new cultures, and test their abilities outside of their comfort zone. The School for Field Studies offers students the opportunity to develop skills useful to their future academics and careers. SFS is committed to providing students with a practical educational experience. We expose students to critical, real-world environmental issues. Academic debate and theory blend with hands-on experience and field research. It is our sincere hope that every program provides the opportunity for each student to grow both academically and personally.

I just returned from my SFS program. When and how do I receive my transcript?

Admissions, General, Programs

You already completed the necessary steps to receive your transcript during the admissions process, so no action is necessary on your part. Official transcripts for SFS programs are available approximately 4-6 weeks after the conclusion of the program (after the conclusion of the second summer session for summer programs). More information can be found on the Request Your Transcript page of our website.

I participated in an SFS program a few years ago and need a copy of my transcript. How can I request one?

Admissions, General, Programs

The first step is understanding how you received credit for your SFS program. All information regarding requesting a transcript for your time with SFS can be found on the Request Your Transcript page of our website.

What is SFS’ approach to safety and risk management?

Advisors and Faculty, Parents, Safety and Student Life

The health and safety of our students is of utmost importance to The School for Field Studies (SFS). While safety can never be guaranteed, SFS has robust safety systems in place and is known in the industry for having a diligent approach to risk assessment, mitigation, and management to protect and enhance the student experience.

SFS has a structured risk management program that proactively manages the itineraries and logistics of students’ daily activities. Our small number of programs enables us to tailor our risk management system to the specific needs of each of our field stations. This enables us to adapt to the dynamic changes of the natural and political world to both mitigate risk and respond to issues quickly and soundly. In addition, each SFS Center has detailed emergency response protocols and contingency plans in place. The protocols list the locations and contact details for nearby medical clinics, advanced medical care, and emergency evacuation services as well as provide staff, who are trained in wilderness medicine, with guidance on how to respond to specific incidents or emergencies.

Due to the remote location of many SFS programs, several SFS field staff are certified in Wilderness First Aid (WFA) and trained on how to respond in the case of an emergency. In addition, each SFS program is staffed with a full-time residential Health and Wellness Manager (HWM) who is the primary medical responder and student support personnel on campus. The HWM is certified as a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and in Mental Health First Aid and trained in sexual assault first response. The HWM also coordinates program logistics, engages students in community outreach, advises and counsels students on group dynamics and adjusting to life abroad, and conducts in-country risk assessment and management.

SFS seeks input from a variety of external resources and continually monitors world news, U.S. State Department Warnings, and daily briefs from the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). SFS maintains a 24-hour emergency contact system. Every SFS field station has a satellite phone, cell phones, land lines, and Internet access. SFS Headquarters has consistent communication with field staff, as well as regularly scheduled conference calls, to monitor day-to-day situations. As part of our strong, proactive approach to health and safety, SFS focuses on outstanding staffing, training, and attention to detail, and we educate students on accurate expectations, resources, and preventative care.

Can I communicate with my family during my SFS program?

Programs, Safety and Student Life

In times of emergency, SFS field staff encourage and help students in contacting their families.
Potential students and families of current students should also contact SFS headquarters with any questions or concerns at +1 (800) 989-4418. Our safety team maintains an emergency hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – (978) 219-5113.

Who are your staff?

Advisors and Faculty, Parents, Safety and Student Life

SFS staff are committed professionals with years of student program experience, selected for their great skills, leadership abilities, and expertise in the region.

All Centers employ a full-time residential Health and Wellness Manager who is dedicated to safety and student life. The Health and Wellness Manager holds a 72-hour Wilderness First Responder certification. Most other staff members hold 36-hour Wilderness Advanced First Aid certifications. At SFS Headquarters, we also have a full-time Director of Health and Wellness with extensive experience in managing student health and safety in international settings.

How safe are your programs?

Advisors and Faculty, Parents, Safety and Student Life

Risks are a typical component of study abroad and are inherent in the countries where SFS operates. However, SFS is committed to student safety, and we have taken steps to minimize risk of injury or illness.

SFS employs a full-time Safety and Student Life team to oversee the safety of each program, which involves identifying potential hazards associated with each planned activity and implementing measures to mitigate those risks. Student cooperation and involvement is critical in allowing the program to operate within the SFS culture of safety.

How do I know whether a student arrived safely to the program?

Parents, Safety and Student Life

Within a few hours of students arriving to their SFS program, SFS headquarters staff will receive a confirmation phone call or email. You may contact our admissions counselors to check in on this status.

Students are typically not able to make phone calls home immediately upon their arrival as they are usually focused on settling in and participating in the program orientation.

How do I communicate with a student while they are in the field?

Parents, Safety and Student Life

Due to the nature of SFS programs, communication with students in the field may not be as frequent or reliable as it is in the US. Each of our program locations has unique challenges that affect communication; some have WiFi access but virtually no mobile phone signal, while others have a strong 4G signal for programs like WhatsApp, but it would take months for post mail to arrive. On field trips and expeditions, access may be further limited. While there is internet access at each of our program locations, we do encourage students to take time to “disconnect” from their devices and social media platforms in order to fully experience their time abroad. Please refer to the program-specific Field Preparation Guide (found on the program page) for more information.

If you need to urgently reach your student while they are on program, please contact SFS Headquarters in Beverly, Massachusetts, at (978) 741-3567. Office hours are 8:30am to 5:00pm EST, Monday through Friday. SFS also maintains a 24-hour emergency message system while students are in the field. This system is for reporting family emergencies that require immediate contact with a student in the field, or to report a problem with a student in transit to or from one of the SFS field stations. This line can be reached at (978) 219-5113.

Can I send care packages to a student while they are in the field?


SFS does not recommend sending packages to the field. In most cases, the logistics of picking up the packages, combined with the cost of duty as well as the amount of time it takes for packages to arrive to the field stations, makes it a very difficult process for students. Please refer to the program-specific Field Preparation Guide (found on the program page) for more information.

Most items students might get through the mail can often be purchased in the country or perhaps shared with other students. Students should plan to pack and carry with them everything they will need for the duration of the program.

Can I send money to a student while they are in the field?


Students should make every effort to budget their money in advance, according to the “Finances” section of the student’s Field Preparation Guide. This guide also contains advice on the most convenient ways for students to bring money with them; cash, credit cards, ATM cards, etc. work well depending on the country.

Can I visit a student at the field station?


Aside from visiting professionals and guest lecturers, SFS generally does not allow visitors on site during the program because it is disruptive to the program schedule and the dynamics of the group. The mid-semester break is an opportunity for students to visit with friends and family off-site. All visits to the field station must be scheduled in advance and with the permission of the Center Director. Overnight housing at the field stations is not available, but there may be accessible accommodations nearby.

NOTE: Visiting is typically not accommodated during our summer programs because they are short and tightly scheduled.

If my student arrives early in-country or stays late, can they stay at the center?


Unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate students arriving early or staying late at the center. Students may plan to travel on their own before the program starts or after the program ends, but they will not be provided with transportation, room, board, or storage before the start date of the program or after the end date.

Where do faculty live?


Faculty housing options vary from location to location, but many of our faculty live on-site in accommodations separate from the students.

The residential component of the program is an essential tool in the learning and teaching process for students and staff alike. Meals are taken communally with the rest of the staff and student group.

Can my partner/family join me?


Yes. Candidates should keep in mind, however, that many of our field stations are located in rural and/or isolated locations with no easy access to schools for children or employment opportunities for partners. While conditions vary from place to place, housing opportunities for families are limited.

Do you accept joint applications from partners?


While you may apply in conjunction with another person for two different positions, SFS considers each applicant on their own merits.

Also, SFS policy prohibits related persons from being in a position that is responsible for supervision of the other. Due to the small number of our on-site staff, it is rarely possible to hire both partners. SFS does not allow job sharing.

Does my citizenship/residency matter for employment with SFS?


SFS is committed to providing equal employment opportunities for all persons regardless of race, color, religion, creed, caste, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetics, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, national origin or ancestry, ethnic origin, or veteran status.

SFS does not take into account a person’s citizenship/residency in reviewing applications. However, if you are a citizen or resident of a country that is not (as determined by the host country government) permitted to work in the host country, we cannot override that decision.

How do you determine salary levels for positions in the field?


When setting salary ranges, we take into consideration your experience level along with local standard of living costs and local market salary ranges for similar positions.

Please note that our entire compensation package includes other sources of compensation above and beyond salary, such as free room and board, paid time off, travel and medical insurance reimbursements, and relocation assistance.

Center Directors, Site Managers, Student Affairs Managers, and local support staff all have competitive, fixed starting salaries. Faculty salaries start within a range based on qualifications.

Can my pets join me?


No, pets are not allowed at any SFS center. The presence of domestic animals (pets) at the field stations can detract from the educational and research environment essential to completing the mission statement of SFS. Providing a safe, clean, healthy and non-threatening community group living situation can be hampered by the physical presence of pets. In addition, due to the isolation of the field stations, proper veterinary care is often not readily available.