FAQs

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Are the programs applicable to only environmental science majors?

SFS programs are particularly attractive to students with an interest in the environment. However, not every student will come from the same academic background.

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.

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

Yes! Students 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 would be registered at the University of Minnesota (our School of Record), take the courses for credit, and earn an official transcript from the U of M. SFS course prerequisite and GPA requirements for semester programs would still apply—see the Application Process page of our website for more information.

Can I communicate with my family during my SFS program?

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. (978.741.3567, press 2).

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

SFS does not recommend sending packages to SFS field stations. 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 make it a very difficult process for students.

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 my 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 students’ Field Preparation Guide.

Please also see the Guide for advice on the most convenient ways for students to bring money with them; credit cards, ATM cards, traveler’s checks, etc. work well depending on the country. In an emergency, money may be sent via SFS headquarters for a fee.

Can I visit my student at the field station?

Aside from visiting professionals and guest lecturers, SFS does not allow visitors on site during the program because it is disruptive to the program schedule and the dynamics of the group.

To minimize the impact on the program, SFS requests that all guests of students visit on the same day. The mid-semester break is an opportunity for students to visit with friends and family off-site. Typically, Visitors’ Day is the day after the mid-semester break, but this date is scheduled each session on a field station-by-field station basis so please be sure to check with your Admissions Counselor to confirm the date. Make sure your friends and relatives are aware that all visits to the field station must be scheduled in advance. Those interested in visiting should contact SFS headquarters at 978.741.3544 after the start of the program. Overnight housing at the field stations are not available, but there may be accessible accommodations nearby. For security reasons, no local visitors are allowed on field station property without prior consent from the director. This policy increases students’ and staff’s safety, security, and sense of privacy. NOTE: There is no Visitors’ Day during summer programs because they are too short and too tightly scheduled.

Can my pets join me?

No. 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. Accordingly pets will not be allowed at any SFS field station. In addition, due to the isolation of the field stations, proper veterinary care is not readily available.

Can my spouse/partner/family join me?

Yes. Candidates should keep in mind, however, that our field stations are generally located in rural and/or isolated locations.

There is no easy access to schools for children and employment opportunities for spouses. While conditions vary from place to place, housing opportunities for families are limited.

Do you accept joint applications from spouses/partners?

While you may apply in conjunction with another person for two different positions, SFS considers each applicant on his or her 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 size of our on-site staff, it is rarely possible to hire both spouses/partners. SFS does not allow job sharing.

Does my citizenship/residency matter?

SFS seeks to employ the most qualified people, without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin, marital status, or physical or mental disabilities.

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.

Does SFS offer financial aid?

SFS does offer financial aid to applicable students. When considering a study abroad program, it is important to consider that an investment is being made.

Students are able to live and learn in places they’ve only dreamed about, grow academically and personally, develop leadership skills and confidence, and gain hands-on experience that will likely be helpful in their future careers. Nevertheless, finances are a common source of concern for students and parents. Students are encouraged to start by visiting their home school’s financial aid office. Click here to read more about SFS financial aid, and to download an application for semester or summer programs.

Does SFS offer graduate programs?

SFS does not offer graduate programs at this time. Students who have recently completed an undergraduate degree are welcome to apply to an SFS program.

As SFS attracts people who are looking to gain field experience to better complete their education or to give direction for their next step. our summer courses are sometimes an appropriate option for such students. Students with undergraduate degrees should note that it is not possible to audit any of the courses with SFS, and a transcript with grades will be issued following completion of an SFS program. Internship opportunities for graduates are available at all of our locations; preferential consideration for internships is given to SFS alumni.

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

Students from hundreds of schools have participated in SFS programs.

A network of SFS graduates is 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.

How can I find out more about SFS?

Anyone in our Admissions Department would be happy to tell you more or pass along contact information for alumni willing to give you first-hand answers to your questions.

Making the decision to study abroad is not easy. There are many things to consider and you may feel that there are obstacles in your way. We can help you overcome these challenges and prepare for the challenges of the program. Don’t let unanswered questions keep you from having the experience of a lifetime! Call 800.989.4418 or check out our online catalog for more information on what to expect during an SFS program.

How competitive are your programs?

The admissions process is competitive, but applicants should remember that we are primarily looking for motivated young people with a sincere interest in environmental issues.

In order to judge this, we look at your entire application: grades (minimum 2.8 cumulative GPA for semester applicants; minimum 2.6 cumulative GPA for summer applicants), coursework, responses to short essay questions, and both the academic and character references.

How do I apply for an SFS program?

First, carefully review the steps outlined by the Application Process section of our website.

You can click Apply Now (using this link or any of the Apply Now buttons on our website) to complete the online application.

Be sure you have investigated the application process specific to your home school (if there is one) before applying directly to SFS.

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

Please refer to the program-specific Field Preparation Guide for information on communication with your student while they are in the field. Each of our program locations offers unique challenges in communication; some have Wi-Fi 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.

In the event that you need to urgently reach your student while on program, please contact SFS Headquarters in Beverly, Massachusetts, at 978.741.3544. Office hours are 8:30am to 5:00pm EST, Monday through Friday.

SFS 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.

To leave a message, which will page a staff member, call 978.741.3544; once prompted, press 2 for the emergency system.

How do I know if an SFS program is right for me?

Our admissions process is detailed and informative in order to help you understand the daily living conditions, expectations, and activities for all our programs.

We provide descriptions of “a day in the life,” the risks and responsibilities involved, and the rewarding, transformative experiences our programs can provide. For more information, call 800.989.4418.

Students considering SFS should make their decisions carefully and consider their goals and risk acceptance as part of their own evaluation. While SFS does not presume to guarantee safety for our students or our staff; our decades of experience, robust safety management system, and exceptional and experienced staff help enable us to provide a positive, enriching abroad experience.

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

Usually 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 you determine salary levels for positions in the field?

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

Please take 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.

Local support staff, Student Affairs Managers, Site Managers, and Center Directors all have competitive, fixed starting salaries. Residential faculty start within a salary range based on their qualifications.

How does academic credit work for an SFS program?

All students can receive academic credit for their SFS program. SFS has direct affiliation with over 50 colleges and universities, and students from these schools typically direct credit for SFS courses. All other students are registered at and receive credit from the University of Minnesota, which accredits SFS 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.

How does SFS manage safety and health?

SFS maintains detailed, global risk management systems for all of our programs. We tailor our systems to coordinate to different pressures at all our locations, enabling us to adapt to the dynamic changes of the natural and political world to both prevent and respond to risk quickly and soundly.

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. SFS maintains a 24-hour emergency contact system. Every SFS field station has a satellite phone, cell phones, land lines, and Internet access. We have 24-hour communication lines as well as regularly scheduled conference calls with SFS headquarters 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.

How many professors are there for each course?

Each SFS Center has a Center Director and two to three full-time faculty. Programs usually include specialists in the fields of ecology, natural resource management, and environmental policy and socioeconomics.

The student-to-professor ratio is no higher than 10 to 1. Students, staff, and most faculty live at our centers. We select faculty based on research, field experience, and teaching ability as well as interpersonal skills. For more information on SFS faculty please see the Our Team page.

How many students participate in each course?

SFS programs are designed to accommodate 20 to 32 students. Groups of this size are small enough to create a strong community and large enough to provide rich team experience.

Our programs emphasize group living and teamwork. Semester Directed Research projects are conducted in small teams ranging from two to seven students. Students experience a strong feeling of camaraderie while developing valuable skills and maturing as individuals.

How rigorous are the courses?

SFS looks for students with exceptional motivation. Combining field research with traditional academics 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 as they are rewarding. When you study where you live, the learning never stops.

How safe are your programs?

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 reduce those hazards. SFS makes it a priority to ensure that each program, with student cooperation and involvement, operates within a culture that fosters personal and group safety.

If my student arrives early in-country or stays late, can they stay 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.

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

Yes, our programs offer many opportunities for you to interact with local community members. Our field stations are located in communities that depend on natural resources and our research often focuses on the social and economic side of issues.

Most of our faculty and staff are from the host country as well. We feel it is important for our students to understand local culture and learn from those most familiar with local 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 & Caicos Islands. Through field trips, lectures, interviews, community service, and recreation, you will have many occasions to experience the culture of your host country.

What is SFS' approach to risk management?

SFS has a structured risk management program that takes care to manage the itineraries and logistics of students’ daily activities. Our small number of programs enables us to provide detailed attention to each one, and we 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 prevent and respond to risk quickly and soundly. In addition, each SFS Center has a Risk Assessment and Management Plan (RAMP) that comprehensively documents emergency response protocols and contingency plans. 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 incidents or emergencies.

What is the application deadline for admissions?

SFS reviews complete applications for admission to all programs on a rolling basis.

Although we have no set deadlines for submitting applications for semester programs, we review on a first-come, first-served basis, so you are advised to apply as soon as possible to ensure consideration for your first-choice program. Applicants for semester programs should keep in mind that their home schools might have a study abroad application deadline. Our suggested summer program application deadlines are April 1 and May 1 for sessions 1 and 2, respectively, but we still accept applications after these dates. Waiting lists are maintained for courses that fill early.

What is the best thing about SFS?

The answer to this question is up to you! Some students enjoy living and working in beautiful, natural environments. Some students like meeting others with similar interests and goals from a variety of academic backgrounds.

Some like the hands-on approach in researching environmental issues. Others enjoy learning from experienced faculty and staff members in both a classroom and field environment. Let us know what is important to you in a study abroad experience, and we’ll tell you if you can find it at SFS.

What makes SFS a unique study abroad experience?

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.

Where do faculty live?

Faculty housing options vary from location to location, but virtually all 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.

Who are your staff?

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 Student Affairs Manager (SAM) who is dedicated to safety and student life. The SAM holds a 72-hour Wilderness First Responder certification. Most others staff members hold 36-hour Wilderness Advanced First Aid certifications. At SFS Headquarters, we also have a full-time Director of Safety and Student Life as well as a full-time Safety and Student Life Manager, each of whom has extensive experience in managing student health and safety in international settings.

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