Wilderness pre-orientation programs are popular at colleges across the United States. A recent study conducted by Kalamazoo College students Aaron Hollinger and Laura Crouch looked at Landsea, the colleges own pre-orientation program. Landsea is an intensive 16-day backpacking and canoeing trip and an average of 100 incoming freshman participate in the program. The study focused on obtaining feedback from Landsea participants and discerning obstacles to participation in the program. The study received completed surveys from 59 Landsea participants and from 57 non-Landsea respondents. According to the study, 100% of those who went on Landsea believed it was worth the cost. In addition, approximately 87.9% of Landsea participants who responded to the survey would likely participate in the program again. The above statistics show that Landsea was clearly a worthwhile experience for the majority of its participants. The rest of the survey helped to reveal some of the main obstacles to participation in the program.
One of the greatest impediments to participating in pre-orientation programs is cost. The 2012 Landsea trip carried a price tag of $2193. Such a high cost could easily dissuade even the most enthusiastic backpackers from signing up for Landsea. According to the survey, close to 60% of non-Landsea participants stated that cost was a significant obstacle to attending Landsea. The researchers asked non-Landsea participants what they would be willing to pay to go on Landsea. The survey found that non-Landsea respondents were, on average, willing to pay approximately $697. The actual price for Landsea was $2193. Thus, non-Landsea respondents were only willing to pay 31.7% of the actual price. The high cost is likely tied to the relatively long length of the program.
The length of Landsea could be viewed as another factor with regard to non-participation in Landsea. Landsea is relatively long (16 days) when compared to other first-year orientation programs. According to A Census of Outdoor Orientation Programs at Four Year Colleges in the USA, the average length of an outdoor orientation program is 5.6 days. Thus, Landsea is almost three times the length of the average program. This could clearly be an obstacle to more participation in the program. The researchers asked non-Landsea respondents what they viewed as the ideal length for Landsea, and the average response was 10 days. The 6-day disparity between the ideal length for non-Landsea participants and the actual length could be a significant obstacle to more participation in the program.
The researchers also hypothesized that prior backpacking experience would be a factor in incoming freshman’s decisions to participate or not participate in Landsea. The survey revealed that 49.18% of Landsea participants had been on a backpacking trip (excluding Landsea), while only 31.75% of non-Landsea respondents had been on backpacking trips. In addition, Landsea participants had gone on an average of 2.6 backpacking trips, while non-Landsea respondents had only gone on an average of 0.88 trips. The researchers found both of these differences to be statistically significant, thus finding that prior backpacking experience was likely positively correlated with Landsea participation.