Who is The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School intended for?
The Immersion is an outdoor course intended for people who want to deepen their understanding of the natural world and discover powerful ways to put their connection to it at the center of their life, who are looking for a community of like-minded people to study and grow with, and who are desiring an intensive, immersive educational experience. The design of the course meets the needs of a wide range of students, from folks just out of high school, to college students and recent graduates, to older adults looking for a new direction or career.
How long has The Immersion been in existence?
The first official year of The Immersion was the 1999-2000 school year, though the program builds on a legacy of advanced students receiving college credit while studying with Wilderness Awareness School instructors.
Who are the instructors at The Immersion?
With over 4 decades of combined experience teaching outdoor nature skills, The Immersion’s core instructors facilitate all aspects of the course, teaching, coordinating guests and field trips, and serving as mentors to the student body. Laura Gunion, Richie Rivera-Booth, Laurie Archbold, and Carmelo Quetell serve as the core course instructors, with Marcus Reynerson as the Program Manager, and additional staff specialists sharing their knowledge in specific topics over the course of the year. The Immersion also incorporates expert guest instructors that visit the course to offer their unique perspective on special skills and topics.
Where do your students come from?
The Immersion attracts students from all around the world. We have graduates from most of the US and Canada, as well as the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, France, Spain, Australia, Czech Republic, and more! A number of our international students come for a “gap year” and many of them stay for a second year with our Nature Instructor Training where they acquire even deeper skills and the ability to bring these back to their communities.
What are the backgrounds of the program’s students?
Our students have a variety of backgrounds. We have no “typical” Immersion student. However, most of our students have taken either Wilderness Awareness School courses or other outdoor/wilderness classes or have been referred from colleges and universities.
Some of our students are recent high school graduates. Others are participating in the course to complete their college degrees. Still others are college graduates who have been working, but now are changing their focus and The Immersion is part of their graduate school experience. We also have students who have joined The Immersion several years or even decades after they graduated high school or college. Other students come from a wildlife biology background. All students have one thing in common though an above average passion for connecting with nature and the outdoors!
What have your students gone on to do after graduating?
Many wonderful things! From starting their own wilderness schools and summer camp programs, to working as arborists, naturalists, and geologists, to working in permaculture and landscape design, and much more! Click here to see where some of our graduates are now.
How many folks who start the program end up finishing?
Over the last 5 years, we have an average graduation rate of 92%. For reference, the average completion rate of the first year of traditional college is 67%. The main reasons students don’t complete the program are due to financial challenges, illness, a family emergency, or interpersonal reasons. These are good questions to ask any school/program that you are planning to attend.
Curriculum and Academics
What is class like at The Immersion?
Class meets ~19 hours a week, Tuesday through Thursday, at Wilderness Awareness School’s campus and other nearby locations. One day each week (mostly Wednesdays) will meet from 8am – 3pm, and the other two days will meet from 9am – 3pm. Each day consists of both lecture and extensive hands-on, outdoor experiential activities such as animal tracking exercises, wild edible gathering and preparation, bird language exercises, awareness games, and survival skill projects, to name a few.
The class also takes day trips and several extended field trips during the course of the year. Each Autumn we go on a tracking expedition to the beautiful Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area; and during the spring the course goes out on a 3-week, end-of-year rite of passage including a one-week wilderness survival expedition. Outside of class, students work on their Natural History curriculum component of the program that involves experiential field time and academic research.
How will my personal learning goals be met?
While the curriculum of The Immersion is broad and very rich, we recognize that each student comes here with their own unique goals and desires for what they receive from participating in the program. There are two main ways we work to support you in achieving these personal goals. First, each student is matched with one of the core instructors to provide personal support and guidance, most often in the form of reviews of your weekly inventories, research and reflections. Instructors also offer students evaluative feedback at the end of each quarter. Secondly, all of the students matched with a particular instructor form a Mentoring Group, with 9 to 12 students. These Mentoring Groups get together periodically outside of class, to support each other in achieving personal goals, overcoming stumbling blocks, and planning extracurricular adventures and experiences. The Mentoring Groups are guided by a core instructor and an apprentice, but are also very much student-driven, as taking responsibility for your own experience is an important component to The Immersion’s fundamental approach to learning.
How does The Immersion compare with something like NOLS or Outward Bound?
We’ve had participants from NOLS and Outward Bound who have graduated from The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School. Their feedback has been that we are a blend of wilderness survival skills and leadership skills, and a great complement to anything folks have learned at those organizations! We teach “hard” skills that a wilderness survival course or a more technical school would, and we also have a strong emphasis on leadership development and personal transformation. We have a lot of respect for NOLS and Outward Bound, and also feel that what we offer is powerful and different from either of them.
Who can apply to The Immersion?
All adults age 18 and over may apply. There are no knowledge requirements or course prerequisites.
What ages is The Immersion for?
We accept students to this outdoor skills course starting at age 18. We’ve had graduates who have been 60+ as well.
Can international/overseas students apply?
Yes! Wilderness Awareness School is authorized under Federal law to enroll nonimmigrant alien students (international/overseas students). Please use our request form for more information about enrolling.
What kind of training do I need before coming to The Immersion?
No special training needed! Other survival courses or schools may require prerequisites or be a mostly lecture-based survival class with one staff lecturing to 30 or more students. At The Immersion our low student-to-teacher ratio allows for much more individualized attention and training tailored for each student’s interests and abilities. In addition to 4 full-time instructors, we have 4-6 returning second-year students who add their experiences to the mix.
Should I have taken courses with Wilderness Awareness School or other schools to be a part of the program?
There are no prerequisites for The Immersion. You will not have to take any additional classes or workshops other than those covered in your tuition costs.
However, in addition to encouraging prospective students to visit the program (see below), we also encourage you to attend one of our weekend or week long workshops or expeditions if you are interested in doing so. This can give you a better idea of what Wilderness Awareness School and our teachings are like, and help decide if The Immersion is right for you. See what classes are available here.
Do I have to be working towards a degree or enrolled in a college or university to be part of The Immersion?
No. Many students are here just for the unique training that we have to offer and are not concerned with receiving college credit. Some students are finished with college and are augmenting their education with our course, while other students are attending The Immersion instead of a traditional college/university.
What is the application process for the course?
Now accepting applications!
To apply, you can use our Immersion Online Application.
Application Timeline and Payment Due Dates
Standard Application and Enrollment Period
Fall: The application period opens for the following fall
Within four weeks of being accepted to the program, a $2,000 payment is due to secure enrollment and scholarship award, (which includes a $100 non-refundable enrollment fee).
Quarterly payment plan as follows for the remaining balance of tuition (after deposit and scholarship award) – August 15th: First payment due, November 15th: Second payment due, February 15th: Third payment due. Alternatively, monthly payment plans are available starting August 15th and recurring every month until the end of the program.
All applications will be considered on a Rolling Admissions basis. Immediate acceptance into the program is possible until we have a total of 38 students accepted. Once we have 38 acceptances, applications will be responded to in the order received.
May I come and observe The Immersionl?
Yes, we welcome and encourage all interested students to observe our course in person. Each year, we have several special Visit Days that are intended to provide you with the best opportunity to get to know our program through direct participation in a class day. You must register ahead of time to participate in one of these Visit Days, and space may be limited!
Find out what our upcoming Visit Days are and sign up!
Where is the course located?
The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School is located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains by the Snoqualmie River at Wilderness Awareness School’s home base in Duvall, Washington. The school’s property is called Linne Doran (Gaelic for “Pond of the Otter”) and our land consists of over 40 acres of mature and second growth forest as well as the land’s namesake pond and wetlands. This campus is adjacent to the vast forest lands of the Snoqualmie-Baker National Forest, west of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. Classroom facilities at Linne Doran include “Cedar Lodge,” our new classroom building and gathering hall which houses the Ingwe Library and also has four apartments for students on the second floor; “The Wolf Den,” our 30 foot modern yurt; and “Malalo Ya Chui” (which means “Lair of the Leopard”), a more rustic 20 foot structure modeled after an African Akamba hut, built to honor School co-founder, Ingwe. Day trip locations often include riparian sandbars along the Skykomish and Snoqualmie Rivers, many great county parks, the high Cascades, and the desert ecosystems of eastern Washington. The Program also takes several extended field trips throughout the Northwest each year.
Where do The Immersion students live?
There are some limited on-campus housing options, with many of our students locating their own housing in the Duvall area with support from staff. Most students opt for shared housing in rural country homes, though apartments, cabins, and yurts are often available in the area as well. Most of our students live in shared houses or apartments in the Snoqualmie River valley, which includes the towns of Duvall, Carnation, Monroe, Fall City, and Snoqualmie. The shared housing saves the students money on rent and adds an additional aspect of community to the course.
Will I be able to work and do The Immersion at the same time? Is there work available in the area?
Yes. The Immersion usually meets during three consecutive class days per week, and this schedule is designed to allow students to be able to work at least part-time. Many of our students do work. Their range of jobs includes working at other schools and child care, outdoor labor, employment at rock-climbing gyms or other outdoor recreation organizations, working with moving companies, working at coffee stands and restaurants, delivering pizzas, etc. You should have no problem finding a part-time job to help support your studies.
What happens if I need to miss class for religious reasons?
Religious Accommodation Policy: Wilderness Awareness School will make good faith efforts to provide reasonable religious accommodations to students who have sincerely held religious practices or beliefs that conflict with a scheduled course/program requirement. Students requesting a religious accommodation should make the request, in writing, directly to their instructor with as much advance notice as possible. Being absent from class or other educational responsibilities does not excuse students from keeping up with any information shared or expectations set during the missed class. Students are responsible for obtaining materials and information provided during any class missed. The student shall work with the instructor to determine a schedule for making up missed work. Examples of religious accommodations may include: missing a class day or missing a field trip or overnight experience.
Second-Year Options and Career
What opportunities are there for those who complete the first year?
Students who complete The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School have the option, and are highly encouraged, to continue into a second year of study in our Nature Instructor Training, Wildlife Tracking Intensive, or Wild Plant Intensive. These courses provide the opportunity for students to round out their Wilderness Awareness studies with professional experience and focused learning.
Will I be able to take this program and then live off in the woods by myself?
The short answer: if you apply yourself you will have the skills, but you might just not want to anymore. We’ve had a number of students at The Immersion who stated at the beginning of the year that this was a goal for them. While we teach wilderness survival skills and you will have a great deal of knowledge and experience by the end of the year, our focus is on group survival. A graduate from this year stated that he was now “cured” of the itch to go off by himself in the woods, and that he saw that as a really valuable “survival skill” to be able to enjoy having other people in his life.
Will this training help me to start my own wilderness survival or outdoor education school?
Yes! We have a number of graduates around North America and the world who have started their own school or program after completing The Immersion. Many graduates on this path come back for our second-year Nature Instructor Training and get to apprentice side-by-side with our staff to learn exactly how we run our programs and give support for them to do this themselves.
Can I receive college credit?
Yes. Undergraduate college credit through Western State Colorado University is available for The Immersion. It is 18 credits (6 in Environmental Studies, 6 in Biology and 6 in Recreation) and these credits are transferable. There is more information on Western State Colorado University website.
Also, if you are currently enrolled at a college or university you may be able to work out a way to receive credit for our course through your own college or university. Several of our students have had success in doing so. Talking to an academic advisor at your school is a good way to start researching this option.
Past students have reported that the following schools have granted some form of credit for their Immersion experience. Students need to make their own arrangements.
- Cornell University
- Prescott College
- Antioch University Seattle
- The Evergreen State College
- Humboldt State University
- Mankato State University
If I was going to take a year off from college to take The Immersion, would I be able to get college credit for it?
Yes. Undergraduate college credit through Western State College is available for The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School. It is 18 credits (6 in Environmental Studies, 6 in Biology and 6 in Recreation) and these credits are transferable. There is more information on Western State College’s website. We have a number of students who take a “gap year” between high school and college, or who take a year off from college to come and attend The Immersion. We also have folks looking to change course in their lives after having been working for a number of years and this course encourages exploration of interests and life-purpose.
Tuition and Scholarships
How much does the course cost?
Tuition for The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School is $13,950. This cost includes all instruction, workshops, field trips, and independent study materials for the school year. Tuition does not include living expenses.
Upon acceptance into the course, a $2,000 payment is required to secure your enrollment. The remainder of the tuition is payable in three equal installments (the remainder of the tuition, minus any scholarship, divided by three due 8/15, 11/15, 2/15), or by monthly payment plans of the remaining balance starting 8/15.
Do you offer Financial Aid?
We do not currently offer Financial Aid. We recommend students look at private loans through their own banks as these have yielded the best options.
We offer our own scholarships for The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School, which can range from $500 to $3000. You can fill out a scholarship request when you apply for for the program.
Veterans Benefits Tuition assistance may be available to U.S. Veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs benefits and services.
I’m a military veteran; Can I use my GI Bill® to pay for The Immersion?
Every year we have a number of veterans who use the GI Bill® or related military benefits to participate in The Immersion. Please review the information below and contact our Immersion Admissions Coordinator with any questions:
Email: [email protected]
Will the VA cover the entire cost of the program?
Every student has a unique situation. The full tuition is eligible, and veterans are generally eligible for living expenses when class is in session (not during any breaks as per standard VA policies). However, the amount available is determined by things like length of service and how much of your benefit has been used prior to enrolling in this program.
The school cannot tell you how your specific situation will be covered. Speak to your Military Admissions Representative about your options, or use one of the following online resources.
What happens if I’m not eligible for the full amount of tuition or if the VA does not pay up?
You will be responsible for any tuition amount not covered by the VA, which will involve setting up a payment plan with the school Registrar. As with all students, you will be asked to stop attending class if those payments you are responsible for are not received in a timely manner.
For students who have provided certificates of eligibility for education benefits under chapters 31 or 33, where payments are expected but have been delayed from the VA, no penalties, late fees, or denial of access to classes will occur.
What types of veteran’s benefits can WAS accept?
We can accept the following:
- Chapter 30 (Montgomery GI Bill®) *this benefit is eligible for monthly payment plan upon approval.
- Chapter 31 (Vocational Rehabilitation)
- Chapter 32 (VEAP)
- Chapter 33 Post 9/11
- Chapter 33 TEB For Dependents
- Chapter 35 (DEA) For Dependents
We are not eligible for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), as our program is not considered to be in a high demand occupation
We are not a Yellow Ribbon school.
What is the right benefit for me? Which is better?
Only the Veteran’s Administration can tell you what options are available to you. Please contact your Military Admissions Representative about your options. Contact info is located below:
Veterans Affairs Benefits & Services
Hours of operation: Monday-Friday, 8am to 9pm ET
Can I use my VA benefits along with Financial Aid?
Our only current form of financial aid is our in-house, need-based scholarship program. Anyone using VA benefits is welcome to apply for a scholarship. We are not eligible for federal financial aid because we are not a Title IV school.
Is WAS a Yellow Ribbon program?
No, we are not.
Am I considered a full-time student while attending The Immersion?
Yes, both The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School and the Nature Instructor Training are considered full-time programs.
The Immersion is 680 clock hours and the second year NIT program is 772 clock hours.
I’m the dependent of a veteran or a veteran who wants to transfer benefits to a dependent. How does this work?
Each situation is different, and only the Veteran’s Administration can tell you what all your options are.
Here are some links to get started:
To transfer benefits the recommended steps are:
- Log on the Department of Defense Transfer Education Benefits website (compatible only with Internet Explorer). Submit the Transferability Application to request transfer of benefits to dependent.
- Dependent must go to VONAPP website and complete the VONAPP VA Form 22-1990e
- Applicant will receive a copy of the COE
- Send copies of the VONAPP and COE to WAS along with your registration forms.
How do I use my Montgomery GI Bill® benefits at WAS?
Veterans receiving this benefit are paid monthly, for the preceding month. We have created a monthly payment plan for those veterans, with the understanding that all tuition must be paid in full by the end of the program. Keep in mind that it usually takes 90 days for your first check to arrive.
When and how do I receive my benefits?
In order for us to certify you in the VA system, the VA requires us to collect the following items:
- VA Intent form (part of our enrollment packet)
- A recent Certificate of Eligibility (a form you request from the VA)
- Transcripts (copies are fine) of all post-high school education or training programs completed.
Once we receive the necessary paperwork, we typically certify new students in the VA system a week or two before the start of classes. It takes the VA anywhere from 15-60 days to process an initial certification.
Post 9/11 tuition benefits are paid to the school. You will be notified when this happens. Montgomery GI Bill® benefits are paid to the student, who must then make payment to the school.
Living expenses and any other payments are made directly to the student by the Veteran’s Administration.
Who can I contact at WAS if I have more questions about using my GI Bill® benefits?
Please contact our Immersion Admissions Coordinator Brooke Nelson.
Email: [email protected]
How do I enroll in the program?
Veterans and/or dependents of veterans intending to use VA Education benefits to attend The Immersion or the Nature Instructor Training must undergo the same admission process as all other students. Our programs are unique, and it’s important that every student is a good fit.
The first step is to consider attending a visit day and/or talk to our Admissions Coordinator.
The next step is to fill out the Immersion application. Once your application is approved, you will complete the enrollment process by completing all required forms from our online registration system, including the Veteran’s Intent form.
Before we can complete the certification with the VA, we will need a copy of your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) form you receive from the VA, as well as transcripts of all prior education after high school.
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.