Higher Ground

This year, Higher Ground will take place August 19th - 23rd 2024

Areas of focus include:
Rock Climbing
Mountain Biking    


Higher Ground is a 5-day intensive orientation program designed to break down barriers and help dissipate the anxiety of students entering college for the first time.  Over the course of the program teams of students can spend their time either rock climbing, paddling, caving or mountain biking and will be camping and participating in numerous teambuilding events. 

Each group is led by two current Radford students who are tasked with having real conversations about college experiences and the resources available on campus.  These conversations take place organically while students are participating in adventure-based activities, cooking dinner, doing dishes, or just enjoying the outdoors.  In the evening, university staff and faculty have the opportunity to stop by and have a fireside chat with participants about unique opportunities available to Radford University students. 

Higher Ground activities are designed to take individuals out of their comfort zones and place all participants on an equal playing field; which in turn increases openness and communication.  Additionally, these experiences can be viewed as metaphors for future challenges.  By working their way through these activities, groups of students build friendship bonds and develop a self-understanding that is intended to help them throughout their college career. 

Research shows that participation in an extended orientation programs produces higher retention rates, higher grade point averages, and positive changes in specific independent developmental behaviors amongst participants.   Higher Ground smartly and abruptly introduces the inter and intrapersonal development that is critical to success in a college environment.  In such, participants become socially engaged on campus more readily.


Q: How much does it cost?

A: This all inclusive program costs $50. Payment is made at the time of acceptance into the program.  

Q: How many students are in each group?

A: 10 (2 Trip Leaders and 8 New Highlanders)

Q: What do I need to bring?

A: All food and equipment is provided for participants of this program.  A detailed list of personal items you will need to bring will be provided after you’ve been accepted into the program.

Q: I have a dietary restriction.  Is that an issue?

A: No.  We are able to accommodate food allergies and dietary restrictions so long as you properly note those on your medical release forms.

Q: There are going to be bathrooms and showers, right?

A: Yes and no.  Groups will have access to bathrooms while at camp. Groups will not have access to showers until the last day of course.

Q: Do I need a first aid kit?

A: No.  We carry a well-stocked first aid kit.

Q: What if I take prescription medication?

A: Please be sure to take them with you, take them as prescribed, and keep them accessible. Take special care to bring and keep accessible epi-pens and/or asthma inhalers if you have had these prescribed to you for any reason. Also, be sure you have noted these medications on your Medical Screening form. If you get new medication after filling out and sending in your form, please let us know.

Q: What if I use contacts?

A: You can definitely bring and use contacts while camping and/or on the trail. Be sure to bring 1-2 extra pairs, plenty of solution (usually a 4 oz. travel size is sufficient), and definitely bring your glasses as a backup. Some people like to bring a travel-size mirror, as well. Your leaders can show and help you wash your hands with our biodegradable soap before putting in and taking out contacts.

Q: What if I might get my period while backpacking?

A: We encourage ALL participants who have periods to make and pack a “period kit.” The changes in diet and activity level often cause those who menstruate to get their period when they are not expecting it. Here is a great resource for building a period kit/go kit:  https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/backpacking-with-your-period

Q: Is there anything I should do to prepare for my trip?

A: Doing some type of regular exercise may help you feel more comfortable with the activities on trip. But really, the only thing you need to do is get excited!

Q: Where can I get the clothing and equipment I need?

A: First off, know that buying new or high-end clothing or equipment is not essential for having a quality outdoor experience! Athletic clothes can be found inexpensively at stores like Target, Walmart, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls. Sporting goods stores also have many options. Don't underestimate checking out your local Goodwill or other thrift/second-hand stores. If you dig a little, you can often find great sports and synthetic clothing at rock-bottom prices. Finally, consider borrowing from a friend or family member! **Remember, Outdoor Programs provides all technical equipment**

Q: What are we going to be eating?

A: Lots of great and healthy food! We are always busy on our programs and expending a lot of energy. Your specific menu will vary by program type. Some typical meals are …

  • Breakfasts: cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, french toast
  • Lunch: sandwiches and wraps
  • Dinner: pasta, stir fry, quesadillas, burritos, mac and cheese, salad
  • Snacks: crackers, cookies, fruit, veggies, trail mix
  • Beverages: hot chocolate, coffee, lemonade, water

Q: Are there any items that are prohibited on Higher Ground?

A: Yes. Higher Ground is a drug, alcohol, weapons, and tobacco-free/ecigs/vape-free environments. We also do not allow cell phones or personal MP3 devices. Generally, you should not bring anything not included on the Equipment / Packing List. Any students in violation of these rules may be removed from the program with no refund, and be subject to University sanctions.

Q: How do I pay or how am I billed for my trip?

A: Once you are accepted into the Higher Ground program, you will be billed for the program.  Invoices can be paid with cash, check, or credit card. 

Q: How will Outdoor Programs communicate with me?

A: We will communicate via your @radford.edu email address and the cell phone number you provide on your onboarding paperwork. 

Q: When and where do I need to show up for my trip?

A: Details about arrival and move-in will be provided once you’ve been accepted into the program.