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Outward Bound has come to mean many things in different places and for the great variety of people who are drawn to it. But at its heart, in every time and place, is … [the] conviction that it is possible, even in a relatively short time, to introduce greater balance and compassion into human lives by impelling people into experiences which show them they can rise above adversity and overcome their own defeatism. They can make more of their lives than they thought they could, and learn to serve others with their strength.

– Thomas James, from Kurt Hahn and the Aims of Education

Each year, the Carolina Center for Public Service (CCPS) awards scholarships for undergraduate students at UNC-Chapel Hill to participate in 28-day courses over the summer and 4-day courses over fall break through North Carolina Outward Bound School (NCOBS). Recipients receive full tuition for the NCOBS course.

28-day Course Eligibility and Details

Only current undergraduate students who are participants in the Buckley Public Service Scholars program, affiliated with the School of Education at UNC-CH or involved with leadership development programs through Student Life and Leadership are eligible to apply. (Any first-year and second-year students are eligible to enroll in the Buckley Public Service Scholars program each January and can therefore be eligible, and students not associated with any of these programs will be considered if spots are available.) Applicants must be at least 18 years old, involved in public service and returning to UNC for the following academic year. Morehead-Cain Scholars and others who have participated in similar courses through Outward Bound or other outdoor leadership schools (such as NOLS) are not eligible.

Students who participate in this program receive the Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certification through its completion. Applicants must be available for the full course and enroll in a 1-credit hour EDUC course back at UNC in fall 2024 that will support the translation of learning through Outward Bound.

The summer 2024 course dates are June 29 through July 26. This means that students are able to take summer school courses in SSI and MM at UNC and still participate in the Outward Bound course.

More information about the specifics of the course are available on the course page.

Review the NCOBS COVID-19 course protocol here.

28-day Course Applications

Applications for the summer 2024 Outward Bound 28-day course scholarships closed on February 12, 2024. If you are learning about the opportunity outside of the application period, please contact to inquire about any openings on the course or to be put on a wait list and notified if a spot opens up.

Read more about student experiences on the 2019 course in this spotlight.

Four-day Fall Break Courses

CCPS also sponsors two separate four-day invitational courses each year over fall break. One is for leaders of service-oriented student organizations at UNC. The other is for Community Service Scholarship recipients and additional service-oriented student leaders, as space allows. Applications open each year late in the spring semester for the following fall break. For more information about these course scholarship opportunities, contact Ryan Nilsen.

Applications for the fall break 2024 Student Leader course (Oct. 17-20) will be open February 13 through April 22, 2024. Apply online though the CCPS Application and Nomination Portal.

Finances2019 NCOBS crew during paddling segment

Since 2011, the Thomas James Outward Bound Scholarship Endowment has funded these scholarships. The endowment is named in honor of longtime NCOBS board member and former dean of the UNC School of Education, Tom James. In addition, NCOBS also offers an additional scholarship for a Carolina student in honor of former UNC-Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson. In 2019, an anonymous donor also created the Lynn White Blanchard Outward Bound Course Endowment at the Center to support the opportunity for Community Service Scholars to attend a four-day course as part of their program.

The scholarships cover the full tuition and fees for a course with NCOBS. In 2023, the value of each 28-day scholarship was $7,000. The 2023 value of each 4-day scholarship was $840. Each scholarship recipient is only responsible for the cost of his or her own clothing, physical examination and travel to and from NCOBS.

Students may be responsible for clothing, boots and purchasing some personal items. NCOBS and CCPS staff are available to help students figure out how to either borrow personal items or otherwise get what they need cost-effectively.

Reporting and connecting

Upon completing a four-day NCOBS course, students will be asked to gather for a dinner together and also answer a few questions reflecting on lessons learned while on course and how the experience has affected their involvement with public service. Student completing a 28-day course will have similar reflection and translation opportunities through EDUC 149.

The NCOBS course can count as a BPSS skills training and should be logged in the Buckley Portfolio by the appropriate deadline.

group of UNC students in outward bound hold a finish sign on top a mountain About the North Carolina Outward Bound School

By its own description, NCOBS is “neither a summer camp nor an eco-travel company, nor a fleet of guides and porters. It is a school.” As such, the Outward Bound experience is unpredictable, adventurous and unforgettable. Students who participate in the program will spend time in a variety of wilderness areas developing practical outdoor skills and learning about the inherent connections between humanity and the environment. As the experience progresses, NCOBS instructors turn over the decision-making responsibilities to the members of the group. Participants may captain a boat, lead an ascent or navigate their group through difficult terrain. These are all opportunities to realize the success of their own decisions and plans as well as learn from their mistakes.

Groups consist of six to 12 members who work as a team and undertake progressively more challenging experiences during the course of the program. Depending on weather and other variables, participants may experience backpacking, caving, canoeing, mountaineering, rock climbing, rappelling and a ropes course. All technical gear and food is provided by NCOBS; participants are responsible for providing their own clothing and appropriate footwear.

More specific information about NCOBS courses can be found at North Carolina Outward Bound.