Project Wildcat

Project Wildcat
Saturday, September 15 - Friday, September 21

Project Wildcat (PWild) is a wilderness program that brings small groups of new Wildcats together for a week of backpacking, backcountry camping, and enjoying the great outdoors.

This is a POP experience. Registration requires you to rank POP experiences in which you are interested (you can rank only 1 or up to all 4). Students will learn of their POP placement by June 20 at 11:59 p.m. CDT. Placement is not guaranteed due to space constraints.


Saturday, September 15 - Friday, September 21

Students will arrive to campus on Saturday, September 15 and will the program will conclude on campus the morning of new student move-in day, Friday, September 21

Students assigned to participate in PWild will receive more detailed information on check-in times and location after placement

The Jewish Holiday of Yom Kippur falls over our Pre-Orientation Programs, if you would like to observe Yom Kippur while attending a pre-orientation program please let us know when you register for POP and we will follow up with you to provide you with more information and answer questions. 


  • Trip fee: $450 plus optional equipment rentals
  • Fee waivers are available for many of those who receive need-based aid from the University and can be requested within the POP application; the fee waiver covers the trip fee

A few things to note about Project Wildcat

  • Almost half of students that participate in PWild have never been camping before, so experienced and beginner backpackers are all welcome! No prior experience is required.
  • Some choose to do a bit of light training to help prepare them for the new experience of hiking six hours each day while carrying a 30-pound backpack; no need to put yourself through boot camp, but exercise can be beneficial.
  • In order to unplug from technology and to be present in nature, PWild is a cell phone-free zone. Family members shouldn't worry as students will have access to their phones again beginning the morning of Move-in Day.

What past participants enjoyed about PWild:

  • "The scenery amazed me, the people changed who I was, and the counselors prepared me for Wildcat Welcome and what's to come in my first year...I'll remember this week forever."
  • "The chance to step away from the fast pace of my everyday life while getting to know other Northwestern students has been an incredible experience."
  • "I feel confident, strong, intelligent, excited, and ready to work. I really feel like I have a community of people who care about me even before I go into Wildcat Welcome."

What a typical day looks like on PWild:

Below is just a sample of what a typical day on PWild could look like for participants.

Activity Description
Wake Up Get up with the sunrise (or to your watch alarm) and prepare yourself mentally and physically for the day ahead!
Breakfast Boil water for a hearty meal of oatmeal, granola or anything else that is in your group food. It's up to you! Just be sure to eat enough to start out on trail with good energy.
Breakdown Camp Take down the tarp, distribute group gear, and pack out the rest of your food. Most importantly, make sure to pick up any trash around the campsite. Leave No Trace!
Make a Plan for the Day Based on your group’s route, decide on how you want to approach the day’s hike. For example, who will navigate for the day?
Set Out on Trail Once the campsite is completely taken down, fill up your water bottles, put on your packs, and hit the trail!
Hike Hike 2-8 miles a day, taking breaks as determined by your group. Breaks can be for a quick snack, to get water, check for blisters, or just because you've come across a beautiful view and you want to take it in. One day out of the week, your group will stop at a basecamp, where you will have to chance to take a break from hiking, meet more student counselors, and participate in reflective and group-bonding activities.
Lunch Stop for lunch once your group feels hungry. Nothing feels better than taking off your packs and eating some good trail food after hiking. If your group plans your routes well, chances are that you will have lunch at one of the many beautiful spots along the trail.
Reach your Campsite Arriving at camp marks the end of the hiking day and the start of camping life! Once your group arrives, start setting up camp. Campsite tasks include setting up your group tarp, finding a good tree for bear bagging your food, collecting firewood, and starting dinner. Engage with other new students and your counselors in conversations about the transition to college.