What is your refund policy and how late will you take applications / cancellations?

We accept applications on a rolling basis until our deadline of Sept 1st. Applicants will be placed on a wait list after we reach capacity. To be admitted to the program, students need to apply, interview, be accepted, and pay the fee in full by Sept 1st. We cannot hold a space for a student until we have received a deposit of $500 payable by credit card or check. Due to the current global health crisis, we are offering a flexible refund. Before Sept 1st, 100% of the program fees, apart from the $60 application fee, will be refunded if students cancel or the program is not able to run. After September 1st, we will not be issuing refunds, unless COVID-19 related. If it is in the best interest of the health of the students for the program to cancel part way through the season due to concerns of COVID-19, we will issue a prorated refund at 80% of the remaining daily rate. We do not offer refunds for student who are sent home or choose to leave the program early.

What is a Gap Year?

According to the Gap Year Association's website, a Gap Year "is a structured period of time when students take a break from formal education to increase self-awareness, learn from different cultures, and experiment with possible careers. Typically these are achieved by a combination of traveling, volunteering, interning, or working. A gap year experience can last from two months up to two years and is taken between high school graduation and the Junior year of their higher degree."

How can I fund my gap year?

We first urge you to visit the Gap Year Association website for its list of resources regarding ways to fund your gap year. Until we have forged a solid partnership with a university, you will not be able to use Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA) to directly fund our program. However, if your university will grant credit for our program, you could potentially use your FAFSA funds to at least partially subsidize your tuition with us. We do offer some scholarships to applicants who demonstrate financial need. Contact us for more information.
Your best bet is to invest some time working, saving, and fundraising for the program. Often times, students find great support within their families and communities, especially when they really showcase their passion for taking a non-traditional path and aren’t afraid of requesting assistance.

Is this a therapeutic program?

No. We are not licensed, certified, or intending to run a therapeutic program. That being said, this is a place for students to make positive changes in their lives with the support of a community and mentors. However, we are not prepared to manage students who are in need of deeper, professional support for addictions, depression, anger management, violence, active eating disorders, personality disorders, or other mental health concerns. If you are unsure about whether we can support you (as a student) or your child (as a parent) due to a history of mental health concerns, please contact us to begin the dialogue.

How is Pioneer Project different from other programs?

The Pioneer Project helps students build on fundamental skillsets for navigating the world as adults through living in community while pursuing individual interests. Pioneer is a place-based experience that allows participants to become stewards of the environment, learn from it, and strive within it. Furthermore, we are here to engage with simple pleasures of daily life that invite us to discover a deeper sense of purpose and self in the process. By selecting students carefully, hiring the most talented and interesting instuctors, and keeping our groups small, we uphold a high degree of mentorship, safety, and quality that is hard to beat. Each semester is custom built to each student group, taking advantange of each person's unique character and pursuits.

Does Pioneer Project have specific guidelines for student behavior?

We expect students to arrive ready and willing to make the most of their time here. The three agreements sturdents pledge to follow set the foundation for a cohesive and fulfilling group experience: Be present (physically, mentally, and socially) Be responsible (be honest and take ownership for our actions) Be respectful (speak and act with compassion / non-violence) Aside from standard expecations, we also want to highlight the following no-no's: No use of recreational drugs or alcohol No sexual intimacy or inappropriate exclusive relationships No harm to self or others We are committed to safety and failure to comply with any of the above rules could result in dismissal from the program.

What is the selection process? Do you turn down students?

We address each applicant individually to determine if a student is a good fit for Pioneer and whether we can support that student's interests and needs. We examine students' overall health to assess their willingness, our limitations, and potential risk issues. We select only those who show eagerness to participate, rather than those who are nudged to be here. If Pioneer does not seem like the appropriate choice for a student, we encourage other options, programs, or timelines.

What is tuition and what does it cover?

The cost of a nine-week fall semester is $7900 per student. For the entire duration of the student experience at Pioneer, tuition covers all of the following: all meals, all materials for crafts and projects, transportation, gas, vehicle insurance, vehicle rental for at capacity groups, wilderness outfitters and guides, outdoor equipment replacement and repairs, rent, program/homestead insurance, risk management, instructor wages, contribution to our scholarship fund, administrative fees, website, marketing material. Students’ tuitions are distributed to promote the fullest experience and to ensure maximum participant safety. On average, tuitions are distributed as follows: 45% goes to instructor expenses, wages, and all hired help; 30% for food, lodging and transportation; 10% for administrative functions; 10% for equipment and materials; 3% for scholarships; and 2% for misc.

What is the history of the Pioneer Project?

The idea for the Pioneer Project sprouted from Adam Haigler’s Gap Year in 2003-2004, where he unearthed a passion for education, nature, and adventure. After Adam partnered up with Allison Haigler at The Outdoor School in Texas, the couple began discussing the idea of opening a school devoted to connecting students with the natural world. After 9 years of travel, attending college, and working at a variety of experiential education organizations, the Haiglers settled in Brasstown, NC, an ideal location, to bring their dream to life. The Pioneer Project, the original program of its kind, opened its doors in September, 2013, to welcome its first group of students. The launch of the semester coincided with the birth of the Haigler's first child, which made for a busy and exciting time for the first student cohort and the founders. With a phemomenal staff team on board to manage the wilderness and garden programs, the semester was a wonderful kickoff to what was a tremendously impactful experience for the following four seasons. It has been on hold while the family has grown, and now, we are open and taking applicaitions for Fall. What an exciting time it is!

What is your response to COVID-19? How will it affect the fall program?

Maintaining the health and safety of our students, family, and community is our priority. We are monitoring COVID development closely and will assess and adjust our operations according to what is best for all.

We are committed to living out our mission of providing students with a place-based, interactive group experience that cannot be replicated virtually. Though no one knows how fall will unfold, we are in a unique situation to provide programming with little or no adaptation. This is by virtue of our location (a remote, rural environment) and nature of activities (home and wilderness-based) that make it easy to practice social distancing or full isolation, whatever the need may be. Additionally, we adhere to a high level of health and hygiene standards with increased emphasis for sanitization.

Informed by science, we refer to guidelines issued by the North Carolina Health Department and the CDC for updates and best practice. We believe it is our social responsibility to contribute to the nationwide attempt to decrease the spread of COVID-19 in consideration of health care access and of those most at risk.

We are taking applications for Fall 2020 until Spt 1st. If the program is cancelled or you decide to withdraw before Sep 1st, you will receive a full refund, apart from the $60 application fee. After Sep 1st , we will not be issuing refunds, unless COVID-19 related. If it is in the best interest of the health of the students for the program to cancel part way through the season due to concerns of COVID-19, we will issue a prorated refund at 80% of the remaining daily rate. For information about tuition and more about our refund policy, see related FAQs.