(Must have your PennKey to submit an application.  PennKeys are provided to you once you confirm your Penn attendence.  Learn more about PennKeys here.)

PennQuest is an outdoor orientation program being offered to 120 first-year students entering the University of Pennsylvania, sponsored by the Office of the Platt Student Performing Arts House, with the support from the Undergraduate Assembly. The goals of the program are:

  1. to foster positive relationships with other students,
  2. to develop personal skills and self-confidence to meet the challenges of a college career and other life experiences, and
  3. to develop an appreciation for our natural environment.

PennQuest is a four-day outdoor experience at a base camp before leaving for backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. First-year students will be divided into groups with each group led by two team leaders who are upper-class students. Participants sleep in tents on the trail for two nights. Tents are provided. Backpacks and sleeping bags are required for each participant and can be rented from PennQuest if needed. 

Selection Process:

Each year, we receive more applications for the program than there are spaces available. Participants will be selected based upon a careful review of the applications.  Each application is reviewed and rated by the staff and student leaders of the program and a consensus is reached.  Those invited to participate will need to promptly complete registration forms and submit payment.  Students may apply to other pre-orientation programs as well and then decide which program to attend based upon their selection status.

Applications are due by June 20th 11:59pm ET. Be on the watch for email updates!

Cost of Program:

Each participant is required to pay a program fee of $395. Financial assistance is available to anyone who receives any aid to come to Penn. Please check the bottom of the application to be considered.

If you have questions, please contact Laurie McCall at LMCCALL@UPENN.EDU.


Applications are due by June 20th 11:59pm ET. Be on the watch for email updates!

Notifications will be sent in the evening on July 6th.

All participants will be assigned an early move in.

Saturday, August 20th  8am – 6pm  – Move-in

Saturday, August 20th @7:30pm – Introduction to PennQuest and Trip Overview

Sunday, August 21st @8:30am – Depart for the Poconos

Monday, August 22nd – Wednesday, August 24th  – Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail

Wednesday, August 24th – Arrival back at Penn approximately 4pm-6pm.

Note: PLEASE try to bring as few cotton items as possible. Synthetic materials (like polypropylene, capilene, and fleece**) dry much faster and keep your body much warmer than cotton — very valuable traits in the event of rain.

Things to wear:

  • 4 pairs of wool socks
  • 1 pair of hiking shoes (boots, trail runners, or stury running shoes)
  • 1 pair of camp shoes (sneakers, sandals, or slip-ons)
  • 4 pairs of underwear
  • 1 pair of long underwear
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of long pants
  • 1 long-sleeved base layer
  • 2 short-sleeved shirts
  • 1 warm outer layer
  • 1 waterproof rain jacket
  • 1 warm hat
  • Sunscreen

* Avoid cotton and linen fabrics – wicking is the best

Things you don’t wear, but need to have:

  • 1 internal or external frame backpack – at least 50 liters (available to rent)
  • 1 sleeping bag rated to 40F or lower (available to rent)
  • 1 sleeping pad
  • 3 32oz water bottles (or equivalent water capacity)
  • 1 flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries
  • 1 eating bowl with utensils
  • 1 toothbrush and tube of toothpaste
  • 2 large trash bags
  • Any required medication

Optional, but recommended:

  • Sunglasses, cap and/or bandana
  • Insect repellent
  • Camera
  • Extra snacks (plenty will be provided, but a personal snack bar or two can’t hurt)

Things you shouldn’t bring:

  • Phone, computer, or other electronics
  • Soap, cosmetics, or deordorant
  • Alcohol, drugs, or tobacco products

Tips and Tricks:

  • Backpacks – at least 50 liters or 3000 cubic inches
  • Hiking shoes – break them in before the trip to avoid blisters

* We may be able to rent a backpack and/or sleeping bag for you at a small fee.
** If you don’t recognize these terms, ask anyone who is familiar with backpacking.