P-SOOP: Outdoor Orientation Program

The Physicians & Surgeons Outdoor Orientation Program (P-SOOP) is an optional three-day hike in the Catskill Mountains for incoming first-year Columbia medical students. It is a fun opportunity to interact with current medical students who lead the trips, jumpstart friendships with your classmates, ease your way into life at medical school, and receive basic training in wilderness first aid.

Why Join P-SOOP?

 P-SOOP was founded in 2012 by medical students who had participated in similar pre-orientation programs before college, were enthusiastic about the outdoors, and wanted a way to hang out with and get to know incoming students. There are 24 spots in the program available to students and sign-up is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Please Note: You must register for your general orientation pass along with or before you register for P-SOOP.


Following are key dates for P-SOOP:

  • Early June: Sign-up opens for incoming Columbia medical students.
  • Early July: Deadline for sign-up (or until all spots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis).
  • Early August: Participants arrive on campus and go on a P-SOOP trip.
  • Mid-August: New student orientation begins for medical students. 


The cost of participating in P-SOOP is $195 per person. This fee includes gear rentals (such as hiking packs, sleeping bags, water bottles, and tents), food and supplies for the trip, and transportation to and from Catskill State Park.

50 Haven Ave. Housing

If you will be living in 50 Haven Ave., your move-in date is listed as the Friday you return from P-SOOP. The Office of Housing Services will provide a key upon your return.

If you want to be considered for early move-in before the P-SOOP trip, make note on the housing section of your registration form. You are responsible for the extra days included in the early move-in and we cannot guarantee that your room will be ready early. P-SOOP handles all correspondence with the Office of Housing Services, so please do not email them directly with P-SOOP-related questions.

For those planning to move into 50 Haven Ave. after the trip, there will be space available for you to safely lock your belongings while away.

If you will be living off campus or in other Columbia housing, please arrange your move-in accordingly. Remember you will have all day on Saturday as well as Sunday morning to take care of business before orientation begins on Sunday afternoon.

What P-SOOP Alum Say: Raves & Reviews

"P-SOOP introduced me to some of my favorite people I've ever met. There's something about backpacking together as you're about to embark upon 4 years of ridonkadonk hard schooling together that bonds you as people. I can't recommend this program enough!!"

- Mikey Montalbano VP&S 2018

"P-SOOP was a wonderful way to get to know my classmates before the start of class! It was so great to have a new group of friends and a supportive community going into orientation. I had so much fun on my trip— from telling funny bedtime stories to singing on the trail. I recommend P-SOOP to everyone, even if you don’t have any prior hiking experience!” - Ariel Goldenthal VP&S 2018

"PSOOP is a fun opportunity to ease into medical school and gain a great group of friends. Hiking through some great landscapes and late night discussions around a camp fire are few of the many ways the wilderness allows you to forge meaningful experiences with your fellow travelers.”

- Josh Okonkwo VP&S 2018

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need hiking or overnight camping experience to participate?

No, you do not have to have any knowledge about the outdoors to participate in P-SOOP. All of the trip leaders are trained in wilderness first-aid and outdoor skills.

What equipment should I bring?

Read through the P-SOOP Personal Equipment List under “Forms and Documents.” This is your master checklist for what you will need to bring, so read it closely. As a wise man once said, do not overpack, but do not under pack. Reach out to p-soop@columbia.edu with any questions.

Where can I buy outdoor equipment?

There are lots of places to buy good outdoor camping equipment. A few stores include REI, EMS, and Paragon Sports. You can also shop online for gear on Amazon.com, Campmor.com, and Backcountry.com.

How do I rent equipment and when do I get it?

You can sign up for equipment through the registration form. Rented equipment will be distributed the night before the trip begins at the group dinner.

Does the menu accommodate people with special dietary needs (vegan, vegetarian, kosher, halal)?

Please indicate any specific dietary needs on the registration form. In general, our menu is vegetarian/vegan friendly. While most of our food is kosher and halal, we do not keep a kosher kitchen on the trail and have not previously bought halal or kosher certified foods. Please include your dietary practices on your registration form, so we can honor your requests. Email us at p-soop@columbia.edu with questions.

What kind of food will I eat on the trip?

Staples include dried fruit, nuts, PB&J, apples, s’mores, and anything you can put in a tortilla. Come hungry!

If I wear contact lenses, what should I do?

Most contact lens wearers are fine on a 3 day hike, although some prefer to wear glasses. Whatever you decide, please bring a pair of glasses just in case anything happens to your contact lenses. It is also a good idea to have extra contact lenses and solution.

What do I do with my stuff during the trip that I don't plan to take with me on P-SOOP?

P-SOOP will have two empty 50 Haven Ave. Rooms that participants can use to store their belongings during the trip. These rooms will be available Tuesday morning and will remain locked for the duration of the trip.

When can I move into my 50 Haven Ave. Room?

All participants will have access to their 50 Haven Ave.rooms when they return from the trip. If you applied to and were approved for early move-in, the Housing Office will let you know when your room will be available. We cannot guarantee the availability for early move-in, but will try our best.

Contact Us

For more information, email p-soop@columbia.edu