National Geographic Expeditions

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Two college students are walking in campus and talking.

Should You Participate in National Geographic Expeditions?

Most of us remember taking geography classes in elementary school. However, just because you didn’t love memorizing state capitals and learning about elevation doesn’t mean you aren’t a geography fan. Contrary to popular belief, geography is an expansive field, encompassing all aspects of our planet and the people who call it home.

If you’re passionate about traveling and appreciating the natural world, you may want to pursue geography as part of your academic or extracurricular endeavors, and National Geographic Expeditions for high school students is a great way to do just that.

Available to middle and high school students throughout the U.S., National Geographic Expeditions enables participants to explore the Earth and its many cultures. By visiting different cities and natural environments, students will develop a broader understanding of the world and how to care for it. Along the way, they’ll become more knowledgeable, thoughtful, and well rounded while increasing their attractiveness in the eyes of college admissions committees.

Keep reading to learn about the importance of extracurriculars and find out how National Geographic Expeditions can help set you on the road to accomplishing your academic goals.

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Importance of Extracurriculars

With colleges around the country becoming increasingly competitive, it’s no longer enough to have strong grades and test scores. If students want to make an impression on the top schools, they need a robust application profile packed with plenty of extracurriculars. Referring to activities that aren’t for grades or school credit, extracurriculars vary widely and include anything from athletics to art, clubs to community service, music to math competitions.

As a bonus, extracurriculars help teach students invaluable skills such time management, cooperation, and independence.

While there are no right and wrong answers when it comes to choosing extracurriculars, students should seek out activities that showcase their passions. After all, admissions committees can only learn so much about an applicant through their SATs. Extracurriculars reveal crucial information about a student’s interests, values, passions, and goals for the future.

When deciding which extracurriculars to pursue — and to include in your application profile — remember that longevity matters. Colleges want to know that you can choose a focus and stick to it through the years.

Additionally, students will score bonus points by holding leadership positions. For example, a student who’s passionate about journalism may want to try for an editor position on their school paper. Similarly, a student who’s passionate about geography will make a great impression by participating in activities like the National Geographic GeoBee and National Geographic Expeditions.

a view of the Golden Gate Bridge in California

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Geography for All Ages

It’s a mistake to think students don’t need extracurriculars until they enter high school. In fact, parents should encourage kids to start participating in activities that interest them at a young age. If your child is passionate about geography, you might want to consider enrolling them in the National Geographic GeoBee.

Competition for public and private school students in grades four through eight, the GeoBee invites participants to compete in an array of topics related to different places and cultures. Categories in the competition include cultural geography, economic geography, physical geography, and science, with Mo Rocca acting as a moderator.

The champion earns a $25,000 college scholarship, along with lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, while 10 finalists earn $1,000 each. Additionally, participating in the Bee is a great way to get students excited about geography and travel while helping create adults who will be citizens of the world.

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Understanding National Geographic Expeditions

If your passion for geography persists into high school, National Geographic Expeditions is a great extracurricular activity to add to your resume. Offered through the National Geographic Society in partnership with Putney Student Travel, the program welcomes students ages 13 and above to experience meaningful trips around the world. Along with bringing participants to new and exciting destinations across the globe, the organization strives to help young people experience different cultures and customs up close and personal.

Each National Geographic Expedition combines learning with on-site adventure. Along the way, students will have the chance to complete an On Assignment project, which allows them to gain deeper insight into a particular subject that interests them. Options include photography, filmmaking, and conservation. Working with National Geographic Experts and experienced trip leaders, students will create a presentation that they can share with their travel group.

Additionally, students can choose from a wide range of locations and experiences. For example, adventurers may opt for a trip to the Alaskan wilderness. Along with photographing local wildlife, such as Denali’s wolves and caribou, students will hear instructions about glaciers and learn ice climbing from top guides. They’ll also meet with Alaskan naturalists to collect samples from tide pools and gain insight into the rich culture of the state’s indigenous population. This exciting adventure spans 13 days and has a fee of $6,490 per student.

For students who prefer the city to the country, a National Geographic Dublin adventure may be the way to go. Lasting 14 days, this trip to Ireland invites students to complete writing and photography assignments on the Emerald Isle. Incorporating elements of both geography and literature, the expedition takes participants on a trip through Dublin’s literary past, letting them see where authors like Joyce and Wilde wrote their classic works.

They’ll also have the chance to stretch their legs with some Irish step-dancing classes and show off their own creative achievements at a show. Finally, students will visit the Aran Islands, learning about Ireland’s fascinating history as well as the myths of the Celts. The cost of this experience is $6,090.

students doing a sea clean up

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Why Take Part in National Geographic Expeditions?

The prospect of embarking on a trip to exotic locales is exciting to many of us. However, participating in National Geographic Expeditions comes with other benefits as well. Here are some of the best reasons for teenagers to take part in this program:

Develop Your Talents – Like college summer programs, National Geographic Expeditions allows you to hone your skills in a particular field. Because every student must complete an On-Assignment project, participants are traveling with a specific purpose that makes their experience all the more fulfilling. For example, you might be creating a short film, writing a story, taking photos of people or wildlife, researching alongside top scientists, or educating local young people about the need for conservation. The goal is to choose both a location and a trip theme that inspire you. The end result is a project you can be proud of and share with your family, friends, and even prospective colleges.

Make Invaluable Connections – National Geographic Expeditions isn’t just about learning. They’re also about building lifelong connections with trip leaders and peers who have similar interests. On each trip, students travel and research alongside Expedition leaders who have years of field experience. Because students regularly break into small groups, there’s plenty of time to bond and explore specific topics and passions.

Support Local Cultures and Causes – One of the best reasons to participate in National Geographic Expeditions is that it allows students to give back. Along with showing students the world’s natural beauty, the organization is committed to sustainable practices that will allow others to experience that beauty for years to come. To that end, the Expeditions utilize hotels and services that support the local economy and opt for low carbon emissions activities and travel. Finally, families can feel good knowing that 27 percent of the proceeds go back to the Society to fund research expeditions and volunteer work around the globe.

Improve Your Application Profile – Along with bettering the world around you, participating in National Geographic Expeditions offers an invaluable way to improve your college admissions profile. Even with stellar grades and test scores, students need to find ways of standing out at the most selective institutions. While common extracurriculars like playing sports and singing in the chorus might not turn admission officers’ heads, very few applicants can claim that they traveled to another country without their parents. Not only can students who participated in National Geographic Expeditions boast that they’ve visited an exotic locale, but they can also showcase their independence. After all, traveling as a teenager requires maturity and strong-mindedness — something most colleges are seeking in their student bodies.

two female students holding a garbage bag while picking up garbage

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Applying to National Geographic Expeditions

If you’ve decided that National Geographic Expeditions is right for you, the next step is to apply to the program. The good news is that the group welcomes middle school and high school students ages 13 and older. Additionally, applicants must be legal residents of the U.S. or Canada.

Selections are made based on the maturity, motivation, and enthusiasm of applicants, as well as their promise to abide by the program’s rules and requirements. Students who violate the rules by using alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, behaving in a disruptive manner, or failing to contribute to the program in a meaningful way can be dismissed at the leaders’ discretion.

Students who apply to National Geographic Expeditions usually receive a response within one or two business days. If accepted, they will be required to send a $700 payment to the admissions committee. While the cost of the Expeditions program may seem prohibitive, that fact is that some students may qualify for a scholarship to attend the trip. If your annual family income is less than $50,000 and you have few other assets, consider applying to the Expeditions scholarship fund.

Want to write about National Geographic Expeditions for your personal statement? Find out what it takes to create a personal statement that stands out to admissions officers.

Marrying Extracurriculars and Academics

Whether or not you decide to attend National Geographic Expeditions, there are plenty of opportunities to explore your love of geography as a high school student. One of the best ways to develop your knowledge in this subject is to enroll in Advanced Placement Human Geography. Designed to mirror the content of a college-level geography course, AP Human Geography focuses on the ways in which patterns and processes have impacted our understanding of Earth’s surface while adhering to the goals of the National Geography Standards.

As an AP student, you’ll use different tools and methodologies to assess socioeconomic organizations and their environmental consequences. Subjects featured in this course include:

  • Economic development, inequality, and cultural change
  • Population growth
  • International migration
  • Transportation, communication, and industrialization
  • Politics and territory
  • Women’s roles in society
  • Agricultural land use
  • Urban problems
  • Climate change
  • Environmental Abuses

Additionally, students who take this and other Advanced Placement courses have the opportunity to earn college credit. At the end of the semester, individuals can opt to sit for the AP Human Geography exam. Lasting a little over two hours, the exam features a combination of multiple-choice questions and essays. Around 40 percent of the multiple-choice questions on the exam will ask students to assess stimulus material, such as maps, graphs, and tables.

woman sitting on the floor while writing on her notes

It’s worth noting that the College Board is currently offering at-home testing for the 2020 AP Exams due to COVID-19. As a result, some test materials have been altered. You can visit the

Taking the Exams page for the most up-to-date information on individual exams and testing dates.

When it comes to applying to colleges, building an impressive profile is essential. Along with high grades and test scores, students need a plethora of extracurriculars to help them stand out. Looking for more ways to incorporate geography into your high school curriculum or extracurriculars? Find out about the various academic guidance services offered by the team at AdmissionSight and then contact us to set up an initial consultation.


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