Alternative Breaks: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is an Alternative Break?
What makes these trips “alternative”?
How do I apply?
Are there any prerequisites for applying?
How many people are selected to go on each trip?
Can I apply to more than one trip?
Do I have to fill out a separate application for each trip?

What is the timeline for the selection process?
When will I know whether I have been accepted?

How much does it cost to go on a trip?
Can I pay the participation fee for a trip in installments?
What does the payment cover?
Are there opportunities to fundraise?
What is the time commitment?
Do I have to be there for the entire trip?
Where do we typically stay?
How do I become a Trip Director?
What is the role of a Team Leader?
Are there any other similar experiences offered by others on campus?


What is an Alternative Break?

Alternative Breaks are service-learning experiences designed to heighten participants’ awareness of critical social issues, enhance their individual growth, and prepare them for lifelong social action. Each weekend or week long trip integrates service, reflection and education and focuses on topics as varied as poverty, hunger, housing, healthcare, and disaster relief. Trips are offered throughout the year in local, national, and international destinations. Please visit the trip listing page for more specific trip descriptions and information.


What makes these trips “alternative”?

Alternative breaks are just that- an alternative to life on campus. The breaks give students an opportunity to meet new people, learn new things and to step away from traditional learning and living. Alternative Breaks trips are entirely drug and alcohol-free, thus providing an “alternative” options to traditional spring break and weekend activities.


How do I apply?

All applications are to be submitted online. You may want to type your essay answers into a separate document and paste them into the online form. Please ensure that you answer all questions thoroughly as there is a high interest in participating on these experiences. Please note that all of the trips have different closing dates for applications. Applications will be made available for the fall, winter, and spring break trips at the beginning of the academic year (fall semester). Applications for spring weekend trips become available at the beginning of the spring semester.


Are there any prerequisites for applying?

There is no prerequisite of earlier public service involvement, all enrolled UConn students may apply.  Students may not participate if they are not an enrolled student at the time of the trip. We encourage students to express themselves authentically in their applications and to articulate why they are interested in the opportunity and what experiences or perspectives have made them want to go on an alternative break. Students come with various levels of involvement and different reasons for why they want to participate.


How many people are selected to go on each trip?

For most of our trips there is a maximum of twelve (12) people admitted. Some trips have been expanded to 18 participants. Strong applicants who are not admitted to a trip will be placed on a waiting list and will be admitted on a space-available basis. We have three large trips that take a maximum of fifty (50) participants. These participants are then broken into teams of 10-12 onsite. On the Alternative Breaks Trips listing page, the number of participants is listed.


Can I apply to more than one trip? Do I have to fill out a separate application for each trip?

If you are interested in participating on an Alternative Break, you fill out one application. On this application, there will be a section for you to indicate your trip preference. Please mark down all trips that you’d be interested in participating on. There is a possibility that you get chosen for more than one trip, but it is not guaranteed. You will be notified if you are put on the waitlist. You may want to type your essay answers into a separate document and paste them into the online application form. Please ensure that you answer all questions thoroughly as there is a high interest in participating on these experiences.


What is the timeline for the selection process? When will I know whether I have been accepted?

The deadline for applications varies per trip; please see the Alternative Break trips listing page for these dates. Participants will be notified within 1-2 weeks of the application deadline if they have or have not been selected for the interview process. After the interview process we anticipate informing participants of their acceptance status within two weeks. After you have been notified, you will have approximately one week to decide whether you wish to accept the offer.  Please note that there is also a waiting list for all trips that applicants may be put on.


How much does it cost to go on a trip?

Trips have varying costs based on housing, food and, and programming supplies specific to each alternative break location and service. Costs currently range from $30-$750 per trip. Trips with airfare are more expensive. A typical weekend trip ranges between $30 and $100. A typical week-long trip ranges between $100 and $300. Each trip fundraises for the Alternative Breaks program as a whole so that we can continue to provide these low trip prices year after year. Our international trip, which is 2 weeks long, is our most expensive trip and ranges between $750-$1,200.  Community Outreach strives to make alternative breaks affordable to a diverse range of students. We offer trips which range in cost and time and we strive to find the most affordable housing and transportation methods

Additionally, Community Outreach offers a service award and scholarship, aimed at decreasing financial barriers for undergraduate students who wish to pursue service opportunities. For more information and to apply for a service award or scholarship, please visit: https://communityoutreach.uconn.edu/co-service-scholarship/


Can I pay the participant fee for a trip in installments?

The participant is expected to cover the participant fee in full and can work with the Coordinator of Alternative Breaks to come up with a payment plan if necessary.


What does the payment cover?

Payment covers housing, food, transportation, and programming supplies. The only items that are not covered include meals during travel and any items that a person might purchase for their personal use i.e., a souvenir, any forgotten items such as a toothbrush etc.


Are there opportunities to fundraise?

There are opportunities to fundraise, but donations to not go directly to any specific student. The funding for alternative break trips come from various sources: a Golf Tournament sponsored by Tyco Simplex Grinnell; Student Activities department; and the Undergraduate Student Government. Students participating on a trip are also expected to pay a ‘participant fee’ in order to contribute to the overall cost of the trip. Fundraising efforts allow us to sustain these low ‘participant fee’ prices year after year. Fundraising helps offset the ‘participant fee’ and it greatly benefits the overall program.

The fundraising efforts which are currently in place and which participants are expected to support are the following: Community Outreach Alternative Breaks has a partnership with IMG to support FanFest at the UConn Football games and in return receives monetary assistance to decrease the cost of trips. Participants will complete a letter & online-giving campaign, and participants will support Swipe-a-Meal which is a partnership with UConn Dining Service where UConn students can donate 1-2 flex passes from their meal plan to support UConn Alternative Breaks and other Community Outreach programs.

Additionally, Community Outreach offers a service award and scholarship, aimed at decreasing financial barriers for undergraduate students who wish to pursue service opportunities. For more information and to apply for a service award or scholarship, please visit: https://communityoutreach.uconn.edu/co-service-scholarship/


What is the time commitment?

Groups will have weekly meetings throughout the year that focus on their trip’s focus. These weekly meetings will be an opportunity for team-building, as well as learning about the focus of the trip. Weekend trips have a minimum of 4 pre-meetings and week long trips have a minimum of 8 pre-meetings. Following the trip, groups will meet a minimum of one time for a reorientation event.

Pre- and post- trip meetings are required as participants will be provided policy and procedure information regarding the trip and activities so that they can be prepared for the experience. Information may include but not be limited to information on health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, societal, and religious conditions in the host location. If a student cannot attend one or more pre-trip meetings, they must arrange make-up meetings with the Trip Director to review material and information covered. Participants are advised to share this information with their parents/guardians so they can make informed decisions concerning preparation, participation and behaviors while on the trip.


Do I have to be there for the entire trip?

Yes, students who are unable to participate in a trip for its entire duration are ineligible to participate.
In accordance with the University of Connecticut Field trip Policy: All UConn Alternative Break experiences begin and end on campus. Regional campus Alternative Break trips may begin and end in designated commuter areas. Students who join or leave the field trip at any other point do so at their own risk. Separate travel arrangements must be approved by Community Outreach and Participants will be required to fill out a “Participant Early Dismissal Form”. Separate travel arrangements approved on case-by-case basis if the circumstance is determined to be a momentous life event.


Where do we typically stay?

The group may be housed in religious buildings, hotels, community centers, camps etc. All participants are housed at the same location and Community Outreach does not offer trips with “homestays”. Despite the type of facility, Community Outreach ensures that all participants are welcome.


How do I become a Trip Director?

During the spring semester, Community Outreach interviews students for open trip director positions. Previous trip experience is expected. If you are interested in leading a future trip please contact the Staff Coordinator of Alternative Breaks, Kaitlyn Luft, at kaitlyn.luft@uconn.edu or 486-1165.


What is the role of a Team Leader?

Early in the fall semester, trip directors interview applicants for open team leader positions. You can learn more about the responsibilities of a team leader here.


Are there any other similar experiences offered by others on campus?

Yes. Many student groups also run alternative breaks such as the Honors Program, Fraternity and Sorority Life, UCC, and more. Please visit UConntact for more information about these groups.