Welcome Parents!

This page is dedicated to answering all kinds of questions for parents and guardians of AWOL students! If we fail to answer any questions you have please don’t hesitate to contact us at awol@usd.edu.

Types of Trips and How AWOL Works

AWOL trips are issue based. Some of our past social issues include Education, Healthcare, Homelessness, and Sustainability. Participants apply to trips based on their preference of social issues, submit a written application, and participate in an interview process. The AWOL leadership team will use information from the application process to make trip placements. Once selected, participants all meet with their site leaders on a weekly basis to discuss fundraising, rules, receive education about the trip issue, and bond with the other participants.

Departure and Return Dates

Our trips typically depart on the Friday or Saturday of the break. All trips will always return – at the latest – by the Sunday before classes start again. Each trip returns at a different time of the day and week long trips may even return on different days depending on the location and travel distance. Alternative Weekend trips typically run on a Saturday from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm. Some alternative weekend trips involve an overnight stay, but this also depends on the location, travel distance, and needs of the community organization.

Participant Fee

While all trips are subsidized by some university funds, AWOL participants are still responsible for funding a portion of their trip. The fee for the majority of Alternative Break trips is $200. Domestic and international trips that require air travel will maintain a higher fee. Alternative Weekend trips are free for the participants.


In order to offset a portion of the participant fee, students may participate in planned fundraising. The AWOL Executive Board plans group fundraisers prior to each trip, which also allow participants to get to know each other better. Recent fundraising events have included a Pancake Feed in the fall semester and a Taco Feed in the spring semester. Site leaders will discuss additional fundraising opportunities with participants during pre-trip meetings.


The well-being of our students is our number one concern. To make the trips as safe as possible we take precautions from the first stages of trip planning until all participants return home. We only use vehicles from the State of South Dakota Fleet and Travel service, which are well-maintained and supported with 24/7 service as needed. Drivers are registered through the Center for Academic & Global Engagement and must strictly follow all travel policies, which ban the use of cell phones while at the wheel and limit the number of hours any one driver can be on the road.

Driving safety is not our only concern. We also have policies in place to make sure students are safe at their service location, in their housing, and at all other times. All participants are closely supervised by trained site leaders and required to be in groups of at least three participants at all times, regardless of when or where they are. Site leaders regularly check in  with staff members of the Center for Academic & Global Engagement and, should an emergency arise, they are instructed to notify us as soon as possible so we can advise them on what to do next.  If at anytime the site leader feels that the work an organization is asking them to do is too dangerous, they are able to pull the students out of that situation. If a student is not complying with our policies or our site leaders, we reserve the right to exit the student from the trip and return them back to campus (at their expense). This is to ensure the safety of the entire group.