Frequently Asked Questions

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When are NOL @ Itasca sessions held?

NOL@Itasca 2024 is scheduled to run in person at this time; any COVID-19 protocols necessary and required at the time will be followed and communicated. There will be 7 sessions available for students to sign up to on a first come first served basis.  NOL@Itasca

 2024 sessions are:

  • Session 1: June 22 - June 25
  • Session 2: June 26 - June 29
  • Session 3: July 7 - July 10
  • Session 4: July 11 - July 14
  • Session 5: July 16 - July 19
  • Session 6: July 20 - July 23
  • Session 7: July 24 - July 27

How do I sign up?

By completing the New Student Checklist, you will complete a date selection survey. (You must confirm your attendance at the University of Minnesota before you will be able to access the New Student Checklist and reserve your spot. In June, the Nature of Life team will send a welcome email with more details. Registration dates will fill up on a first come, first serve basis.


How many days does it last?

NOL @ Itasca is a four-day, three-night program. On the first day of your session, you will check-in at St. Paul campus at noon and travel by bus to the University of Minnesota's Itasca Biological Field Station and Laboratories. You'll stay the following full two days at Itasca, and depart for campus bright and early in the morning on the fourth day, arriving back on the St. Paul campus around 12:30pm.

Medical insurance requirement

You must have active health insurance to attend NOL @ Itasca. During registration, you will be asked to submit your insurance information. Please contact the NOL program at or 612-625-7799 if you have any questions.

How much does it cost?

The Nature of Life series is a two-credit course sequence that you will complete during your first two years in CBS. The elements of the Nature of Life program are NOL@Itasca, BIOL 1805/BIOL 1806 (NOL - Year One), and BIOL 1807 (NOL - Year Two). The U of M offers a flat tuition rate for enrollment above 13 credits. Therefore, if you register for >13 credits each semester, there will be no additional tuition charge for the Nature of Life courses.

Although the majority of the cost of NOL@Itasca is included in the tuition for BIOL 1805, which you will take in the fall, an additional subsidized course fee of ~$400 will be added to your first semester’s tuition bill. This course fee covers the costs of your NOL summer experience and supplements the student mentoring structure on campus. All students are charged the same course fee regardless of the number of credits in their fall enrollment.


How do I get to Itasca?

Program check-in begins at noon on the St. Paul Campus. We will confirm the campus building and room closer to the start of the Program via your UMN email. Please check it frequently.


I live near Itasca. Can I meet the Nature of Life group there?

All students are expected to ride the bus to Itasca from the St. Paul campus, but if you live in the Itasca area, you can make special arrangements to meet the group directly at the Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories.

Please contact the Nature of Life program at or 612-625-7799 if you need to be dropped off at the Field Station. Please note: parking is not available for Nature of Life students at the Field Station.


What time does the bus leave for Itasca? What time does the bus return to campus from Itasca?

The buses will leave for Itasca promptly at 1:00 p.m. on the first day of your NOL @ Itasca session. (Remember, check-in begins at noon that day.)

The buses will depart Itasca at 8 a.m. on the last day of your NOL @ Itasca session, arriving back in the Twin Cities around 12:30 p.m. that day. The bus will make two stops: first in St. Paul where you checked in for the program, and then in Minneapolis at the corner of 23rd Avenue and University Avenue near TCF Bank Stadium and the Stadium Village station on the Green Line lightrail.


Can I leave my car on the St. Paul campus while I’m in Itasca?

To save you time, money, and energy carrying your bags, we strongly encourage you to be dropped off at the St. Paul campus. If that is not a possibility and you must park a car on campus, you may park in lot S101 on the corner of Cleveland Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue on the St. Paul campus. The cost of parking is $6/day, payable with cash or credit card upon exit.

How can I get to campus from the Minneapolis - St. Paul International Airport?

To account for travel time to and from the airport, we recommend booking a flight that arrives to MSP by 10:00 a.m. on day one of your program, and departs no earlier than 4:00 p.m. on the last day of your program.

There are a variety of ground transportation options available from MSP, including van/shuttle services, cab companies and Metro Transit light rail and bus.

SuperShuttle is one of the most frequently used options for getting to and from the airport. You must make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance. To book a reservation, call 612-827-7777 or check the SuperShuttle website.

How do I find the U of M St. Paul campus?

How big is the group?

Each session will include about 85 first-year students, 9 faculty and 16 current CBS students who will serve as Nature of Life peer mentors. You will spend the majority of your time with a smaller group of 10-12 of your fellow first-year students, guided by one of the Nature of Life peer mentors.

Where will I stay at Lake Itasca? What are the accommodations like?

You will stay in single-gender cabins with approximately 6 - 8 other first-year students. The Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories is a research field station with modern cabin and restroom facilities similar to a state park. The cabins, restrooms, and shower facilities are cleaned regularly, and all meals are prepared on-site by our professional kitchen staff.


What should I bring?

To ensure that you are prepared for the program, we recommend that you pack the following items. Space is limited on the buses, so we appreciate you packing only what you'll need for the program. Review this list when packing for your session.


What will the learning modules be like?

With your small group of students, a Nature of Life peer mentor and a faculty professor, you will participate in a variety of lab, field and discussion experiences. Examples of modules include:  "Ecological Checkerboards" (an exciting chance to study and map ecology in a variety of environments), "Diversity of the Spineless" (a field-based look at diversity of macro-invertebrates), and "Investigating the Human Genome with Personalized SNPs" (an engaging discussion on the human genome and what you can learn through DNA testing). The modules at NOL @ Itasca are a perfect introduction to the way you'll learn biology in CBS - by doing biology!


Are there accommodations for disabilities or other specific needs?

The Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories is an accessible facility, and accommodations can be made for students with disabilities. Please note your accommodation needs in the registration survey and contact the Nature of Life program at  or 612-625-7799 with any questions.

What if I’m unable to attend my session?

NOL @ Itasca is a required component of the required Nature of Life courses and CBS education. You can register for another session by emailing  If you have unavoidable conflicts with the program dates, please contact the Nature of Life office at 612-625-7799 to find how you can still complete this requirement.

Who can I contact for more information?

You can reach the Nature of Life program at or 612-625-7799