Highlands Biological Station is open to visitors. Masks are still required in the Nature Center, but are no longer required on campus, including the Botanical Garden. Highlands Biological Station is offering academic and public programming this summer. For the safety of the HBS summer community, before being permitted to work or study at HBS prospective summer students, teaching faculty, and researchers must provide documentation of (1) having received a Covid-19 vaccine or (2) a negative Covid-19 test taken within 3 days of planned arrival.

Applications are currently closed due to COVID-19


We require a $100 non-refundable deposit per application on all accredited courses (if you are applying for multiple courses in one application, you only need to send $100). Upon review of your application, including transcripts of your most recent work, we will notify you of your admission and include information on payment for credit, course and housing fees. The deposit will be applied toward your course fee.

We encourage you to apply early—by April 15—as classes often fill up quickly. We accept applications on a rolling basis until courses fill up!


For Payment, Course Availability and Credit: Katie Cooke, kfcooke@wcu.edu or 828.526.2602

For Housing Assignments, Course Information and General Inquiries: Jason Love, jlove@wcu.edu or 828.787.2820

Course Location

All courses and workshops take place on the campus of the Highlands Biological Station in Highlands, North Carolina. Most courses and workshops travel off-site each day for field trips to interesting locations relevant to the topic of the course. Highlands, North Carolina is located 90 minutes southwest of Asheville in the southern Appalachian Mountains.

Application Deadline

Course registration is open until the course fills. We encourage you to apply no later than April 15 because courses fill quickly. Applications are reviewed when received in full. Courses must meet minimum enrollment or may be subject to cancellation, so we encourage you to apply early—which will also help us with planning.


A $100 non-refundable deposit is required with each application on all accredited courses. If you are applying for multiple courses within a single application, you only need to send one deposit. Upon acceptance into the course(s), your deposit will be applied toward the course fee. If paying by check, please make your check payable to Highlands Biological Station.

Additional Information

Expectation of Work

Highland Biological Station courses are immersive learning experiences.  Classes meet for full days Monday through Saturday, and usually run into evening hours as well.  Students must be flexible as class times vary.  Field courses can be physically demanding, so participants should be willing and able to conduct a lot of work outside.  Most people do fine—if you are unsure, you can contact the course instructor with any questions that you may have.

As of July 1, 2011, the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 34, Section 600.2 (34 CFR 600.2), defines a credit hour as:

(1)    One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out of class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or

(2)    At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.

Based on this definition, we expect our students to invest at least 135 hours (the equivalent of 15 weeks at 9 hours per week) in our 4 credit hour courses and at least 45 hours (the equivalent of 15 weeks at 3 hours per week) for our 2 credit hour courses.  Student investment may take place in the classroom, the laboratory, the field, or in out-of-class reading and/or homework.


You are not required to take classes for academic credit. Course credit is usually easily transferable to other institutions, but the decision is up to your home institution. Check with your registrar’s office to see if they will accept transfer credit from UNC-Chapel Hill (undergraduate) or Western Carolina University (WCU; undergraduate or graduate). Two-week courses are worth 4 credit hours and one-week workshops are 2 hours. To receive credit, please send in the appropriate credit form upon acceptance into the course (we will provide instructions). A small fee per course will apply and must be sent to Highlands Biological Station upon acceptance into the course. Current UNC-CH students taking >8 hours during a summer session may need to obtain permission from their dean.

Course Level

Highlands Biological Station courses appear on the UNC-CH transcript as BIOL 459 Field Biology (section # varies). They appear on the WCU transcript as BIOL 493 Special Topics for undergraduate credit and BIOL 593 Special Topics for graduate credit. WCU does include the official course title on the transcript.


Copies of transcripts for your most recent undergraduate or graduate work are required with your application.


Payment is due upon acceptance into the course. Once admitted, you will be instructed on how to register and pay for all fees. Deadlines for payment will be included in your acceptance e-mail. Special arrangements can be made if needed. If you need an invoice for reimbursement purposes, we can provide one.

Financial Aid

HBS is fortunate to offer limited financial aid with the support of The Highlands Biological Foundation on a first-come, first-served basis. Aid must be requested at the time of application, and recipients must either be enrolled for credit, or be able to present a compelling case for need. In addition to your transcripts, two required documents must accompany your application:

  1. Statement of Need explaining why you need aid, and how your coursework at HBS is important to your education or work. Recommended length: 250 words.
  2. Letter of Recommendation from either your major professor, or a faculty member who is well acquainted with your academic qualifications. This may be e-mailed to Katie Cooke at kfcooke@email.wcu.edu in a timely fashion. It is your responsibility to confirm that we have received all financial aid materials.
Refund Policy

Should you need to cancel your course registration for any reason, please give notice as soon as possible.  Credit fees are non-refundable. Housing fees are fully refundable unless the cancellation occurs within a 30-day window of the class start date.  Course fees are refunded on a time scale.  If you cancel:

  • more than 45 days before the start of the course, you will receive a refund less a $75 processing fee
  • between 30 and 45 days before the course starts, your refund will be less a $150 processing fee
  • if you cancel less than 30 days before the start of the course, you will not receive a refund

Courses require minimum enrollment and may be subject to cancellation.  In the unlikely event that your course is cancelled, you will be refunded in full.

Honor Code

Students at Highlands Biological Station are considered students of the UNC system and are therefore bound by the University system’s honor code.

Housing Fee

The housing fee covers the cost of your room and board.  Highlands Biological Station does not offer any dining services, so remember to bring groceries.  Valentine House has a full kitchen and Howell, Wright, and Deacon Cottage have a shared full kitchen. Please bring twin-size linens.  Our dorms are a shared living facility, so plan on having 1-3 roommates.

Packing List
  1. Flashlight – campus is dark at night!
  2. Bed linens (twin size sheets, blankets, pillow)
  3. Towel and washcloth
  4. Rain gear (Highlands is in a temperate rainforest)
  5. Warm clothes for the night
  6. Daypack, water bottle, sunglasses, sunscreen, hiking boots, etc.
  7. Toiletries
  8. Laptop computer (we have campus-wide Wi-Fi but no computers)
  9. Notebook, pencils, pens, course materials
  10. Food, clearly marked with your name and departure date

Laundry facilities are available at the Station for those who wish to use them.  Please provide your own detergent.

Campus Policies

Pets are not allowed.  Firearms are strictly prohibited.  Highlands Biological Station is an extension of the UNC system and follows university rules regarding alcohol.  Alcohol consumption is prohibited outside of the residences and dining hall.  Underage drinking is strictly prohibited.


To receive mail during your stay, please use the following address:

Highlands Biological Station
Attn: Your Name (course name)
265 North 6th Street
Highlands, NC 28741

Mail is checked daily during the week. When we receive a package for you, we will email you and let you know it’s here.


We have a self-check-in procedure. Housing assignments are included in your acceptance e-mail, you will also receive an e-mail a week prior to your arrival with the access code for the door, which is changed monthly.  Please arrive the Sunday before your course starts. For cleaning purposes, you must vacate your room by noon on the Saturday at the end of your course. If your course meets that day, or if you have an exam, please plan to remove all of your personal items from the room that morning.

Application Checklist

___ Fill out your online application
___ Include deposit with application
___ Send transcripts (preferably with application)
___ Financial aid: statement of need & recommendation
… Upon Acceptance    
___ Pay course, housing and additional (if applicable) fees
___ Mail credit form and fee, if applicable