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7 Things That Matter When Selecting a Summer Camp

7 Things That Matter When Selecting a Summer Camp


Many parents and children have a "wish list" for the perfect camp. Maybe you're searching for places that offer a particular sport, utilize state-of-the-art technology, or present opportunities to earn college credit.

On the other hand, maybe you feel overwhelmed even knowing where to begin. Whether you and your family understand exactly what you want or you're struggling to make a decision, keep in mind these seven important factors.

1. The overall physical and emotional well-being of your child.

Just as every child is unique, so is every camp. Consider the needs of your child and whether or not a particular camp can meet those needs.

Ask the director, staff, and former campers to describe the environment at camp. Does it promote competition, cooperation, or both? What safety measures are in place? Are staff trained to deal with emotional crises, squabbles between campers, emergencies, and homesickness? How will the camp address any special needs or concerns you have?

Make sure that the camp you choose will contribute to your son's or daughter's physical, social, and mental development by reading testimonials from former campers, speaking with staff, researching the curriculum and mission statement, and visiting the camp ahead of time.

2. The quality of the program.

The more specialized the camp, the more important it becomes for you to check out the program's credentials. If your child wants to attend a camp for athletics, art, dance, gymnastics, academics, nature, science, or a similar interest, verify that the classes are led by professionals. Ask for some sample lessons to determine what your child can learn and whether or not the curriculum is appropriate for his or her skill level.

Even general camps should offer a quality program that balances free time with a structured schedule. If campers can participate in potentially risky activities like horseback riding or rock wall climbing, make sure the leaders are trained and certified.

3. The quality of publicity materials and the camp website.

The quality of a camp's marketing will often give you a good sense of the quality of the program. A camp that invests time, money, and talent into making a positive impression usually pays the same attention to the program itself.

Ask the following questions: Is the website easy to navigate, helpful, and informative? Do the marketing materials answer your most important questions? Are the graphics polished? Is the writing free of errors? Does the camp communicate clearly and honestly? Is everything well organized? Do publicity materials seem fun and exciting while remaining professional?

If a camp is on top of its marketing, that's a good sign that it's on top of everything else.

4. The experience of other families.

Of course, a sleek website or glossy brochure won't tell you everything about a camp, so contact other camp families to get the complete picture. Discuss their experience with this camp, the pros and cons of the program, whether or not their children would want to go back, and any tips they might have about registering or participating.

Keep in mind that people will sometimes give a scathing review because of one bad experience or misunderstanding, so talk to multiple families for an unbiased perspective.

5. Camper and staff retention.

Truly excellent camps almost always have high retention rates. Look up statistics about the camp, such as the percentage of campers who return and the average number of years that kids enroll. A camp with lots of returners probably runs a great program that caters to a wide age range and offers exciting new activities every year.

Likewise, staff retention shows that the camp treats its staff well, and satisfied counselors will work harder, have more resources and experience, and spread their enthusiasm to the campers.

A healthy camp will try to recruit new faces as well, ensuring that the program continues to thrive after the "veterans" have moved on. If this is your child's first time at camp, a balance of returners and newcomers will help him or her feel more included.

6. The quality of the staff.

A grumpy counselor can ruin an otherwise fabulous experience at camp, while a fantastic counselor can make a mediocre program well worth it. To judge the quality of the staff, speak with the administration, other camp families, and sponsors with firsthand insight.

Ask questions such as: Who is hired to work at this camp? Are counselors mainly teenagers, college students, or older adults? What kind of qualifications and experience does the hiring committee look for? Does the camp conduct criminal background checks? Do any staff have CPR, First Aid, or lifeguard certification? What is orientation like? Is it possible to get a copy of the job application or training manual?

Try to meet current or former counselors to understand their personalities, interactions with kids, energy, excitement, and professionalism.

7. A passionate camp director.

The director sets the tone for the entire camp, so look for camps with a passionate, capable, and experienced leader.

Does the director love what he or she does? Is the director fully invested in the program? Does he or she have comprehensive knowledge about how the camp is run? Would you trust your child to this person? Does the camp have a vision for the future that the director is enthused about? Is he or she involved in the day-to-day affairs of the camp?


Questions like these will help you discern the structure and atmosphere of the camp.

You and your family may have your own criteria when looking at summer camps, but if you pay attention to these seven aspects, any program you choose will be a great experience.



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