According to the American Camp Association (ACA), nearly 1.2 million people take on the adventure of working at camp each summer. They come from all over the world and all walks of life. Some of them are former campers while others have never experienced summer camp at all. Their educations are as diverse as their backgrounds and many of them choose summer camp over a traditional internship because of the unique, well-rounded work experience it provides. Whether the winter weather already has you thinking about what you’ll be doing this summer or you’re just browsing summer employment opportunities, it’s worth asking yourself, “Am I one in a million?” :
Summer camp staff come from all over the world. Increasingly, as summer camps recognize their unique position to promote a global community in a fun, relaxed environment, they are recruiting staff from near and far. The ACA reports that within the last decade “there has been an increase in the use of international staff to expose campers to different cultures.” If you live outside of the U.S. and you’ve been wanting to travel to the USA, summer camp is a great way to earn some cash while getting to intimately experience life here. If you’re an American and a trip abroad just isn’t quite in the budget, you need go no further than a residential summer camp to make new friends from all over the world—and pad your bank account while doing it!
If you think that being a former camper is a pre-requisite to being a great camp counselor, think again. Many camp staff members who return to camp year after year never even set foot on a summer camp campus prior to working at one. Like many of their colleagues, that one step was all it took. They were won over and continue to return each season.
Summer camp employment isn’t just for education majors and coaches. Increasingly, those with majors in the social sciences, sciences, math, engineering, and even medicine and nursing are finding a summer home at camp as an alternative to the traditional internship. Summer camp provides many unique experiences that one can gain nowhere else, such as a 24/7 commitment and the opportunity to simultaneously work with children and adults in a close-knit family type community. Summer camp also develops a diverse range of core skills valued by employers today. As a camp staff member, one must make split second decisions, be an efficient negotiator, use creativity to sell ideas and concepts, resolve conflict, solve problems, be an effective leader, know how to prioritize, be extremely flexible, accept change, and be awesome when it comes to multi-tasking. If it sounds like a big order, it is. But almost all who take on the challenge report that it’s also one of the most fun and rewarding experiences upon which they’ve ever embarked.
If you are an education major or a coach, have you thought of summer camp as an opportunity to build experience working with children ages 7-15? Working at summer camp develops many of the same skills that are often used in the classroom or on the field. Many educational institutions view summer camp experience as some of the most valuable on a potential educator’s resume.
How many traditional internships pay you AND provide you with room and board? In addition to a stipend for the summer, almost all residential summer camp positions offer room and board as part of their employment packages. What this means to you is that, potentially, everything you earn throughout the summer goes straight into your pocket…or your bank account, as the case may be. Even if you allow yourself a bit to splurge on sightseeing around the local area (many of America’s finest summer camps are located in some of the most beautiful parts of the country), it’s still possible to take home a substantial amount of cash at the end of the summer. This is particularly appealing when one considers how much rent and food can add up to over a summer.
If you’re looking for the summer job to beat all summer jobs, summer camp may definitely be your cup of tea. At summer camp, everyday will be a new adventure that takes you both indoors and out from sunrise to sunset. There are no cubicles, no computers (aside from computers available for staff to use on their free time), and no time clocks. And…there are beautiful surroundings, a camp full of campers who depend on you, a slew of challenges you never knew you’d face (and enjoy), and a circle of lifetime friends waiting to meet you. If you’re one in a million, what are you waiting for? If you are a college or university student, check your college’s upcoming career fair lineups. Many summer camps travel to universities to recruit this time of year. It may be possible to meet the first member of your future camp family in person. If your college days are behind you or there are no summer camps scheduled to visit your university, you can apply directly through Camp Laurel South’s web page.
Staff Orientation has been amazing and the weather has been spectacular. With counselors now assigned to cabins, we are focused on learning all about our wonderful campers, learning the Laurel South culture, readying the cabins and program areas and bonding as a cohesive unit. Camp looks great. In fact, the only thing that could make it look better is the faces of 400 campers arriving this Thursday!!! We can’t wait to see you!
Every summer you pack your children up and entrust them to the care of others for the summer. Have you ever wondered what sort of training is provided for your child’s summer camp staff? For summer camp staff members, the season begins at least one week before the campers arrive with Orientation.
What is Camp Counselor Orientation? Orientation is a week for camp counselors and other staff members to…
Become familiar with the camp’s expectations. Summer camp staff members participate in workshops relating to teamwork, camp policies, and child development. During this time, counselors are also familiarized with ACA standards and the importance of maintaining and exceeding these standards. It’s during this training that counselors are able to grasp that their new summer job, though fun, carries a lot of responsibility and 24/7 focus.
Familiarize themselves with their surroundings. Your camp wants counselors to understand the campus prior to your camper arriving. During Orientation, staff members are given every opportunity to familiarize themselves with their new surroundings, as well as which areas require special supervision.
Make new friends. Why is this important to you? Happy counselors make better counselors. As you well know as parents, having a proper support system in place is essential to the success of any parent. Those looking after your children this summer are no exception. Orientation is a time for summer camp staff members to become comfortable with their new co-workers and begin to get to know each other.
Attain necessary certification. Those staff members working in areas such as waterfront and outdoor adventure must have training and certification prior to supervising your children. For some staff members, this entails arriving at camp well before the camper arrival date in order to be fully prepared from the day the first camper sets foot on campus. Outside experts such as the Red Cross are often brought in to conduct lifeguard training. Outdoor Adventure and Waterfront areas also frequently utilize external professionals to train their staff.
Understand what it’s like to be a camper. Many camp orientation programs follow mock daily camp schedules and encourage staff members to participate in many of the same activities that their campers will throughout the summer. Most staff members live and function as members of groups during this period. The role play isn’t merely designed to give staff members an idea of what’s in store. It gives them the opportunity to embrace the camp’s traditions so that they can share in the enthusiasm with campers.
Receive very valuable and essential education to understanding and working with children. Summer camps take the well being of their campers very seriously and spare no expense in this area of Orientation. Big name speakers are brought in for lectures and workshops that educate staff members with the latest, most up-to-date childcare information and relevant laws. Counselors and other camp staff are left with no doubt or misunderstanding that the campers and their safety are the reason that they are there and, as such, come first.
Mentally prepare themselves for the arrival of campers. Even the most seasoned childcare professionals and educators can feel a bit overwhelmed when suddenly surrounded by hundreds of enthusiastic children who’ve waited ten months to see their camp friends again. By taking place on campus before the campers arrive, Orientation serves as a sort of segue from the camp counselors’ lives back home into their new summer lives by giving them some time to adjust to their new home and surroundings before the chaos that is summer camp ensues.
Finally, Orientation is an opportunity for Camp Directors and Senior Staff to assess how their staff interacts and identify individual strengths and weaknesses. This helps them assign camp counselors to cabins and bunks and age groups in which they’re likely to provide the best leadership.
So when you put your campers on the bus in June, you can bet that a very excited and well trained camp staff is waiting on the other end to meet your children and give them the best summer ever.
Finally, we close our trilogy of camp counselor tips with one last blog dedicated to you, future camp counselors…
Get ready to build your resume! Working as a camp counselor at a summer camp will provide you with some invaluable experience that will serve you well far beyond this summer. Many HR Managers in lots of different fields find summer camp experience very impressive because of the level of dedication and commitment required. Summer Camp also demonstrates that you can adapt well to new cultures, which is essential for success in many corporate environments. In fact, many corporate executives were once campers and/or camp counselors themselves. If you’re an education major, it goes without saying that experience working directly with children is a huge plus on a new teacher’s resume.
One final warning: As a summer camp counselor, you will act goofy, dress funny, and find yourself doing all sorts of crazy things you’d probably never ordinarily do…and you’ll have a blast while doing them. It’s what summer camp is all about. But what other job can you get where being an expert in painting faces, making signs, inventing outrageous costumes, and acting silly are all just part of your typical workday?
So there you have it! A few suggestions for preparing yourself for a great and successful summer. Have fun!
We promised a sequel and here it is: Orientation 101…
The first thing you should know about the orientation is don’t sweat it. Yes, it’s intense. Yes, it’s a VERY busy week and there is a lot to get done. We know that, by the time months of anticipation for your new summer camp job to start come and you travel (sometimes for hours or even days) to get to the camp and find yourself actually there, even the most staunch start to feel the butterflies. Remember that everyone with whom you come into contact those first few days is probably feeling the same butterflies—even returners who’ve done all of it before. But relax. Orientation is also full of opportunities. Opportunities to learn more about your new surroundings, opportunities to learn more about your summer camp and embrace its traditions, opportunities to learn more about your summer job as a camp counselor, opportunities to change your mindset and grasp expectations, and opportunities to make friends.
Speaking of making friends, be ready to make LOTS of them from all over the world! Sure your summer camp job will only last for a couple of months. But a couple of months are plenty of time to make lifelong friends when you spend everyday together. You may even find that you don’t need the whole summer to bond. You’ll probably be planning vacations to visit some of your new friends during the winter before orientation is even over.
Don’t over- or under-pack. Yes, we know that you’re going to want to cram your entire bedroom into your suitcase or duffel.. But the fact is that camp housing isn’t exactly spacious. Most summer camps provide their camp counselors with packing lists. Of course you’re going to want to bring a few personal items, but don’t stray too far from what’s recommended and definitely avoid packing the “DO NOT BRING” items. In other words, make sure your camp permits camp counselors to bring outside food onto the campus before you pack a stash of Doritos and energy drinks. It’s also a good idea to make sure you read the camps guidelines about permissible items, particularly those related to swimsuits and shoes. Once you’re packed, inspect your suitcase one more time to make sure you remembered things that are often easily overlooked or forgotten by new summer camp counselors, like rain gear or bedding (if your summer camp requires you to bring your own).
Chances are that you’re going to get a very important email or envelope from your summer camp very soon, if you haven’t already. It’ll have some pretty important paperwork for you to complete. Be sure to pay attention to the specified deadlines for each form. For one thing, you’re not going to want to be bothered with it after you get to camp. For another, not filling it out on time may cause pesky delays in important things…like being paid!
Well that about covers the orientation. We’ve still got enough tips left for you that we’re going to make this one a trilogy. Be sure to come back in a few days for the final part of this series!
So you’ve gotten a great job at a summer camp and are wondering what to do while you impatiently wait for June to get here…
First things first. You found this blog, so we’re assuming you want to know as much as you can before you leave. You’ve come to the right place! We’ve got a few suggestions for you…Actually, a lot. In fact, since we understand that you’ve come to this site to read a blog, not War and Peace, we’re going to have to divide this into a few different parts. But we figure that’s okay because they do it with movies all of the time, right? So without any further delay…
Have you started checking out your camp’s blog as well as this one? Many camps now maintain regular blogs and they frequently post blogs (like this one) intended specifically for staff members.
Check out the camp’s website, if you haven’t about a thousand times already. Even if you visit the website everyday and spend hours staring dreamily at the photos as you imagine images of you having the perfect summer showing up on the site this time next year, dig a little deeper. A camp’s website can also tell you a lot about the very special world that you will be part of this summer. Many camps have FAQ pages for staff members or special staff areas. They give you ideas about what to bring and what to leave at home. Some post sample daily schedules, which are a great way to familiarize yourself with how you will be spending your days. If there are videos on the site (or if the camp sent you one), watch them. Not only will you be ready to leave the same day, but it’s a great way to get to know the camp.
If the camp has Facebook or Twitter pages, join them. They’re another way to keep up to date on what’s happening and, as summer inches closer, the anticipation that builds is infectious. Many camps also post helpful information or instructions for staff members as summer nears. Facebook and Twitter are great ways to connect with other staff members before you get to camp. Not to worry, though. You’ll make PLENTY of new friends during your Orientation, even if you show up knowing no one!
Prepare to work hard. We won’t lie. Camp is one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever have. It’s also one that you’ll probably love the most. Every second of every day, SOMETHING is happening at camp. It’s all a lot to take in at first, but the chances of you making it through the last day at camp without shedding a single tear and hugging hundreds of people are pretty much nil-to-none. And you’ll probably be making plans to come back next summer before this one’s even over.
Well, like we said, we’re well aware that if you were looking for a novel, you’d be downloading the latest best seller for you Kindle right now. So we’ll call it a day for this blog. Be sure to tune in next time for advice about what to pack (and not) and some tips for orientation.