How to Choose a Summer Camp
Excluding Camps from Your Short-List (cont'd)
• Camp History and Director Background
Running a camp is not an easy task - there are a million and one small and large details to attend to. Most camps are successful because they have been in business a long time and have experienced directors and staff. All else being equal, you should have more questions about the director's background for a camp that has only been around a few years. Has the director held executive positions at other camps? Is the director on-site? Will the director supply references from past camp families?
• What is the Camps' Philosophy
Some camps emphasize non-competitive activities over competitive ones. Some camps strive to give urban children an appreciation of nature. What are the goals of the camps you are considering? How structured are their programs? Some camps have a rigorous daily schedule while others work to incorporate more free-time and electives. Also ask about the camps' discipline policies. Make sure you are comfortable with disciplinary measures that might be applied or witnessed by your child.
• How are Staff Recruited and Trained
A lot of camp selection advice focuses on staff to camper ratio. While lower ratios are usually better than higher ones, these figures more often mislead than inform. Some camps only report counselor to camper ratios while others include all staff (e.g. office). Ratios will also vary by activity. In general camps for older children need less supervision than those for younger ones.
Instead of dwelling too much on ratios, you can learn more by asking questions about how staff are recruited and trained. International staff have become increasingly popular at summer camps which has it pluses and minuses. Some camps develop staff internally through Counselor in Training programs. If the camp offers highly specialized activities such as rope courses, specialty academics, advanced musical training, qualified staff can be difficult to find.
• Facilities and Activities
There is almost nothing more that camps like to discuss than their facilities and activities. Do not, though, be satisfied, with just getting a list of everything that is available at the camp. Maintenance and age of facilities greatly affects their utility - a fifty year-old gymnasium just doesn't offer as many opportunities as a modern facility. If there is a particular specialty activity your child is interested in (such as paint-ball, go-karts, drama, computer lab, ropes course, etc.) make sure it is offered throughout camp and not just on a limited basis.
Often camp registration costs are not all inclusive. Are there additional charges for some of the activities? What equipment are you responsible for supplying and what will be supplied by the camp? What is the refund policy? If you are considering more remote camps, transportation costs might be high.