Being a summer camp counselor has well-known benefits for college students. From building leadership skills to practicing time management, working as a counselor is guaranteed to improve on the personal qualities that make a great student.
That being said, being able to point to a summer of camp counseling on your resume has some other lesser-known collegiate benefits that you should definitely check out if you’re considering diving into camp life. Depending on your school and major, you might even be able to get credits on your transcript! If all this sounds awesome, read on…
Proven leadership skills to highlight in program admission essays
Getting accepted at your top-choice school is only half the battle. Many specific major programs require you to apply from within the school, and they won’t just be looking at your grades; just like college applications, they want to see unique experiences that set you apart from the pack.
If you’re considering a major in outdoor rec, education, psychology, or any other field related to working with groups and/or children, having real work experience will set you far above applicants with only academic experience. Camp counseling isn’t just a job; it’s a key selling point on your resume!
A leg-up for qualifying for work-study positions
Work study can make or break the college experience. If you get a good position that’s aligned with your interests and declared major, it can give you a serious bonus when you enter the job market after graduation.
Unfortunately, work-study is highly competitive, and sometimes there are only a limited number of positions available. Priority goes to students who can demonstrate that they have the commitment to do the job well, and the time management skills to balance it with their course load.
So, who do you think is going to get the job? The student with zero work experience, or the student with glowing employer recommendations from their summer of full-time employment at Camp Weequahic? You do the math!
Internship credits for special programs
If you’re looking at a track that requires extracurricular engagement, be sure to check if they accept camp counseling experience for credit. It could be that your summer at Camp Weequahic has already earned you a bonus on your transcript without even realizing it!
Internship and work experience requirements vary depending on your school and program, but even if your school doesn’t have a policy about internship or work experience credits, sometimes all it takes is asking nicely at the advisor’s office to get a special exception. And if they do have a program for summer experience credits, be sure to explain to them why your time at camp is a good fit. I guarantee they’ll love hearing about it and be very impressed.
Meeting with academic advisors can be intimidating, but trust me — they want to help you. You just have to show them how!
So what makes a great summer camp experience for your child? Awesome friends, a ton of fun activities and great memories, but most of all an amazing group of staff members. The counselors we hand pick to join our staff are really what makes the camp experience that much better for campers. But what draws counselors in to the Weequahic family? Let’s ask some of our new and returning staff members to find out!
Camp: “Sidney, this is your second summer. It’s great to have you back! What brought you back to CW?”
Sidney (Junior Girls): “I had an incredible all around experience last summer, so I had to come back for another. I was also really excited to see returning staff who have become some of my best friends. And, of course, I can’t forget the awesome campers here!”
Camp: “We are so happy to hear that you had such a great time. Tell us what your favorite part of this experience has been?”
Sidney: “I would have to say watching and getting to know the kids and staff has been an incredible experience. Forming the awesome relationships that make up the Weequahic family has been great too.”
Camp: “And what have you learned this summer?”
Sidney: “I’ve learned a lot being here; especially patience, how to work well with many different types of people, leadership, and how much the little things truly matter.”
Camp: “I would have to agree completely with that statement. One last question for you. What will you miss the most when you leave?”
Sidney: “I will miss waking up every morning and being here at camp with this Weequahic family. This camp truly is a home away from home and it’s because of all of the wonderful people here.”
Camp: “Thank you so much Sidney! Jeremy, same questions for you. What brought you to camp?”
Jeremy (Senior Division): “Well this is my first summer here and what brought me to Weequahic was the fact that I really wanted to do something new, but also fun over the summer. After my first interview I knew this was where I wanted to be.”
Camp: “That’s great! And what has been your favorite part of this experience?”
Jeremy: “I would have to say interacting with all the campers. No two kids are alike, even siblings! You have to approach each one differently which I believe allowed me to grow as a person.”
Camp: “Wow, that’s amazing Jeremy. What have you learned from being here?”
Jeremy: “I’ve learned that attitude is everything. I came into this with an open mind and a positive attitude and it has been the best summer I’ve had in a long time.”
Camp: “We are so happy to hear that you have enjoyed your time here! Tell us what you will miss most when you leave?”
Jeremy: “I’ll definitely miss the campers and my fellow counselors. They are irreplaceable. I’ll miss my co-co’s because they have gone through this camp experience with me from start to finish and I wouldn’t trade a single one. I’ve built so many great relationships with the campers and their genuine happiness and joy for life gives me energy each day. The first few days without seeing their smiles or hearing their laughs will be pretty tough.”
Camp: “Thank you so much for sharing that with us!”
On behalf of all the counselors and staff members here at Weequahic, we would like to say thank you. Thank you for sending your kids have one of the best experiences of their lives here with us. Thank you for giving all of us a chance to be mentors to your children. We have all learned so much from every camper hear and have truly grown to admire the wonderful people they are growing up to be. It has been an amazing and memorable summer that we will always remember and we wish only the very best to each and every member of the Weequahic family this upcoming year.
It’s interesting how many times throughout the summer counselors are overheard beginning a sentence with the phrase ‘I never thought I would…’ Working at sleepaway camp is truly a collection of ‘I never thought I would…’ moments. All too often, those are also the remarks that speak for camp itself, because they’re epiphanies from the staff members themselves. Although the “I never thought I would…’ comments are as varied as the counselors, there are a few that consistently come up. From the mouths of the staff members themselves, ‘I never thought I would…’
Make so many new friends
Sure, I came to camp expecting to meet a few new people. But I’ve made dozens of friends this summer from all over the world. I feel closer to some of them than I do to people I’ve known for years. I never imagined that I could grow so close to someone in just a few weeks. I’ve wanted to travel abroad for years, but have been scared of going places where I didn’t know the language or the people. Now I can’t wait to go knowing that my new camp friends are going to be there waiting for me!
Be so enthusiastic about little things
One of the most awesome things about working at summer camp is that even the smallest of details are a big deal. The campers getexcited and I can’t help but feel it too. Going to our favorite activity during the day; getting ready for an evening activity; walking into a meal and seeing that it’s my favorite; telling silly knock-knock jokes in our cabin at night; and, in particular, those moments when I really connect with my campers.
Like working so hard
Camp is hard work! I start early in the morning and end late at night. It’s TOTALLY worth it though! I’ve never had so much fun in my life. Sometimes I forget that this is a job and I’m getting paid. So much happens in one day of camp. At night, I lay in bed and try to remember everything that happened during the day just because I don’t want to forget. I’ve started keeping a journal of my days at camp. This winter, when it’s cold outside and I’m missing camp, I’m going to read it. I’m so glad I decided to work at camp instead of accept an internship. This is SO much better than an office! Now I know I want to spend the rest of my life working with kids.
Talk a camper through something difficult
There are a lot of activities at camp and some of them require courage—especially if you’re a kid. I can’t imagine having the guts to maneuver a ropes course thirty feet in the air when I was ten. I really admire so many of my campers for trying brave and adventurous activities. The best part is being able to give the ones who are a little scared that extra push that they need to take on the adventure. There is nothing more gratifying than a smile and a high-five from a camper who just did something they thought they never could and knowing that I helped them do it.
Live so much in the moment
At camp, it’s simultaneously easy and impossible to forget about how short my time here really is.Every day just flies by, which is also reminder that the end of camp is one day closer. I find myself really wishing that I could slow down time, and I’ve started making an extra effort every day to savor each and every moment of camp. Doing so has made me very conscious of how much time I spend in my everyday life planning and thinking ahead. It’s really nice to keep things in the now. I hope to apply my new focus on living in the moment when I return home at the end of the summer, and stop spending so much time thinking about tomorrow.
Become so attached to my campers
I never imagined that I could become so close to a group of kids. I came to camp to be their leader. But it’s so much more than that. It’s impossible not to be attached after spending so much time with them at activities, at meals, in the cabin and getting to know them one-on-one. It’s blows my mind to think that I’ve become so attuned to their individual personalities in such a short amount of time. The summer isn’t even over, and I already know that I’m going to miss them.
You’ve scored an amazing summer job at a sleepaway camp and the summer is so close that you can practically taste the s’mores, smell the camp air and hear your campers laughing. But before you can head off for the summer of your life, you have to pack. Packing can be a daunting task for first time camp staff. Even if your camp supplies a packing list, it’s hard to determine what you may be able to leave behind, if packing space is at a premium, and what you absolutely must have. Here is a brief rundown of those items that camp staff traditionally believe are essential.
If you pack these items, you are in good shape….
You’re working at a summer camp, and “outdoors” is an operative word in your upcoming summer. In fact, you’ll spend the majority of your day outside. Applying sunscreen often and generously insures that you do not find yourself very red and uncomfortable at the end of a sunny day and protects your skin from the potential long term effects of the sun’s rays.
Heat plus a lot of activity equals the need to stay hydrated. Whether or not your camp provides water, it’s a good idea to take a water bottle that can be refilled several times throughout the day. It’s also environmentally friendly by reducing the use of disposable cups.
Several pairs of shoes for all types of weather
Athletic shoes are essential. Multiple pairs, if you have them, are ideal. Most traditional sports oriented camps do not allow staff to wear flip-flops or open toed shoes for activities that are not water related. It’s simply unsafe in an athletic environment. So one or two pairs for water-related activities and days off are sufficient. A pair of rain boots or galoshes is always a good idea.
Bunk/Cabin games (Jacks, puzzle games, etc.)
These activities help facilitate communication with campers, and are so much fun while in the bunk or cabin during resting periods or rainy days. Some items are not allowed in bunks or cabins, however, so be sure you check with your camp to make sure that games and other activity items are permitted.
Some camps provide bedding. Other camps require staff members to bring their own bedding. If your camp requires you to bring bedding, it is a good idea to bring a thick blanket or comforter in addition to a thin one. Yes, it’s summer. But most camps are in rural mountainous regions, and it sometimes gets cool at night, especially at the very beginning and toward the end of the summer.
Lots of socks and under garments
A saying is among camp staff who return year after year, you can never have too many of either!
Athletic type shorts and pants are best for moving through daily activities, but it ultimately comes down to whatever you feel the most comfortable wearing.
A couple of sweatshirts or sweaters
Again, yes it’s summer, but the evenings can get a bit chilly.
Some colorful shirts and shorts (especially in your camp’s colors)
Camps often divide staff and campers into teams for activities by colors. So it’s a good idea to pack a rainbow of colors so that you are prepared to show team spirit when the time comes.
A few plain white t-shirts/tanks that can be dyed or altered for costume purposes…
You just never know at summer camp.
A bag for laundry
Eventually, you’re going to need to do your laundry at camp. It helps to have a laundry bag for easy transport to and from the laundry. (Many camps provide laundry bags- so check first.)
A couple of pairs are a good idea. There is a lot of movement at camp, and sunglasses are an item that is commonly lost, forgotten or broken.
Ask yourself, what will you be doing at camp? Will you need some type of special equipment that you need to bring. If so, make sure you leave room for it when you are packing.
Most camps are within a reasonable distance to a shop from which these types of items can easily be replenished. So you usually only need enough of these to last the first couple of weeks, if packing space is at a premium.
If you stuff your suitcase or duffle with these items, you’ll be in good shape for your first summer at camp. If you’re concerned that you don’t have room in your luggage for all of these items, call your camp to see if staff members are permitted to ship items to camp.
Whether you’re a new or returning staff member who is preparing to work at camp this summer, the decibel level of those first few days at camp are always a bit above what you anticipate. Of course, we hear noise every day. But camp noise is different than other noise. A camp staff member once relayed a memory of her first summer at camp. She recalled the shock of the day the campers arrived. ‘It was suddenly very loud,’ she said. ‘They don’t prepare you for that at orientation. Then again, there is probably no way they could.’ She is right. There is no way to describe what several hundred excited children who have been waiting for a moment for ten months sounds like. It’s certainly not noise pollution, though. It much more closely resembles environmentally friendly noise. It’s the noise of excitement, happiness and anticipation.
A strange phenomenon happens with environmentally friendly noise. You not only expect it, but anticipate hearing it every day. You don’t even realize how much you look forward to camp noise until the end of camp. When the buses pull away on the last day of camp, the quietness that settles over the campus is one of the saddest moments of the summer. You realize the kids are gone, and the summer really is over. Even after you return home, you find yourself wishing to hear the sounds that defined your summer–bugle calls to signal daily activities, constant cheering and laughter, mealtimes with hundreds of other people. Everyday noise just seems like noise pollution.
There aren’t many places children can go to be surrounded by positive role models that provide them the opportunity to develop relationships on multiple levels. For most kids, adult mentors consist of parents, coaches and teachers. There’s one place, however, where children are surrounded by mentors on multiple levels 24/7: summer camp. Most summer camps have very high staff to camper ratios, which means there is never a shortage of grownups from whom campers can seek guidance and leadership. Of course, everyone knows that role models are important in the lives of children, but we often simply forget to take the time to consider that having different role models is equally crucial until we’re reminded of this by the campers themselves.
A senior camper at one of America’s Finest Summer Camps recentlyobserved there are so many leaders at camp that you never feel like there’s no one to go to when the need arises. This is very true. There are coaches to help children improve their skills and reach athletic goals. There are counselors to provide guidance through daily activities. There are Head Counselors and Division Heads to help out with the bigger, more complicated aspects of camp. And there are Directors who make it their business to make sure everyone has fun and stays safe. Then there is also the myriad of other staff who work in camp offices, kitchens and health centers. Regardless of which role any of these people fulfill, they’re all working at summer camp for one reason: they have opted to dedicate their summers to having a positive impact on the lives of children. And, the campers’ best interests are their first priority. There aren’t many institutions that can make a similar claim.
As leaders and mentors, camp staff bring a passion to their jobs that anyone who makes a decision to dedicate themselves 24/7 to a job must have in order to be successful. They voluntarily give up sleep, time with family and free-time in order to be a part of summer camp and their dedication shows through their interaction with their campers. The relationship is symbiotic. Campers understand that staff find as much value in the summer camp experience as they do, which develops into a mutual confidence and trust.
Social learning is the psychological concept that places value on the necessity of good role models in the lives of children, which is perhaps why camp is an ideal place for campers to get the most out of being surrounded by so many role models. Summer camp is somewhat of a microcosm of an ideal society. It’s a self-contained arena in which people live alongside one another in an environment that is most harmonious when everyone supports the successes of those around them.
You’ve accepted the position and completed the paperwork. It’s official! You’re about to spend your first summer as a camp counselor. Naturally, a lot of people experience a few nerves in the days leading up to camp. After all, even when you’re a grown adult, leaving behind your family and friends to spend the summer in a strange place is a big deal, especially if you’ve never been away from home for an extended period of time before. If you didn’t attend summer camp as a child, working at summer camp holds even more mystique because you’re not sure what to expect. If first time counselor nerves are haunting you, don’t be so quick to call up and accept that unpaid internship filing paperwork in a stuffy office all summer and, for goodness sake, don’t accept that job at the hot dog stand in the local park. Instead, follow these tips to kick your summer into gear now:
1.) Relax! You are NOT the only first time staff member coming to camp. If you know no one else going to camp or have never been to camp, that understandably may be a pretty difficult concept to wrap your head around right now. But trust us! When you get to camp, you will be in good company. If you’re feeling a little bit lonely when you first arrive, don’t panic and automatically assume you’ve made a mistake. The majority of people who tend to be drawn to work at camp typically have laid back, easy going and open personalities with an extraverted bend toward making new friends. Chances are that after your camp’s staff orientation period, you’ll have several new friends for life and wonder why you ever even doubted coming to camp.
2.) Like your camp’s Facebook page and staff Facebook page if it has one. Social media has arrived and most summer camps are completely aware that the easiest and most effective way to communicate with their camp staff is through means such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. By liking your camp’s pages, you can make friends before camp, pick up a lot of useful tips, and even possibly connect with a rideshare if you’re looking for a way to get to camp. Most summer camps also now feature regular blogs. It’s a good idea to pop onto the camp webpage every now and then in the weeks leading up to camp to see what new blogs have been posted. Camps tend to post some blogs, such as this one, for which staff is the intended audience during the late spring and early summer.
3.) Don’t over or under pack. Packing lists are created by camp professionals who’ve spent enough summers at camp to know what you need to be comfortable for the summer. So read over the staff packing list, if your camp supplies one, when determining what to pack as well as what not to pack. Veteran staff members are also usually more than happy to field questions on staff Facebook pages, which makes them a good resource if you’re unsure about some items.
4.) Arrive with the right mindset; being a camp counselor really is the hardest job you’ll ever love. Camps tell prospective staff members this during the interview process…and they mean it. You are about to spend the summer working harder than you’ve ever worked in your life, and you will love most moments of it. There will also be moments during which you will question how in the world you ended up working at a summer camp and why you thought it was a good idea. Two things are essential to moving forward when these moments happen, and they’re actually most effective if you prepare yourself with them before you even get to camp. First, arrive with the right attitude. Yes, you’re there to work. You’re there to work hard. You’re also going to have a lot of fun creating amazing moments for and with your campers. Second, know what helps you alleviate stress or frustration and come prepared to engage in it should the need arise.
5.) Be in the moment. Yes, we spend our lives being told how important it is to plan. But at camp, it’s very important to be in the moment and be present with the campers. It’s how you’ll best appreciate the camp counselor experience as well. Summer camp lasts only a few weeks each summer, and things tend to move very quickly. On the first day, you’ll be looking ahead at a whole summer and thinking the end seems like a long way off. But on the last day of camp you will wonder where it went. Don’t find yourself with regrets on that day by realizing that you didn’t take advantage of every moment.
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.