We can hear the echoes of parents the world over now…’Start thinking about what? Now? We just finished filling out school paperwork!’ True. Next summer is ten months away. Trust us; we keep a countdown. Newsflash: summer camp enrollment is right around the corner. In fact, for many camps, new camper enrollment is already underway.
Residential camp attendance is on the rise. In fact, the American Camp Association reports a 21% increase in sleepaway camp enrollment over the past decade. One would think this has summer camp directors all over the country jumping for joy—and it does. But there is also a downside to the rising interest in summer camp. As much as camp directors would like to offer an infinite amount of campers a place at their camps, facilities and programs have capacities, which means there are limitations to how many campers each camp can accommodate and still provide the best possible experience. The solution for some camps is a waiting list. Other camps simply stop taking inquiries after their open spots are filled. For a lot of very popular premiere level summer camps, it means longer waiting lists for an already existing shortage of openings. In other words, admission is competitive, and if you wait until the weather starts warming up to start thinking about registering for summer camp, you might find yourself in the cold.
Ideally, if you’re hoping to have a first time camper next summer, you’ve already short listed several camps that you think are the best fit for your child. Maybe you’ve been avoiding making the final call because you prefer one camp while your child prefers another. Maybe you’re just not sure your child is ready for sleepaway camp. Maybe you still have a few questions before making it official. Whatever the reason, now is the time to pull out that short list and start narrowing down the candidates. Even if your child is looking forward to another summer of day camp, now is still a good time to start browsing the web and assembling a list of prospective camps. Thanks to social media, you can follow camps throughout the year and get a feel for the camp’s community. After all, you and your children are going to be a part of whichever one you choose for the next several years. So it’s important to pick the one of which you think your family could feel most a part.
While reviewing social media outlets and the camp’s website, ask yourself: How invested does the camp seem in its programs, facilities and families? Who is the staff and how are they selected? What is the camp’s policy about communication between campers and staff during the winter months? These are very important questions that delve beyond the sparkling lake and impeccably manicured grounds shown on websites or camp videos.
Summer camps are more than the sum total of their promotional videos as well. Use the opportunity to let social media help you get a better picture. You can easily determine parents’ as well campers’ attitudes toward a camp. A strong online community that shows enthusiasm for camp throughout the year is a sure sign of happy camp families.
Once you start to consider the details of what will make you feel comfortable about sending your child off for several weeks or most of the summer, the easier it is to select a camp, and the less likely you are to find yourselves on a waiting list because you quite literally missed your window of opportunity.