Author: Audrey Van Norman works for iD Tech Camps and iD Teen Academies.
When choosing an academic summer camp for your child, there are a range of factors to consider. Think about the following points, and use the questions to start a discussion with your child – after all, it’s their summer experience, and involving them in the decision is the best way to get them excited.
- Curriculum – The classes offered at camp should mirror your child’s existing interests and hobbies, and they should be fun as well as educational. Does your child want to learn how to make a video game? Is your child interested in programming iPhone® and iPad® apps? Will your child be engaged at a camp specializing in 3D animation? A summer education experience is more likely to be successful if a student is interested and willing to learn, so choose a camp specialty that will get your child energized every day.
- Class Size and Instructor Ratio – Does your child do best in large or small groups? Will your child receive personalized attention at camp? Find out the size of the entire camp as well as the size of individual classes – an organized camp should always be able to tell you their ratio of campers per instructor.
- Instructor Qualifications and Quality – Will your child be learning from a Counselor-in-Training or from an adult instructor? Adult instructors are preferable because they have more career experience and maturity. Does the summer camp have a high rate of returning counselors? Generally, the higher the return counselor rate, the higher the job satisfaction and the higher the teaching quality.
- Take-aways – Will your child be taking home any final projects that show off what they accomplished at camp? If you’re trying to set your up child for a competitive career path, starting a portfolio of their original work and projects could prove very useful. An impressive final project can even be used on college applications.
- Age Range – What age range does the camp serve? Ideally, classes should be broken down by difficulty and the accepted age range will vary by class. Consider whether or not your child is mature for their age, and ask if they feel comfortable being among the youngest or oldest of a group. If you have a teen, perhaps they’d be more receptive to attending summer camp in a teen-only environment. When the age range is restricted to an older group, campers often get more independence and experience a social situation that prepares them for college.
- Location – How many locations does the camp offer? How close are they to your home, and how far are you willing to travel? Does the program help you find carpools? Many camps offer central locations at schools and churches, and some specifically host programs at prestigious universities. This is ideal for getting students excited about college, and introduces students to studying in campus libraries and laboratories.
- Hours and Overnight Options – Does your child want to come home at the end of the day or stay overnight? For a full social experience, staying overnight is often a great idea. Time away from home gives students an introduction to being self-sufficient in a safe, controlled environment. Students can mingle with peers who love the same subjects and bond before curfew.
- Program Cost – How much are you willing to pay? Is financial aid available? Some camps can be expensive – but think about the skills your child will pick up, both academic and social. Weigh how much an edge on the competition is worth. Many parents ask their children to pay part of the tuition, and this actually helps students get more out of the experience. When students must work to contribute to the costs, suddenly the value of the program becomes clear.
Once you narrow down your search to a single academic summer camp company, many have course recommenders on their websites for matching student interests to specific classes. Check out course listings online and then call and talk to a client services representative – the people who run the camp will know what levels and courses are right for a student, and they can help with your final decision.
To aid kids and parents in finding the perfect summertime experience, CampPage provides a thorough listing of summer camps throughout the United States and Canada.