Pack Your Bags
Summer camp for smarties
What’s your kid doing this summer? If the answer remains elusive, then you might want to think about sending him or her to the US to study computer programming or digital filmmaking, pursue an interest in drawing or dance, or go wilderness backpacking and white-water rafting. In short, it’s time to think about “summer camp.”
There are more than 15,000 summer programs in the US, so the trick is finding the one that suits your child the best. The greatest selection of camps target kids ages 13 to 17 (See sidebar “Summer Camps for Tweens” for information about programs for the younger set). Start with the American Camp
Association’s extensive search engine, though it only lists member camps.
First of all, understand that summer camp has changed a lot since you were young. Back then, “camp” meant a beautiful lake
surrounded by log cabins, days playing sports, and nights roasting campfire marshmallows. These so-called “traditional” camps still exist, with most organized by the local YMCA. They are relatively affordable, typically costing less than USD 200 per day. One good choice is the Maine Teen Camp (www.teencamp.com), which
specializes in welcoming international campers. Celebrating its 25th year, the camp is accredited by the American Camping Association and
offers a wide range of activities.
Don’t despair if your teen isn’t the log cabin type; there are many other great options. Of interest to most parents are programs that offer academic enrichment, located at well-known universities and boarding schools. The most prestigious programs are at Harvard, Exeter and
Columbia. Getting into these competitive programs is a bit like applying to college –
applicants must submit teacher recommendations and write an essay. Perhaps best of all, a successful summer at one of these programs may impress college admissions committees.
For an excellent program with later
deadlines, Brown’s program comes with
rolling admissions and offers lots of courses with
If the idea of academic enrichment sounds good, but the rat race of applying doesn’t, then check out programs that enroll anyone who pays. Almost all will have space available until mid-June of this year. A typical three-week program costs about USD 5,000 in total, not including airfare.
These programs, though less rigorous, also allow students to live in college dorms, take classes and have fun in organized activities at night. Top programs include Explorations (www.explo.org), Julian Krinsky (www.jkcp.com), ASA (www.asaprograms.com) and Discovery (www.summerfun.com). All have been leaders in the field for years and are located at schools including Yale, UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania.
If getting into college is the center of
discussions with your teen, then consider the many college prep programs. These have open admissions and focus on SAT prep,
personal statements and visits to local colleges.
Discovery and ASA are well-known providers, but individual schools (such as Georgetown) also offer solid choices.
For teens who prefer a more relaxed
summer experience, choices abound. If your child loves video games, consider InternalDrive or eMaginations, which offer programs in game design and 3-D software. Internal Drive has one- and two-week programs at 60 leading universities. eMaginations’ programs are at less famous schools, but their programs are broader in scope, which may help geeky teens become more well-rounded.
Athletic teens may enjoy the many one-week camps marketed by Nike. Most are staffed by a college coach and his or her team, and welcome players of all levels – they are not just for sports stars. You can easily find a great program for golf or tennis; Julian Krinsky’s programs, for instance, provide top-quality sports instruction in a fun environment and also provide SAT prep and college visits. There are also camps for more obscure sports such as water polo or field hockey. (Check out
If your child prefers theater, dance or the visual arts, then you also have plenty of choices. The best programs, like Interlochen and Parsons School of Design, are hotly competitive and require an audition or portfolio submission. Fortunately, there are also plenty of excellent but less competitive choices. For theater, consider Frenchwoods in upstate New York or Stagedoor near New York City; for the arts, check out Idyllwild Arts in California.
No matter what your child’s interests are, there is likely a great program available this summer in the US. The recession has pushed deadlines later, which means there are plenty of spaces available, even in the most popular programs. Best of all, a great summer camp lets you accomplish two things at the same time:fun-filled enrichment for your child and peace and quiet for you at home.