Making the Argument: Camp Creates Advantage

Over the last five years a growing tidal wave of research makes it clear that there are a certain set of skills that predict for long-term success in life — and those are the skills being taught at summer camp. Academic performance may help students get into a competitive college, but it is grit, tenacity, optimism, and self-control that will get them through to graduation. Most camp directors already know and understand this, but as an industry we can do a better job of making this argument. We must show parents that camp is uniquely positioned to build exactly the skills their children will need to thrive not only in college, but in their careers as well.

For example, did you know that Princeton’s Dean of Admissions has recommended that high schoolers return to their summer camps to be senior leaders and counselors (Rapelye, 2012) instead of other academic or resume-building opportunities? I didn’t know that until I started researching this article. You’d better believe that every prospective parent I meet for the rest of the year is going to hear about it though.

Did you know that in April of 2014, CNBC ran an item titled “Summer Camp May Improve College Admission Odds”? That link has now been posted to our website as evidence for prospective parents.

Have you ever spoken with a parent about the Partnership for 21st Century Skills? This organization has published reports that describe the critical skills major American employers desperately want from new graduates entering the workforce. The skills these employers have identified are exactly the skills that are built every year at summer camp: communication, collaboration, creativity, and leadership.

These are the kinds of statements that turn heads and cause parents’ eyes to light up. Parents may like the idea of sending their child to camp to be outdoors, make friends, and be more confident, but they feel compelled to send their child to camp when they believe it creates an advantage and sets their child up for success.

That camp creates advantage for kids is a winning argument that camp directors must learn to make. It is a winning argument not only because it’s true, but because it snaps parents from a cautious approach to an eager approach to finding the right camp for their child. It will help directors fill their own individual camps and benefit the industry as a whole if we broadly communicate that camps really do create advantage for kids.

ACA’s 20/20 Vision is a bold and ambitious plan for strengthening our industry and for benefiting millions of children. Let’s help make it a reality by learning to make a compelling argument from the ground up: “Camp creates advantage for kids.”

Rapelye, J. (2012, Sept. 28). Part 5: Answers from Princeton’s dean of admission. The Choice, New York Times.
ACA Camping Magazine: The Argument We Must Learn To Make: Camp Creates Advantage (Erec Hills)

2 thoughts on “Making the Argument: Camp Creates Advantage”

  1. Great post, Tim! I absolutely agree–I saw it in my own life and have seen evidence of those skills in my own children who have attended camp. I’m hopeful that they will have an opportunity to be on camp staff at some point to further that leadership development and the other 21st Century skills that are a part of the camp experience. Thanks for sharing this information!

  2. Thanks Debbie. In the summer camping industry these benefits have been known for a long time, though perhaps not publicized as much as may be important today. But then quantifying the benefits and tying them to current and future relevance creates a powerful argument for the value that the camp program can have. I am so glad that you have experienced that first hand with your own children. I know that for myself, working as a counselor and camp administrator for many years shaped me tremendously.

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