Summer Programs

Summer, it seems, depending upon where you live, probably can’t come soon enough.

Summer Programs

Summer, it seems, depending upon where you live, probably can’t come soon enough. For some, snow has been overly abundant, for others, way too much rain. 

For high school students, how does one make the summer count? It depends. It depends on what the needs of the students are.

School Credit

 For some, unfortunately, students need to either catch up on credits or need credit recovery. In that case they may need to do some online school or summer school options. Be sure to check with your individual school to see if they will accept the options you are looking at. Some public schools are rather restrictive with online options. Online may be a suitable option, particularly if the student has work obligations. But, there are programs that may combine school work in the morning, camp activities in the afternoon, study halls in the evening. 


As far as other options… I am a fan of camp. I think camp offers children and young adults an avenue to independence, a way to make decisions, learn a variety of skills and hopefully be technologically free. According to The American Camp Association ( “camp provides children with the opportunity to connect with nature, to participate in human powered activities, and to benefit from personal and primary relationships. Because of camp….so much is possible. At summer camp, when children make new friends, explore the world around them, and learn that “I can” is much more powerful than “I cant”, magic happens.”

Full disclosure: I went to camp for over 15 years. I went as a  camper, counselor in training, counselor and then head of camping trips. There is no question that camp had an impression on me, gave me tremendous confidence, built skills I never would have been able to accomplish on my own (water skiing, canoeing, life saving, leadership, ability to take appropriate risks, know when to step back, learned in a leadership role when to take charge and when to allow the campers to take the lead and much more). 

There are camps for everyone out there. There are the traditional girls/boys camps, travel camps, scout camps, YWCA/YMCA camps, specialty camps for every type of interest out there. 

So, what does a parent look for when signing on? Look for a seal of approval: American Camp Association is always a good start. States also require licensing. That is a start. This means that like schools, the camp has had a peer review of its operation – this will include: staff qualifications and training, emergency management, camper/counselor ratio, etc. 

Camp is a powerful experience for both campers and counselors. From a personal point of view, I can attest to that.  A very successful camper, now an adult runs a massive European style flea market in Chicago, not just any flea market, but an antique flea market. Sally will tell you she attributes her acumen to what she learned at camp- persistence, flexible thinking and appropriate risk taking. 

Passion Projects

Students should choose a summer program that lights a fire. In other words, the program should be something that enhances a passion. It could be music, a language, volunteering, but whatever it is, it needs to be of the student’s choice, and not to make the college application look good, and here is why. Admissions deans/officers can tell a mile away when a student is doing something to make themselves look’ good on an application. These admissions folks are looking for authenticity. 

There are summer programs for every conceivable situation on earth from travel to language camps- Great Books for the readers, service adventures, academia abroad and domestic, camp programs for students with ADHD/LD – combining academics, sport and adventure, programs at boarding schools. 

What is most important: making sure the staff and faculty at each program are well qualified. The camper/participant ratio is appropriate (and that doesn’t mean adding up all staff and figuring the ratio, it means how many campers/participants wilth one counselor/staff member  in charge of a group. As a parent, be sure to find out what the safety elements are within each program, who is in charge at night, evacuation, who has Red Cross training, background checks, etc. These elements are very important. 


Work is great. My son worked at Eddie Bauer for years. That was just as powerful as any extra curricular activity and summer activity out there. 

The issue with summer… probably too many options out there- a massive menu of what to do. But, being in high school, remember, this is a time to be a high schooler, and choose something that will be fun and memorable, making an impact on you, as a high schooler. 

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