by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.Summer camps used to places for hiking, swimming, singing around the campfire, and other fun activities -- and while there are still many camps like this -- a growing number of camps are dedicated to college and career prep for high-school students from around the country.In the increasingly competitive college admissions process, some high-school students -- or parents -- are turning to college-bound programs offered by a variety of traditional and academic camps. And according to the American Camping Association, the number of member camps offering academics has grown about 15 percent over the last few years.Students and parents looking for that extra edge, whether in finding the perfect college, writing the admissions application and essay, or mastering one of the standardized admissions tests, are turning to both traditional camps that add academic enrichment programs and college-prep camps located on college campuses around the country.These college-prep camps are expensive, but they are sold as a small investment into a very important decision... most of these camps cost several thousands of dollars for two- to four-week sessions. And campers spend all day working on essay writing, SAT prep, mock admissions interviews, academic workshops, and college visits.Students often attend these camps after the junior year in high school, either to prep for college selection or to strive for academic excellence. But some college admissions folks doubt the value of these camps -- in terms of both cost and time. They cite better uses for the summer -- such as working, volunteering, learning -- activities that enrich the students' lives.There are some interesting academically oriented camps, such as a summer camp that prepares campers to be future business leaders, where students are placed into teams to develop marketing and business plans for fictitious new products -- with some sessions often led by local business leaders. And a summer investment camp, where students learn the basics of investing and handling personal finances, as well as raising money to start a business. And a summer camp where campers learn the value of environmental stewardship through classroom learning, laboratory experiments, and exposure to a variety of ecosystems.
Final Thoughts on College Prep Camps
Should you even contemplate attending one of these camps? If you are considering some of the most prestigious colleges in the country, then these camps could help you in better understanding and better preparing for the admissions process or enrich an academic area of interest, but if you are planning to attend one of the vast majority of colleges that fall in the middle (or lower) of the rankings, then it might make more sense to use the resources already available to you at school, in books, and online. It may also depend on how much time you get to spend with your high school counselor, how focused you are on college choice and major, and what other opportunities are available to you.It also makes sense to review references and testimonials for each camp you are considering -- and request statistics related to the academic achievement or college placement you are seeking with the camps you are considering. Some of these camps are big investments, so make sure you are getting the return you desire.
College Planning Resources for College-Bound Teens
Quintessential Career Resources:
- College Planning Resources for Teens
Academic Summer Camps:
- Academic and Pre-College Camps from MySummerCamps.com
- Academic Summer Camps from Education Unlimited
- Allen's Guide to Academic Summer Camps
- Camp Channel Specialty Camps Listings
- College Prep Programs from kidscamps.com
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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