Congratulations! You are working at camp! Huzzah!

Working at camp is a truly unique experience that brings together a variety of skills, life lessons, and resume-building opportunities. Don’t know how to plunge a toilet? Never had to share a living space with someone who wasn’t a family member? How are your skills in reading your paycheck and knowing what all those deductions are for? 

If your answer to any of these questions is a wide-eyed, giant pause, then let’s take a moment to look at a few of those life-skills moments that may present themselves this summer.

Rate yourself on the following on a scale of 1–10.

  • 1: Oh, wow, I have no clue.
  • 5: I have some knowledge of how to handle this situation/task.
  • 7: I have experience and confidence, but I am willing to learn more.
  • 10: I am an expert in this and would love to help out others.

Water Consumption

  • I know how much water I need to consume daily.
  • I know how much water I need to consume when the weather is hot.
  • I know creative and fun ways to get campers to drink more water.

Sleep Habits

  • I know how many hours of sleep I need to feel rested in daily life.
  • I know how much sleep to expect at camp (overnight camp).
  • I know how much sleep I need to feel rested in order to work a full day with campers.


  • I know how to do my laundry.
  • I know how to be a good roommate by managing my living space so we can live cooperatively and peacefully.
  • I know how to sweep, clean counters, collect garbage, and wash dishes.
  • I understand what a clean campsite/program room should look like.
  • I know how to manage my personal hygiene when my routine is different.

Job Skills

  • I understand what I am going to be doing this summer in my role at camp.
  • I know how to fill out all the precamp paperwork.
  • I know how (check, direct deposit) and when I will get paid.
  • I understand what all the stuff on my paycheck is.
  • I know how to read the daily schedule, follow it, and be on time.


  • I know what the cell phone policy is at camp.
  • I know the preferred method of communication for my directors/supervisors.
  • I know how to communicate with my directors in a professional manner.
  • I know who to communicate with if I have questions or concerns before camp starts.


  • I know how to handle my medication at camp and how to obtain refills.
  • I know how to manage my mental wellness to keep myself well and know what I need to feel better.
  • I can go without using my cell phone for extended periods of time.

Now that you have rated yourself in these areas, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I learn or improve this skill?
  • If I am proficient in this skill, how do I help others?
  • Who can I ask to provide me guidance in these areas?
  • When do I ask for help?

You might think this is really silly or super basic, but think about why some of these topics have come up. The last few years have been different for everyone, and we don’t all come to camp with the same set of skills (even basic ones). If we can do some prework before camp to understand how we handle certain situations and where we need to increase our knowledge, then we can better work with our campers. Campers will need guidance and care from us, but we can only provide that if we know how to manage it ourselves. 

Camp is an amazing experience where we ask our campers to try new things, step out of their comfort zones, make mistakes safely, and ask for help. We also want you, the staff, to do the same. There is no better place or group of people with whom to experience growth!

Good luck, and thank you for being part of this awesome journey!

Kelly Coulthard has worked within the afterschool and camp profession for over 25 years. Currently, Kelly provides consultation and training for youth-development organizations through her business Spark 2 Ember Consulting. She also serves as the co-chair for the Wisconsin ACA Local Council of Leaders.