So the moment has come! You are pulling up to the freshman dorm of the university that will be the home of your child for the next four years. Classes have been selected, a roommate has been randomly drawn and this is the moment of truth. So many questions pour through your mind: Will they make friends? Will they buckle down and work hard? Where will they end up heading after this? As a parent it is really easy to fret, isn’t it?
This is where (believe it or not) a great summer camp can help you. Here are five reasons why camp prepares kids for college:
1. Kids learn who they are at camp. Between school, sports teams, piano practice, math tutoring, church events, bag-piping lessons, homework and the general craziness that is our lives it can become easy for a child to get into a zone where they just move from one activity to the next without testing whether the non-essential things are valuable to them. Kids can end up just going through the motions. A good camp allows them to try new activities in a non-threatening environment. Everyone is learning at camp and this culture is very conducive for a child’s growth. Camp can give a child the ability to be more comfortable in their own skin and this is absolutely necessary in college.
2. Kids learn how to be away from home and succeed. This is a tough one, but ultimately we want our kids to be able to meet the new randomly selected college roommate and have enough experience meeting new people (and living with them) not to get overwhelmed. At camp you meet people from all over the world. And at good camps you learn how to accomplish exciting goals together with those people. There is no doubt that a boy or girl who has been coming to camp since they were eight will have little to no trouble in the randomly selected roommate situation. They know how to work with people because they have done it before at camp.
3. Kids learn how to care for themselves. I think the most funny parent comments I get after our summers are, “Who is this child that now takes care of his things?” or “How did you get my child to begin making their own bed?” The answer is that they were a part of a little community that wanted to win a pizza party for the cleanest cabin! But along the way they learned to take care of themselves and they had a ton of fun doing it. Certainly, this is something that will serve them well in college.
4. Kids see what good leadership looks like. Campers learn this from college aged counselors who are carefully shepherding the cabin. Their care and actions almost always reinforce and validate the good “suggestions” that mom and dad have made back home but for some reason when a cool rock climbing counselor tells you about making wise decisions it all suddenly becomes clear. We learn best when things are modeled for us. Watching a thoughtful, college-aged person interact with people gives campers a model for the leadership that they will use in college.
5. Kids learn a healthy level of competition. Let’s face it, in this world, competition is unavoidable. At camp children learn both to succeed and fail together (it is nice doing things with friends), and this is part of the growth process. Learning how to get up after a loss is invaluable for us to learn. College is a time where a lot is on the line really for the first time. A fear of competition or unhealthy love of it can be harmful. A good camp can help children learn a good balance.
Do yourself a favor — if you are tempted to worry about your child going off to college, find a great summer camp to help them develop the necessary shock-absorbers for the bumps of life. There is no need to worry that your child will be unprepared for this new experience.
Dan Singletary has been the director of Camp Timberlake for boys in Black Mountain, North Carolina for eleven years and has an unhealthy passion for fly-fishing and barbeque. Read the original blog post at www.camptimberlake.com/2013/12/worried-sending-child-college-summer-camp-can-help/.
Photo courtesy of Skyline Camp and Retreat Center, Almont, Michigan