By Cammie Jones
You are either a camper or not. I really don’t think there is anything in between, at least not in my experience. If you do have a camper who wants to continue the camp experience after they have aged out of the camp, he or she may want to look into a summer job as a camp counselor. I can’t think of a better way to continue experiencing all summer camp has to offer than by actually working there. Here are some tips about what you need to do to get that summer camp counselor job.
1. Check Out the Camp’s Website
Needless to say but in this day and age, the best way to learn about how to apply is to either pick up the phone or go to the particular camp’s website to get information. This is where you will find the application, when to apply and other frequently asked questions about the application process. As for the age limit, most campers must be 16 years old to be an official camper. Usually there is a lengthy application asking for references, past experience and many more targeted questions to find your strengths. Many times there are many more applications submitted than positions available so make sure you really sell yourself. “Market your strengths,” says Mary Glenn Bowen, girls camp director at Athens Y Camp. “I love when I see girls say they love to lead worship or they played basketball at their high school or swam competitively.” This helps find the right niche for them at the camp.
Start browsing the internet for camps you may be interested in and start a list of places you would like to apply. Calling or emailing directly is a great way specific questions can be answered and also may help you get that personal one on one with those who are doing the hiring.
2. Leaders in Training Program
Many camps have what they may call a Leaders in Training (LIT) program for teens before they are 16. This is a great way for the camp to get to know the leader personally and will benefit the LIT to know if they really want to commit to becoming a counselor the next year. They program is usually a four-week program and may have the leader train with a counselor on a day-to-day basis similar to a shadow program. They will learn the ropes of being a counselor as well as life skills such as CPR and lifeguard training. Many of these leaders transition easily from this program into the counselor program the next year.
Bowen says, “These programs give the camp staff a first look at getting to know your children and learning about them.” She adds it’s hard to determine who would be the best camp counselor from applications from kids you haven’t met. Knowing the applicant personally always helps.
Experience counts, even if you are not part of a Leader in Training program. Including any outside activities on your application shows your interests and having a leadership position in any of these extracurricular activities illustrates your initiative and commitment. Be specific and sell yourself.
3. Open Summer Schedules
It is important to note that becoming a camp counselor is a time commitment. Usually the ones who are hired are the individuals who have the most flexible summer schedule. Being available to work all or most of the summer will help with continuity with the campers and personnel at the camp. Each counselor is given time off each week or month, and most camps work with vacation schedules. But, when tying to get your foot in the door, being available when needed may give you an edge. YMCA’s Camp Seagull in North Carolina asks their counselors to be available late May to mid August. They prefer to hire those who can be there all summer, according to their website.
Most camps require various certifications such as CPR and Life Guarding. More specialized certifications such as U.S. Sailing or Power Boating may also be required. Most camps will work with you to help you achieve these national and internationally recognized certifications. Check the particular camp’s website to see what is needed ahead of time so that you can be working on this in the off season. This will demonstrate your willingness and seriousness about becoming a counselor if you are proactive.
5. Application Time Frame
Most camp counselor applications are open all year round. However, in order to apply in time for the summer session, it is important to apply in late summer. If you don’t hear back from the camp, don’t hesitate to check in via phone or email from time to time. “Summer camp is a year-round job and camp staff can get overwhelmed,” says Bowen. “Have them check in and email if they don’t hear back.” Camp Seagull typically begins interviews in December and based on the volume of applications, interviews may continue into February. Most camps will continue to accept applications until all counselor positions are filled. By early March, most candidates are notified of their status which gives them ample time to plan for the summer.
6. Interview Tips
Because teens are so tech savvy and often communicate through texting or snap chat, it is crucial to be able to talk face to face. When you interview for a camp counselor position, your appearance and demeanor could make or break you. Dress appropriately for the position and look your interviewer in the eye. A firm handshake and good manners are important but so is how you engage in the interview process. Answer all questions with confidence but also ask question about the camp and the position you are trying to get. Know your stuff before you go so you can ask intelligent and pertinent questions.
Remember that the application process is competitive for many camps and if you don’t get the job the first year, try again the next year. Apply to several camps to increase your chances and hopefully, you will land the summer job of you dreams.
This article appears in the April 2019 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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