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So you want to be a Camp Counselor? – Choosing a Company or Going Solo

So you want to be a camp counselor? Well now is the perfect time to begin the journey to becoming one!

The United States, Canada and Russia all offer large full-summer programs, with options in other regions available but on a smaller scale such as being a day-camp supervisor in Sydney, Australia or teaching English to kids in Europe.
By thinking about where you want to go and what type of camp you want to attend you can work out if you want to be placed at a Summer Camp through a company or if you’d prefer (or have to) go solo! There are merits to both options so lets break it down.

The Case for Companies

Today there are a lot of companies offering summer camp placement services and the easiest way to begin your search is through Google or your local student travel company. Depending where you want to be placed will ultimately decide on which company you choose, but if you are looking for placements within North America you will remain spoilt for choice.

But what do these companies do? After you fill in the paper work stating what type of camp you want to go to, your list of skills and a myriad of other options, they do all the hard work and match you up with a suitable camp.

They have dozens of camps on file which they are affiliated with and have sent other participants to and then received good reviews. A lot of the companies also send staff out to the camps each year while they’re in session so the staff have a better idea of the type of environment and people the camp want to hire.

Basically, you pay them to do all the hard work for you. All you do is fill in the forms, talk to them, and let the offers role in.

Pros

  • You don’t have to email hundreds of camps in hope of getting a placement – if a camp company takes you onboard they generally have a policy which means they will give you your money back if they can’t place you.
  • They have meetings fo you to get to know other camp counselors heading in your direction – more friends or travel buddies!
  • They have job fairs – these are great because you can pitch yourself to the camps you most want to go to. Don’t worry if you don’t get chosen on the day because they still have hundreds of camps which won’t be present on the day looking for counselors.
  • They sponsor you for your J1-visa without having to chase people about sponsoring you – without this visa you won’t be able to work at camp.
  • They can arrange all your travel arrangements – never booked a flight before? Have no fear because the companies can do that for you and if other camp counselors are travelling the same day they can arrange for you to fly together. Travel buddies!
  • A lot of companies offer assistance whilst you are in country at a camp – Usually a toll free number which can be rung at any time of day or night for any reason.
  • Easy way to claim tax – many camp companies have a special tax office which can help you when the financial year ends.
  • Other programs – many counselors, particularly those visiting North America, choose to spend the summer at a camp and winter working at a snow resort. Working with the same company can make it easy to go back to summer camp the follow year and you can get special deals if you take on a summer/winter package!

Cons

  • There’s a LOT of paper work – but it’s all worth it in the end… right?
  • It costs money – and they aren’t cheap
  • You get paid less – going through a company means the camp pays the company fees to be listed with them and in the end some of this comes out of your potential earnings

Rockin’ it Solo-style

Feeling confident or perhaps the camp companies don’t look after the region of the world or type of camp you want to work at. That’s alright because you can apply to work at summer camps without going through a company first.

Some camps are smart and list pages with the information on how to apply to work at a summer camp but even if they don’t they’ll have a contact page so email or ring the camp and find out how to apply.

Pros

  • You call the shots – don’t like the look of a certain camp? Don’t apply! Offer yourself to work pre-camp or post-camp from the get go, or work hard to get in contact with camps in one region or state.
  • It costs nothing but your time – that’s a few hundred bucks saved.
  • You have the potential to get paid more – if you know how to pitch yourself well to an honest camp you can get paid substantially more than your company placed buddies.
  • You can develop a relationship with the staff and management from the get go – and not be just one of the numbers when everyone else flocks in.

Cons

  • You have to pitch yourself to camps – there’s no one else there to do it so make it count!
  • You can get undercut – if you don’t know what you’re doing or have a dishonest camp then you can get paid significantly less than what you’re entitled too.
  • If things go wrong you don’t have anyone to rely one – if your an international counselor and problems occur you have to sort everything out yourself.

There is no right or wrong way when deciding if you are going to get placed with a company or try it out solo. You can even try both options if you start your hunt early enough like I did.

My experience and A Word on Researching Camps

I tried the mix approach. Whilst I was in the beginning stages of my application with a summer camp company I applied and pitched for a number of camps I’d read about and seen online (research, research, research!) in the end I didn’t get any solid replies so I continued my process with the company.

Despite the paper work, the company was really easy to work with even though it did cost me in excess of AU$700. For a 19-year-old that is a heck of a lot of money!

When I was travelling post-camp I ran into a girl who attended one of the camps I pitched to when trying to go solo and turns out the staff treated the campers and counselors horribly. Worst of all they treated the staff like dirt, including cutting the time staff were allowed to have off (there is actually a law about the amount of time staff working in a camp environment must have off) and fired almost all the international staff before the end of camp so they wouldn’t have to pay them in full. This lead the girl I met to be stuck in the middle of America with no-where to go and no money until her flight home in two-weeks time.

Learning about the girls story made me appreciate reasearching the camp I was going to be working at. I used Google and searched the camps name and read anything that came up, including newspaper articles detailing an incident which happened a number of years ago.
It meant that I had a better idea of what I was going in to and gave me some peace of mind.

So what are you going to choose? Are you one for letting the company do all the hard work or would you rather go solo?

 

For more posts about summer camp or how to work as a camp counselor, click the picture below! 

A List of Summer Camp Companies

  • CCUSA – Australian branch of a global company
  • BUNAC – UK branch of a global company
  • Camp Leaders – Australian branch of a global company
  • IEP – Australian branch of a global company
  • Camp America – Australian branch of a global company
  • AmeriCamp – UK based company

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5 Comments

  • Reply
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    March 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    […] you’ve decided you want to be a summer camp counselor. You have decided if you want to go with a company or try finding a job solo, and you have rocked out got your portfolio ready to take to the job fairs to show off your skill. […]

  • Reply
    Brooke
    June 10, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Hi !!! 😀
    So I have a burning question lol

    So I’ve been researching and researching like crazy and no matter what I’m going travelling haha
    I’m going to FIJI in a few months after uni finishes and then I REALLY want to go to America or even somewhere else (just anywhere outside Australia haha)

    Okay so my question
    How do I know what programs are legit and not a scam or trustworthy etc
    I’ve had so much research and at least all of these programs you have listed have some sort of bad publicity/reviews
    I just am so nervous about wasting money I guess cause I want to live life to the fullest

    Ok I’m annoying you now haha
    Thanks !
    Regards Brooke x

  • Reply
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    […] is Australian but she managed to land a job as a camp counsellor in the United States. I recommend this post on choosing a company to apply through, and this other post outlining the application process she […]

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