Summer camp means something different to every camper.

For some, summer camp is a cure to the boredom that inevitably sets in somewhere in the middle of school vacation. When you can’t take another minute lazing on the couch, staring blankly at a screen, summer camp is there to inject a dose of active excitement.

For others, summer camp is a few weeks of fun and friendship, an annual tradition to anticipate year-round.

And for yet others, summer camp — academic programs, especially — is just another parent-prescribed chore. Students who are already burned out on exams and homework assignments find themselves sitting in lecture halls, gazing wistfully out the window while instructors drone on.

Can summer camp be more than an enjoyable break from the routine? Can educational programs offer more than the same-old drudgery of the school year?

Yes! A summer camp can change lives. The right summer program can:

  • Help campers find the courage to come out of their shell and express their true selves to the world.
  • Introduce students to fascinating subjects they don’t get the chance to explore at school.
  • Spark a lifelong passion and love for learning.
  • Give campers their first taste of independence (in a safe, supportive environment).
  • Expose campers to ideas, lifestyles, and perspectives outside of their hometown bubble.
  • Reinforce positive traits such as perseverance, open-mindedness, and curiosity.

When your child comes home from camp and all they want to do is talk about camp, you know the program has changed their life. How can you ensure such a transformative experience for your child?

It’s not an easy question to answer. First of all, there are thousands of camps throughout the United States (not to mention, around the world) to choose from.

Second, there is no single “best” summer camp. But there is a camp that represents the “best fit” for your child’s personality, interests, and learning style (plus other factors, such as your family’s values and budget).

Here at EXPLO, we’ve seen a thousand times over how the right choice of summer camp can transform a child’s life. We think this has given us some insight into the things most life-changing summer programs have in common.

Here’s a checklist to help guide you in your search:

  • A culture that promotes reflection and risk-taking. Staff and program administrators give students the support they need to step outside of their comfort zones and try new experiences.
  • A diverse community. Campers meet, work with, and befriend students from different parts of the country and around the world. Diverse perspectives are encouraged and shared.
  • A broad range of thoughtful programming. The camp puts as much planning into after-hours activities and weekend excursions as it does educational classes and workshops.
  • Choice. Students can chart their own paths throughout the day, selecting among an array of engaging options for classes, activities, trips, and even meals.
  • Access to top-notch educational resources. Students learn from leading experts in their fields and get their hands on the same equipment the pros use.
  • An adequate length. It usually takes more than a week to change a life. We find three weeks hits the “sweet spot.” In the third week of camp, students tend to turn a corner. Their confidence emerges, their friendships solidify, and agency takes a firmer hold.

There are practicalities to consider, as well, such as the quality of the food, availability of medical care, and transportation to and from the airport.

The Secrets to a Transformational Summer Camp Experience for Your TeenOnce you narrow down your list of potential life-changing summer camps, you can find out more by attending information sessions, touring campuses, speaking with administrators by phone, and connecting with reference families.

This checklist is just a start. For an in-depth guide to finding a summer camp that will change your child’s life, click below for your free copy of “The Secrets to a Transformational Summer Camp Experience for Your Teen.