On a whim in my first year of university I started looking into how I could spend my summer. I knew I wanted to travel but that I wanted to do more than spend my holiday on a beach.
I happened upon the Camp America website and was hooked by the idea of spending my summer working in the USA. I can honestly say that, that chance google search led to two of the greatest summers of my life. Prior to my experience with Camp America I had never travelled on my own to a foreign country, let alone spent 2 months there. Camp America really opened my eyes to the possibility of travel and is a great way to gain confidence in travelling on your own. It is also a wonderful experience, a good CV booster and a chance to make friends for life from all over the world.
I imagine if you’ve found your way here that you are also thinking of applying to Camp America. Having gone through the process I thought it would be nice to summarise some of the important points about how to apply, along with tips to help you get placed!
The Camp America Application System
Applying to Camp America is essentially the same as applying for a summer job. However, the Camp America application system is the reverse of how you would apply for most normal jobs. Instead of applying to the specific camps that you want to go to, you submit a general application and recruiters from camps then log onto Camp America’s system and select you based upon their criteria.
The first thing you have to do is register with Camp America and set up and account – this is the really easy part and shouldn’t take more than a minute. Make sure your contact details are correct as Camp America will primarily contact you via email. Once you’ve signed up and confirmed your email you will have access to the application form with lots of sections to fill out.
The Application Form
This is the main bulk of the application and allows you to detail your skills and experience and to show your enthusiasm to spend the summer in America. It is worth investing time in this part of the application process as this is what will secure you a placement.
The prompts for each box are really helpful and you should try and fill it out in as much detail as possible.
Earliest Start Date
One of the first things you will be asked on the form is how early you will be able to fly out to the US. The early start date you can put the better! Many camps don’t start until early-mid June, with some starting even later than that but there are plenty of camps which start in May, so if you’re available – put it down!
Reason for Applying
This is often a difficult section to fill out in the word count. Just explain your passion for spending time in the US and why you want to do it.
There is a whole section of the form dedicated to your various skills. Generally speaking when you go to America for the summer you will be leading or assisting with an activity that you are good at eg. Football, Tennis, Windsurfing
Therefore, the best advice is to focus on the skills where you have lots of experience – especially if they are skills that are in demand. You can find a list of the in-demand skills on the Camp America website here: High Demand Skills. You will have the option to rate your level at the skill. If you are able to say that you are ‘Intermediate’ at any skills this will help your application stand out. However, don’t lie!
Make sure you write about all the experience you have, especially if you have leadership experience in that skill. Are you the team captain? Have you organised fundraisers or trips/tours? Demonstrating that you had the initiative to lead something, especially if you largely did this independently, will help set you apart in your application. Recruiters will be looking for people who will be able to lead specialist activities all summer so the more you can demonstrate that you know what you’re doing the better!
Although focusing on the skills where you have plenty of experience is wise, there is no harm in adding any other skills that you have less experience in but think could be relevant – that two weeks you spend coaching kids on a football team- throw it in! Everything you add only makes you look more enthusiastic in the eyes of a camp recruiter. Make sure you write about what you learnt from each experience and how you think it will make you a good camp counsellor.
If you don’t have many specialist/specific skills don’t panic! I spent both of my summers as a General Counsellor. As a General Counsellor you will usually have a group of campers who you will lead around to the activities, you’ll be responsible for getting them from A to B, helping out at meals and bed time and assisting activity leaders. If you don’t have lots of the high demand skills just write about the skills you do have and emphasise why your collection of skills would make you a good all-round counsellor.
In the form there will also be questions related to times where you failed or had to deal with conflict/compromise/something not going to plan. It is worth being able to reflect in a mature manner about these situations as Camp America want to check that you have the maturity to handle difficult situations which may arise at camp. You should use situations from your skill area/volunteer work as much as possible – camp recruiters will not be impressed by drama in your friendship group!
You can spend as much time as you like on this part of the application and it is worth reading through your answers and checking for spelling and grammar; this is a job application so appearances count.
This is a vital part of the application. Put in as much experience as you have working with children and/or vulnerable adults. Make sure you detail how long you have worked with children and what age groups you have worked with.
For your ‘profile picture’ make sure your choose a good quality, clear picture of yourself where you are SMILING.
For your activity photos make sure that they clearly show you doing your skill, if you can pick photos for your two best/most detailed skills that will work in your favour. Avoid team photos where it will be difficult to pick out your face from the crowd.
The Application Video
The video is not compulsory but it is the best opportunity in your application to show that you are enthusiastic, fun and will be an asset to the camp! If you can get a friend to help you it can often make things easier. Try and get footage of you doing your skill activities and make sure the video is cheerful and shows you to be an enthusiastic person. It will be nauseatingly embarrassing but will help your chances.
Be honest with your camp preferences; however the more open you are with your preferences the more likely you are to get placed. The one that often puts people off are the camps with Religious emphasis. It is important to note that you, yourself do not need to be religious to work at these camps – you simply have to be willing to accept and respect the religious activities and practices which will be taught at the camp. Additionally, ‘Special Needs’ camps are often also overlooked. Whilst having experience working with people with special needs is a bonus, very few people who apply to Camp America do. I myself worked at a camp for adults with Special Needs and half of the counsellors who worked there had never done it before arriving at camp and they all had a great experience. So, if you feel you would be up to the task, it is worth saying that you would be ‘willing to accept’ placements at these types of camps.
The rest of the application is really straight-forward. There is loads of advice on the Camp America website itself which you can always refer to.
Once you have filled out the application you will be required to pay a (refundable if unsuccessful) fee of £69 and choose your interviewer. There are loads of Camp America interviewers across the UK so you shouldn’t have to go too far afield to find one. They are often people who have gone to camp themselves so don’t be scared of the interview – they just want to make sure that what you’ve said in your application matches up to the person sat in front of them.
Good luck to those of you heading across the pond this summer! For those of you who are thinking of applying for next summer, I hope this was useful. Don’t hesitate to comment if you have any questions.