How Summer Camp Helps You Prepare For College
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Student Life

How Summer Camp Helps You Prepare For College

There's a lot you learn at camp that will come later in college

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How Summer Camp Helps You Prepare For College
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Going away to college for the first time is an exciting, new, and scary part of a person's life. Being away from home, having to get out and meet new people, and dealing with dorm life can really take its toll on a person.

So why didn't all this happen to me? I love my family but I never got homesick my freshman year. I have a shy personality but I met tons of people within hours of being on campus. Dorms? A piece of cake. When I wonder why I never had problems with any of these things it all boils down to this: I went to summer camp. I still do, as a staff member and I truly believe that going to camp helped me prepare for many things that college was going to throw my way. Whether it's just a week at camp or an entire summer, here's 5 ways going to camp will prepare you for college.

1. Sharing

When you're a camper at summer camp, you don't get your own private suite. You have to share a whole cabin, bungalow, or even a tent with other people. This close proximity means you have to deal with a lot of compromises. You may want your trunk to serve as a coffee table in the middle of the room but the rest of your cabin-mates may think it's in the way. You may have claimed the top bunk the first day but after the first night, realized you hate it. Guess who's going to have to negotiate with their bunkmate? You. (I mean, you can also get the counselor to help but then you'd be missing out on one of those life moments where you get to be an adult).

All of this applies to living in a dorm in college. You have a share a tight space with a person (or people) you may have never met before in your life. You may have different tastes, study habits, decorative choices, or times when you wake up and go to bed, But if you learned how to make it through a week, or an entire summer of camp sharing a living space with someone, then by the time college comes around, you should be ready to handle it.

Rooms aren't the only thing you have to learn to share at camp. You probably won't get a private bathroom. Instead, you may have to share a bathroom with your cabin or share a communal bathroom with the entire camp. In this situation, you have to learn that when there are a million other people with the same schedule as you who need to use the sink or the shower. That means a steamy, 30-minute shower or lengthy beauty routine at the mirror may have to be cut short. That. or you'll have to compromise and find a time when the bathroom isn't busy to get hot water and a sink to yourself. Another thing you may not be used to is that at camp, when everyone's using the same bathroom, your stuff can't stay. It may seem annoying that you can't just keep your shower caddie and towels in the bathroom but even a little clutter in a crowded bathroom can create chaos. Oh, and shower shoes. You're going to have to have a pair of those.

In college, sharing a bathroom can work the same way. If everyone on your floor or building has an 8:30 class, then chances are you might have to wake up earlier or wait later to get that quality bathroom you want. If you don't want your stuff knocked over, used, stolen, or even thrown away, you won't keep your shower caddie in the bathroom. Oh, and shower shoes. Yeah, a college bathroom may not be out in the wilderness like a camp bathroom, but it can still get pretty gross.


When you're a staff member at camp, one of the most sacred rooms in the entire camp is the laundry room. When you're sharing washers and dryers with an entire camp, then you may only get to do one load of laundry a week. It will be darks and lights together on cold. If you keep your laundry in for too long, then you may come in to move it and find your soggy clothes all on the ground because another counselor was wearing her last clean pair of Nike shorts and wasn't going to wait on the dryer. It can be brutal. However, you have to find the grown up way to deal with it, whether it's going to town on your time off to use the laundromat, or dissecting the schedule to find those perfect times to get laundry in and out.

If you're on your last pair of Nike shorts and the only thing standing between you and clean laundry is someone's clothes that haven't been taken out of the dryer, then you can remember the time when your clothes were thrown into a pile onto the floor. Instead of repeating the incident, you can be the adult who sets the example by getting those clothes dry and folded before you finish your own load. It might not be the most convenient habit, but it's a habit that people will take notice of. It's also a habit that will help in college when you're sharing laundry facilities with an entire building of busy people who will not mind throwing your stuff on the floor or even stealing things you have left in the machines.

So just to recap: At camp, you learn to share a bedroom, bathroom, and laundry. The mature decisions you make adjusting to sharing all these things in college much easier.

2. Free Time and Making Friends

At the camp I went to the day has scheduled classes and games but also free time. During free time you could go swimming, play in the gym and on the soccer field, shop in the camp store, or go to the volleyball and tennis courts, There was only one place you couldn't go during free time: the cabin. Why? Well, all the counselors are supervising outside so if an accident happens in the cabin, things could get bad. But there's another reason why the cabins were off limits. You couldn't just hide there and be by yourself. You had to use free time to interact with people who weren't just in your cabin. You had to make friends on your own.

College is a lot like this. If you just go to class and the cafeteria and then go back to your room, you will miss out on opportunities to meet new people or make lasting friendships. I'm grateful that when I was a camper, I had to swallow my shyness during free time and just go up to somebody and say, "Hi, would you like to go canoeing with me." It helped me later when I went to college. If there was an event going on but I didn't know anybody, I didn't hide in the dorm. I went to it and ended up having a ton of fun and making friends. Just like camp during free time, there's always something going on around campus. You just got to get out there!

3. Classes

At camp, there are three types of classes: 1). The class you signed up for, "Oh my gosh, I want to take archery! I'll be just like Katniss!" 2). The class your parents signed you up for. "My mom wanted me to take Nature Study because she wants me to know what poison ivy is." 3). The class you were placed in because you're top picks filled up. "They put me in canoeing class because kayaking class was full. This stinks. I hate this camp."

When you're stuck at camp for the week with classes like 2) and 3), it can be easy to take the negative route and ruin the experience for yourself and everyone else in the class. Or, you can impress the counselor by having a positive attitude and trying your best to make the class just as enjoyable as the class you signed up for. Who knows? You might get rewarded for it.

In college, you'll have classes that you are excited to take. They may be electives or classes for your major. Then there are Core classes that you have to take or classes for your major that seem overwhelmingly hard or useless. The best way to make it through these classes isn't by doing the bare minimum, but by being positive and working hard. And you will get an award. It's called a good grade.

5. Homesickness

When I went to camp the first time, the longest I had been away from my family was for weekend church trips. A week away from my parents and home was daunting but I had so much fun that the idea of getting homesick never occurred to me. That first year, one week of camp was enough but with each year, I wanted to stay longer and longer. Now that I've been a staff member for almost five years, I can't imagine not spending a whole summer at camp.

Not all kids have my experience. As a counselor, I've had to comfort many kids dealing with homesickness. So many factors go into this: they're intimidated by the craziness of camp, they're all alone and don't think they'll make friends, or sometimes they've never even slept over at a friend's house and now they have to spend a week away from home. It can be really tough. As a counselor, you encourage those kids to think positive, distract them with fun activities, and to remind them that you believe that they are strong enough to make it through the week. It's really rewarding to see a kid who was scared and crying for her parents on Sunday, leaving on Saturday not wanting to leave. I believe that if that kid could make it through a week of camp, then the transition to college won't be as hard.

Lot's of people don't just outgrow homesickness. For some, college is the first time they'll be away from home and family for a long period of time. Just like how you can confide in your counselor at camp, there are people at college who want to see you overcome homesickness like the RA, your friends, or orientation team leaders. I'm grateful my parents let me go to camp.

Was completely fearless when I was a freshman in college? No. Absolutely not. I was scared just like everyone else is. But once I had settled in, I realized that there were so many things similar to summer camp and because I had been able to overcome those, I could handle college. So that's my list of how summer camp prepares you for college. If you've never been to camp, I highly recommend going or working at one. Not only will the experience help with the transition to college but it's also one of the most rewarding jobs you will ever have.

Oh. Naps. You learn to appreciate them at camp and college

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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