Open Letter to Parents of Counselors (and parents of campers, too, because your children may be counselors one day!)

Open Letter to Parents of Counselors (and parents of campers, too, because your children may be counselors one day!)

Dear Parents,

We realize you want the best for your child. Who wouldn’t? Being a successful young adult in the working world is a great goal for all parents to have for their children. But I have to share something with you that breaks my heart a little every time a counselor says it to me. They’ll say,

I really want to come back to camp, but my parents are making me get a real job. A real job? Ouch! That stings: not only because I used to be a counselor, but because I manage our counselors now.

It’s not that I’m taking it personally; it’s that I feel there must be something that’s not understood about the value of being a camp counselor for such a misconception to persist.

Everybody loves camp

So I’m reaching out to you again in order to make a case for camp counseling as not only being a very a real job — it’s not an imaginary job and it’s quite a demanding one — but far, far more.

Fortunately I’m not alone in this view. A few notable others also make this case:

·         In USA Today: Skip the internship, go to camp

·         American Camp Association Blog: 10 Reasons Why Businesses Should Hire Former Camp Counselors

·         New York Times: The camp counselor vs. the intern

I’ve also written several blogs on why being a camp counselor is an excellent form of long-term job and career development for the counselor, and also how that work benefits today’s youth in so many ways:

·         Being a counselor works

·         Hurray for counselors!

·         What makes a great camp counselor

I think that if you consider the counseling job from multiple angles, you’ll see that it is great training, a challenging personal growth opportunity, and immensely valued by employers.

A valid choice among many

If your child chooses to try something different, that’s one thing. We understand completely that today’s teens and young twenties have a lot of options presented to them. We certainly would never want to force anyone to come back to camp if they are being called to try something new. We also understand that academic, family, and other obligations come up, too. That’s just life!

But it is very hard on us when counselors tell us their parents are making them do something different because the parent doesn’t believe a camp counseling job has long-term value.

What about money?

Of course we know that working at camp isn’t the highest paying job. Camp Scully is about average when it comes to counselor salary, compared to the national average at camps. It’s a well-known fact that you can rake in more dough waiting tables for the summer.

Then again it’s a lot more than an unpaid internship which may or may not actually be providing the intern with training in the industry at hand (many interns complain that all they did was the three C’s — make Copies, run for Coffee, or Cleaned but didn’t actually learn about the business or industry at all). In that case, even the prestigious name of a business where an intern spent her time isn’t worth much if she can’t explain how it helped her Career.

Surely a smart young person can take away something useful from waiting tables, interning, or any job. But it’s my contention that that only goes so far in comparison with the leadership program built into many camp counseling jobs and which is very present at Camp Scully.

Trained for success

Parents, you should ask yourselves, “What will my child gain from the experience?”

Though counselors may not make a lot of money at camp in the summer, they’re also not spending much money on gas, food, lodging or entertainment except very incidentally.

The skills they develop and the leadership they polish, the resilience it calls out in them, and the multi-tasking and stamina required at camps are, however, immensely valuable. This doesn’t even include actual staff training and development sessions that directly address:

·         Communications with multiple audiences — campers, parents, fellow staff, superiors — in person, on the phone, and in writing.

·         How to think quickly in situations and adapt if things don’t go according to plan.

·         How to be creative in all situations as the counselor is responsible for the campers’ experiences.

·         What safety considerations and techniques are necessary to keep campers safe and to deal with illness or injury?

·         How to understand and risk assessment in decision making and leadership while still fostering a fun and relaxed environment.

·         Mastering knowledge of emergency procedures, practicing them in drills, especially the skill of staying calm in an emergency.

·         The art of work-life balance: long work hours versus taking time for yourself to recharge, avoid burnout and stay focused, on an even keel and energized. (Who doesn’t want that life skill?)

·         Honing the art of time management; getting all your work done efficiently and effectively.

·         Learning how to give AND receive feedback and evaluations with dignity and poise. THIS is a biggie in the job world.

·         Practicing positive problem-solving skills within groups both as the leader (as counselor) and as a member of the group (with fellow staff and superiors).

·         A process of individual development that helps the counselor learn more about how their own personality works in a group so they can rest into positive strengths, pull-back from any dominance, and push forth where she is meek.

·         And of course the BIG, BIG biggie: public speaking and presenting with confidence and creativity.

YES, we do this at Camp Scully in direct, subtle, and daily ways. And yes, all of this decidedly helps former counselors to land interesting, well-paying jobs after camp.

I welcome any parents to talk to me…in fact I WISH more parents would e-mail me or call me up to ask questions, pick my brain, and share comment or concerns. I’d love the opportunity to talk this through with anyone who has questions. Also please don’t hesitate to comment in the comment section or Facebook comments.

Fun And Safety — ACA Camps Set the Standard

ACA Accreditation means that Camp Scully cares enough to undergo a thorough (up to 300 standards) review of its operation — from staff qualifications and training to emergency management. American Camp Association® collaborates with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth-serving agencies to assure that current practices at the camp reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation. Camps and ACA form a partnership that promotes summers of growth and fun in an environment committed to safety.

ACA helps Camp Scully provide:

  • Healthy, developmentally-appropriate activities and learning experiences
  • Discovery through experiential education
  • Caring, competent role models
  • Service to the community and the environment
  • Opportunities for leadership and personal growth

Here are common question asked by parents.

What’s the difference between state licensing of camps and accreditation by ACA?
Accreditation is voluntary and ACA accreditation assures families that Camp Scully has made the commitment to a safe, nurturing environment for their children. Licensing is mandatory and requirements vary from state to state. ACA standards are recognized by courts of law and government regulators as the standards of the camp community.

How do ACA standards exceed state licensing requirements?
ACA goes beyond basic requirements for health, cleanliness, and food service into specific areas of programming, including camp staff from director through counselors, emergency management plans, health care, and management. ACA applies separate standards for activities such as waterfront, horseback riding, and adventure and travel.

What are some of the ACA standards that camps rely on?

  • Staff to camper ratios are appropriate for different age groups
  • Goals for camp activities are developmentally based
  • Emergency transportation available at all times
  • First-aid facilities and trained staff available when campers are present

How can I verify that my child's camp is ACA accredited?
Parents can (and should) verify the accreditation status of any camp at any time by visiting ACA's Web site at or by calling 1-800-428-CAMP.

If your child's camp isn't ACA accredited, ask WHY NOT?
Keep in Mind — Informed parents are best prepared to select a camp that meets their standards for staff, programs, safety, and facilities and strives to promote the welfare of every child. Read more . . .

Visit for more specialized talking points for marketing the value of ACA accreditation, ACA's outcomes research, and camp to parents. 

Avoid These 7 Killer Cover Letter Mistakes

The applicant's resume was impressive. The formatting was impeccable, the content was excellent, and he did a great job of focusing on accomplishments instead of job duties. I am an employer, I was impressed. Then I looked at his cover letter and thought about tossing that perfect resume into the trash bin. Many college students and recent grads destroy their resumes by accompanying them with halfhearted or downright terrible cover letters. While some employers don't bother reading cover letters, most do. And they will quickly eliminate you if you make these cover letter mistakes:

Using the Wrong Cover Letter Format

The applicant's cover letter looked more like a cut-and-paste email than a business letter. It had no recipient information, no return address and no date. The letter screamed unprofessional. Be sure your cover letter uses a standard business-letter format. It should include the date, the recipient's mailing address and your address.

Making It All About You

It may seem counterintuitive, but your cover letter, like your resume, should be about the employer as much as it's about you. Yes, you need to tell the employer about yourself, but do so in the context of the employer's needs and the specified job requirements.

Not Proofing for Typos and Grammatical Errors

Employers tend to view  typos and grammatical errors as evidence of your carelessness and inability to write. Proofread every letter you send. Get additional cover letter help by asking a friend who knows good writing double-check your letter for you.

Making Unsupported Claims

Too many cover letters from college students and recent grads say the applicant has "strong written and verbal communication skills." Without evidence, it's an empty boast. Give some examples for each claim you make. Employers need proof.

Writing a Novel

A good cover letter should be no longer than one page. Employers are deluged with resumes and cover letters, and their time is scarce. Make sure your cover letter has three or four concise but convincing paragraphs that are easy to read. If your competitor's letter rambles on for two pages, guess which candidate the employer will prefer.

Using the Same Cover Letter for Every Job and Company

Employers see so many cover letters that it's easy for them to tell when you're using a one-size-fits-all approach. If you haven't addressed their company's specific concerns, they'll conclude you don't care about this particular job. It's time-consuming but worthwhile to customize each cover letter for the specific job and company.

Not Sending a Real Cover Letter

Some job seekers -- college students, recent grads and even those with years of work experience -- don't bother sending a cover letter with their resume. Others type up a one or two-sentence "here's my resume" cover letter, while others attach handwritten letters or sticky notes. There is no gray area here: You must include a well-written, neatly formatted cover letter with every resume you send. If you don't, you are unlikely to be considered for the job.