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Preparing for College Life with Sleepaway Camp

Preparing for College Life with Sleepaway Camp

Tuesday, April 5 | by Sheryl, Camp Director
Category: Why Camp?

Most parents think of sleepaway camp as an opportunity for their children to get fresh air, get exercise, get new friends, get off their electronic devices, and (let’s be honest) get out of their hair. But if you intend for your child to go to college or be generally successful in life, camping programs offer so much more than that—even if your kids aren’t that big on the outdoors.

Sleepaway camp programs provide kids with core learning experiences that can subtly but surely prepare them for the challenges that come with college campus life. Sending them to camp now can give them the skills they need to navigate roommates, schedules, relationships, responsibilities, and adversity later. Camping prepares kids for many major elements of life on a college campus:

  • Leaving home. Going away to camp provides kids with a safe, low-stakes way to adjust to life away from home. Taking part in positive, healthy sleepaway experiences like summer camp now helps to reduce anxiety about leaving home for college in the future. Rather than being apprehensive or overwhelmed, kids who go to camp are more likely to look forward to college and dormitory life as an adventure full of exciting possibilities.
  • Adjusting to life with roommates. Sharing a bunk bed, tent, cabin, or camp site with other children helps kids acclimate to communal living with people other than their family members. It can teach them about the impact their personal habits have on others, how to be a considerate roommate, and how to resolve conflicts with roommates. This can not only make for a smoother transition to dormitory life, but also to life in shared housing after college.
  • Exposure to people of other backgrounds. Going to camp exposes kids to a diverse environment: they meet children of other races, religions, climates, cultures, and socioeconomic strata. This helps to broaden their worldview and social circles and teaches them to empathize with people who are different from them. It also helps them to understand various social advantages and disadvantages, which is a necessary foundation for promoting social justice later in life.
  • Exposure to different personality types. Living with other people outside their family—even on a temporary basis—can teach kids a lot about various personality types and how to get along with them. It also helps children to grow and discover more about their own personality, which will evolve as they interact with others. Kids will also learn that other people have differing strengths and weaknesses than they do and that this is okay.
  • Helping out and appreciating other’s efforts. Children who serve in cooking, cleaning, and other kinds of rotating camp duties are better equipped to pull their own weight as college roommates, dorm resident advisors (RAs), and community members. Having to do at least some chores teaches kids fairness and makes them more aware of basic domestic tasks that need to be done. It also helps them appreciate the tasks that others perform for them rather than taking them for granted.
  • Self-discipline and personal responsibility. Being required to get themselves up by a certain time in the morning and to arrive at specific locations on a schedule provides kids with excellent preparation for college and adult life. At camp, children learn that people other than their parents can enforce rules, and that there are consequences for not following them. This strengthens their self-discipline and sense of responsibility for their own actions. This is vital for kids’ success in college, the workplace, and adult life.
  • Taking Risks. Most parents think risks should be avoided, but taking positive risks (like learning to swim) can deter kids from taking negative risks (like trying alcohol and drugs). Kids who aren’t encouraged to take positive risks or cope with new situations when they are young are more likely to have poor mental health and take negative risks when they are older. Camp programs provide healthy, character-building positive risk opportunities that encourage kids to stick with positive risks as they get older.

If your child could benefit from early preparation for life on a college campus, consider enrolling them in a high-quality camping program near you. 

Surprise Lake Camp is a nonprofit organization that provides a home away from home for generations of young people. We believe in the value of community and friendship. Our Jewish values and identity shape our connection to nature. We’re dedicated to helping young people unplug, grow, and develop values, confidence, and skills to last a lifetime, adding to SLC’s storied history as the nation’s longest-running Jewish sleepaway camp.

Take the next step: explore our first-time camper experiences and request more information. Then come for a tour! 

When you make a charitable gift to Surprise Lake Camp, you give children life-changing experiences. You partner with us to provide campers confidence, growth, friendships, and Jewish identity. Donate today!