"An Experience That Counts": The Camp v. Program Dilemma

February 12, 2012
By Jessica Allen BRONZE, Highland Park, Illinois
Jessica Allen BRONZE, Highland Park, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Facing the summer before senior year, I had to make a decision that many long-term campers have to make. Can I spend my last summer before college applications back at my familiar camp, as a counselor? Or should I have an experience that “counts” more for a college application?
I went to camp for eight great years, including one year as a CIT. Eight weeks, every summer, in the woods of Wisconsin. I always thought I would go to camp until I went to college – camper, CIT, counselor. That was before I knew about college applications.
I was one of those girls with “camp friends” – most of them do not go to my school, and they were long-term campers, just like me. It wasn’t the content of what we did at camp that was the best part – the water-skiing, sailing, and canoeing skills that I will have the rest of my life. That was the backdrop for the friendships, the fun, and the late-night conversations.
In my case, I was considering a three-week summer course at an Ivy League college. I knew it wouldn’t gain me entry into that college, but it did sound pretty cool. The course was a combination of areas I am interested in – the mind/body connection. The place sounded awesome, I would meet kids from all over.
Doing something “for college” versus being a counselor, is how it felt. My parents were willing for me to do either, although they are pretty much the inverse of one another – earn money on my camp job, or spend twice that on a pre-college program. They left it up to me.
My high school friends were split; some were returning to their camps as counselors, others were day camp counselor, others were traveling and visiting or just hanging out near the beach. One of my friends is traveling abroad.
The night I decided was a night several of my camp friends chose to IM and text me. “What’s up?” came the Facebook IM’s. Several of them decided right after the summer that they were going back.
At first I was split about my decision; the new experience on a college campus really sounded great. Then I realized I wanted to spend my “last” summer with my camp friends, at the camp that nurtured me. It sounds a little banal, but I knew what I would get out of camp this summer would prepare me for college.
That’s really what I realized. It wasn’t an either/or. Nurturing my spirit and myself would prepare me for senior year and my college applications. “Don’t write about camp!” everyone tells me. And I probably won’t. Because camp is my rejuvenation, my personal spring of renewal. And I will go back, and see my friends, and realize that I am having an experience that counts, after all.

The author's comments:
After I made this decision, I realized there must be many other girls and boys like me facing this decision. I would love to hear how others made up their minds.

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This article has 1 comment.

scribel said...
on Feb. 18 2012 at 1:40 pm
I had the same decision. Thanks for writing. I still haven't decided.


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