6 Ways to Get Financial Aid and Scholarships for Summer Camps

Alina Bitel
Written by
for Camps USA
Financial Aid and Scholarships for Summer Camps

Summer camp offers priceless memories and invaluable experiences, but that doesn't mean it comes without a cost. Although the social skills, personal development, friendships, and fun acquired at camp are worth the price, some families simply cannot afford the tuition.

Fortunately, some families have plenty of options for scholarships and financial aid.

1) Research Local Scholarships

A specific camp, organization, or geographical area may offer financial aid. Browse a database like The American Camp Association's (http://find.acacamps.org/) to identify nearby camps and contact the director about scholarship availability and qualifications.

If your child has a special interest, such as fine arts or athletics, research related organizations. For example, Dance Houston (http://www.dancehouston.org/programs/summer-camps/212-scholarships) offers full and partial scholarships, and Koubek Basketball Camps (http://www.koubekcamps.com/) have scholarships for boys and girls in upstate New York.

If your family doesn’t qualify for financial aid, don't give up. Different camps have different policies. Your local Parks and Recreation department, community college, and library may have more information about camp scholarships in the area.

2) Find Camps That Participate in the ACA Camper Scholarship Program

The American Camp Association extends accreditation to summer camps across the country. ACA-accredited camps might participate in the ACA Camper Scholarship Program, which subsidizes camp attendance fees for diverse populations. The program is funded by donors and applicants are selected by camp directors.

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3) Look for Summer Day Camp Vouchers

Low-income and special needs children may be eligible for vouchers. For example, 1199SEIU Funds (http://1199seiubenefits.org/funds-and-services/child-care-funds/summer-camp/summer-day-camp-voucher-sdcv) lists day camp vouchers based on income for children attending certain government-licensed day camps in the Northeast. Ohio offers childcare vouchers applicable toward summer day camp (http://das.ohio.gov/Divisions/HumanResources/BenefitsAdministration/ChildCareVoucherProgram.aspx). Look at your city’s or state’s human resources website to see if a similar program exists in your area.

4) Contact Nonprofit and Religious Organizations

The social, emotional, and educational benefits of summer camp align with the core mission of nonprofits: helping those in need. SCOPE (http://www.scopeusa.org/) has sent over 20,000 children to summer camps in the Midwest, Northeast, and New York regions. First Scholarship Fund (http://www.firstscholarshipfund.org/scholarships.asp) grants teenagers full-ride scholarships to attend camps throughout the U.S.

Places of worship and faith-based nonprofits often have financial assistance for kids who want to attend a religious camp. For example, Hearts Afire (http://heartsafire.us/christian-summer-camp-scholarship-program/) provides scholarships for children ages 8-18 to attend Christian summer camp. Contact your local church, synagogue, or charity to see what’s available.

5) Sign Up for Counselor-in-Training Programs

Teenagers who love the camp atmosphere might want to become counselors one day. Many camps have counselor-in-training programs that recruit students to help the staff and to learn the ins and outs of working at camp. In exchange, students get both valuable work experience and camp experience for free.

If working behind the scenes at his or her favorite camp sounds like an opportunity your teenager would relish, ask local camps if they have a counselor-in-training program. Find out the minimum age limit for young staff, the age group your teen will be working with, eligibility requirements, expectations for the role, and whether attendance at camp is free for students who join the program.

6) Ask About Financial Aid

If you can't find an official scholarship or grant, try calling the camp director to work out alternative arrangements. In today's economy, most camps understand the difficulties of subsidizing your child's enrollment, and many try to help when they can. Ask if there is financial aid available or if you can pay ahead in monthly installments. Some camps also offer discounts for early and online registration, siblings who attend together, and campers who bring a friend.

No matter what type of financial aid you seek, it's critical to research your options thoroughly, talk with the camp director and other camp families, and apply as early as possible since many scholarships work on a first-come, first-serve basis.

You don't need to put your family in debt to send your kids to summer camp. Scholarships, grants, and financial aid are available if you're willing to do a little digging.

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