How to Choose the Best Summer School for You

01 Mar, 2023

Oxford Summer School celebration

There are thousands of summer schools available around the world, all promising to offer a life-changing week or twelve, so it can be tricky to narrow down a list of different summer camps you’d actually like to explore. So, without calling every single one out there, how do you find your perfect summer school?

With this guide, of course! Covering everything you might want to consider, from goals and interests to pastoral care, we hope this offers a helpful starting point as you find your perfect summer school.

The first thing to do when considering any sort of camp is to work out why you want to go in the first place.

Do you want to try out a Medicine Summer School before committing to a six-year degree at university, or just relax and get out of the classroom for a bit? Are you looking to make a network of new friends, or explore a new city?

You’ll probably have a lot of reasons for wanting to go on a summer programme, so ranking your most important ones could help you to narrow down exactly what it is you’re looking for.

What sort of summer programme is right for me?

Before you even start narrowing down a short list of summer options, it’s important to understand the different kinds of programme that are available.

 

1. Programme preference

Summer schools can range from outdoor adventure or sports camps to intensive academic courses, some of which are accredited or can count towards your high school grades. You might opt for a wide-reaching liberal arts camp, which would give you the chance to paint, sing, dance, act and more, or maybe you’d prefer something more focused like a language school.

The most important thing is to sit down with your parents and work out what it is you want from a summer school before you start really looking online. Don’t worry if your list looks quite specific – there are plenty of courses out there, so you’re sure to find at least one that’s a good fit!

 

2. Age and level

You’ll also need to make sure you find a summer school suitable for your age and level of education.

Some specialist courses might require you to have a certain level of skill before they accept you, e.g. proficiency in the language the school is taught in.

If you don’t meet the requirements for a camp you really like, don’t be put off! Treat it as a goal to work towards for a future summer, and look for similar courses which are better suited to your skills this year.

 

3. Co-ed or single gender?

Lots of summer schools are co-educational, meaning they admit both male and female students, and encourage everyone to work collaboratively together. If the camp is residential, rooms will usually be single sex, but buildings may be shared.

Co-educational summer programmes are a great opportunity to develop social skills and confidence in interacting with diverse groups of people, particularly for students who attend boys’ or girls’ schools during the year.

That said, there are plenty of single gender camps available if you’d feel more comfortable in this environment.

 

4. Residential or day camp?

The decision to attend a residential summer programme is a big step, but it’s also a transformational one for so many of our alumni here at the Oxford Scholastica Academy.

If you’re not quite ready for a residential camp yet, but you find one that you really like, bookmark it and consider it for a future summer when you feel a little more ready. Some summer schools offer both day and boarding places, but many are only set up for one or the other.

For children under 8 years old, you might struggle to find residential spaces, and lots of people wait until they’re twelve or older before staying away from home.

students at graduation

Location, location, location

When choosing a summer school, the location can be amongst the most important considerations. Whether you want to taste life in a historic university town or enjoy extreme sports in a beautiful lakeside location, the environment will have a big impact on your experience, so it’s important to put some thought into your decision!

 

Day camps

If you’re looking at non-residential programmes, then your job will be a lot easier when it comes to settling on a location – wherever you choose will have to be within commuting distance of your home.

It’s also important to work out how you would get to and from the school; if you’re looking at using public transport, make sure you would be able to get to any early-morning activities, and home from any later nights.

 

Residential camps

With summer schools where you stay overnight, you’ll have a lot more freedom with your location, which might make the decision seem more difficult.

Consider things like your budget, whether you’d like to travel to a new country, and the duration of the summer school. This is definitely a point to discuss with your parents before you make up your mind.

 

Places of interest

Some summer schools will only be run in specific locations, for example with a French summer camp, you’ll want to choose one running in a French-speaking part of the world to ensure full immersion.

Similarly, if you’re going to a summer school for university prep or to test out a subject you might like to study further, it can be a good idea to find a programme near a college or university you’re considering applying to.

If you’re keen to attend a more general camp, however, you have more options location-wise. Why not consider places you’ve always wanted to visit but have not had a chance to go on holiday?

 

What else should you consider when choosing a summer school location?

Other things could be important for the specific type of summer school you’re looking for. A watersports summer course, for example, might be better suited to a coastal town than somewhere that just has a small lake or a swimming pool. Likewise, a musical theatre camp might be more fun if it’s located near famous theatres, like Broadway or the West End.

The most important thing is choosing somewhere you’ll feel comfortable and have fun, though. If you want a hot, sunny vacation, northern Europe might not be your ideal location. Similarly, if you’re not a fan of big cities, check out some of the many rural camps available.

We know this sounds like there’s a lot to consider, but you’ll probably have an instinctive preference for most of these things. Again, you might find it helpful to write a list and go through the options with your parents.

Students working on an Oxford Summer School

Things for parents to consider

Siblings

If you’ve got more than one child and would like them to go to the same summer camp, there are some extra things to think about.

If they have varying interests, you’ll need to find a camp which offers varied activities, so they all have fun. Some schools also offer a discount for second and third children, which can be an important consideration when funding several children through summer programmes at once.

The final thing to bear in mind is that, while they might accept a wide age range, some summer schools are really tailored to older or younger audiences. Try to find one which really tailors its programmes to the different ages of your children.

 

Staffing

Different summer schools approach their staffing differently.

Some academic schools will have a slightly older workforce, made up largely of qualified teachers or academics. These are relatively uncommon, however, so you should be willing to travel if you’re set on finding one.

Lots will employ university students or recent graduates, supported by more senior staff. This is great for the students, as they can ask the staff about their current experiences at university and may feel more comfortable approaching them with any issues. Students also often get along well with younger staff, making it feel more like a holiday than it otherwise might.

In most places, all staff regardless of age will undergo background checks and first aid training before being accepted for the role – this is certainly true at the Oxford Scholastica Academy. When you’ve narrowed your search down to a few schools, feel free to contact them and ask any staffing questions you might have.

 

Health and safety

Especially important with activity and sports-based camps, levels of health and safety provision will be regulated by the local governments at most summer schools. If this is of particular concern for you, you could again ask specific summer schools for an outline of their provision, or for a copy of any risk assessments they have.

If your child has any additional needs relating to their health and wellbeing, have a chat with any summer camps before you book anything, to make sure that you’re happy with the level of additional support they’re able to offer.

Things for parents to consider

Pastoral provision

As well as keeping your child safe, a summer programme should offer pastoral support. This can include anything from comforting students if they’re homesick, to adjusting activities or academics to keep them feeling engaged, to helping them make friends.

Some schools have specific members of staff, like a matron or house parent, specifically on hand to deal with these sorts of issues, while others make it the joint responsibility of all of their staff. Many do both.

You should choose a summer school that both you and your child will feel comfortable with, and make sure you have emergency contact details for the camp to hand at all times. Most schools have at least one phone number which is manned 24/7, so if you or your child have any issues or worries at any point in the course, you’ll be able to get in touch immediately.

 

Level of supervision

As you might expect, summer schools will take different approaches to student supervision during the programme, particularly during free time.

Some camps, particularly those aimed at younger students, will have staff members living in dorm rooms with students and provide pretty much constant supervision throughout the programme. Others allow students more freedom, with unscheduled time outside of classes which allows young people to explore with their new friends.

If this will be your child’s first time staying away from home, you might opt for a programme with more supervision, and work up to one which offers more independence later on.

 

Your summer school budget

Summer schools can be found to fit any budget, with some offering scholarships or community-funding, allowing children to attend for free, and others costing upwards of $13,000.

Lots of universities and colleges will offer subject-specific, free summer programmes for prospective students from less affluent backgrounds, so if you’re looking at a particular school, that could be an option worth pursuing. It’s important that everyone involved in the search knows the budget, so if your child is looking for summer schools themselves, make sure they’ve got realistic expectations.

You’ll find plenty of amazing opportunities to suit every budget, just make sure to factor in any additional costs like travel and meals, as these aren’t always covered in full by the summer school.

Conclusion

We know there’s a lot to consider when choosing a summer school, but hope this has made your search easier. It’ll all be worth it when you have the most memorable summer of your life at the best camp for you.

So, in summary, what are the main things to take away as you start searching for the perfect summer school?

  • Work out what you’re looking for before you start the search

  • Location, location, location – the perfect summer course will take place in the perfect place for you

  • Consider you budget and pitch your search accordingly

  • Make a decision as a family

  • Book your place, and get excited for an unforgettable summer!

 

Ready for the best summer of your life?

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