Summer Camps for Profit and Exposure

Finding activities for students during the summer has always been a priority for parents, especially when both parents work or when the household is headed by a single parent. Private colleges and universities can take advantage of this need by providing an array of camp activities geared to all types of students.

These camps can be very profitable to the university in terms of revenue but also in community outreach and recruiting. While there are many programs out there to provide summer study for high school students hoping to get a head start on college, this article is going to highlight a different sort of summer program.

Children of all ages can have a summer experience that includes fun and exercise along with learning skills at a private college or university in their neighborhood. In addition, many colleges offer residential camps lasting a week or more for students outside of the area.

On the revenue side of the equation, running camps maximizes university income potential in the summer months, says Ken Gilliam, who is the Director in the Office of Continuing Education at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. He has been running all types of youth camps for almost twenty years. Prior to camps, the cafeteria closed in the summer laying off the workers. Now it is not only open but also operating at full capacity during these months.

A Powerful Recruiting Tool

As for recruiting, these camps expose thousands of high school students to the MC campus and provides them with an opportunity to interact with enrollment services. It also provides greater exposure of MC to adults and churches from a larger portion of Mississippi and the Southeastern United States. They have reached 250 churches from 17 states.

Mississippi College usually offers between 19 to 21 camps during the summer months, ranging from 1 to 5 days for day camps and residential camps that are usually one week in duration. These camps include church camps, sports camps, and music camps. They generally host around 5,000 campers per summer.

The church camps–Fuge, Mission-Fuge, and Super Summer Mississippi–are run by outside organizations. Fuge and Mission-Fuge are run by Lifeway; the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board runs the Super Summer Mississippi camp.
The sports camps are run by the respective coaches in that sport. These include baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball, and volleyball.

Another private college that offers summer camps is St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. All of the camps they offer are residential; however, commuters can attend as well. Potential campers have many options: swim camp
(3 sessions), dive camp (2 sessions), music academy, dance workshop, theater camp, chess camp, and volleyball camp (3 sessions), making a total of 12 camps per summer.

Engaging the Community

Teresa Lebens, Director of Conferences and Camps at St. Olaf, shared that one of the primary benefits of hosting camps there is the opportunity to bring youth together in one place, sharing in their passion for a certain sport, musical activity, career path, or other common interest. St. Olaf hosts youth, adult, and family groups with the goal of engaging with a broader community and providing a space where people can collaborate by playing and learning together.

As for recruitment opportunities, Lebens explains, camps allow young people to test out St. Olaf as a potential option for college. They live in the residence halls, eat meals in Stav Hall, and hang out with new friends in campus buildings and living spaces. Campers may also meet their future coach or conductor during their stay on the Hill.

The St. Olaf camps are all run by college faculty and staff, a collaboration of the CCE office and the department associated with the camp- swim coach runs the day to day of swim camp, music faculty are the instructors of the music camp, and so on. In addition, the campus is the site for many third-party camps and conferences. St. Olaf is the host site for 48 third-party events, both residential and non-residential.

Gilliam stated, “Mississippi College is a beautiful campus consisting of state-of-the-art facilities, most of which would be otherwise vacant during the summer term. Camps not only bring thousands of prospective students to our door, but more importantly, they expose these students to Christian teaching.” He went on to say that hosting these camps assists in the fulfillment of the university’s mission of “service to the community through a variety of learning opportunities” and assists in the university’s vision of “commitment to the cause of Christ.”

“Partnering with Lifeway and Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, our most important common goal is delivering the gospel message,” Gilliam added. As for his department, the main thing is they want to ensure that each student has a safe, enjoyable, and memorable visit to the MC campus. “That is advertising that one cannot purchase and we hope they will remember MC when they make their university choice.”

Lebens made a point of mentioning that she knows many current students who first interacted with the college through the summer camp they attended. She hopes that her campers leave feeling like St. Olaf could be a future home, as the young people try to picture themselves as future Oles. “St. Olaf camps make a difference in the lives of many young people,” she added. “We hear this confirmation each year from parents, whether it is how their child improved on their skills, finally reached their goal, or simply found a like-minded and accepting community.”

Both of these private college campuses are ideal locations for summer fun and learning. Gilliam from Mississippi College and Lebens from St. Olaf College are equally proud of their schools and the outreach they provide to the surrounding areas and beyond.

About the Author
Sheila Wagner has spent the last several years working as a professional editor and recently became the staff writer for Private University Products and News. Wagner can be reached at