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Parents, prepare for battle: A memo from your favorite cutthroat Boston summer camps

Application season is here. Dust off your credit card, set your alarm, and brace yourself.

Ally Rzesa/Globe Staff

From: Your Dream Greater Boston Summer Camp

To: Busy Parents Everywhere

Re: Helpful hints for crafting your child’s ideal summer

Date: January 24, 2024

Dear Parents,

Congratulations on considering summer camp 2032 for your child. This is a pivotal step toward fostering your child’s independence, enrichment, and sense of wonder, as well as a high-impact way to deplete your bank account and sanity.

We’re heartened that you have begun conducting this search eight years in advance, and we’re here to maximize your efforts. Ahead, please find helpful hints for camp enrollment, culled from years of family feedback and wisdom. We look forward to seeing you — and the wonderful child you haven’t conceived yet — very soon!


1. Conduct your research before applying to camp. This is mainly done via word of mouth on parenting message boards: “Is it true that Runnymede had a wasp attack last year?” “Can someone speak to the quality of origami instruction at the Sunny Arbors morning program?” “Which camp is cheapest and lets you just hurl your kid out the window without stopping?” Don’t be shy; this is how friendships form! Camp is about community.

2. Please be aware that registration for all camps opens at 8 a.m. on Monday mornings in the dead of winter. You will likely be commuting, forcing your child into his boots, or about to walk into a meeting when slots miraculously appear. They will be available for approximately 30 seconds.

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As such, we recommend you abandon all responsibilities and crack open your laptop no later than 7:45 a.m. At this point, you should also have a series of text messages poised to send to friends: “Are you in yet? No, are you? Is archery the only class left? Why isn’t this loading? Did the site crash?” Teamwork is essential, just like we tell our kids.


3. Be prepared to lie. Our forms require painstaking details about your child’s history of lice, their physician’s Social Security number, and your insurance company’s 12-digit PO box in Iowa. In the interest of time, simply write “Britney Spears!” into any open field. You can fill in the blanks later. We won’t check.

4. If you must upload a photo of your child but don’t have one, just send your favorite emoji.

5. Ensure all passwords are still working from last summer. More than likely, this will involve entering several wrong ones, having a reset link sent to an obscure spam folder, and creating a fresh password out of profanities and exclamation points, all while the clock ticks ominously. Please save this password for your records! Make sure it’s something you remember!

6. Did we mention that you should be a mom? Please consider being one before applying. Makes it much easier.

7. Note our hours: Camp runs from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. If you’re hoping to leverage camp as de-facto childcare, we understand: Greater Boston is expensive, and working is important. However, camp is probably not the place for you. Might we suggest quitting?

8. Camp sessions generally end in mid-August. We realize that school doesn’t begin until September, which is why we offer extended summer enrichment, which includes eight hours of movies per day. Please apply no later than 10 years before your chosen session — and do be sure to include a nonrefundable $500 fee. An extra $10 for our garden fund is appreciated.


9. Camp admissions are conducted on a rolling basis. We will do our best to notify accepted families before July. However, for peace of mind, we suggest enrolling in a minimum of six camps, whether you plan to attend or not.

10. For those of you with multiple children, a logistical note: Summer camps have uniformly decided to stagger their opening and closing hours. This is because new evidence suggests that family bonding is best conducted in an overheated car. Parents have told us that the two hours they spend idling at various circular drives waiting to collect their campers have been some of the most introspective points of their lives. We aim to foster this kind of self-connection among our parent community in an organic way.

11. If your child would like to be paired with a friend, please indicate such on their application. This does assume that your child and their friend maintain similar interests and remain on speaking terms until camp starts. Please commit to a long-term friendship with a child of identical tastes and temperament as early as possible. (See the back of this form for sample contracts.)

12. Please refrain from planning your summer travel until you hear back from admissions. Happily, this often isn’t an issue, since few people have any money left over for summer travel after enrolling in camp.

We hope this information has been helpful, and we can’t wait to see you in eight summers!



Your Friends at Camp

P.S. This column is pure satire. To my kids’ amazing camps — some of whom haven’t admitted us yet — we’ll take whatever slot we can get, and my credit card number is already autosaved.

Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com. Follow her @kcbaskin.