College Programs

Not just a Camp Expert

by Karen Meister

This was a great summer!  I have been fortunate to receive feedback from so many of the families I have sent on summer experiences.  But there were a few special phone calls worth sharing because they represent situations in which many may find themselves.  And these types of calls make my “job” as your Camp Expert so very rewarding.


I spoke to a mom during the summer regarding homesickness.  Her child suffered a couple of years ago, skipped camp the following year, and then went to a new camp this year.  Mom was hoping the change in camp would alleviate the problem, but alas, this was not the case.  Because she was concerned that homesickness would be a problem, arrangements were made to allow phone calls to be made home.  Although she loved the activities, she was unhappy.  Mom agreed that

The goal was to help her daughter overcome her homesickness and successfully enjoy camp.   

- The plan:  I suggested she call the camp director AND the front line counselor and ask them to be part of the team to help her daughter find success at camp.  The camp diverted her away from using phone calls as a way to solve problems and the mom was not going to be available every second to receive a call if in fact, it came in.  The child had a go-to counselor for the special time, special hug or anything she needed during her stay.

The result:  mom called and said that her daughter is happy, healthy, and wants to stay at camp.

The lesson:  feeling homesick is a normal transition for many people (including adults).  

Teen Programs and Options

by Karen Meister

I will be spending the next couple of days meeting, greeting and learning about new and exciting programs for teens.  I have spoken with so many parents who all agree — we wish we could attend these programs today!!  They are amazing.  But beyond amazing, these programs are designed to help teens learn about our global world, the good, the bad and most importantly… the different.

Even within the United States, there are “different” types of people, environments, opportunities, needs and more.  When my youngest son left his cozy and beloved camp after 7 years of being there, he was sure he would never have an experience quite like camp.  Knowing what I knew about available opportunities, I was not going to permit him to stay one more year at a place that was terrific, but “same old”.  It was time to push him out of his summer “nest” and expose him to so much more….

Travel was his choice… and he got to see a good portion of the United States… places that I have never visited.  He would call from yet the next great place and say, “Mom, you will just love this place.  You have to go here!”  Needless to say, the push out of the nest was absolutely successful and to this day (now almost 10 years later), he is a willing and eager traveler.  The fire was lit, the passion was created and he became multidimensional as a teen.

But alas, there are so many ways to open the eyes of our somewhat entitled, somewhat shy, somewhat confident or non-confident teenagers.  So next week, I will be learning about specific programs in the following categories:


Are they gone yet?

by Karen Meister

The planning and packing are complete.  School has ended and now the waiting begins…. for many.  So many camps and teen programs start right after Father’s Day.

So, what do you do from now until then?  If you planned well, the kids are either doing pre-summer programs like day camps or “mommy” camp or your teens are sleeping in and happy to do a little down time.  You may have even planned a family trip for pre-camp weeks.  I am loving the pictures I see on Facebook of all the activities — from the Islands to Europe to up in Canada to stay-cations — we do live in Paradise!

Now, if you did not plan well for this time, you have extra humans in the house ALL THE TIME!!  If you are both working parents, you may have a caregiver in the house for the full day and I’m sure you are coming home to slight chaos.  If you are at home with the kids, then you are either having a great time meeting other friends and their kids for some low key activities OR you are spending plenty of money on activities to keep the kids busy.

TICK TOCK TICK TOCK!! When are they leaving for camp????

The kids want to leave and you are happy too.  And that is what it is supposed to be like.  You are not getting rid of your kids.  You are exposing them to learning ne wthings, meeting new people and growing independently.

Now, what about you?  What will you be doing this summer with the extra time you have while the kids are away?  Yes, yes, the closet cleaning is always top of the list.  

Returning Home

by Karen Meister

“Re-entry for grown-ups vs. kids”….

A trip of a lifetime…. saved my pennies, took time (when for business reasons, didn’t have it to take), saw the greatest players in tennis in the most fantastic tennis facility in Melbourne, Australia, beautiful sites, great food, terrific friends, the stressors of home and work life disappeared for a glorious two weeks, and my electronic communication was limited to the hotel room where I had wi-fi…..

And now I’m back.  Exhausted, jet lagged, need to take care of business, back to the routine of daily life, and I have a bit of a cold.

Why do I share these details?  Certainly not to complain… not my nature.  But…

WHAT IS RE-ENTRY LIKE FOR YOUR KIDS AT THE END OF THE SUMMER  And how close to the start of school should you allow them to stay away?

Summer camp, summer trips, summer experiences take your kids on a new adventure.  And they leave the cares, woes, stressors and most importantly, electronics behind.  The longer they get to be away from home and imbedded in their different world, the greater is the long term  impact on their new behaviors and ability to maintain calm and order.

Yes, most certainly re-entry can be challenging.  And the older the child, the longer it does take to adjust to returning home.  Why?

The younger child comes home, has lot to share, needs a really good bath from head to toe and back, and clean sheets for sleeping.  And that’s it!  They may need to brush up on a little reading to get the cobwebs out of their academic portion of their brains.  

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

by Karen Meister

Now is the best time to plan your summer.

IT SOUNDS CRAZY!!  But you can find deals and take your time to make sure everyone gets what they want/need.

So here is the step by step plan to make a perfect summer.

1.   Plot out your summer on a weekly basis.

Here is a handy link to print out a monthly calendar for your needs.  Enter critical dates like the end of school, start of school and any special occasions during the summer.

2.   Identify Summer Goals for you and the household.

A few items you may want to consider are:

  • a family vacation
  • summer camp
  • a grown up vacation without the kids
  • redoing a bathroom while the kids may be out of town
  • organizing your office area in your home
  • putting together the photos that you have meant to tackle for the longest time
  • learning how to……

There are so many items that could be on your bucket list, it is time to identify those wishes and dreams and see what really can be done during the summer.

3.  Start Planning the Details.

If summer camp is in the cards for the kids, now is the time to write to a camp advisor  to find the right program and take advantage of early bird rates and the arrival of Camp Directors for home visits.

If a vacation for the family, or solo, is on your list, now is an excellent time to start reviewing websites such as Airfare Watchdog so you can be alerted when rates go down for the trip you really want to take.

If remodeling is your selection, know that permits, plans and ordering supplies takes months.  

“Special” Summers

by Karen Meister

As I travel every summer visiting traditional camps and various summer programs, I really get a chance to see the marvelous people who deal with all types of children and their needs.  This current trip is dedicated to more specialized programs …. the ones that your neighbor may not have heard of….

Camps for kids with ADHD, Autism Spectrum, and Other Socialization Challenges

Going to camp, playing ball, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, canteen, color war and every other camp activity that we have seen in movies is made available, and yet with a twist.  While doing arts and crafts, for example, one on one assistance is allowing the child to learn:

- the artistic skills,

- to overcome the frustration if the designed mug is not like the example presented,

- to communicate questions to both peers and adults, and

- to create a product of which the camper (and mom and dad) can be proud.

Going to camp where behaviors are categorized, reactions by counselors are trained and campers learn skills to take home.  And they are having fun every single day.  Camps where safe rooms, chill out rooms, and sensory friendly rooms are part of the norm.

But the greatest part of all, the favorite activity of the campers!  The weekly dance party.  Many of the children that gravitate to these special places don’t get asked to the dance, feel awkward, may be bullied, and Just Want to Go and Be Part of the Party.  And these wonderful places, the fave activity is the weekly dance party where everyone has a dance partner, a friend, and are safe and so happy!

Weight Loss and Fitness Programs

I want to stay!!!  

Refresh Refresh

by Karen Meister

All of a sudden, you have some free time.  The endless hours of childcare don’t exist right now because the kids have left for sleepaway camp.  You have a list of projects you are thinking about tackling while they are gone.  But, you just can’t seem to step away from the computer.  Of course, the camps post endless pictures of the kids at play and you MUST make sure that you see the pictures “hot off the presses” — so to speak.  And if you don’t see your child each day, in some new activity with a smile on their face, you have to call the camp and ask if he/she is alive, happy, hurt, sad, or who knows what.

Imagine how the kids feel.  During the summer, they are supposedly trying to get away from anything electronic.  Their cell phones have been extricated, they no longer get email, they have to write letters using paper and pencil (they have forgotten how to use them), and some photographer is constantly in their face to appease mom in front of the computer at home.  UGH!!!

I most certainly was guilty of the same, but was able to eventually pry myself away from the computer and found so many great things to do with that wonderful extra time during the summer.   So what to do with that extra time??

I am so curious to find out what activities are on your list.  Please participate in our survey and we’ll let you know what the results say.  Click here to take the survey.

So just remember, while your kids are ducking the photographer because it makes it harder to sink that basket, or hit an awesome serve, or make the napkin holder for you, or practice for the play during visiting day, practice what you are preaching to the kids.

Reaching Adulthood

by Karen Meister I have been guiding families through summer experiences for over a decade now — actually, it’s been 12 years.  During that time, I have raised my boys from their middle school experiences to adulthood.  Trials, tribulations, and successes. This weekend, we are celebrating.  My middle son is graduating from dental school and begins orthodontics school in July.  I am filled with incredible pride for his hard work, dedication and humility.  He has not only developed his technical skills to work within the mouth, but has taken advantage of  his ability to deal with his patients, both easy and difficult, and make them feel comfortable, secure and confident that he will give excellent care. And that is 90% of the battle.  As a non-doctor, we sit in a chair or see the specialist and we either feel good or not.  And having a doctor that truly cares and instills a sense of comfort in you is critical.  So how does a doctor, a lawyer, a business person, a teacher, a police officer….. develop skills to communicate confidence to people of all types?  of all backgrounds? I would say….  exposure and good role models (and of course, a bit of genetic wiring certainly helps). Needless to say, I believe that summer experiences give children and teenagers opportunities to experiment with different styles of communication without parental interference.  The can try alternative methodologies without permanent consequence.  Rather than being told how to behave, they take ownership for their behavior.  When they find methods that work, they keep doing it because the positive feedback that they get, all on their own, is for life.  Just like Pavlov’s dog, if you get positive feedback, you keep doing it.

7 Ways High School Students Can Make the Most of Their Summer

by Mandee Adler

Spring break is almost here.  That means it’s time to start thinking about summer.

High school students who want to stand out on their college applications should consider the summer an ideal time to add some resume gold.

There have been changes over the past few years in what admissions officers are looking for.  For one thing, colleges are no longer giving extra points to students who build huts in Costa Rica.  They are looking for summer activities that tie in with a student’s overall narrative.  Activities that allow students to take a leadership position or connect with an interest in an academic area are ideal. There are many choices of summer activities that raise the APA (application point average).

Summer is coming up fast so here are some ideas for high schools students to make the most of the summer.

1. Attend an Enrichment Camp.  There are hundreds of different summer enrichment programs, from the local to the international and, between them all, they offer thousands of opportunities. There are art camps, athletic camps, academic programs, adventure based programs, volunteer programs, leadership programs, and more. Some come with the opportunity to earn college credit. A number of programs give high school students the taste of life on a college campus.  Importantly, the camp that is chosen should tie in with a student’s long-term goals.  Many of these programs exist.  Below is a glimpse of two of them.

For rising high school sophomores, juniors, or seniors, the Boston University Summer Challenge program is one example of a program that allows students to explore existing interests, investigate new topics, examine subjects not offered in high school, and maybe even determine a college major.

4 Types of Teens/Summer Plans

by Karen Meister

Over the past decade, I have raised my own kids to their successful independence (phew) and have helped so many families guide their teenagers to use their summers for exploration, competency development and launching into college.  My surprise was when a previous client said — I didn’t know you helped teenagers too!!  Guess I haven’t spoken loudly enough or more directly!!  I have become an expert in helping teenagers use their summers wisely, effectively and enjoyably.  And I talk “good teen”!!

So, let me be very clear.  There is nothing better for a high schooler than to leave the nest and learn how to live on their own prior to going off to college.  It is hard enough to stay on top of the academics but compound that with freedom of choice and independent time management,  fraternity/sorority rush, dorm life, dining hall eating, new friends, extracurriculars….

Key word – INDEPENDENT!!  Mom/Dad, you are not there to direct, to make choices for your child, or to oversee their actions.  You simply pay the bill (and you may not even know how they are doing in school)!

There are four typical teenagers and as I describe them, you will know which one you have:

1.  THE PROFESSIONAL:  This teen knows exactly what they want to do, how to get there and is self-directed.  He or she still has questions, challenges and typical teen behavior.  But when it comes to goals, they are very specific.

2.  THE ENTREPRENEUR:  This teen knows they want to be successful, they want a nice life and yet have not a clue what they want to do with themselves.  

More Than One Right

by Karen Meister

As I work every day, helping families find summer programs for their children, I do admit that the television is on in the background almost the entire day.  It drowns out the constant jack hammer sounds I hear as they resurface the pool and seawall outside.  So while listening, the much more famous “K” girl (Katie) is on TV interviewing people who are speaking my mantra.  Reid Wilson, PhD & Lynn Lyons, LICSW, spoke and wrote about Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents.  The kids are anxious about  getting into schools and the kids have learned a myth about devoting their lives to “one path to success”.

The pressure put on our children, and they in turn put on themselves, is our culture of intensity.  Is there truly only one path to success?  Is there only one “best” school for veterinary medicine?  One “best” school for engineering?  One “best” way to be a successful member of society?  I think not.

So many years ago, as my mom was suggesting redecorating tips to my first and new apartment (back in my 20′s), I said to my mom…. thanks so much for all of your advice and guidance over the years.  Although I appreciate it, I ask you to respect my wishes and understand that there can be “more than one right!”  I admit, it took a lot of courage to speak this way to my mother, who I respected wholeheartedly.  I cried as the words came out of my mouth as I literally DEMANDED my independence.  And I have grown so much since then with the blessing and pride of my mother.

Selecting the path of being the very best and the most accomplished also requires dramatic sacrifice to reach an elusive goal.  

Doing your homework

by Karen Meister

There is so much information on the internet that you really begin to question what is real and what is not so real.    For example, my son recently hired a moving company to move a small amount of furniture from Aventura to Ft. Lauderdale.  The company received all the necessary stars, on line, to indicate that they were a reputable moving company.  He SMARTLY put the deposit on a credit card.  He took a day off from work and had to make the move during a small window of time to accommodate the rules and regs of two condo associations.  Needless to say, they never showed up.  He did receive his deposit back, but he was definitely “taken” by the on line credentials.

How can you tell the difference between something that is real and something that is not so real?  How do you go go on Trip Advisor or Camp Ratingz and understand what is a real submission vs. something that was placed, purchased or manipulated?  You can’t tell. That is the bottom line.  The most reliable source of information must be, continues to be and will always be personal connections with something.

Travel agents, as a perfect example, offer an element of expertise and entre that cannot be achieved through on line research.  They have visited the sites, they have met with the personnel and they can direct you to the locations, hotels and planning that you could never do on your own.  Well, you can do it on your own, but you will spend a lot more time, and the risk is incredibly high.  And there is no fee for a travel agent… so why not use their cost free expertise?


by Karen Meister

The close of school is just a few days away.  Everyone is feeling the pressure.  Finals, ceremonies, duffle bag packing but the  most stressful for most is indecision….

Indecision as to what is going to happen when June 6th occurs and the school year is over.  OMG!!

I have spoken with every kind of mom and dad in the past few weeks.


  1. Early Planner - This is the parent that believes they must plan next  summer now.  OK.  I’m ready for you.
  2. Late Planner -  Needless to say, the exact opposite.  The summer season is days away and therefore, it must be time to plan.  I am here for you.  I know which programs still have space and last minute placement is available.  Just be flexible.
  3. Indecisive - This is usually the parent of teens.  I think “insert your T$#@%EENSname” should do this, he/she wants to do that, and now we have to make a decision and can’t.  So my suggestion….
    • T$#@%EEN…. you get to choose.  Program A, Program B or Monday – Friday 9-5 job.  Find it.
  4. Disorganized - I signed up early, can’t find the paperwork, duffle bags aren’t ready, labels aren’t on the clothes and I can’t get a doctor’s appointment to get the health forms in.  Can you help?  Sorry.  This one is on you….
  5. Frantic - I signed up early, my child is going to three weeks of a program.  Was I crazy?  The summer is 12 weeks long.  What else are they going to do?  Help.  And of course, I can.  Camp Experts & Teen Summers, especially in South Florida, gets all kind of special programs that fill in the empty weeks.

Are They Listening?

by Karen Meister

Graduation is around the corner.  Awards ceremonies are near.  Summer camp duffels need to be ordered and arranged.  This is such a busy time of the year.  So exciting, so frustrating, so overwhelming….  So how, as a parent, do you deal with it all?  And then on top of it, how are your kids dealing with their own anxieties, frustrations, excitement, and your PUSHING!!!!

The little guys, those in elementary school, although sometimes challenging, can be directed.  You hear them, you know what you believe is best for them, you guide them lovingly and sternly, and hopefully they do what you say and wish for them.  The push back may come because they can see a crack in your armature.  They know your weaknesses and given the opportunity, will climb into that little crack and do everything they can to make it bigger and more spacious for their NEEDS!  Caulk that crack (I’m doing a bit of remodeling right now so pardon the analogy!)  In elementary school, you get to be the dictator.  Going to sleep away camp?  Kids… here is your list, we are going to pack on Saturday, be prepared and when we are done…. PARTY!!  Pool, cake, ice cream — yes, most certainly bribe them — and happy dance.  We accomplished this task together and let’s applaud ourselves.


The middle schoolers are tough.  Still able to direct them (they have no wheels) but the sullen, blue, don’t bother me attitude takes over your once, sweet delish little child.  With this age, sometimes reverse psychology works wonders.  When it comes to summer plans, if they have never gone away before, fear is really the biggest factor in the push back by the tween.  

You’re Not Too Late For Summer

by Karen Meister

Today is summer day, and the calls are consistent, frantic, and repetitive.  There is still space in sleep away camp, there are still teen programs that are not filled and you do not have to lose sleep over it.  So let’s check out reality.  There are about 2900 summer camps and over 7600 total programs around the world for summer time enjoyment (according to the American Camping Association and I will assume the numbers are actually greater).  Figure a minimum of 100 children per session and an average of 2 sessions per program.  So, there are approximately  2.1 million plus spots to be filled.  We will find you something!!!

Granted, there are some programs that fill up in August and others that never fill up.  And making the match between your very specific desires and availability may or may not occur ever….  But alas, the odds are in your favor.   So stop sweating.  Many more things to fret over.

But yet, let’s get down to business and make some decisions.  And now we will get into my favorite topic which is PARENT POWER!!!

Question 1:  Is a summer experience filled with independence, new experiences, learning, and fresh air something good for your child?

Answer 1:  YES

Question 2:  What time and budget can you allot to give this independent experience to your child/teen?

Answer 2:  Only you know, but figure out the specifics.  What dates are they available to go away?  How long can they go away?  Think both physically and emotionally for both the kids and you.  And how much can you afford to spend?  Think anywhere between $1500 and $12,000.  

Decision-making Teens? How?

by Karen Meister

I know… It’s an oxymoron.  Teenagers don’t make decisions and when they do, the decisions are often times not quite what feels comfortable to the adults in the room.  But this is very normal and age appropriate.  It has been shown that the frontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act, develops later than the amygdala which is responsible for instinctual reactions including fear and aggressive behavior.

When it comes to summer planning, the inability for a teen to make a decision really throws a terrible monkey wrench into family planning.  I know how many of you have shared this frustration with me.   We want our teenager to be happy, because his or her happiness really does result in a much more calm and pleasant household.  The Catch-22 of course, is that, as adults we want to plan out everyone’s summers, get organized so everyone is coordinated and then continue on our lives throughout the winter and spring.  But alas… the delightful teenager has plans of sitting on the couch this summer, won’t do anything without a friend, is waiting for John to make up his mind, and Cathy gets to go to Europe and you don’t want your teen to go there.

So what is the magic to get a teen to make decisions?  And plan your summer out successfully for the whole family?  There really are three steps to help teach your teen to make sound decisions, but before you start them on this training course, you have to be prepared for the process.  So as the parent, you must:

  • set parameters within which you are comfortable,
  • be prepared to support the decision your teen ultimately makes, and
  • know that although it may make you a bit sad to let go of the control, you are really making the best investment you can ever make in your future adult.

Teens try out college

by Karen Meister

When I think back to some of the best times of my life, I remember back to camp and college.  These were times of freedom with purpose.  So when your kids have really outgrown camp, or you want them to experience alternatives that are available, heading off to college for a summer experience is a great option.  So many locations, so many classes, so many new friends.

The benefits of choosing a college program for a summer experience include:


  1. Seeing a college of interest before applying
  2. Exploring different types of classes to find a passion
  3. Take an SAT class
  4. Take a class for credit
  5. Experience dorm living
  6. Learn to balance academic, social, athletic and extracurricular pursuits
  7. Getting your cell phone and computer back during the summer!!

So, what should you look for when exploring the college options?  Consider the following questions:

  1. What type of study are you looking for?  Class for credit?  Class for fun?  Remedial assistance?
  2. Specialty program in a particular pursuit?  Or not sure?
  3. What part of the country are you interested in either:  exploring?  visiting for future college opportunities?   near family or friends?
  4. Is an overseas experience to be considered?
  5. How long?
  6. Is travel in the area important?   What about on campus extracurricular activities?
  7. How much freedom do you want your teen to have?
As to types of classes, some programs have a variety to handle whatever you may be looking for.  It is very important to talk with your teen and see what kind of commitment they want to make during the summer.   This is a time in their lives that they really need to be involved in the decision making.