By Olivia Waldron

This summer, through family connections, I was offered an office job at $11 per hour at a fast-growing software company. It was one of those internships that parents and peers think you should have in order to impress a prestigious college admissions counselor.

When I decided to decline the offer, people thought I was crazy. My father repeatedly tried convincing me to reverse the decision.

What did I do instead? I headed to camp, choosing a job earning half the money as a counselor at Camp Sewataro, a day camp in Sudbury, Massachusetts. No matter what any college admissions counselor says, I know I am now better prepared than I would have been sitting at a desk doing boring office work just to boost my resume.

I am entering my junior year of high school. My parents and grandparents tell stories of high school being some of their “best years.” In my generation, junior year in high school is super stressful. We have to take intense SAT prep courses, have anxiety about “honors” or regular class placements, do community service simply for it to look good on a college application, have stressful conversations with parents about getting a B+ instead of an A-, and of course, race to find a summer internship.

Being a camp counselor may not get me accepted to college, but it will prepare me for any job that I will have later in life. I learned so many real skills as a counselor. One was the ability to work well in a team. In my case, that meant interacting with three counselors dedicated to a common goal – keeping 15 kindergarten girls engaged and happy.

I created plans, dealt with surprises, tears and conflict, and constantly adjusted throughout the day. I learned how to deal with our parent “customers,” even the difficult ones (“I know my daughter is much more mature than the others; how is that going for you?”). I learned how to sell, either by persuading a child who was afraid of swimming to jump in the water with me or convincing non-athletic campers that playing soccer can be fun even in the 95-degree heat.

I learned how to accept positive and critical feedback, which included receiving my first written performance review from a supervisor. I learned how to deal with incredible stress, knowing that among 600 campers, I couldn’t take my eyes off of my 15, even for a second.

To that company that offered me the internship: please keep me in mind in six or seven years when I need a real job. In the interview, you’ll probably ask me where I went to college. I’m hoping you’ll also ask: Have you ever been a camp counselor? Then you’ll know I can play “tug of war” with your competitors, be prepared for your company’s rainy days, and be the best person to handle a screaming or crying customer, all with a smile on my face.

As high school students, we are increasingly being asked to do just the right thing to be accepted into the college of our parents’ choice. The question is, is that intensity pushing us towards activities where we learn less about ourselves and certainly start to give up the joys of being a teenager? I think so.

So thanks, Camp Sewataro, for teaching me so many life skills. For any college admissions officers reading this, just know that I want to grow up to be successful — not just the perfect college applicant.

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