How to Solve the Biggest Problems with Summer Camp Enrollment

A successful summer camp season starts with a smooth registration process. Enrollment is make-or-break time for your camp. If you do it right, you’ll be rewarded with fewer incomplete registrations, more early-bird sign-ups, faster payments, and fewer customer service inquiries.

If the process just isn’t working, you might spend the winter and spring scrambling to catch up.

The good news: Camps across the U.S. are experiencing a surge in enrollment growth and stability. According to the American Camp Association, 55 percent of camps said they experienced enrollment growth in a fall 2016 survey, while 23 percent said enrollment held steady overall.   

Is your camp prepared to take advantage of this trend?

Start by reviewing your registration process. If it’s not perfectly calibrated, you might experience a few tell-tale signs like lots of incomplete registrations, high registration abandonment rates, lots of confused or frustrated parents, a high percentage of website visitors who aren’t registering, and/or worst of all, a dip in enrollment.

Fortunately, many of these common problems can be remedied with camp enrollment software. How? A registration platform can help make your registration process smoother, more user-friendly, and better yet, it can help you reach – and exceed – your enrollment goals. Here are nine common problems that can be alleviated with camp enrollment software:

1. Registration Is Too Complicated

If customers find your registration process too complex, you might be losing them. According to the Baymard Institute, an e-commerce research firm, an online check-out that’s too difficult is a No. 1 customers don’t make a purchase.

This idea applies to camp registration, as well. Remember, you’re asking parents for a lot of information. Without a thoughtfully crafted user experience, the process can quickly become overwhelming. Are you asking for too much information up front?  Do you make it easy for your customers to save a registration and track progress? Can they visualize how many steps are left?

If your registration is too complicated, you might be experiencing a high percentage of improperly filled-out forms, lots of incomplete registrations, and a surge in last-minute sign-ups and payments.

Fortunately, the days of hounding parents for signatures are behind you. Camp registration software can help to simplify registration for both you and parents. Here are a few ways how:

  • A Customized Process: Providing camp registration online allows you to tailor the user experience. You choose what is asked. Plus, online registration makes it easy for parents to save in-progress enrollment applications.
  • Automated Form Notifications: No need to get on the phone to get those forms returned. Camp registration software automates the process and sends parents email notifications when form deadlines are approaching. Camp directors and administrators can also set alerts to be notified when forms are received and for upcoming deadlines.
  • Automated Form Filing: Once complete, you won’t have a mountain of paperwork to file away. Instead, the software can securely store individual forms in your database, making it easy for you to utilize this data fast. If the registration module is a part of a camp management platform, data can also be automatically sent to the proper location, i.e. allergy reports to your healthcare team or kitchen staff.

2. A Lack of Payment Options

Another common reason parents abandon the registration process: They aren’t being offered a payment option that suits their needs. And when parents are ready to register and pay for camp, remember that variety is the spice of life.

Some parents prefer to pay in full. Others prefer payment plans. And some like to schedule auto debits from their banking accounts. Trying to roll out all of these options by yourself is costly and requires technical expertise. But camp registration software offers a solution, allowing you to accept a variety of methods instantly.

A few functionalities you will need to consider when choosing software for summer camp enrollment include:

  • Promotional Pricing Flexibility: Do you provide discounts for early registration? Multi-session promotions? Or special pricing for enrolling more than one camper? Offering a range of promotion options provides an opportunity to cross-sell and upsell customers. Your registration platform should allow complete customization.
  • Automated Payment Options: Not all parents want to pay in full when registering. Others like to schedule automated debits for installments, i.e. breaking tuition into two or more automatic payments.
  • Deposit Flexibility: A camp enrollment platform allows you to custom how you accept deposits. Are these fees refundable? Do you want to charge accounts immediately? The best platforms provide plenty of options.

3. Preventing Over-Enrollment

A common concern camp directors have with enrollment software: They don’t have control, and over-enrollment is inevitable. The truth is registration software provides almost complete control over the process.

Do you conduct camper interviews prior to enrollment? You can set your registration platform to closed enrollment. It’s that simple.

In other words, you still control all the important parameters, i.e. the maximum number of registrants, waitlist settings, and manual or automatic enrollment. For example, if your organization allows parents to enroll campers themselves, you can do that. You set a maximum number of available spots for campers within the software, and parents are free to enroll until those spots have been claimed.

4. Difficulty Transitioning Campers from Registration to Enrollment

In the past, camp registration took up the entire spring. You and your staff fielded calls from returning campers and interested families, and they mailed in their registration forms.

Both registration and enrollment were manual processes. And you likely spent a lot of time on the phone answering questions about registration status.

An online camp enrollment platform simplifies this process greatly. Parents create or log into an existing account, register their kids, and then submit the necessary forms. A detailed record is then created within your registration database. However your camp handles enrollment, you can digitize the process.

You might allow open enrollment. For example, once all the paperwork has been collected, the camper is automatically enrolled.  Or you might choose to close enrollment. For instance, you might allow parents to register, and then you can conduct a camper interview, prior to moving that record into enrollment.

Simply put, you won’t spend the spring updating spreadsheets and manually moving records from a registration database to enrollment. This process can all be automated with the right registration platform.

5. Parents Have No Way to Check In On Progress


How can parents check the process of their child’s registration? That’s an important question. Without a way to check on their own, chances are you’ll be receiving a lot of phone calls about the process. 

Fortunately, camp registration tools eliminate this problem. How? The parental dashboard.

In a nutshell, the dashboard is each parent’s online account. Here, parents have a variety of information at their fingertips, including links to forms that must be completed, as well as financial and contact information. Parents can also receive messages through their account, like enrollment notifications, camp newsletters, and fundraising requests.

Another key benefit of the dashboard: You can seamlessly onboard returning campers. Rather than having to re-create an account each year, parents can utilize the same profile. By making it easy for parents, you can superpower your early-registration efforts and encourage re-enrollments earlier in the season.

6. Your Registration Isn’t Personal Enough

Camp registration used to be all about home visits, phone calls, and camper interviews. Camps could personalize the registration experience down to the individual camper level. In the digital era, that’s certainly changing, but that doesn’t mean your registration and enrollment process has to be robotic and devoid of your brand’s message.


Instead, online camp enrollment allows you to build a unique user experience that A) highlights your camp’s uniqueness, B) excites campers and families about the summer, and C) welcomes and builds trust with families. 

How can you accomplish all this? There are a few ways camp enrollment software can help:

  • You Craft the Messaging: The best online camp registration providers know that a one-size-fits-all message doesn’t work in the camp industry. Each camp offers something a little different and has a unique brand voice and image. The best tools allow you to completely personalize the onboarding experience and craft messaging that shows off what makes you the best.
  • Welcome Back Returning Campers: Successful camps know that it’s all about building long-term relationships with campers and families. That doesn’t have to be lost with online registration. Instead, you can customize messages to welcome back returning campers, personalized by first and last name. Plus, by allowing parents to re-use online accounts, you make the process easy for them.
  • Integrate Into Your Website: Finally, you need a camp management platform that integrates with your website. You don’t want parents to feel like they’ve been redirected to another site when registering. Instead, the registration forms and templates should be wrapped in your brand. This helps to build trust in your website and registration process.

7. You Aren’t Collecting the Right Data

The data you collect during enrollment – like health information and camper preferences – helps you make important decisions during the summer. Bunk assignments, transportation schedules, and lunch and dinner menus might all be informed by registration data.

So you might be wondering: Will online registration allow me to still ask for the right information?

The short answer is yes. Online registration platforms allow you to build your own digital forms and ask all the questions that are important for your camp.

Plus, another benefit is that this data then becomes accessible throughout your camp management platform. You can automate the routing of important information, i.e. health records automatically become available in your health record database and bunk preferences show up in your bunk assignment tool.

In the past, it was easy for enrollment data to become siloed away in its own database. With online registration, this data becomes much more usable.

8. Reporting Isn’t User-Friendly

Reporting can help you gauge how you’re doing during enrollment and answer important questions. What does enrollment look like compared to last year? How well are you retaining campers? Is early enrollment working?

But without an effective registration platform, finding this kind of data can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The good news: Reporting gets much easier when you utilize registration tools.

The best camp software solutions allow you to produce one-click reports that can provide answers quickly. Want to look a little deeper at the data? You can do that with a custom report, and it’s easier than ever. You choose parameters and then produce a report that helps you visualize data with easy-to-read graphs and tables.

9. Manual Communication Is Too Time-Intensive

Here’s a scenario: The final payment deadline is fast-approaching, and you want to remind parents with outstanding balances that payment is coming due. How do you do that?

Without an online registration platform, the process is complex and time-consuming. You might have to generate a report of all accounts with an outstanding balance, and then manually build an email list with all related email addresses. You could easily spend a day or two putting all the pieces together.

Online platforms allow you to automate communications. For this same scenario, the process is much simpler. You can segment accounts by outstanding balance with a single click. Then, you’d push a message to all of these accounts through their parental dashboards. In other words, you can work much faster.

This scenario, though, highlights how an integrated camp management platform can streamline your communications process. You can automate messages to parental accounts based on your communications needs: Want to send fundraising emails? Need to push a weekly or monthly camp newsletter? Need to send transportation reminders?

You do this quickly and easily with an online tool, helping you to save a lot of time with communications.

Takeaways: Reaching Camp Enrollment Goals Starts with a Great Registration Process

Camp enrollment is surging in the U.S., and for your organization, that means increased competition. What’s one way you can stand out? Delivering a seamless, user-friendly registration process.

This is your chance to make a strong impression. You can use registration to welcome parents and campers, reinforce your brand messaging and create excitement among new and returning campers. A streamlined registration can help you improve early registration, cross-selling and upselling, and rollout successful promotions.

In other words, by perfecting registration, your camp will be in a better position to reach important enrollment goals.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. Camp registration software allows you to transform your enrollment without needing in-depth technical expertise. Are you ready to supercharge registration?