Five Ways to Afford Summer Camp

5 ways to afford summer camp

Parents: If you looked at our program dates and rates and almost X’ed out of the window, stop! Don’t click anywhere yet! I know that there can be some sticker-shock when dealing with summer programs, but I’m here to tell you that they can be affordable. Even if you’re one of those solidly middle class families that might not traditionally qualify for financial aid. You can afford summer programs too!

1. Let your student help with the bill.

We have the same advice for all parents — whether you’re a night-shift janitor or an investment banker: paying for summer programs should be your teenager’s responsibility. They’re old enough to raise most (if not all) of the course fee on their own, and doing so will teach them invaluable lessons about goal-setting, creating action plans, asking for help from others, making a compelling argument, persevering when times get tough, and demonstrating gratitude at all times. (NTSA even provides every student with a personal fundraising mentor if they're accepted to the program!) These are skills that will benefit them throughout their entire lives. Many of our NTSA alumni have gone on to self-produce their own shows — a task that would have been impossible if they hadn’t had a firm grasp on how to fundraise successfully. If you pay your student’s entire course fee, you may actually be doing them a disservice in the long run. It’s for that reason that we encourage every parent to let their student know: you’re picking up at least part of the bill.

2. “Fundraising” isn’t a dirty word.

Over the past few months, I’ve read a lot of blogs by parents who think of “fundraising” as a dirty word. “How can we possibly ask other people to help pay our bills?” they wonder. These parents are approaching fundraising in the wrong way. When you fundraise, you’re not asking anyone to help pay your bills; you’re giving other people the opportunity to show their support for your student, to help make his dreams come true. How many times have relatives asked what your student wants for the holidays, and you haven’t had a single clue what to tell them? Now, you can easily point them towards the NTSA website and your student’s crowdfunding page. Believe me, your relatives and friends won’t think you’re being pushy; instead, they’re going to be thankful that they aren’t spending money on yet another scarf that your student doesn’t really want.

That’s not to say that fundraising isn’t challenging. I’ve spent the past decade fundraising for nonprofit organizations, and I know that asking for money can make you feel about three inches tall. “Is my cause worthy enough?” you may ask yourself late at night. I wondered this for a long time too — until I saw the incredible things that our NTSA alumni were doing. How they were starting theatre companies designed to level the playing field for underrepresented groups off-Broadway. How they were employing (yes, with real paychecks!) so many recent graduates that no one else would take a chance on. How, every single day, our alumni are helping to shift what the New York City theatre scene looks like. And now, I don’t think twice about asking. Make your impact known on the next generation of American theatre. Donate today.

3. Camps invest in students who put in the work.

Does your student want to work with NTSA? How much? Almost all summer programs have scholarship funds tucked away for deserving students. But how do we decide who’s deserving? Some summer programs just look at income level; families that have access to social welfare programs like SNAP and FRPL get first dibs. Some programs evaluate students on the basis of their application materials, looking for the most talented candidates. NTSA doesn’t prioritize based on either of those metrics. Instead, we look for the students who want to work with us the most.

How can we tell who feels that spark for NTSA? By how hard they’re willing to work on their fundraising campaign. If a student comes to us with a logbook of the phone calls that she’s made to friends, family, and teachers asking for financial contributions; if he can show us ticket sale records from the musical revue that he staged as a fundraising event; if she can produce the busking permit that allowed her to stand outside every weekend with her guitar; if he can produce pay stubs for the minimum wage job that he’s been working to supplement his allowance, those are the students that we’re going to take seriously.

4. The barter system is an option.

On the blog Life in Pleasantville, writer Jeni Marinucci jokes: “My daughter’s new braces cost the same as one hundred years at camp and our orthodontist wouldn’t even entertain the idea of bartering what are essentially twist ties in your mouth for some beautiful hand-crocheted dish cloths.” While your orthodontist might not barter the cost of braces, some summer programs (including NTSA) are willing to barter for program tuition.

NTSA is always looking for much-needed goods and services. Are you a graphic designer? A professional photographer or videographer? An expert at SEO? Can you donate materials (like sewing machines or woodworking tools) to the NTSA Shop? If you’re a theatre professional or a registered physician/nurse, you also have the opportunity to spend the summer working with NTSA in exchange for your student’s course fee. Pitch your idea by sending us an email!

5. Referrals. Referrals. Referrals.

Don’t underestimate the power of referrals. At NTSA, your student’s referral bonus increases for every friend that lists his name and successfully enrolls in one of our programs.

1 Friend


2 Friends


3 Friends


4 Friends


5 Friends


6 Friends


7 Friends


8 Friends


9 Friends


10 Friends


11 Friends


12 Friends


13 Friends

Full Tuition

All referral bonuses can only be put towards NTSA course fees. Make sure that the friend lists your student’s name under the question “How did you find out about NTSA?” on their application. (If the friend lists two or more names, all of the students listed will automatically split a $100 referral bonus.) If your student can convince his thirteen most talented friends to audition and enroll, that could mean that he’s coming to NTSA for free next summer!

Posted on Oct 13, 2017 in Financial Aid  

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