Search away to beat summer boredom, Carolina parents

Heidi Finley

As the school year chugs to an end, parents looking to find ways to keep their children entertained and engaged over the summer have an educational tool at their disposal.

The College Foundation of North Carolina offers a searchable database of college preparation opportunities.

This gem – hidden among the vast links of resources to help students and parents plan for higher education – lists summer camps at every public college in North Carolina. It’s searchable by grade level, host school and camp subject. South Carolina residents can use the free database, as well.

Mark Wiles, director of CFNC Pathways at the University of North Carolina General Administration, advises students to use all that spare time they have during the summer to prosper.

“I think one of the greatest benefits is to have time in the summer to delve deeper into something they have a strong interest in,” he said. “There are certainly opportunities during the school day and school year, but … summer is a stronger opportunity to focus on say, violin, or science.”

Wiles said another boon for students comes through the exposure to college life. All the camps listed on CFNC’s database are affiliated with North Carolina colleges, giving both students and parents the opportunity to step foot on campus with a purpose.

“They might think, ‘Oh, I can’t go on that campus because I’m not a student there,’” he said of families. “It’s a good excuse to have that open invitation to be there.”


The Niner Academy camps at UNC Charlotte are offered in one-week bites from June 12 through Aug. 4. Prices vary for each camp, and meal plans are available to purchase so campers can eat buffet-style at Crown Commons in the UNCC Student Union.

Kicking off the summer is the Actor’s Workshop: Skills for Stage and Life, where high schoolers can learn and practice different forms and methods of acting. Participants will also work on translating acting skills and performance into real-life communication skills off the stage.

Mad Money: Finance 101 for Teens is designed to help youth in grades 9-12 gain financial literacy and planning including researching and securing college scholarships, creating a monthly budget, learning about student loans and managing part-time employment with college studies.

For younger students, Server Design Camp for grades 3-9 will teach kids Java programming while they build a customized Minecraft server they can share and play on through the end of the year. Another option in that age range is Youth Digital: Video Game Development, where students will learn Unity game design software and C# to build and code a game from scratch.

Some camps have already filled up – including MedCamp, Mock Trial and VetCamp – but wait lists are available.

UNC Charlotte has also teamed up with The Princeton Review to offer ACT and SAT prep courses over the summer.

CFNC’s database also features some educational opportunities that take place during the school year.

For example, in the spring and fall, Queens University in Charlotte hosts weekly individual lessons for kindergarteners through 12th graders in piano, voice, harp, trumpet, violin, cello, clarinet, saxophone, flute, organ and classical guitar. Its Music Academy website suggests checking back over the summer for fall registrations.


Some summer camps listed in the database offer residential opportunities around the state for an in-depth exposure to specific topics and to campus life.

North Carolina State University in Raleigh offers three sessions of residential camps for rising 11th and 12th graders through its College of Engineering. Campers stay in residence halls, eat in dining halls and participate in workshop topics of their choice, which include bioenergy systems, ecological engineering, aerospace, robotics and more.

Marine Quest at UNC Wilmington immerses its 13- and 14-year-old campers in the “biodiversity of the ocean, from the tiniest microbes to the largest whale,” and helps them “discover some of the key species inhabiting our coastal waters, including sharks, sea turtles, whales and local fishes.” Residential living is an option at the camp, which includes a cruise, a snorkeling expedition and a trip to a  sea turtle hospital.

Appalachian State University in Boone offers an anatomy and physiology camp where residential living is also optional. The six-day program for 9th through 12th graders is complete with exposure to human cadavers, animal organ dissections, blood and bodily fluids, and notes that discretion should be used in registration because all campers are required to participate in all activities.

Wiles said these kinds of educational camps can be used as tools for exploring professional interests, but advised parents not to push too hard down that path.

Students should “go with the love of learning and building interest — it may or may not lead to a career in that field.”


Heidi Finley is the editor of Carolina College Bound. Sends questions or suggestions to