Now you have all the people you need for your program. You can take a breath and focus on confirming plans you made earlier in the year. You’ll want to maintain communication with accepted students and reconfirm deals with campus partners to make sure everything is as it should be.

Knowledge for Freedom — Toolkit






Typically programs request five types of documents from students and their guardians before beginning. Your school may have templates you should use. Check with your compliance office, office of human resources, or campus advisor. If your school does not have templates we have included samples from various universities below each item. Figure out what you need now so that you can collect the documents as part of the enrollment and retention process.

1. Waiver and Release of Liability

This document, signed by participants and their guardians, releases the university and the program from future claims against them. Some states outlaw releases and some courts will find them unenforceable (particularly in claims of negligence rather than inherent risk), but releases are a good idea even if they are not required. As the ACA explains, a release is a “part of a larger agreement” and an opportunity to communicate with guardians and students what your program involves. You should retain a copy of the release for three years or until the minor turns 20, whichever is longer.

A basic release will include:

  • A description of activities and where they will take place
  • A description of some of the risks including those that are inherent to the program activities
  • Acknowledgement from the guardian that some risks are inherent
  • An agreement by the guardian to release the university and program from claims arising from the student’s participation

Sample university releases:

2. Health Form

Your release form may include language about authorizing campus staff to attain emergency medical care for participants, as well as authorizing them to dispense prescription or non-prescription drugs. Regardless, we recommend following the standards put forth by the American Camp Association.

A health form that follows ACA standards should include the following:

  • Emergency contact information
  • Record of allergies and/or dietary restrictions
  • Record of current medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter
  • Record of past health treatment, if any
  • A statement from the custodial parent/guardian attesting that all immunizations required for school are up to date including the actual date (month/year) of last tetanus shot (a physician statement, a government immunization report, or a school immunization report is also acceptable).
  • Description of any current physical, mental, emotional, social health, developmental, or psychological conditions requiring medication, treatment, or special restrictions or considerations while at camp; and description of any camp activities the camper should be exempted from for health reasons
  • Medical insurance information
  • Authorization to treat
  • Signature from guardian

Sample Health Forms

3. Photo/Video Release

You will certainly want pictures of students in your program, including close-ups of minors in which they are identifiable, and that will require a photo and video release. Media releases may not be part of the standard protection of minors (POM) policy, but your university likely has an image policy that applies across the campus as well as a standard form. You might locate that policy and form in your school’s public relations or communications office. Make sure the form includes a line for the signature of the guardian of a minor participant. If your school does not have such a form, here are some school forms you might look to as a template:

Sample Media Releases:

4. Field Trip, Commuting, and Off Campus Permission Slips

You can include information about field trips, commuting, and off-campus time in your program waiver and release of responsibility, or you can opt for separate documents. Again, this is a chance to communicate with parents and participants what the program will entail.

A field trip permission slip should include:

  • Date, time, and location of the trip
  • Supervision structure
  • Method of transportation
  • Emergency contact information, authorization to treat (you should already have this in your health form, but including it in your permission slip means you will have it on hand when travelling together off campus)

Sample commuting and permission slips:

5. Program Agreement Form

Here you may lay out the rules for participation in your program. Some universities require a form that dictates appropriate behavior for minors on campus. For those that don’t require such a form you may still want some documentation that outlines your expectations for student participation, like a “code of conduct.”

An agreement form might specify:

  • Drug, alcohol, weapons, illegal substances policy (specify whether this applies for prescription or OTC drugs)
  • Appropriate conduct with students, program staff, and others on campus
  • Where participants can and cannot go on (and off) campus
  • Electronic policy
  • Curfews

Sample agreement forms:


Retention is the last hurdle you may face in student recruitment. Just because you have accepted students does not mean they will show up on the first day: participants drop out for summer school, summer jobs, and family reasons each year. To keep enrollment high, both Columbia and Yale maintain a waiting list of students. Yale tries to minimize late dropouts by getting students and parents to sign commitment forms. Columbia has students commit via email and then collects enrollment paperwork (health forms, photo waivers, etc.) in the following weeks. They have found that most students who drop out will do so before the deadline to turn in paperwork, though there are always surprises. In the summer of 2019 Columbia had a student drop out after the first day of orientation because her father revoked his permission for her to attend. Unfortunately, the next student on the waitlist had the same problem with her father, and after spending several days trying to convince both fathers the program ran with just 44 students. They spent $1,200 on an empty dorm room and uneaten campus meals that month.

Carthage’s program begins a number of weeks after public schools close for the year, and Ben and Eric found they were losing students during that gap. In addition, they noticed that many students had applied using their high school email addresses as their point of contact, but then stopped checking those email addresses after school let out, causing them to miss critical information about the start of the program. Now Ben and Eric employ an undergraduate “recruitment coordinator” to stay in touch with students through social media and by text message during that time. The coordinator shares important information, makes personal connections, and gets the students excited for the summer.

Suggestions for retaining students

  • Host an information session for students and parents shortly before the program begins
  • Obtain commitment papers from parents and students
  • Use your recruitment partners to check in with students
  • Employ an undergraduate to stay in touch with students
  • Collect necessary paperwork a few weeks in advance of the program’s start date
  • Invite students for pre-summer events and orientation


Take this time to walk through your summer’s plan, keeping in mind the needs of your professors, undergraduate mentors, and students. Make any necessary changes and set reminders for yourself to complete tasks during the program, such as confirming guest lecturers or ordering food.


Check again with your vendors to confirm what they’re providing, how you’ll pay them, and who you can contact in case problems arise during the summer.