Camping Crew: FAQ

When should I have my application complete? Are there any deadlines?

SCA accepts applications on a rolling basis. However, we can only guarantee a review of your application if it is completed by the deadline. Our regular application deadline is March 1st.

  • September through March 1 – Window of time to complete or update an application
  • December through field season – Ongoing review of applicants
  • March through June – SCA sends placements to all selected applicants
  • June through August – Field Season!

Is previous experience necessary?

No, just ample supplies of enthusiasm, a positive attitude, and a commitment to give it everything you’ve got. Keep in mind that a high comfort level with certain situations – such as sleeping in a tent, interacting with wildlife, or making do without regular hot showers – will likely result in an enhanced SCA experience.

How old do I have to be?

Crew members must be between 15 and 19 years old. 14-year-olds may apply as long as they will be 15 at the start of the crew. Candidates also need to be a current high school student when applying.

What do you mean by “backcountry” and “frontcountry”?

Backcountry crews conduct work in remote locations a mile or more from a road where the campsites are located in the woods. Frontcountry crews hike in from a campsite that is located in a more settled location such as a park campground. Both types of crews live in tents.

Where do crews serve?

SCA places young people in national parks, forests, cultural sites, and urban green spaces nationwide. Some positions are based deep in the backcountry, but most are closer to population centers. The common thread among our sites is that they are all places in need of our conservation efforts!

How much does it cost?

There is no tuition cost for serving in an SCA National or Regional Crew.  For these programs, participants pay only a $25 application fee to SCA and the travel costs to get to and from their crew location.

SCA Leadership Crews are tuition-based, so participants pay a full tuition for this program, in addition to the $25 application fee and the cost of travel. To learn more about tuition details for Leadership Crews, check out the Leadership Crews web page.

What is required in the application?

To apply for the National Conservation Crew Program candidates are required to complete the online application, and have at least one reference form completed and attached.

Is there a fee to apply?

There is a one-time application fee of $25 ($40 for non-US citizens). A single payment allows you to apply for an unlimited number of positions. You may pay by credit card online or send a check or money order to: SCA Center for Conservation Service, PO Box 550, NH 03603. If you have any questions, please contact Admissions staff at 603.543.1700 ext. 1499.

How do I apply to a different program?

Log into your online profile, and under “Applications” you will see a list of other programs you are eligible for. Click on the appropriate application, and follow the prompts.

How do I update my online application or profile?

  1. Login to MySCA and click on the green “Manage Application” button on your Home page
  2. Update your Basic Application and your Program Application(s)
  3. Your updated information will be visible to all application reviewers as soon as you save it.

How do I adjust the availability dates on my application?

  1. Login to MySCA and click on the green “Manage Application” button on your Home page
  2. Your availability dates are in the upper left
  3. Double click on each date to update it
  4. Be sure to hit “Save” before you leave the page

How can I update my email address?

  1. Login to MySCA and click on the green “Manage Application” button on your Home page
  2. Click on the “Contact Information” button
  3. Make your changes
  4. Be sure to click “Save” before you leave the page
  5. In case you are wondering, updating your email will not change your username. Your username will remain as the original email you signed up with.

When are crews in the field?

National, Regional and Leadership crews take place during the summer on three tracks. Track 1 crews start in early to mid-June, Track 2 crews start mid-July, and Track 3 crews start in late July. The majority of crews are 3 to 4 weeks long, but we also have some that run for 2 or 5 weeks.

How are crews organized?

Each crew contains 6 to 8 members who are similar in age but diverse in experience and backgrounds. Members on each crew are usually an even mix of boys and girls. Each crew includes two experienced crew leaders.

What is the process for crew member placement?

SCA takes great care in selecting its crew members. Each candidate is evaluated individually based on the materials they provide. Please understand that this is a competitive process, and that there is no guarantee of being selected. For more details on how you can improve your chances of being chosen, please see our How to Apply page.  Once your application is completed, we will review all of your information. There are several different criteria that are considered for placement. Following is a list of criteria we look for in an applicant, in order of importance:

  • Your motivation to serve and relevant skills and experiences
  • Your demonstrated maturity, leadership, and social responsibility
  • Your availability dates
  • Time spent outdoors and your personal comfort level with outdoor situations
  • Interest in ecological or environmental topics

These criteria reflect the care we take to ensure that all members receive a placement they are well suited for. We begin notifying candidates of their placement in early spring. Once an acceptance is received, SCA will send Selection information, which includes the Participant Agreement, and other relevant Selection forms. These must be completed before a member enters the field.

What if I don’t like my placement?

If you decline our placement, your application goes back into the general applicant pool. We cannot guarantee that you will receive another placement. Remember that each site offers an amazing opportunity for conservation service and every crew is in need of highly qualified members.

The Waitlist

Only applicants who have received a waitlist invitation via email are eligible for the waitlist.

Crew members on the waitlist are not rank ordered. If space on a crew becomes available, a decision will be made at that time.  For instance, if a 15-year-old female drops out of a backcountry program, we will find a 15-year-old female suitable for the backcountry from the waitlist.

What will I have to pay for?

SCA has some equipment available for rental or purchase. Your selection information will give you information about how rent or purchase an item from SCA.”

How much equipment do I need to buy?

We offer a generic list of equipment. Please do not buy all the items on it until you talk with your crew leader about your specific crew. Your leader or our staff in the office can give ideas of what to bring for your specific location.

How much cash will I need?

We recommend that you bring about $80 for souvenirs and other small purchases during travel days and recreational/education days. SCA will provide all necessary food.

How do I apply for financial aid?

A financial aid form will be included in your selection information. You should submit this completed form to SCA and, if you qualify, we will reimburse you for your travel expenses. Please note that the financial aid pool is limited, and we may not be able to grant the full amount requested. The maximum award is $400.

How qualified are the crew leaders?

All of our leaders are caring and dedicated outdoor professionals who have experience conducting youth programs and outdoor activities. They come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some are attending graduate school, while others are school teachers or year-round outdoor leaders. They are all 21 years of age or older and hold current wilderness medicine certifications. Crew leaders have primary responsibility for conducting all aspects of the National Crew program, including meeting you at the airport, shopping for food, setting up camp, and conducting the program to ensure the emotional and physical wellbeing of all crew members.

Can I go on a crew with a friend?

We do not place friends on the same crew together.  We do this because we feel that an important part of the SCA experience is about getting out on your own and meeting new people.

Can I serve outside of where I am from?

Absolutely! The SCA experience is about doing something totally new and different. Therefore, we encourage applicants to try to go to a location that is outside of where they live. We do, however, help people serve in their local areas as well if they are interested in staying closer to home.

Where will I sleep?

Crew members sleep in tents on both front- and backcountry programs. Tent occupancy is divided by gender. Crew leaders have separate tents within the camp. There are also a few crews that stay in bunkhouses.

Will I have free time?

There is free time at the end of the day, both before and after dinner. Some evening activities may include swimming, hacky sack, or a card game. Each crew will also have some days off and the crew will decide as a team what they will do on their time off. These days are usually used to explore the area or learn something about the environment of the region.

What is a typical day like for a crew?

Crew members usually get up around 6:30 AM and take turns preparing breakfast and cleaning up the kitchen and camp site. Everyone then packs a lunch and heads off to the project site. Crews work approximately eight hours – taking time out for lunch and breaks. At the end of the day the crew members head back to camp and again take turns preparing dinner and cleaning up. Most evenings are unstructured, with time for reading, writing letters, telling stories, or playing games.

How will we get fresh drinking water?

The water supply used for cooking and drinking is purified by using iodine, boiling, or a water filter. Frontcountry crews often have drinkable water on site.

Can my parents send me a care package?

Yes. Some backcountry crews do not get mail on a regular basis so be sure to check with the crew leader to see if care packages will be delivered to you. If your parents do send a care package of goodies, they should send enough so that you can share with the entire group.

Can my parents visit me?

If prearranged with the crew leaders, parents can visit the group. However, there are no overnight visits.

I would like to know more about the rec trip the crew takes after it completes its project.

Rec trips at the end of the program are all different. Some crew leaders have a plan in mind before the crew members arrive; others wait until they have a chance to observe their members’ interests or discuss the options with them. The trips range from backpacking for three or four days in the nearby area, to day trips around the area where the crew has beeen working, to canoe trips on a nearby river.

How do I get to my crew site?

You and your parents will schedule and pay for your transportation. You should use whatever method is the most feasible. In most cases, this will be a flight that is scheduled to arrive by the time specified on your placement email. Your crew leader will meet you at the airport and provide transportation to the camp site. We recommend that members travel with a cell phone so that they can use it to contact their leaders and parents if their flight is delayed.

Which airport should I use?

It is important that you travel to the airport specified on your placement email and not a larger or cheaper airport. Your crew leaders will inform you and other members of your crew of travel day details before you leave home.

Can I bring my cell phone?

We do not allow cell phones on crew members while they are on project time. Crew leaders carry radios and/or cell phone for emergency use. Members are encouraged to travel with a cell phone but are then required to hand them over to the leader for safe keeping. Occasionally members can call home during recreation days if there is cell service.

Where does SCA funding come from?

The National Park Service and other partners require SCA to raise funds from the public to match the grants they make to us for the cost of our volunteer programs. Generally, they pay 80 percent of the costs to us and we have to raise the other 20 percent. That funding comes from people like you, foundations, clubs, and corporations.