From a debater’s perspective and my own experience, the largest draw that led to my camp decisions was staff. From my point of view, the way to become the best of the best is to learn from the best of the best. Champions at every level in the activity have something to offer and will help guide you through your career. These debaters - your future mentors - that have succeeded at the highest levels have also experienced the growth needed to reach themselves there.
In my eyes, consistent success in your debate career comes from the journey - the redoes, scrimmages, and prep - which results in the tournament championships and bids - AKA the end. High quality and seasoned instructors help you excel through that journey. Whether it's critiquing a redo or judging a practice round, the instructor on the other end of that speech matters. They’ll see weaknesses in your argumentation and areas for improvement that you wouldn’t otherwise realize. Their experience at competing at the highest levels is precisely the perspective that debaters need to improve and perform to the best of their ability.
Especially from my experience as a camper, the countless amount of “a-ha!” moments I had when I realized an incredible argument I could make, analysis I could read, or response I could cut all had one common denominator: the influential mentor that was illuminating those points to me. The bottom line is that quality matters. Regardless of what skill level you are, having the most experienced and successful instructors to assist you through your progression is the single most important aspect of your improvement during those two weeks.
After instructor quality comes curriculum structure. In simple terms, you want to be practicing the skills you learn in lectures so you can become familiarized implementing that knowledge in your future rounds. Camps that put an emphasis on practice rounds, drills, and in-round practice are usually the ones with the most successful track records. You can learn as much as you want from a slideshow, but if you don’t have the experience of using that in an actual debate round, that knowledge unfortunately won’t translate to in-season success.
The best way to get a feel of the dynamic at each camp is to look at the schedule. Nearly every camp has sections on their website outlining what the sample day-to-day looks like, specifying times that are blocked out for lectures, lab time, practice rounds, mentor hours, etc. After a quick glance, it’ll become very clear as to what strategy the camp employs to teach their students. If days are littered with massive “lab blocks” without standardized times for practice rounds or interactive drills, that camp is probably going to lean heavily on spoon feeding that students the content without giving them time to digest it. On the other hand, camps that outline daily blocks for practice rounds and office hours give students the opportunity to break down their practice and learn how to improve in an in-round setting. The latter option is undoubtedly the best. The combined benefit of a great instructor lineup and a curriculum that prides itself on practice, not only presentation, is the best way to go when selecting where to attend during summer.