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Questions About Tryouts

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FAQs About Tryouts

Tryouts for the 2023-2024 traveling team are closed. Tryouts for the 2024-2025 traveling team will open Fall 2024.

  • What do I have to do at tryouts?

It's a simple process that involves 3 activities designed to find students who have talent for and interest in debate, even if they have not participated in formal speech or debate prior to Stanford:

  1. Background/info sheet: complete on your own before step 2. You will fill out an info sheet asking you about various things about yourself, why you want to debate, and your debate experience to date.
  2. In-person written tryout: you sign up in advance for one of several sessions. You'll get two topics you could debate about,  and you'll be asked to write arguments for and against both of the topics.
  3. *If invited (based on part 2 results)*  In-person oral tryout: you sign up for a time-slot in advance. We'll give you an outline that you can imagine summarizes an opponent's speech, and you'll have 5 minutes to prepare a 5-minute speech in response, which you'll then give in front of a panel of judges. 
  • What if I haven't debated before?

That's totally okay!  People start debate in college all the time, and we accept people with no experience every year; tryouts are designed to test your aptitude for collegiate debate, not merely confirm a resume of high school debate experience. 

SDS has a proud history of training world-class debaters who have made numerous national and international finals who had never debated prior to Stanford. We'll teach you the ropes and then some!

  • What is SDS looking for in tryouts? How do I prepare? 

Our objective in tryouts is to assess your potential to debate irrespective of your experience. That means we look for the strength of your arguments and quality of responses to our questions. We're not looking for any specific structure or format—we just want to hear how you think and if you can present your ideas in an organized and understandable way.  

A helpful way to prepare would be to think about some common argumentative topics. Set yourself a timer for 10 minutes and outline a speech for one of the following examples, arguing for a side of your choosing:

Should voting be made compulsory?  

Should the minimum wage be abolished?

Should doping in sports be legalized? 

  • How good is Stanford at competitive debate?

Stanford Debate has a long, rich history of competitive success. SDS is the current U.S. National Universities Champion (USUDC), and won both the North American Universities Debating Championships (NAUDC) and the North American Debating Championships (NorthAms) in 2018.  Additionally, SDS appeared in the final round of the World Universities Debating Championships (WUDC) in 2018 and in 2012, and has appeared in the final round of the NAUDC and USUDC many times. SDS members regularly place highly at a variety of tournaments around the world in both APDA and BP, winning championships, top speaker awards, and other honors.

  • How much does it cost to attend debate tournaments?

Nothing! There is zero out-of-pocket cost for SDS members to attend competitions—travel, hotels, tournament fees, and food are all covered!

  • Where are tournaments held?

SDS travels to a variety of in-person tournaments; most are held across the U.S. but we also have opportunities for international travel! Our competition calendar for this year includes major tournaments in Canada, the UK, and Mexico. We also send debaters to the World Universities Debating Championships (WUDC) which is held in a different country every year over winter break; this year, it’ll be in Vietnam! If traveling for a whole weekend sounds like a lot, though, there are also many opportunities to attend online tournaments, which have become a lot more common since the pandemic.

  • How much do I have to commit? 

All SDS members must commit to help run SDS's high school tournament if required, barring exceptional extenuating circumstances. Apart from that, SDS members have the freedom to choose their competitive schedule with tournaments on offer almost every weekend, as well as regular weekly practice rounds and socials. 

  • Do I have to try out now?  What about a few months into the year?

The start of Fall quarter, immediately after the Activities Fair, is the only time each year that we hold tryouts for the travel team.

We have limited resources to spend on travel & coaching so we can't allow everyone to attend competitions, and we also run a series of training sessions organized by our coaching staff early in the year to prepare you for the upcoming season.  Every year we get emails for a week or two after the end of tryouts asking about how to "try out late," a request which we are unable to accommodate—don't miss your opportunity to try out for this year!