Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Register for the Stanford Invitational 2023!

Registration for the 37th Stanford Invitational High School Tournament is now available - see here for details!

Questions about Tryouts

Main content start

FAQs about tryouts

  • What do I have to do at the 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 offered via Zoom: You'll get two topics you could debate about,  and you'll be asked to write arguments for and against both of the topics. There is also a quick multiple-choice section to help us understand how you think about arguments. 
  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 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 the selection committee. 
  • What if I haven't debated before?

That's totally ok!  People start debate in college all the time, and we accept people with no experience every year; the tryout is 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, and is one of the world's top debating organizations.  SDS won both the North American Universities Debating Championships (NAUDC) and the North American Debating Championships (NorthAms) in 2018 and the APDA National Championship in 2008.  SDS has appeared in the final round of the World Universities Debating Championships (BP) in 2018 and in 2012 and has appeared in the final round of the North American Universities Debating Championships (BP) & US Universities Debating Championships (BP) many times.  SDS members have won numerous APDA tournaments, top speaker awards and other honors.

  • How much does it cost to attend debate tournaments?

Nothing!  We send debaters to the east coast almost every weekend and in the last few years we have been to Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, the United Kingdom, India, Germany, Mexico, Malaysia, Greece, Philippines, Botswana, etc.  There is zero out of pocket cost for SDS members to attend competitions--even food!

  • How much do I have to commit? 

All SDS members must commit to help run SDS's high school and college tournaments 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 and 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.  Tryouts only take place once a year, and the next tryout opportunity will be around the end of week 1 of fall quarter 2022-23 for the 2022-23 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!