Frequently Asked Questions about Stanford National Forensic Institute programs
This FAQ is intended to answer the questions which we receive most often from students and parents. We also have an Enrollment Policies page which addresses questions about our deadlines and enrollment procedures, and an Airport Transportation page which describes our optional airport shuttle. If you have a question that is not answered on this page, please contact us.
How do I access the Parent Portal for enrolled families?
What program is best for a beginner? How do I pick the right program?
We've prepared a handy guide to help you select the right debate program!
When are your application deadlines?
To view our application deadlines and enrollment policies, please visit our Enrollment Policies page.
Do I have to attend with my regular debate partner?
For all debate events, it is not necessary to attend with your regular debate partner. In fact, the majority of students who attend each summer come without their partner. Students attending the Individual Events camp and planning to work on Duo Interp must attend with their partner, however. If you are attending and wish to debate with your regular partner, both you and your partner must make mutual partner requests in order for our academic staff to pair you for camp.
I mailed in my payment 3 days ago, and it isn't reflected in my account. Why?
Please keep in mind that US mail can sometimes take upwards of a week to be delivered, with three business days being the absolute minimum due to recent service level reductions. We also don't have the chance to check our mail every day during the off-season, as our office is only staffed part-time until the summer months (early July until the end of camp). Please allow us ample time to process your payment before you email or call to check the status.
As soon as we receive and process your check, our system will send an automated confirmation to the registered parent email address with an updated invoice attached. The moment that we've processed your check and are able to confirm whether or not we've received payment it will be recorded in our system and a notification sent.
What is the difference between the Residential and Commuter options?
The academic content is identical for both programs. For the Commuter program, students arrive before 9AM in the morning, and should plan for academic activities to continue into the evening until at least 8PM. Commuters are able to eat lunch and dinner in the cafeteria. The Residential program adds breakfast (for a total of 3 meals per day) and accommodation in Stanford housing. Most students attending the SNFI choose the Residential program. Note that by popular request of students from prior summers, 1-2 meals per week for both residents and commuters will be "dine out" meals where students eat in the Student Union building or other campus eateries of their choosing and pay for their selections themselves.
For more information on the difference between Residential and Commuter options, please see our Housing Status page.
Where will my child be staying as a resident camper?
All of our resident students will be housed on campus in a Stanford dormitory, and meals will be provided in a nearby Stanford dining hall. There is no specific room configuration guaranteed, however most students will be in double or triple occupancy rooms. Note that rooms which are double or triple occupancy during the summer may be used at a lower capacity during the academic year, and as a result there may not be a full set of furniture in each room (ex there may be one less desk/dresser than there are students), and we are unable to guarantee that every student will have a desk and/or dresser. In such a case we are unable to add more desks or dressers to any room as the dorm complex has a fixed number of desks/dressers and there are no extras available, but do suggest that students share a desk if appropriate, and to perhaps use one less dresser drawer to accommodate a roommate. We are also able to accommmodate requests for a single occupancy room on a space available basis for an additional fee.
What does tuition cover?
Tuition for residential students include room, board, tuition and a SNFI camp t-shirt. Commuter fees include tuition and lunch and dinner most days of the program. Laundry facilities (washer and dryer) are free, however you must either bring detergent or purchase on campus. Note that by popular request of students from prior summers, 1-2 meals per week for both residents and commuters will be "dine out" meals where students eat in the Student Union building or other campus eateries of their choosing and pay for their selections themselves.
For policy debate students at the SNFI the fees include electronic access to all evidence produced at the camp.
What is not covered by tuition?
Costs do not include transportation to and from the program, spending money, bath and bed linens, additional nights of lodging if necessary, camp memorabilia, copies made in the library, and optional recreational excursions. Due to popular request of students from prior summers1-2 meals per week for both residents and commuters will be "dine out" meals where students eat in the Student Union building or other campus eateries of their choosing and pay for their selections themselves.
We offer a bed linen service, commemorative camp apparel, additional nights of accommodation and optional recreational excursions via the Parent Portal.
What happens on the weekends?
We treat the weekends just like a regular day of camp. We hold classes and activities along the same schedule as if it were a week day.
My child is a vegetarian. What special arrangements do I need to make?
Stanford University's dining facilities serve vegetarian options with every meal, so there is no need to make any special arrangements.
This is my child's first time away from home. Is the camp environment safe?
The Stanford campus is one of the safest college environments in the nation, separated from the nearby communities by large tracts of undeveloped land which are owned by Stanford University. However, we of course recommend that all participants practice common sense while at the program.
During the time of our program, we will not be sharing our dorm space with other non Stanford Debate programs, and college students will not be living in our dorm during the summer. Our camp staff will live in the dorms, as will one or two employees of Stanford Conference Services who are present to make sure that the facilities are operating correctly. Getting into the dorm requires an ID tag which electronically controls access, and individual student rooms are secured by key.
We separate our housing by gender--by dorm building, floor or hall when possible. We have set curfew times at which students are required to be back in the dorm, a set time when students are required to only in the spaces assigned to their respective genders, and a time at which students are expected to be in their own rooms. Most of our staff are residential and live in the dorms along with the students in clearly marked "staff" rooms, and every hall has multiple staff members in residence. Our administrative staff have a night time rotation duty, and a member of our staff is reachable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the camp office phone number in the event of a serious situation.
During the day, classes are held in the dorms and in the academic quad. We ask that students travel in groups of three or more around the campus, but do not require that students go to class accompanied by our staff members. However, a staff member will leave from the dorms to each class, and students are welcome to accompany them to the class location. We do expect that all students will attend all listed classes, lectures and practice debates. If a student is missing from a scheduled event, our office staff will be attempting to reach them once it is reported that they are not present. For our middle school programs, students are always in groups accompanied by staff members.
Will my child have a roommate?
Most of our dorm rooms are either double or triple occupancy. You will have the option to preference a roommate beginning by approximately late-April via the Parent Portal (please don't email, call or mail in your roommate requests outside of the system available within the parent portal). We will do our best to accommodate roommate requests, but can't promise that we'll be able to fulfill your request. A valid roommate request must be submitted at least 25 days before the start of your camp session, and both roommates must mutually prefer one another. If you don't have a friend coming to camp, we will assign you a roommate based on your camp session, and then by your age.
Can I request a private, single occupancy room?
Yes, it is possible to request a single occupancy room. Availability is limited, and there is an additional charge. This option will be available in the parent portal beginning by approximately late-April.
Do you offer transportation between the airport and SNFI?
Yes, we do offer airport transportation, but ONLY from San Francisco International Airport (SFO). There are limitations on the dates and hours of pickup and dropoff, and other important conditions. For more information, please visit out airport shuttle page.
Does my child need to arrive the day before camp starts?
Please plan to arrive on the listed first day of camp, preferably between 2PM and 3:45PM. We do check-in, a camp tour and then orientation, and camp proper gets underway after dinner.
I'd like my child to attend two camps, but the listed start date for the second camp is the day after the first camp. What do I do?
We are able to house students for the one night between such programs, but you need to be sure to appropriately note this on the Arrival and Departure Info screen once you've signed up so that we know to make appropriate plans (mark that you're staying over for/after another program, one of the options). There is no charge to cover housing and dining for one night between consecutive programs, but there is a nominal fee for any additional nights before or after a session and you must confirm such availability with our adminstrative staff directly.
My child is busy, and needs to arrive a day late, or leave a day early. Is this a problem?
Each summer, there are a handful of students who need to arrive a day late or leave a day early. If you need to arrive or depart outside of our regular times, this is not a serious problem. You simply need to note this on the "Arrival & Departure Info" tab of the "Camp Session Information" page for your camp session. No other special accommodations need to be made for a late arrival or early departure.
The first day of the camp generally consists of an orientation and opening lecture. The morning of the second day is when serious academic content begins. Students who arrive later than the morning of the second day of a camp should be prepared to do some catch-up work.
Can students arrive before the first day of camp, or leave after the last day of camp?
We generally can accommodate an early arrival or a late departure, however there is an additional charge of approximately $100 per extra night of accommodations needed. In order to add extra nights of housing, please log in to your parent account and add extra nights via the "Optional Services" tab of the "Camp Session Information" page for your camp session. You also need to note your early arrival/late departure on the "Arrival & Departure Info" tab of the "Camp Session Information" page for your camp session. Any nights before or after a camp session (with the exception of in "in between" night fr two consecutive camp sessions as described above) is subject to confirmation by our administrative staff as this requires one-off arrangements and coordination to accommodate dorm stays outside of the normal time blocks.
Are there ATMs on campus for students to withdraw spending money during camp?
Yes, there are ATMs from several banks on the second floor of the Tresidder Student Union building, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Stanford Federal Credit Union.
Does SNFI help with procuringing visas for international students?
We are unable to provide any assistance for families that need to apply for a visa for program attendance. We are unable to send sponsorship letters, certificates of enrollment beyond the invoice you receive via email when you sign up and make payment, or any other form of documentation beyond what is publicly available on our website. As our programs do not award academic credit, we are unable to sponsor or in any way support education visas. Most students who attend our programs do so via the visa waiver program or on tourist visas. US Immigration officials are the final arbiters as to whether visas are required for entrance to the US, so we suggest that you direct any visa related questions to your local embassy or consulate. We can't make any special exceptions to our tuition refund policies for any problems related to visa issuance as we still incur the same costs no matter the cause of a cancelation, so if there is uncertainty as to your visa status or whether or not you will have a visa in time for camp we strongly suggest that you consider enrolling in our optional Tuition Protection Plan.
Is there a dress code during camp? Should students pack suits?
The dress code during camp is casual--common attire on the Stanford campus includes shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops, especially during the warm summer months. We request that students think about the clothing that they bring to camp to make sure that any articles of clothing wouldn't be a distraction from the learning environment.
Debate students don't need to bring dress clothes or a suit.
Individual Events staff request that students attending the Individual Events camp consider bringing something a bit nicer, perhaps a suit, to wear in the event they are speaking in the final exhibition round at the end of camp. These rounds will be open to parents to observe, and may be recorded.
Can students request certain instructors?
Instructor requests are always welcome, and will be granted when deemed educationally feasible and appropriate by that camp's administrative staff. Where the administrative staff feels that requests can be granted they will be, but there are a number of factors from fluctuations in lab size, the number of requests for a given instructor or set of instructors, the competitive or experience level of other students requesting a specific lab, the growth of a segment of the camp that requires the late addition of new instructors, the date of a student's signup and other such considerations that sometimes mean that a student may not get their first choice of instructors. No guarantee is made by SNFI for particular instructor assignment for any of the program divisions.
Will students have access to a computer lab during camp?
Yes, Stanford Debate operates a small computer lab in the dorm during the SNFI. Students will have an opportunity to access the computers during their free time, but scheduled class time in the computer lab takes priority. We strongly encourage responsible students to bring their own laptop persuant to the cautions explained below, as the realities of modern debate and research tend to rely heavily on electronic devices. Students should not plan or expect to be able to use a dorm computer lab in any significant fashion given the quick-paced nature of debate camp and the large numbers of students at camp.
Should I bring a laptop computer to camp?
A laptop computer tends to be extremely helpful during camp! Students with laptops will have greater flexibility to do research, cut cards, etc as they won't be restricted to computer lab access. Please note that we can't guarantee the security of any personal property during a student's time at camp, or be responsible for any loss or damage. Students are responsible for securing their personal property, including laptops and other electronic devices.
Is internet access free? Can I just connect to the network with my laptop and surf?
There are two ways to access the internet on the Stanford campus:
You may elect to use the limited "Stanford Visitor" wireless network on campus which restricts bandwith and requires reauthentication every 12 hours (the visitor network is limited to email, web browsing, VPN and SSH access). We expect that almost all users will find this option to meet their needs. For more information on the Stanford Visitor wireless network, visit Wireless Access for Stanford Visitors. Please note that Stanford Debate is unable to sponsor "Wireless Guest" accounts for any program participants.
In order to receive "full" access to network resources, each device which has a unique IP address needs to be separately registered on the network (computer, phone, etc). There are several steps to registering a device on the Stanford network. Your computer must be fully updated (ex windows updates), have an administrator password, and also have an anti-virus program installed and updated. We recommend that students install needed software and update their computers at home to make the registration process smoother. Please note that you are unable to begin the registration process untl you are physically on campus, and you will need to have a SNFI staff member in the camp office input a conference code to authenticate your device. Stanford Debate is unable to provide technical support beyond the input of our conference code for this form of network access, and for students who are unable to successfully register their devices on the network we will first suggest use of the "Stanford Visitor" wireless network and secondly refer the student to the Tech Help Center on the second floor of Meyer Library (fees may apply for technical assistance). Here is a guide provided by Stanford Academic Computing with guidance for registering devides on the Stanford Network: Summer Conference Network Access.
What are the rules at SNFI?
Click here to read the rules and resposibilities of all SNFI attendees. You'll be required to agree to and sign these rules as a condition of attending camp, and our administrative staff will expect you to follow the contents.