Have questions about our Stanford Pre-Orientation Trips? Check out the frequently asked questions below.

Why should I go on SPOT?

Check out what past participants and leaders had to say:

  • “I truly believe that every student coming into Stanford would benefit from this program… Being from New York City, I had never done anything like backpacking before, and can now confidently say that I am a real wilderness lover. Thank you SPOT!”
  • “SPOT was the perfect way for me to start my Stanford experience. There’s something about being with a group of people in the woods for a backpacking trip that makes everyone equal. This unique experience takes some of the intimidation out of leaving high school to come to Stanford.”
  • “Coming to Stanford my freshman year, I knew absolutely no one. SPOT was my first introduction to other students and I was able to connect with them on a much deeper level than just surface introductions. … The SPOT community is awesome, welcoming, and easy going. …Participating in SPOT allows me to reconnect every year.”
  • “This program is valuable and influential for incoming undergraduates. As a SPOTlet, SPOT made a huge difference in how I approached college. I was a more confident person because of it.”
  • “I’ve been a SPOT leader three times as well as participating in SPOT and the experience has been amazing. …As a friend and mentor I get to know a small and awesome group of people really well by sharing the experience of SPOT with them.”
  • “I was able to meet and get incredibly close to 13 new friends and I don’t think there is any other organization or activity where I can do the same.”
  • “I learned how nature can bring people together and what it means to get to know someone well.”

Who is eligible to apply for SPOT?

Any incoming undergraduate student, including transfer students, can apply to the SPOT lottery. Participants come from a variety of backgrounds, and have the common interest of participating in an immersive experience to get to know other Stanford students. However, International Student Orientation (ISO) takes place at the same time as SPOT. If you are an international student and interested in participating in SPOT, please clarify your status with a student advisor to see if you are eligible to miss ISO. More info here.

Who are the trip leaders and crew?

SPOT Leaders and Crew are dynamic and enthusiastic Stanford students who volunteer their time, effort and passion to welcome you to Stanford! Each SPOT trip will have 2-3 leaders, all of whom are current or former Stanford students. Trip leaders prepare by taking coursework in technical and interpersonal outdoors skills, going on an outdoor leader training trip in the field, and completing certifications in CPR and Wilderness First Aid. SPOT Leaders and Crew are energizing, thoughtful Stanford folks, and may become your good friends for life. Many SPOT Leaders and Crew went on SPOT themselves, and had such a great experience that they wanted to provide it for others!

How does the application lottery process work?

The SPOT 2020 Lottery will open at 8am PST on June 16th and close at 5pm PST on June 21st.

SPOT uses a lottery system to place applicants based on their trip preferences. You can register for the lottery on the spot.stanford.edu home page beginning on June 16th. By completing your application and submitting a deposit during the lottery period, you commit to paying the full cost ($400*) of participating in SPOT if you receive a space through the lottery. Those who are granted a space will be notified during the week of June 24th.

*Need-based financial aid is available for this program.

Because unforeseen injuries, illnesses and family emergencies do occur that may prevent you from participating in SPOT, you may be interested in purchasing a travel insurance plan that includes coverage for trip cancellation. We recommend Travel Guard as an insurance provider.

It’s important that YOU, the student, set up your profile/account and enter your information (rather than a friend or parent), and be responsible for your registration and general correspondence. Set up your account with an email address that you check frequently (your SUNetID@stanford.edu would be the best!)

How does the waitlist work?

If you do not receive a space through the lottery process, by default, you’ll be placed on the waitlist and be notified immediately if a space opens up. You’ll have a few days to confirm your placement on a SPOT trip, so make sure you check your email frequently! If we don’t hear back from you, we’ll offer the space to the next person on the waitlist. If by mid-August a space is not available for you, we will initiate a refund of your $50 deposit. There are two additional options for those interested:

  1. To be taken off of the waitlist immediately, and have your $50 deposit fully refunded.
  2. To further stay on the waitlist after mid-August, hoping that a last minute space will open up. If nothing opens up, your $50 deposit will be fully refunded.

How much does SPOT cost?

The base participation fee for SPOT is $400, which includes all accommodations, food, group equipment, and activity expenses for the program. Personal equipment, including equipment rented through our outdoor center, is not included in the fee. Financial Aid is available to help defray the cost of SPOT for those who qualify. See below for more information.

A $50 credit card deposit is required to enter the SPOT lottery. If you are given a space on SPOT through the lottery process, you will be required to pay your balance on your first Stanford University bill, made available mid-August 2020.

Is there financial aid available?

The Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education has generously offered SPOT funding for financial aid.  Awards will be determined based on financial need as determined by the Office of Financial Aid.  Individual award amounts will depend on the total number of students who qualify for aid, but typically range between $75 and $200, but can cover the entire trip cost, depending on the level of need.

Financial aid requests are made during the lottery application process and will be processed as quickly as possible after we sort through the lottery applications.  The $50 credit card deposit is still required during registration in the application lottery, regardless of whether aid awards are given. Deposit refund requests will be considered only for reasons of financial hardship.

The SPOT lottery is need-blind. Your financial situation has no bearing on whether or not you receive a space on SPOT.

Is the participation fee the only cost?

If you don’t already own required equipment, there are ideas there for reducing costs if you don’t already own personal gear that is required on the trip. Contact us if you have any questions about what types of clothing and gear is needed. Planning ahead and preparing can save you money if you seek out creative sales and thrift stores!

What if I’ve never been camping?

There’s no experience required to do SPOT! It’s true, you will be sleeping on the ground, possibly traversing over uneven and rocky trails, relieving yourself behind a tree or in a hole that you dig, spending time free from wi-fi and cell phone coverage which may be new (or old) experiences for you. Just have an open attitude and interest in learning and experiencing!

When does SPOT take place? When should I arrive? Does SPOT interfere with NSO?

SPOT 2020 takes place September 16-21. Plan to check-in to SPOT headquarters between Noon and 1pm PST on Thursday, September 10th. More details about location will be distributed later in the summer. Students are required to stay with SPOT until it ends the morning of September 16th (remind your parents of this!), just in time to head off to your dorms for New Student Orientation check-in. You won’t miss any of the exciting events Stanford has planned for all incoming students during NSO.

Where do I store my stuff?

Plan on bringing only limited supplies to campus when you check-in to SPOT (i.e., what you need for your trip, and a change of clothes). With little storage space, we can only support a duffle or small suitcase for each participant while you are out on trips. Coordinate shipping or other means of delivery of your school-year supplies and valuables arrive to campus/your residence after SPOT is over. More resources will become available as the summer goes on.

Other Questions? Contact Us!