FAQs

hiking in mule ear

Why should I go on SPOT?

Read these quotes from past SPOT participants to get their take!

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?

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 2017 Lottery will open at 8am PST on June 20th and close at 5pm PST on June 26th.

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 20th.  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 26th.

*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 2017.

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?

Check out the Equipment page for required personal supplies.  If you don’t already own required equipment, there are ideas there for reducing costs if you don’t already own personal gear.  Planning ahead and preparing can save you money if you seek out creative sales and thrift stores!

 What’s the difference among the trip types?

SPOT 2017 offers two trip types: basecamping and wilderness backpacking.  The main difference between the first two is that basecamping trips will camp at the same location each night, leaving their gear at camp while they hike during the day.  The wilderness backpacking trips will carry their gear from site to site, camping at a different site each night. Both trip types will hike 4-7 miles per day.

Should I be preparing physically for SPOT?

SPOT trips are appropriate for first-time backpackers; we prioritize the proverbial journey over racing to a destination and will stop for plenty of breaks along the trail. However, please do not underestimate the physical challenge of hiking 4 or 5 miles a day (sometimes more) with a full pack (30-50 lbs. if wilderness backpacking) at a higher elevation than you are probably accustomed to (6,000 to 10,000 feet or higher). We encourage all participants to do some form of aerobic exercise regularly over the summer; you will have a far more enjoyable trip if you are physically prepared for it. If you have questions about your ability to participate or any other concerns, please contact us as soon as possible.

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 2017 takes place September 13-19. Plan to check-in to SPOT headquarters between 1 and 2pm on Wednesday, September 13. 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 19 (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.

What equipment do I need? It seems expensive, and I don’t own all of that!

Check out the Equipment page, and ideas there for reducing costs if you don’t already own personal gear.

Other questions…

Visit our contact page and call or send an email!  We love hearing from students with questions!