I'd first like to start off saying that regardless of what lab you are put into at the GDI you will get far more than what you paid for. The GDI experience is amazing. Coming from a small school, I can definitely sympathize with your skepticism about applying. Let me tell you how things went for me and if you have ANY questions, feel free to pm me and you can really ask me anything about this institution.
The summer after my sophomore year I applied to the GDI 4 week varsity program. There I was under the instruction of Malcolm Gordon, Conor Cleary, and Mike Hester (if you don't know who these guys are, google their names with debate and you will see their endless accolades). Prior to this I had 1 YEAR OF IN-TOWN EXPERIENCE. What that means was I was horrible. I knew absolutely nothing about policy. So everything that I applied my junior year came STRAIGHT from that lab.
The next summer, I applied to GDI Scholars and got accepted. The positive thing about Gonzaga's application compared to others is that it does not revolve around your record. Their holistic application process (letter to the staff, record, essay about your favorite arg, etc.) gives you a chance to showcase your various abilities such that they can grasp a better understanding of your character and determination rather than just your performance. This selection criteria gives students from small schools THE BEST CHANCES at getting into a competitive lab because it allots extra-space to extrapolate on extraneous circumstances.
Overall, I will list a couple positive things about the GDI in general:
1. VERY CHEAP
-This is really obvious, ask anyone. Go compare the GDI with prices from other institutions of the same caliber and you won't even come close to beating it.
2. GREAT LAB LEADERS
-You will have lab leaders that you have heard crazy stories about, watched on the internet, and are basically revered by the HS and college community. You will get to work with the best and the brightest, that is a consistent them of the GDI.
3. LOTS OF PRACTICE DEBATES/GOOD EVIDENCE PRODUCTION
-If you were to debate the whole year off the GDI ev alone I think you'd actually end up with a winning record (not that I would EVER suggest this, lol). The point is GDI puts out a crazy amount of evidence that is both thorough and expansive. You will get all the major disads, Ks, CPs, case negs, and generic args that you will need.
4. GREAT ATMOSPHERE
-If there was one thing I noticed was that at times, I learned more out of lab than in-lab. The GDI is filled with students passionate about the activity. The best part is that everyone wants to help. Whether you're just taking a shower or eating at the cafeteria, people will often be discussing some facet of policy debate. It gives you a great opportunity to join in, ask questions, and expand your horizons somewhat. Also, for non-scholars, GDI hosts an array of entertainment options. You can play ultimate frisby, stake out a patch on their amazing grass field, go downtown, or really do whatever.
Now, the benefits of scholars specifically:
1. Three names: Jason Russel, Sarah Holbrook, and Jeff Buntion (also Burshteyn my year, but this fourth position alternates)
-Ask anyone in the country and these three are amazing. Jason is quite possibly the toughest yet most instructive coach I have ever encountered. He was able to break debate down from this esoteric activity to a simple series of arguments. He makes you feel like everything is beatable and you really want to win debates for him. Sarah Holbrook has a mind for kritikal arguments like no other. There is a reason she successfully coached the WGLF. Also, she was always nice to turn to when Jason Russel went crazy. Lastly, Jeff Buntin= card cutting machine. This guy could find a card on absolutely anything. Enough said.
To speak of these leaders comprehensively it's very simple. They make sure that you are there to debate, and SOLELY debate. Often times at camp you will find it is very easy to get distracted. These lab leaders make sure that during lab you are cutting cards, asking questions, and being efficient. Outside of lab they are doing the same. The scholars put out 1000 pages of evidence in the first 2 days. There was a time when the lab leaders came to our dorms at night and told us that we were cutting cards or going to bed; not goofing off. They really push you to work.
2. I have never learned more in my life
I came into scholars with zero out-round experience. My first day at camp I could cut like 10-20 pages of cards in 1 day. At the end, I could cut 100 pages a day (just in-lab hours). The coolest part was that I was definitely not the most improved scholar. You literally watch you and your peers get SO MUCH better. The best part is that this staff teaches you that you don't need to come from a big school or have any resources to go to the TOC . You just need intelligence and committment.
This year alone I have won every single local tournament in Nevada and I have cleared at my first national circuit tournament this year (The Meadows- Semis bid).
3. Credible alum
I'd say 90% of the scholars leave and clear at most out of town tourneys. Most go on to go to the TOC. From last summer, we already have multiple out-round appearances and Erik Johnson (Belarmine) received his first bid at the Meadows. Tyler Boykin was also a GDI scholar alum and I believe he went to the TOC his junior year.
Sorry for the really long post. I'm not sure if much of this made sense but that's why I leave the floor open for questions. I really encourage you applying to GDI scholars. It will be a great decision. I ended up picking this camp over 7 week (I think that camp is great too, just way too expensive for me).
Btw, GDI scholars have fun too, the regular campers just never knew about it. The scholars had like three barbeques, we get better dorms, and Jason ordered us pizza in-lab