Q. Will debate help me with my academics?
A. Definitely! Debate is tremendously valuable for academics. You learn to construct an argument quickly and in a sophisticated way so that, for example, putting together an English paper or an argumentative in-class essay becomes a much easier task. You also learn a lot about the world and about how to communicate your ideas effectively. Debate helps with standardized college admissions tests such as the SAT. The skills you learn in debate are parallel to the critical thinking skills, vocabulary usage, fast mental thinking, comprehension, and quick argumentative essay writing skills that college-board tests focus on. Debate improves comprehension and analytical skills that are crucial to IB and SAT success. Because debaters work with college-level texts in preparation for debate topics, reading comprehension questions become a breeze. The 25 minute essay on the SAT is also a lot easier for debaters to write, because they are used to 4 minutes of preparation time to come up with intelligent responses to arguments in round.
Q. But is this just another class?
A. Not at all. Being on the team is a way to go beyond the classroom, and we strive to learn about things that interest us personally, rather than those that are required or assigned.
Q. Is debate only for the really academic students?
A. No. Being an effective debater is not just about being smart; it involves being able to communicate. We are looking for students with natural charisma, people who aren’t afraid to lead a crowd, people who are outgoing and extroverted. Most importantly, however, you don’t need to come into debate having all of those qualities. In fact, most members join because they want to be less shy in front of a crowd, or want to just work on their public speaking; those are all important things debate can help you improve on too.
Q. Do debaters get into good colleges?
A. Yes. Debate looks great on a transcript, because it is a signal to colleges that you are an independent thinker who is ready and willing to form your own thoughts and make a difference in the world. More importantly, debate teaches you the kind of skills that tend toward success not only in high school but also in college and life.
Q. Will I have time to do other things?
A. Yes. In fact, most members in debate do many other activities. You are welcome to do debate regardless of whether you only want to go to one or two local tournaments throughout the year or compete almost every single weekend. Our season lasts almost the entire year (though starting in March, many of the tournaments are postseason or qualifier-only), so you can choose from a large range of local and national tournaments to prevent overlap with your other commitments. We have meetings twice a week (every Wednesday afternoon and Thursday evening), but remember that you are neither obligated nor expected to be present at every meeting in the year. We will notify all members via email or morning announcements whenever there is a mandatory meeting.
Q. Are teachers understanding when I miss school for debate?
A. Yes. Teachers are very understanding about school days missed for debate. Debate tournaments are typically scheduled many months in advance, giving debaters ample time to prepare for missed assignments, and even to complete work beforehand.
Q. What happens if I lose?
A. Nothing. We do not measure team members by the size of their trophies. At the very least, losing creates an opportunity for you to get better. Some of the finest national-level debaters struggled at first as novices entering the activity, just as many of the successful debaters on our team lost a majority of their rounds during the start of their career. If you do struggle, don’t worry; we’ll be happy to help you out. Furthermore, there is almost always bad luck at a tournament.