10 tips for rising seniors from college debate directors

By Jarrod Atchison (Wake Forest University, atchisrj@wfu.edu), Aaron Kall (University of Michigan, akall@umich.edu), and Sarah Topp (Trinity University, stopp@trinity.edu)

1) You don’t need to be a top level debater in high school to be successful in college debate. If you have any interest in trying college debate, try it. Many very successful college debaters had very limited high school careers.


2) As early as possible, email and/or call coaches. This gets you on their radar and helps you begin to sort through all of the different programs. 

3) Ask specific questions in the email. You might consider asking about the travel schedule, squad size, squad environment and demographics, scholarships and other financial aid, academic programs, university relationship/support of the team, coaching styles, etc. You might also clarify deadlines for applications and financial aid. It is also okay to ask for contact information of squad members to get another perspective on the team. 

4) Cast a wide net at first. Contact a lot of directors and coaches to get a sense of everything that is available. Tons of programs exist and doing a bit of early research will help you figure out what type of program and school best suits you and your needs. Your coaches and judges will know how to contact many directors, but you should also consider looking over this list- http://www.wcdebate.com/7others/list-of-policy-colleges.htm

5) Apply to colleges early.  The influence of college debate directors is often greater earlier in the process and can wane as the academic year progresses.  Additionally, many merit scholarships are awarded by colleges to students that are accepted earlier in the year.

6) Don’t let debate solely define your college choice.  Consider schools that are well-rounded for your needs and that you will enjoy whether or not you are a member of the debate team. 

7) Talk to a wide variety of people about debate programs in which you are interested. This list could include current and/or former debaters, alums, current and/or former coaches, and former high school debaters who chose not to pursue debate in college.

8)  The College Debate Preview during the St. Mark’s Tournament (October 18-20, 2013) is an excellent opportunity to interact with college debate directors and active college debaters.  If you attend this tournament, please consider taking advantage of this event.

9) Look at the data; tabroom.com and opencaselist.paperlessdebate.com give you an excellent perspective on the tournaments college debate programs attend, who all travels to tournaments, argument preferences, and how a program has recently done. Don’t get too fixated on a program’s past, but do use the data to evaluate the things you are told by directors and alumni. 

10) Always treat an initial financial aid offer as a negotiation. Most academic institutions care about losing top notch candidates to their peer institutions. If you have a better offer from a peer institution, reach out to the financial aid office to explain that you are interested in attending but have a better offer. Be prepared to share the details of the competing offer to help guide the conversation. 

2 responses to “10 tips for rising seniors from college debate directors

  1. Pingback: Eyes Opened | Leadership Declassified·

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