Competing in debate in high school can be one of the most rewarding after-school activities to participate in. Not only is it fun for the short-term, students learn a variety of skills that are applicable to both college and to most workplaces, skills they will be extremely grateful to have later on down the line.
One of the most important skills that students learn from competitive debate is the ability to both reason well and to think on their feet. Students become adept at speaking in front of groups of people, which is an important ability whether students fancy careers in law or in arts, in the sciences or in teaching. In a rapid crossfire, students need to be able to formulate coherent replies to questions that have just been posed, in a timely manner, and those responses need to both have a basis in fact and follow non-fallacious lines of reasoning.
Students also tend to learn organization skills: their notes must be ordered in such a way that they can quickly find the information that they need to back up claims they might make in spur-of-the-moment answers. If they are asked for their sources, they need to be able to state them quickly, without too much shuffling through their oftentimes pages and pages of notes. Likewise, those sources need to be reputable—students will learn what it means to do good, accurate research on a subject. With the amount of research they do, too, their knowledge of current events and issues will grow.
Many times students are responsible for writing their own speeches based on whatever research they have done, so students must learn to write persuasively and concisely—they only have a certain amount of time to state their position and back it up with as many facts as they can. As they will be giving these speeches aloud, many students, if they did not already know how to do so, learn how to incorporate their voice into their writing, for it can be awkward to read their speeches otherwise.
While it’s never advisable to do something purely for the sake of putting it on a college application or a résumé, the fact remains that competitive debate does look great on either. It shows that students are intelligent, capable communicators, persuasive, and willing to do a bit of work, among other things.
Debate teams offer the opportunity to meet new and intelligent students, and teams often spend a lot of time together, between meets and preparing for meets and running their own meets. It is a way to make lifelong friends, even with people who don’t go to the same school as you and whom you might not have otherwise met. Overall, competitive debate team has the potential to be a lot of fun and highly mentally stimulating.