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Questions to Consider

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Unlike high school debate, where your involvement may be determined by where you live, college debate programs are a choice. When looking at programs, you should consider what team fits best with your expectations of what kind of collegiate debater you want to be.

  1. What kind of debate does your program do? Just like high school debate, there are different variations of the activity, and some former policy debate programs have switched formats. Ask the director what type of tournaments the team attends.
  2. Find out how students are expected to balance school and debate work. Some programs are more supportive of school work than others. You should ask the director how he or she sees debate as part of an overall educational experience.
  3. What is the culture of the team? The director or program might have set expectations for what the team should strive to achieve. You can get a sense of these expectations by asking current debaters what they enjoy about the team. What are qualities or expectations are emphasized?
  4. What do students do after they graduate? Even programs that you may not have heard of at debate camp or by watching college sports might have a successful track record at placing graduates in law or graduate school.
  5. What is the travel schedule? Some teams travel to tournaments nationwide, while others stay on the regional circuit. Find out what kind of travel schedule this program follows.
  6. Find out how the travel schedule is determined. Unlike most high school teams, restrictions may be in place for the entire team to travel. You should ask if these restrictions exist (such as experience level, budget of the team).
  7. Look for colleges that have the major(s) that you are interested in and also have a debate team, not the other way around. College debate is important, but what is more important is that you debate at a school that will prepare you for your career choice, one you will feel comfortable attending.
  8. Find out how much time is expected for you to spend on debate. Programs have various expectations on participation. Some teams devote many hours to team practice and research; others allow more flexibility for involvement.
  9. Are there expectations beyond competition on the team? Are you expected to coach a high school program? Help run an institute or large tournament? Teams vary on the community service.
  10. Is it ok for you to take a term off from debate? Many schools offer study abroad terms, or student teaching semesters. If these activities are important to you, find out if you have an option to take a term or semester off from debate in order to participate in other educational activities.