There is hardly a step in the university preparation process in which public speaking is not an asset. First and most applicably, the adept public speaker easily navigates the classroom environment, in which students are asked to articulate points on the fly and regularly give presentations. Excelling in these contexts is a simple but reliable way to stand out in the classroom—a requisite for good grades and for building strong relationships with instructors.
Outside the classroom, public speaking allows access to countless award opportunities at speech and debate competitions. With competitions abound at the local, national, and international level, seriously engaging in speech and debate as an extracurricular activity can help compose a robust university application (more on this later).
Lastly, speaking practise comes in handy during the interview process for university admissions. Success in Oxbridge interviews is simply a requisite for admission; US universities also rely on interviews to form a more thorough impression of applicants. Fluently articulating your interests, experiences, and stories during these interviews can be the key to earning acceptance at top universities.
Thinking back to my second point, below is a compilation of public speaking and debate competitions of renown. Performing well at, or representing your region/country at any of these competitions can be a significant addition to your personal essays and list of awards and accomplishments.
To form teams for competition and to practise your public speaking skills, it is often helpful to join a speech and debate community in your area. Many secondary schools in countries such as the US, UK, Hong Kong, and Singapore already offer speech and debate classes or afterschool programmes. You can also look to local home-school leagues, independent academies, or debate-related non-profits for coaching and resources.
- World Schools Debating Championship
- Largest international competition for high school debate teams representing their countries. Must qualify to national team to participate. Tournament takes place late July; selection process varies by country but usually begins the year prior.
- Asia World Schools Debating Championship
- Most participating teams are national representatives or on their countries’ development team, though some schools send teams as well. Takes place shortly before WSDC.
- Eurasian Schools Debating Championship
- Similar to AWSDC in team composition. Takes place in March.
- National Speech and Debate Association: National Tournament
- Largest high school level tournament, encompassing all US formats of speech and debate (Lincoln Douglas, Public Forum, Original Oratory, and many more). Must qualify from your district to participate. US students must perform well at one of several regional tournaments to qualify; students outside the US should partake in their respective national selection process (see NSDA Korea, China, Japan, etc.).
- University-hosted tournaments (Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, etc.)
- Many debate societies affiliated with US universities host high school tournaments year-round.
- English Speaking Union Schools’ Mace
- Secondary school level debating competition for schools in England. Participate through your school’s debate programme. Preliminary rounds in October to January, national final in late March.
- World Individual Public Speaking and Debate Championship
- International public speaking tournament for individual high school students representing their countries. Must be selected through national qualifying competitions or application to national public speaking organisation. Takes place in late March.
- Open tournaments: Hong Kong Debate Open, China BP, Shanghai International Debate Open, Seoul Open, etc.
- Open tournaments (open to everyone high school age and above) take place all around the world, year-round. Some larger tournaments host separate high school divisions.
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