Frequently Asked Questions
How does debate impact college admissions?
College admissions officers value candidates that possess strong critical thinking, research, and public speaking abilities. Public Forum debate helps develop these skills. This is why many NHSDLC debaters have gained admission to the top universities in the world, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Tsinghua, and Peking, among many others.
How do I register for tournaments? What are the deadlines for registration?
Registration can be done online. Go to the Upcoming Tournaments page, and click on the tournament that would like to register for. Follow the instructions to complete the form, and pay the registration fee. Registration for a tournament normally closes one week before the start date.
Can I participate at regional tournaments that are not in my home city? Can I attend more than one tournament?
All tournaments are open for students from other cities, and we find that students improve faster as they participate more. We encourage students to participate in more than one tournament in a season.
If I travel to attend a tournament, does the NHSDLC provide accommodation?
The NHSDLC does not provide accommodation for students. However, recommendations of restaurants and hotels will be included in the tournament information email sent to you by our league staff one week prior to the tournament.
How do I find a debate partner? Can I change a partner?
We encourage debaters to partner with students from their school debate club, because it will be easier for debaters to prepare for the tournament together. If you cannot find a partner, you can still register on your own. NHSDLC staff will contact you after registration and try to help pair you with a teammate.
What is the debate topic? When and where will it be posted?
The topic for every tournament in Spring 2018 season is: Resolved: In the United States criminal justice system, only people convicted of violent crimes should be sentenced to prison.
The NHSDLC releases separate topics for the fall and spring debate seasons. The topics will be published one month before each season starts on our website home page and official WeChat account. The National Championship will use a third topic.
Where can I access training materials?
The NHSDLC releases sample cases and a research packet every season after the announcement of the topic. Students can use these resources to develop arguments on the topic and craft their debate strategy.
The NHSDLC offers additional training opportunities, including free training sessions for member schools, Winter and Summer debate camps, and U.S.-based programs.
If you want to hire a private coach for one-on-one instruction, visit the website of our academic partner, Coach Connect.
I am a first-time debater. Will I face really experienced debaters?
The first two preliminary rounds are randomly paired, so you have an equal chance of facing every team in the tournament that is not from your school. The final two preliminary rounds are power-matched. This means that you will be paired against students with a similar record, and therefore a similar skill level.
Our opponents failed to show up within 15 minutes after a round was announced. Do we get an automatic win?
If your opponents are 15 minutes late, you might receive an automatic win depending on the circumstances, or you might be paired with a new opponent. However, NHSDLC staff makes the final determination on all rule-related issues. Since we want students to debate as many times as possible, we will try and find you a new opponent if there is one available.
How many rounds do I need to win in order to advance to elimination rounds? How can I know if I am advancing to elimination rounds?
All debaters with a 3-1 record in preliminary rounds will advance to elimination rounds (also known as “breaking”). Depending on the size of the tournament, some teams with a 2-2 record may advance.
NHSDLC requires participating teams who advance into elimination rounds to confirm with NHSDLC staff that they will return on Sunday for elimination rounds before leaving the tournament. Preliminary round results and ballots will also be posted online by 10 pm on the first day of the tournament.
When can I check my ballots? Where can I see my ballots?
We do not allow oral feedback, or disclosure of results in any form, during preliminary rounds. However, all preliminary ballots will be uploaded to the website by 10pm on the first day of competition.
Each tournament will also release a link where students can review ballots.
How are the National Rankings calculated? Will changing partners affect my rankings?
All debaters who participate in NHSDLC tournaments are ranked based upon their competitive success throughout the regular season and end-of-season championship. Results are calculated based on final result at each tournament, and tournaments are weighted differently based on the number of students at the tournament.
Rankings are calculated individually so changing partners will not affect your rank.
Who is eligible to participate in the NHSDLC National Championship?
Teams who advance to the elimination round at a regional tournament qualify for the National Championship.
If a team does not qualify via a regional tournament, a limited number of spots will be made available to exceptional debaters. NHSDLC camp participants, or teams recommended by a member school, may qualify after a thorough review process.
I feel like my English ability was better than my opponents, and that I was better prepared. Why did I lose the round?
Debate is won or lost only on arguments; English ability does not matter. Public forum debate emphasizes a debater’s ability to persuade the general public. Sometimes, debaters are more informed about the topic, but they fail to convey their knowledge to the audience. Other times, debaters successfully demonstrate why their arguments are true, but fail to address why their arguments are more important than their opponents. It is normal for experienced debaters to lose rounds, and it is important to remember that every round is different.
However, if you are better at public speaking, speech clarity and organization, or preparation, you could be awarded higher speaker points.
I have participated in several regional tournaments, but cannot advance past the quarterfinals. What should I do?
We understand that it is difficult for you to find resources for improving only on your own. It is difficult for us to diagnose why you are unable to advance further. However, an experienced private coach can work with you to create a personal debate improvement plan. A coach can identify the problems with your debate style, and help you improve rapidly.
Coach Connect is a partner organization that connects students with highly qualified private coaches. You can learn more about Coach Connect here.
There are many students interested in debate in my school. How can I start a school debate club?
We offer free advice here on how to start a school debate club. Don’t be discouraged by logistics--if you cannot find a classroom for trainings, just gather some friends, find a quiet place, and practice together. The most important thing is to find other students with a common passion, and just debate! The NHSDLC also offers free trainings for schools, so please contact us to arrange a training.
What are the qualifications of judges at NHSDLC regional tournaments?
The NHSDLC recruits fluent English speakers from a variety of academic and business backgrounds. Many of them have significant experience in high school or university debate. All judges undergo extensive training before they judge at tournaments. NHSDLC staff also read and monitor judges and ballots throughout the tournament, in order to ensure quality and consistency among our judging pool.
I am not satisfied with my result. Who can I talk to?
You are always welcome to talk with an NHSDLC staff. But please be aware that debaters are not allowed in the tab room at tournaments. We run these competitions because we love debate and working with students, and will do our best to help understand your concerns and address them.
However, if you do not feel that your problem was adequately addressed at the tournament, please visit the contact us page and complete the form. We will get back to you as soon as possible.
Please be advised that the results of rounds cannot be altered under any circumstances.