Vector image of male debating female standing at podiums with spotlight

How Speech and Debate Can Make You a Better Student

Speech and debate is a great activity that teaches you valuable skills you can use in college and beyond. Read on to learn about four major benefits.

Joining my high school’s speech and debate team as a freshman completely changed my life. I wasn’t previously interested in debate, but something about their booth at the club fair just drew me in. I went to my first meeting and fell in love with it. It was uncomfortable at first since I was nervous about being judged for my speaking and having to come up with arguments on the fly. As a result, my first debate rounds were awful. But the more I practiced and stepped out of my comfort zone, the better I got at it. I loved being able to see my improvement, trying different events, and working with the other members of my team. More than that, the time I spent doing speech and debate helped me learn some very valuable skills. Even though I’m in college now and no longer participate in debate, I still use these skills to succeed academically. Here are four areas you’re bound to improve upon by participating in speech and debate.

Presentations and public speaking

One of the most important parts of debate is being able to present your arguments, whether they’re prewritten or something you come up with mid-round. When I had my first-ever debate, I was terrible at this. I fidgeted with my hands, swayed back and forth, and ran out of things to say before my time was over. But after a lot of speaking drills and practice rounds, I got better. I stood more confidently, used my hands only for emphasis, made eye contact with the judges, and filled my speaker time. I learned that it wasn’t just about what I said but how I said it, which has helped me immensely. Speech and debate experience will help you determine exactly what pace you need to talk at to fulfill a certain time requirement when doing presentations for classes. You’ll learn how to speak convincingly and confidently while easily transitioning from one subject to another and moving through certain parts without looking at your notes. Even though I was nervous going into it, debate helped me conquer my fear of public speaking, which has proved useful ever since.


For any pre-written speeches, you’ll have to do lots of research on whatever your topic is. That means you must find quality sources to use as evidence; otherwise, your opponents will be able to easily refute them. As part of speech and debate, I got really good at searching through various databases and evaluating different articles to find the perfect source. Research was a skill I had to work at, and the quality of my evidence increased the more I was forced to practice it. A lot of times, you’ll have to read complicated text about subjects you’re unfamiliar with, but this will help you increase your overall reading comprehension greatly. By doing quality research and reading academic papers regularly, you’ll be better prepared to tackle any subject or class. You’ll also learn how to find great sources for papers and presentations, plus how to make sure they’re the right ones for your projects. Ensuring that a source is reliable and unbiased is important in academics, careers, and life in general.

Related: Why and How You Can Get Into Research in High School

Forming strong arguments

When you join speech and debate, you’ll find you don’t just need good sources to win a round; you also need to form your resources and information into a convincing argument. Debate taught me the how-to’s of argumentation. Through my teachers, I learned the structure of an argument, how to write one without bias, and how to avoid common logical fallacies. All this made my writing far more convincing and helped me succeed in my debate events. This is truly a skill that pays off for students, especially when so many classes require argumentative or persuasive papers. It will also help you recognize arguments in papers you have to read, making them easier to talk about and analyze. Sometimes, it’s even helpful when you’re reading the news—you’ll be able to spot when someone’s using a fallacy or providing biased information. All in all, this skill is important no matter what debate event you participate in, and it’s especially important for college-level work.


The main event I did in the debate was called Public Forum, which required me to work with a partner for all our rounds. At first, I debated with a couple different people until I found someone I worked well with. Despite this, we still had to learn how to be good teammates. This involved dividing tasks fairly between us, communicating with each other in a fast-paced environment, and being respectful of one another even when things were difficult. When we did this, we highlighted each other’s strengths and did well at tournaments. Learning how to work with others is an important part of life, especially when you end up doing group projects in school. The skills you learn through speech and debate can help you manage those and are also particularly useful when you graduate college and enter the workforce.

Related: Video: How to Effectively Handle Group Projects

Speech and debate didn’t just teach me how to be a debater but how to be a public speaker, a researcher, a good teammate, and so much more. All these skills will help you grow academically and will continue to benefit you throughout your life. Looking back at it now, it’s strange to think that I almost didn’t join my debate team because I wasn’t sure it would be for me. But as it turns out, there were plenty of events for me to try and plenty of space for me to grow. Sure, I was nervous at first. But it forced me to get out of my comfort zone and think on my feet. In the end, joining speech and debate changed my life and helped me become a better student. I encourage all of you to go out and try something new—after all, it might change your life too!

Interested in pursuing this extracurricular in college? Check out this list of Colleges With Winning Traditions in Speech and Debate.

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About Kaitlyn Gress

For as long as she can remember, Kaitlyn Gress has been passionate about writing, from fiction to nonfiction and everything in between. Through her work, she explores her own voice and experiences while creating thought-provoking stories and articles for others to enjoy. Originally from Colorado, Kaitlyn is currently studying English Writing at Loyola University New Orleans. Her writing has previously been published in Creative Communications: A Celebration of Poets.


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