How to transition from high school to college debate:
- Don’t worry if you were not a ‘speech & debater’ in high school. Some of the most successful people in collegiate debate never formally engaged in academic arguments prior to joining their team.
- If you were a debater, don’t bog yourself down by viewing college debate in the same way. The student authority over tournaments, the lack of coaches and the nature of less prepped debate can be disconcerting to those with a set perception of what competition ‘should be like.’ Be open-minded to a somewhat different experience and it will grow on you with time. Watch good college debaters and try to adapt the skills you learned in high school to meet these new requirements.
- Don’t be afraid of losing. As a novice, you’ll be unseeded at tournaments, so you may face some of the best teams in the nation in your first round. It is possible to defeat them, but understand that they have more experience than you do, and it’s no shame to lose. Even if you feel like you don’t deserve to speak a single sentence in English again after a round, overcome that instinct and try to learn from your defeats. Improvement, and shinies, will definitely come with time and work.
How to debate and study at the same time:
- Make SURE you resolve your academic schedule with your debate schedule before you commit to a tournament. Otherwise, you may face the unpleasant choice of missing a midterm or paying $400 for an unused plane ticket.
- Finish your problems sets/essays/other work well before you’re scheduled to fly out on Thursday night. You need that time to get some rest, get your affairs in order, and PACK your suitcase. You’ll normally arrive back on campus by noon on Sunday but leaving your work to the last minute when you’re sleep deprived may not be the best option.
- Believe it or not, debate can help your grades. You’ll learn a lot about structuring arguments, making logical and persuasive cases, as well as information about a whole bunch of stuff, from international relations to economics to law to pop culture. Lots of team members have preserved 4.0 GPAs and Phi Beta Kappas while being fully committed to debate as well. So don’t worry too much about class.
How to fly cross-country several times a quarter:
- Pack light and small. Checking your luggage in is NOT an option because it often leads to time delays so make sure your bag can be taken into the cabin. You may have to walk some distance on other campuses so unless you’re built like a weightlifter (or want to become one), don’t bring too much with you. Suits and formal clothes are encouraged attire but not compulsory—it’s college so you’re free to wear what you want.
- Try to get lots of rest before the night you leave since some people don’t sleep well on flights. We normally fly red-eye flights, occasionally with layovers, so you may arrive on the East Coast at ungodly hours. Donny believes we will one day stop-over in Buenos Aires en-route to Washington. You can thank your team captains for that lovely bit of planning =).
- Register for many frequent flyer programmes. With the thousands of miles you may rack up travelling for debate in a year, it’s worth your while.
- Keep all your receipts for transportation and food if you want to get reimbursed. The ASSU can be a stickler for such things so if you want money, have some paper, honey.
How to have a great time at debate tournaments:
- If you have friends at the school you’re attending for the trip, email them in ADVANCE if you want to sleep in comfort. We generally sleep on dorm floors or futons so it might be good to bring a small sleeping bag or pillow, as long as you can stuff that into your luggage.
- Keep track of where your belongings are. One debater managed to lose his cell phone before we even got to SFO. Other lost items include scarves, wallets, bags, shoes, vir… You’re a big boy/girl now so take responsibility for yourself.
- There will be parties at tournaments, and there will often be alcohol available. If you’re uncomfortable with such surroundings, notify a senior team member and he/she will take care of you. Underage drinking is of course prohibited. Whatever you do, do it responsibly and understand that the Stanford Debate Society will not be liable for your actions. There is a ton of fun to be had when travelling at tournaments, but know your limits and those of people around you. If you want to do well in Saturday morning rounds, it might be good to get more than two hours of sleep on Friday night.
- Be friendly and get to know people. Debaters are generally very intelligent, well informed and sometimes even cool and funny. Many friendships and relationships (even marriages) have been formed between debaters from different schools. You can view your opponents as enemies during a round, but after it’s over, put that all aside and get to know them as people.
- Toiletries: Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Shaver, Soap, Towel etc
- Clothes: Coat, Suit, Shoes, Socks, Underwear, PJs, Party clothes, Casual travelling clothes
- Cellphone & Charger
- Picture ID
- Homework / Reading / Economist
- Pillow / Blanket / Sleeping Bag
- Whatever medication keeps you sane
- Don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get picked to go to the first couple of tournaments. The year is long, and we will travel many times, to many different places, on a rotational basis. As long as you show up for meetings and display a keen interest in debate, you will travel.
- Come to practice rounds. Seriously. It isn’t compulsory (except for the round the week you’re travelling), but it is the best way to get better quickly and consistently.
- Winter is our heaviest quarter because, in addition to travelling to a number of tournaments, we will be organising our high school tournament and our college tournament. These two organisational duties are non-negotiable commitments for anyone who has travelled, or who intends to travel the coming spring. And they are weekend-long commitments. This means you could potentially burn up to 5 weekends for the quarter. Plan your course load accordingly.
- The places we go this quarter may be cold. Very cold. Buy or borrow winter wear (i.e. Ski Jacket, Trenchcoat with insulation, etc.) please.
- Spring is our lightest quarter because APDA nationals is held within the first few weeks. After the nationals, of course, no one holds any further tournaments. We usually end the year by going to Chicago’s tournament en masse, and not doing very much after that.
- Spring is also when our elections are held. If you are interested in a committee position the following year, it is good to try to get people to vote for you. This means proving you’re capable by wholeheartedly committing yourself to Debate activities – including the shitty ones coughhighschooltournamentcough. Further information on the positions available will appear in the weeks just before the election.