high school debate

Transitioning Between High School and College Debate

For any of you who are high school debaters that may have stumbled across this blog and are about to do the transition to college debate, there are a couple things you should know.


1. Speech times are different– in high school policy debate, speeches are 8 and 5 minutes long. In college, speech times are 9 and 6 minutes long. Additionally, prep time is 10 minutes per debate instead of your normal 8 or 5 minutes.

2. Topics are smaller, but also bigger– the wording of topics are more limited in college (we often have list topics as opposed to broad “x should be done” kind of topics) which limits the amount of ground aff teams have. However, because of the sheer amount of research that college debaters do, there will be a broad amount of affs with numerous different advantages.

3. Find your niche/generics are your friend– while it’s certainly an excellent idea to be more specific and have those arguments prepared, knowing  a core disad or kritik and being prepared to go for it in any round is an especially good idea in college because of the amount of affs that exist. Especially early on in the year when you haven’t predicted all of the affs, having a core set of generic arguments to be able to make is a good idea.

4. Mutually preferred judging– while MPJ already exists on the national circuit, I debated in a circuit that didn’t have this when I was in high school, so I thought I should include a brief explanation of this/why this matters. MPJ allows you to rank each judge in order of preference. When you get paired against another team, the tournament will compare where you have judges ranked and where that team has judges ranked and decide your judge based on that placement. This allows for debaters to get judges who cater more to their style of debate. This also means that you can easily become a more nuanced K or policy debater in college if you/your coaches decide that is a good idea. It also means you generally get judges who you consider to be qualified.


There are certainly more differences between high school and college debate. If anyone else thinks of any major ones, feel free to post them in the comments section!