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Which Classes Are Best for College?

Public speaking is a critical skill to succeed in the 21st century. There are several avenues available for high school students to explore. Speech, debate, congress, mock trial, and Model United Nations are some of the most popular options, but it can be challenging to determine which one is best for you. In typical debate fashion, let’s make an argument for each major category.

How to stand out?

According to CollegeVine, extracurricular activities can be categorized into four tiers of success, from national-level recognition to participation. To gain admission to highly selective colleges, you will likely need to earn highly selective awards.

For speech and debate, there are three key ways to stand out competitively: winning a major national championship to show excellence, winning several smaller titles to demonstrate consistency, or placing on all-state/all-national NSDA leaderboards to display dedication and longevity. Each method is legitimate and can make an impact.

Each major category also gives students the options of doing a leadership-focused service project. ModernBrain supports a nonprofit called Scholars of Speech (assisted by OneOC), but there are plenty of students who created their own organizations, like Cicero Academy and Teach Speech.

Why do speech?

Speech categories offer several advantages, including the opportunity to participate in multiple categories at the same competition, optimizing your weekend and providing more chances for awards. You can learn acting, memorization, delivery, and research, skills. The focus is often on the speech’s message, allowing you to talk about your involvement in nonprofits or share information about your hobbies or research interests. In other words, you can describe what makes you passionate—an important skill for interviews and your eventual college essays. Speech categories help you develop a wide range portable skills in communication--from speaking off the cuff to scripting out every moment of a performance, there are categories that suit every style of communication.

Why do debate?

Debate categories challenge your research abilities, which is something that colleges want to see. Your knowledge of various topics is continuously tested. Policy (two on two) and Lincoln-Douglas (one on one) force you to engage in deep research, while Public Forum debates require more adaptation to all sorts of audiences. Typically, debate competitors do more rounds of competition at a given tournament than single-entry speech competitors, which means more experience in one weekend. Knowing how to persuade people at any level of understanding is crucial to any industry.

Why do Congress or MUN?

Congress combines speech and debate skills, requiring you to research a variety of topics and make your deep research accessible and stand out in just three minutes. It teaches direct leadership skills, and there are separate awards for competitors as debaters and leaders. The same skills apply to Model United Nations, which also focuses on diplomacy and delegation. Both Congress and MUN tend to award a larger proportion of overall entrants (more students advance to final rounds in Congress than speech or debate; many students receive MUN delegate for both speaking and writing). To succeed in Congress, a student has to look at the same prompt everyone else received and use their delivery, analysis, research, and style to stand out—the same skill they’ll eventually need for applications and interviews.

Why do Mock Trial?

Mock trial is the most team-oriented event, allowing you to learn coordination and communication. ModernBrain's approach of competing in year-round tournaments can instantly set you apart from others in your area, since most high school mockers only participate in their local county competition. There are opportunities for both team and individual-level awards. If you want to become a trial attorney, mock trial is the best prep you can receive. Law schools are increasingly valuing trial advocacy, so doing high school and college mock trial can help you earn a law school trial scholarship.

Why do other classes?

Other extracurricular activities, such as our Screenwriting, Creative Writing, Economics, Business, and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons classes, are also designed to be beneficial for college applications. They allow you to express your passions and hobbies in creative ways—necessary for standing out in your applications. Each of the classes have a publication-related project (writing a screenplay, participating in a business-related service project, creating a DND adventure). Finally, there’s an overwhelming amount of research about the specific benefits of DND—from improving test scores to building problem-solving skills to bettering mental health. Your hobbies and passion projects are deeply important to your application. Remember the classic example of how beekeeping can get you into Harvard?

With generative AI becoming more prevalent, confidence and public speaking skills matter more than ever. Therefore, it is essential to develop public speaking skills through extracurricular activities. Whether you choose speech, debate, mock trial, Model United Nations, or other extracurriculars, each offers unique advantages that can help you stand out to colleges and in future careers.

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