Our Selection Process
Each fall, the YDA selects between 15 and 20 freshman and sophomores to form a new class of Yale debaters. In most years, 100 to 150 students apply for these spots. As such, the YDA board conducts a rigorous tryout process. But don't worry if you've never debated before! We've turned more than a few complete beginners into national champions.
More information about the tryout process will be posted here prior to the start of the Fall semester.
Below are some frequently asked questions about our team. If, after reading, you still have questions or concerns, please contact our Membership Director.
1. What is the Yale Debate Association?
The YDA is the only intercollegiate debate organization at Yale University. We compete around the world, host five tournaments at Yale, and are a partner organization of the Urban Debate League in New Haven.
2. How can I become a member of the YDA?
Every fall, shortly before classes begin, the YDA hosts a short tryout process. Prospective members are given five minutes to argue in favor of a prompt, then five minutes to prepare a five-minute speech opposing a prompt. After delivering that speech in front of the team's Executive Board, the Board conducts a brief interview with each prospective member.
3. How many members does the YDA accept annually?
This number varies from year to year, depending on the strength of the tryouts and the openings on the team. We try to keep the team's total membership between 40 and 50, so we accept roughly 10-20 students a year.
4. I missed tryouts my freshman year. Can I still join the YDA?
Yes. The YDA does accept a limited number of sophomores (and potentially juniors). However, when accepting upperclassmen, we look for individuals who can integrate seamlessly into their class - that is, individuals who can compete as if they had not missed a year of collegiate debate experience.
5. I have no debate experience. Can I still join the YDA?
Absolutely. Many of our most successful debaters have no debate experience prior to joining the team. In fact, one of our most recent national champions did not start debate until he arrived at Yale.
6. What tournaments does the YDA host?
The YDA hosts four tournaments annually: 1. The Yale IV, an international competition for college students. The Yale IV is conducted in British Parliamentary (BP), the style of the World Universities Debating Championships, and is a sanctioned tournament of the American Parliamentary Debate Association. 2. The Yale High School Tournament, a national-circuit high school competition. 3. The Osterweis Tournament, a free-entry tournament held each April for high school students in Connecticut. 4. The Adams Cup, the intramural debate championship at Yale.
7. I am not a member of the YDA, but I would like to be involved in debate at Yale. What can I do?
There are plenty of opportunities for non-team-members to participate in YDA-sponsored debate at Yale. Options include: 1. Judging at the Yale High School Tournament, the Yale IV, and the Osterweis Tournament. 2. Competing in the Adams Cup, an intramural debate competition hosted by the YDA. 3. Coaching New Haven high school students through the Urban Debate League.
8. Where and in what style does the YDA compete?
The YDA competes exclusively in parliamentary debate, which emphasizes extemporaneous creativity over exhaustive research.
We are a member of the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA), a league including the rest of the Ivy League, most universities on the East Coast, Stanford, and the University of Chicago, among others. As a result, we regularly compete in the American Parliamentary format. The YDA also travels internationally to Canada, the UK, and elsewhere (including Malaysia, Thailand, and Ireland) to prepare for and compete in the World Universities Debating Championships, conducted in British Parliamentary.