Our Selection Process


Each fall, the YDA selects about 20 first-years 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.

The try-outs for our new Novice class will take place from August 31st to September 11th. To sign-up for a spot, please use this spreadsheet.

The try-out process will consist of two stages of try-outs. Each will have a written and verbal component which are used to gauge how you think through, generate, and present arguments. Please do not stress about try-outs!

There is no need to prepare for the process, we do not expect you to have prior experience. However, if you are interested in learning more, our Membership Director has created two introduction videos on the try-out process and parliamentary debate. If you would like to watch them, you can find them on our Youtube Channel. We will also be holding a Demo Debate and Information Session on Monday, August 29th at 7PM in WLH208. If you are unable to make the Demo Debate — or would just like to watch us debate — you can watch this video.

Most importantly, we look forward to meeting you! If, after reading, you still have questions or concerns, please contact our Membership Director Matt Song.

Frequently-Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about our team.


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 15-20 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, several debaters, from national champions to worlds finalists, had little to no debate experience until starting at Yale.


6. What tournaments does the YDA host?

The YDA hosts five tournaments annually:

  1. The Yale IV, an international competition conducted in British Parliamentary, the style of the World Universities Debating Championships.

  2. Yale APDA, an American Parliamentary Debate Association tournament.

  3. The Yale Invitational, a national-circuit high school competition.

  4. The Osterweis Tournament, a free-entry tournament for Connecticut high school students.

  5. The Adams Cup, an 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 judging at the Yale High School Tournament and the Osterweis Tournament, competing in the Adams Cup, or coaching New Haven high school students through 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 Mexico, South Africa, the Netherlands, and Thailand) to prepare for and compete in the World Universities Debating Championships, conducted in British Parliamentary.