Why Does Public Speaking Matter?
Luong (2000), a Yale professor, details a "consistent trend" in admissions: dedication to competitive public speaking significantly increases the success rate of college applications. State and national award winners have between a 22% and 30% higher acceptance rate at elite colleges. Being the captain of a successful debate team improves an applicant's chances by over 60% compared with their non-debate peers.
Peters (2009) finds that students with experience in competitive speech score significantly higher on both state-administered writing tests and a national reading test.
Colleges divide extracurricular activities into four tiers (Peck, 2019). The top tier requires proof of exceptional achievement, such as reaching national finals in competitive events. Speech, Debate, Mock Trial, Ethics Bowl, and Model United Nations provide students with ample opportunities to achieve national acclaim. Read about the tiers here.
Colleges of all sorts (public and private, liberal arts and universities) offer substantial scholarships for successful public speakers who want to continue with competitions at the undergraduate level. Here's a list.
Regardless of your academic aspirations, the oral and written communication skills you develop through competitive public speaking help you excel. You become a better listener, note-taker, writer, speaker, and critical thinker. Take it from Stanford.
It doesn't matter what career you choose: you're going to have to present yourself well. Teachers, consultants, trainers, managers, researchers, lawyers, engineers, doctors, and more will see more success if they communicate with poise, polish, and passion. Here's an analysis of the importance of public speaking skills.
As journalist Erik Palmer explains: "there's no shortage of brilliant people with brilliant ideas but a serious shortage of people who can verbally communicate those ideas." We live in a fast-paced digital world where most goods and services can be purchased with a click of a button. Oral and written communication experts are in short supply and high demand.
Some public speaking programs prepare students for specialized careers. For example, the St. John's Law Review finds that mock trial experience gives huge advantages to prospective lawyers. Once they get to law school, mock trial competitors feel more confident, have a better understanding of legal terminology, have more academic success in substantive courses, and are more proficient in litigation practices compared to their inexperienced peers.
Overall, the Martin Prosperity Research institute concludes that a combination of analytical and social skills create the largest positive lifetime impact on wages. Invest in activities that build these skills at a young age and you'll reap the rewards. Read the report.