Debate Division

Online Policy Debate for Current Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors

Dates for 2022 Summer Season will be announced this fall!  Check our website regularly for updates!

In light of the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, Northwestern’s National High School Institute has elected to embrace an online instructional model for our Debate Institute in summer 2021. While we will deeply miss the opportunity to welcome students from across the nation to Evanston this summer, we see this year’s institute as an opportunity to embrace teaching and learning models, make our institute more accessible by lowering our tuition, and deliver just as challenging and enjoyable an institute online as we would in Northwestern’s classrooms. To that end, our online institute will feature:

— A low student to staff ratio, targeted at 8:1, to facilitate small-group learning with individualized feedback and attention to each student’s particular needs.

— Balanced scheduling that combines seminars with lab leaders, daily speaking practice or debates, guided student research time, and asynchronous activities that students can complete at their own pace. Our curriculum will challenge students and provide daily opportunities for growth and improvement, while allowing flexibility for students who may have a lot more on their minds than just debate during these unprecedented times.

— Proven technology to facilitate online learning and interaction. We will use Zoom for seminars, breakout sessions, practice speeches, and debates, and Slack for text-based communication and file distribution.

— Northwestern’s digital resources available to every student for the duration of the institute. Each enrolled student will receive a Northwestern NetID that provides access to the NU Library’s expansive collection of journals and e-books. Extensive guidance on the practice of electronic debate research will ensure that students can navigate these resources confidently and skillfully.



The Northwestern Debate Institute over the past three years of my attendance gave me endless transformative educational experiences. Whether it was learning the technicalities of policy debate or real-world argumentation skills, NDI assisted greatly in my ability to articulate myself. This institute was a significant factor in my success as a debater and an individual. Without the assistance of this institution, I do not believe I would be attending Harvard University nor successfully competing on the national circuit. — Amado Candelario, Chicago Scholar ’16, ’17, ’18



The Northwestern Debate Institute is an unequaled living-learning experience for high school debaters.  The institute will provide an intensive and comprehensive summer debate experience that will prepare debaters for next season and beyond.  Northwestern University’s Debate Team has an unparalleled record of success based on the foundations, fundamentals and techniques taught at the Northwestern Debate Institute. Learn the debate principles that have led to 15 NDT championships, 16 final round appearances, 6 top speakers – a record of success unmatched in college debate.  Come join our program for rising Sophomore, Juniors and Seniors to learn with and debate against the best competition in the country.  Alumni of the Northwestern Debate Institute have gone on to win every major high school tournament.



Northwestern really helped me see why debate is so useful and helpful, and gave me the tools to be more successful and therefore find more enjoyment from it.”


The limited lab size and low student to staff ratio throughout our program ensure that every student receives a personalized and engaged institute experience.  Lab environments are designed to create the collegial atmosphere that allows intellectual risk taking and for students to truly explore the life of the mind.  Debaters leaving the Northwestern Debate Institute have the best chance to excel as they return to their own high schools, having learned the upcoming topic and skills from the finest instructors around the country as well as those from the unsurpassed Northwestern University Debate Society.

What is Policy Debate?

The main differences between policy debate and other types of debate are with the topics, the format of the debates, and the amount of work required to be competitive.

Policy debate chooses one topic for the entire academic year. For 2019-2020, the topic is “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce Direct Commercial Sales and/or Foreign Military Sales of arms from the United States.” – this is the topic that our institute will be researching and debating about. A policy debate takes about 90 minutes to complete, and then the judge usually deliberates for 15-30 minutes before deciding a winner. Teams in policy debates will read a substantial amount of evidence into the record of the debate and judges will often review this evidence in the process of their deliberation. As such, the most competitive policy teams spend tens of hours per week producing the arguments and materials needed to compete against their top opponents.




National Debate Tournament CHAMPIONS
2015 •2011 • 2005 • 2003 • 2002 • 1999 • 1998 • 1995

1994 • 1980 • 1978 • 1973 • 1966 • 1959 • 1958

National Debate Tournament TOP SPEAKERS
2012 • 2011 • 2006 • 2000 • 1999 • 1998 
1996 • 1989 • 1973 • 1968 • 1966 • 1962


Northwestern is the “winningest” debate society in the National Debate Tournament history with 15 titles.



Debate Division  –  Application Information and Deadlines  –  Tuition and Fees  –  Scholarships and Financial Aid  –  FAQ’s
Typical Day  –  6-Week Policy Debate  –  4-Week Policy Debate  –  Policy Debate Commuter Option  –  1-Week Policy Debate  –  Debate at Northwestern  –  Faculty Bios