Speech and Debate Scholarships

Are you an active member of the debate team? Do you have a talent for public speaking, speech and oratory? Students with a penchant for words will find they have a lot of scholarship opportunities – particularly if you participate in debate and oration contests or belong to a relevant organization. These scholarships vary from smaller awards offered by colleges and universities, to grand prizes at national debate competitions sponsored by large professional organizations. The options are plentiful for students with outstanding communication skills. Check out the following options that could help fund your education.

VFK Voice of Democracy Program
Amount: $1,000-$30,000

The Voice of Democracy Oratorical Contest is a scholarship established by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). The program provides students the opportunity to compete by writing and recording a speech on an annual theme and express their democratic ideas and principles. The Voice of Democracy is open to currently enrolled high school students studying within the United States and its territories. A minimum $1,000 scholarship will be given to VFW Department 1st place winners and $30,000 will be awarded to the 1st place national winner.


The Julia Burke Award
Amount: $2,000

The Julia Burke Award was established by The Julia Burke Foundation to recognize the college policy debater who displays a love for debate and demonstrates competitive excellence. This award is named after Julia Burke, a young woman who showed excellence in and passion for debate, and was committed to helping others. The nomination for inclusion in the competition is open to high school policy debaters. The award includes a perpetual and a replica trophy, a $2,000 college scholarship, and a $2,000 contribution to a charity chosen by the winner.


International Public Policy Forum
Amount: $400-$10,000

The International Public Policy Forum was established in 2001 by Brewer Foundation and NYU to give high school students a chance to engage in written and oral debates on issues of public policy. To participate in the competition, students must form a team comprising 3 high school debaters and register online. The competition begins with the debaters submitting a qualifying round essay on the IPPF topic and ends with the NYC final competition. All sweet sixteen finalists will receive $400 while the champion team and their school will get up to $10,000.


Optimist International Oratorical Contest
Amount: $2,500-$15,000

The Optimist Oratorical Contest was established in 1928 to give young people a chance to speak to the world. First place winners at Regional and World championship level will be awarded $2,500 and $15,000 scholarships respectively. The scholarship is open to students who are under the age of 18 and from the United States, Canada or the Caribbean. To apply, contestants must complete an official application through a local Optimist club. Contest criteria are poise, content of speech, delivery and presentation, and overall effectiveness.


Coast Guard Chapter Oratorical Program
Amount: $250-500

The Coast Guard Chapter Oratorical Program is a scholarship contest that aims to provide young African Americans the means to develop their communication and leadership skills, and provide practical experiences for them through a contest. This program is established to provide scholarships for African American high school students, grades 9 to 12. Participants of The Coast Guard Chapter of Blacks in Government Oratorical Program must be students from a local Maryland high school. The winning students will be awarded scholarships worth $250 to $500.


J. Harold and Mabel Hamil Memorial Scholarship
Amount: $1,500

The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation manages the J. Harold and Mabel Hamil Memorial Scholarship. Established in honor of J. Harold and Mabel Hamil, this scholarship provides yearly scholarships to incoming college students. Applicants must be graduating high school students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of English, Journalism, Debate, Public Speaking, Political Science, and/or Community Involvement and must be from the following Northland high schools: North Kansas City High School, Oak Park High School, Winnetonka High School, Park Hill High School, Park Hill South High School, Platte Co. RIII High School, Staley High School, or St. Piux X High School.


Dorothy McKay Anderson Scholarship
Amount: varies

The Dorothy McKay Anderson Scholarship was established in memory of Dorothy McKay Anderson by her husband, Rudolph E. Anderson. The University of Wisconsin-Superior Foundation manages this scholarship. The foundation aims to secure, invest and manage financial resources that support students and faculty of University of Wisconsin-Superior. This scholarship is open to University of Wisconsin-Superior students who are taking up Speech, Art, Music, or English Letters. Preference is given to Superior or Duluth high school graduates.


Theodora M. Hallin Scholarship
Amount: unspecified

The Theodora M. Hallin Scholarship is available to undergraduate students studying at the University of Arkansas. The scholarship is open to incoming and current university students who are communication or theatre majors. To be eligible for this scholarship, applicants must meet a minimum 3.0 high school GPA and must have graduated from Fayetteville High School. Preference is given to students who have participated in debate, theatrical productions, and are active in community service.


SMC Forensics Honors Award
Amount: $13,000

The SMC Forensics Honors Award is given to incoming undergraduate students of Saint Mary’s College of California. This scholarship is available to freshmen and transfer students who have participated in debate and individual competitions for at least 2 years. Applicants must meet a minimum 3.5 GPA, and must show excellent competitive, leadership, and service records in debate and speech. All scholarship applicants will need to undergo a personal or recorded auditions and will be interviewed by the SMC Forensics director.


H.B. Mitchell Endowed Scholarship for Debate
Amount: Unspecified

The University of Central Oklahoma – College of Liberal Arts offers various scholarship opportunities to students. These include the H.B. Mitchell Endowed Scholarship for Debate. This scholarship is named in honor of Harland B. Mitchell, a former UCO debate coach. Eligible applicants must be incoming University of Central Oklahoma freshmen students and must be Oklahoma residents. The student who exemplifies the best qualities of an Oklahoma high school debater will be the recipient of this endowment.