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About the Honor Society

The National Speech & Debate Association’s Honor Society (also known as the National Forensic League) recognizes middle school and high school students and coaches for participation in speech and debate activities. Students earn merit points for participation in one of the oldest and most respected honor societies known to college admissions offices.

Members of the Honor Society are held to the Code of Honor, the highest standards of humility, equity, integrity, respect, leadership, and service. Character, personal accountability, and social responsibility have been valued by our organization since our founding in 1925. The Code of Honor reflects the core values of and standards for participation within our organization. Over the past 90 years, we’ve celebrated the honorable actions and achievements of nearly two million alumni.

National Forensic League logo

Students who are members of the National Speech & Debate Association’s Honor Society stand out in the college admissions process.

Katie Byrnes

College Counselor

"The NSDA Honor Society gave me a change to be a part of a community of like-minded people who were driven to make a difference in the world." - Elena Cecil, NSDA Alum
Student Enrollment at Top Schools   1% of students nationally are attending a top 10 university  5% of NSDA students are attending a top 10 university  2% of students nationally are attending a top 25 university 11% of NSDA students are attending a top 25 university  8% of students nationally are attending a top 50 university 17% of NSDA students are attending a top 50 university  Based on 2019 fall freshman enrollment data and 6086 surveys collected from the NSDA Class of 2020

Merit Points

Members earn merit points through competition, service, and leadership activities. Whether they’re debating in the classroom, volunteering, speaking at a rally, or acting on stage, students use what they learn in speech and debate every day. Merit points reward and encourage members to use their skills to improve their schools and communities.

Points are entered by an advisor or coach with designated permissions via their NSDA Account. Students may earn up to 75 points before becoming members. The following tables provide examples of point values.


Debate Result Merit Points Earned
Winning a round of Debate
HS NSDA Events*: 6
HS non-NSDA Events: 4
MS: 2
Losing a round of Debate HS NSDA Events: 3
HS non-NSDA Events: 2
MS: 1

*NSDA "Main" Debate Events are Policy Debate, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Public Forum Debate, World Schools Debate, and Big Questions



8-pt scale 30-pt scale 60-100-pt scale Merit Pts/speech Tourn. place Merit Points Earned
8 28-30 97-100 6 1st 24
6-7 23-27 90-96 5 2nd 23
4-5 18-22 84-89 4 OR 3rd 22
3 13-17 77-83 3 4th 21
2 8-12 70-76 2 5th 20
1 1-7 60-69 1 (and so forth)

*MS earns 1-5 points per speech, up to 10 points/day


Rank Rating Rating Rating Grade Merit Points Earned
1 Superior 25 95-100 HS NSDA Events*: 6
HS non-NSDA Events: 5
MS: 3
2 Excellent 24 90-94 HS NSDA Events: 5
HS non-NSDA Events: 4
MS: 2
3 OR Good/Exceeds Expectations 20-23 71-89 A HS NSDA Events: 4
HS non-NSDA Events: 3
MS: 1
4 Fair/Meets Expectations 15-19 42-70 B HS NSDA Events: 3
HS non-NSDA Events: 2
MS: 1
5 or lower Average/Does Not Meet Expectations 10-14 10-41 C HS NSDA Events: 2
HS non-NSDA Events: 1
MS: 1
0-9** 0-9 0

*NSDA "Main" Speech Events are: Extemporaneous Speaking, Original Oratory, Humorous Interp, Dramatic Interp, Duo Interp, Program Oral Interp, and Informative Speaking

**Severe deficiency, and therefore, not worth any points



Service Activity Merit Points Earned
Speaking Service Activity (5+ adults) 1-20pts/day, approx. 2pts/hr
Non-speaking Service Activity 1-20pts/day, approx. 2pts/hr

Examples only. Additional rules and restrictions apply. See the unified manual for more details.

Explore Points Entry

Become a Member

Degree Levels

As members earn points they also earn new Honor Society degrees. Degrees recognize progress, provide motivation, and offer distinction. Each time a new degree is earned, members are mailed a corresponding seal for their custom membership certificate to be kept as a keepsake or displayed at school.

While students earn points, so do coaches! Coaches earn the same milestones as students until they earn 10,000 points and the Donus D. Roberts Coaching Excellence Award. Once coaches earn 15,000 points and have been coaching for at least five years, they will receive their First Diamond Award.



Students & Coaches Degree Points Seal or Badge
Member Less than 25 points None
Merit 25 Merit
Honor 75 Honor
Excellence 150 Excellence
Distinction 250 Distinction
Special Distinction 500 Special Distinction
Superior Distinction 750 Superior Distinction
Outstanding Distinction 1,000 Outstanding Distinction
Premier Distinction 1,500 Premier Distinction
Coaches Only Degree Points Seal or Badge
Donus D. Roberts Coaching Excellence Award 10,000 Donus D. Roberts Recognition
1st Diamond 15,000 and 5 years 1st Diamond
Additional Diamonds each 30,000 and 5 years Additional Diamond

The Road to Premier Distinction

Every student’s journey may be a little different, but whatever path you take, you should be proud of being a member of the National Forensic League Honor Society!
We are part of something bigger than just the program at our school. Earning seals and degrees really provides an incentive for students to continue to work toward achieving their goals.
Jeffrey Stoppenhagen


| ProTip |

Induction Ceremony

An induction ceremony is a great way to celebrate new members of your team as they build their confidence, tap into their creativity, collaborate with teammates, improve their communication, and increase their critical thinking skills. Check out tools for planning your event!


Every day, the National Speech & Debate Association works to connect, support, and inspire a diverse community committed to empowering students through competitive speech and debate. A big part of our mission is centered on celebrating the incredible achievements of our members.