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Why You Should Care About Academic Decathlon

5 minute read

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Academic Decathlon, often referred to as “AcDec,” is an academic competition that gives high school students the opportunity to learn collaboratively and showcase their talents and knowledge across a large variety of disciplines.

While it may not be as widely recognized as other academic competitions, there are several compelling reasons why AcDec may be the ideal extracurricular activity for you. From fostering well-rounded intellectual growth to nurturing invaluable life skills, this challenging competition offers numerous benefits to participants and the wider community. 

Let's explore some of the reasons why Academic Decathlon deserves your attention.

1. Intellectual Ambition and Growth

Academic Decathlon is for voracious learners by nature. It contains ten different competitive events, just like an athletic decathlon – exams in seven different subject areas of literature, mathematics, art, music, economics, science, social science; a timed essay; an interview; and a speech. Participating in this competition requires extensive study and research in each of these areas, based on the theme of a given year’s competition. Every May, USAD publishes the theme and curriculum for the competition which occurs the following May. By delving deep into a wide range of topics, students broaden their horizons, expand their knowledge base, and develop critical thinking and analytical skills. The academic rigor of AcDec challenges participants to push their intellectual boundaries and become well-rounded scholars.


2. Teamwork and Collaboration 

While Academic Decathlon is an individual competition, it also emphasizes teamwork and collaboration. Students form teams and work together to prepare for the competition, sharing knowledge, discussing concepts, and supporting one another. The experience of collaborating with peers from different backgrounds and areas of expertise fosters interpersonal skills, empathy, and the ability to work effectively as part of a team—an invaluable skill set that extends far beyond the competition and into future endeavors. Plus, competitions contain a bonus exciting team event called SUper Quiz, where students answer highly challenging questions from across the disciplines they’ve studied in front of a live audience.

Research and Prepare for your Competition or Fair

Polygence pairs you with an expert mentor in your area of passion. Together, you work to create a high quality research project that is uniquely your own. Our highly-specialized mentors can help guide you to feel even more prepared for an upcoming fair or competion. We also offer options to explore multiple topics, or to showcase your final product!

Student exploring their passions


3. Public Speaking and Interview Skills

AcDec places great importance on its speech and interview components. Students are required to deliver prepared speeches, engage in impromptu speaking, and face panel interviews. These activities enhance communication skills, boost self-confidence, and refine the art of articulating ideas effectively. Public speaking and interview skills are useful in college admissions and vital in many professional fields, and Academic Decathlon provides an excellent platform for students to hone these abilities early on.

4. Scholarships and College Admissions

Participation in Academic Decathlon can significantly enhance a student's college application and scholarship prospects. Admissions committees and scholarship providers recognize the dedication, commitment, and intellectual prowess required to excel in this competition. Universities and institutions often seek out students who have participated in AcDec, as it demonstrates their ability to handle rigorous academic challenges and their passion for learning.

5. Test-taking Skills

Academic Decathlon will help you build the intellectual stamina to perform well under pressure in an exam environment. By preparing to take seven multiple choice exams across seven different subjects in a single weekend as well as writing a timed essay, you’ll become more than capable of excelling on the SAT and ACT. Additionally, you’ll prepare yourself to keep up with the fast-paced and extensive exam schedules of many college courses.

6. Community Engagement and Recognition

Academic Decathlon competitions often involve local schools, communities, and businesses. Hosting or attending these events encourages community engagement and support for education. The achievements of participants are celebrated, and students receive recognition for their hard work, both within their schools and the broader community. Such acknowledgment boosts self-esteem, encourages academic excellence, and fosters a culture of lifelong learning.

7. Networking Opportunities

Academic Decathlon brings together students, teachers, and academic professionals from various schools and regions. This offers participants a unique opportunity to network and form connections with like-minded individuals who share a passion for education. These connections can prove invaluable in terms of mentorship, future collaborations, and career opportunities. AcDec acts as a stepping stone to building a strong academic and professional network.

The Polygence Pathfinders Program

Pathfinders is a career discovery mentorship experience designed to help you explore different career paths and gain more clarity about your future. Learn from three world class mentors in the fields of your choice and discover your passions!

8. Personal Development and Study Skills

Beyond the academic benefits, Academic Decathlon promotes personal growth and development. To master a seven-subject curriculum, students have to develop excellent study habits which will serve them well in university and beyond. The competition encourages students to set goals, manage time effectively, and persevere through challenges. It instills a sense of discipline, resilience, and a strong work ethic, qualities that are essential for success in any endeavor. Through AcDec, students develop a lifelong love for learning, a thirst for knowledge, and a commitment to personal growth.

Academic Decathlon offers students a unique platform to showcase their intellectual prowess, develop essential skills, and become well-rounded individuals. Whether it's the pursuit of knowledge, the thrill of competition, or the desire to excel academically, this competition holds immense value for participants. The theme for the 2023-24 competition is “Technology and Humanity” – on USAD’s website, you can read the curriculum in detail and find out how to get involved as a team or individual.

The Polygence Pathfinders Program

Pathfinders is a career discovery mentorship experience designed to help you explore different career paths and gain more clarity about your future. Learn from three world class mentors in the fields of your choice and discover your passions!