How important is excelling at debating/model United Nations as an extra-curricular activity?
Under the assumption that you are interested in the importance of Model United Nations (MUN) and debating from a college candidacy perspective, both activities do add significant benefit not only on an application (US & UK) but also for one’s personal development.
As you may know, top tier universities seek students that display a high level of involvement in extracurricular activities alongside academic achievement. In the US, colleges seek ‘all-rounded’ applicants that spend a portion of their time engaging in a wide range of activities such as sports, culture, volunteering, competitions etc. A student has the chance to put down their top 10 activities and stipulate the time spent on these activities and the position held (leading initiatives adds significant value too). MUN/Debating are examples of strong activities because of the fact that universities realise the number of important skills essential to participate and succeed. From a skill set point of view, MUN/Debating requires confidence in public speaking, active interest/research in certain subject areas (politics/diplomacy/international relations for MUN) as well as teamwork/collaboration to achieve a common goal. Additionally, students that have an active track record in MUN/Debating tend to be front runners for leadership positions at school such as School Captain/Head Prefect, which adds another notch on an application.
For the UK, admissions officers search for extracurricular involvement that has direct relevance to the degree being applied to. As such, economics, political science & international relations degree courses are examples of programs in which MUN/Debating will have a direct impact on an application. MUN/Debating also benefits applications for degree programs such as Law or Medicine which require sound communication skills and quick decision making.
As a final note, I was fortunate enough to attend the Harvard & Yale Model United Nations conferences held annually at both schools. By engaging in these conferences, it became clear to me how important MUN/Debating really was. With over 3000 students at each conference, the skill set and determination shown by all students was on another level. It made me realise the intensity required, not only to succeed at these conferences, but also for gaining admission to these Ivy League universities. Top US schools have MUN as a subject, whereby students practice all year round. It came as no surprise when top US school kids were taking out Best Delegate in almost every committee, especially from schools that have a known history of Ivy League offers.