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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
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Model Congress: The Perfect Extracurricular for the Aspiring U.S. Senator

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What is Model Congress?

Model Congress is a simulation of the United States Congress, in which students act as members of Congress and are tasked with solving a simulated challenge while following parliamentary procedure. Usually, these events are performed at the high school level, although some middle school and intercollegiate events occur as well.


At some schools, Model Congress may be linked to a particular history, government, or politics course, while at others, it may be strictly an extracurricular activity. The term itself is a broader category, and may be known be different names, such as Youth Legislative Assembly,  depending on the particular school. Some especially well known events include Harvard, Yale, and Princeton Model Congresses. These events are for high school students.


If you are interested in politics, government, or public speaking, Model Congress may be a good fit for you. Read on to learn more about the program.


How does Model Congress compare to Model UN?

Model Congress is similar to Model UN in that students participate in a mockup of real governmental proceedings and discuss real political and social issues. However, unlike Model UN, Model Congress focuses on the government and issues of the United States instead of the international community. Additionally, Model Congress has less of a strong central organization; many different organizations put on congresses, and most vary in terms of their procedures.


Check out How to Win Best Delegate in Model UN to learn more about how to stand out in Model UN.


What do you actually do in Model Congress?

Originally founded at New Rochelle High School in 1964, Model Congress was conceived as an outlet for academically-engaged students who did not participate in sports. Today, students come together at high schools, within the school itself at other high schools or colleges, to debate pieces of mock legislation as the actual Congress would. Students may have different roles on different committees that mirror the United States Senate or House of Representatives, and sometimes the other branches of U.S. government as well. Program coordinators usually assign topics that students will debate on the congressional floor, based on their designated committee. For more information on the structure (which can vary significantly depending on the organization putting on the event), check out National Model U.S. Congress website.

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The “model congress” itself is usually a multi-day conference at a high school or state or local congress. Sometimes events are also held by legislative bodies or organizations, such as the U.S. Congress itself. You will generally participate in a simulation of one of the three branches of government, and work with other members to debate issues, compromise, and pass bills. Some events, such as the Harvard Model Congress, include other roles as well, like the press, lobbyists, and the National Security Council. 


Leading up to the event, you will need to do extensive research on governmental procedures and issues and practice your debating and public speaking skills. You will be expected to prepare bills, and you will have a chance to debate your proposal according to congressional procedures. You should also be sure to stay up-to-date with current events and congressional, judicial, and executive issues being debated.


At the event, you will participate in committees, and then debate and vote in a large group as a real legislative body would, much like in Model UN. High-performing participants may receive awards for their debate skills if they are part of the particular event. Participants often call the debaters winning the highest award in a debate or full session “gaveling.”


If your school hosts an event, you may also have the opportunity to get involved in the organization and logistics of planning and performing the event.


Why should I choose Model Congress as one of my extracurriculars?

If you are interested in fields related to government, political science, and law, Model Congress is a great activity to help develop your skills in those fields and demonstrate your commitment and interest to colleges.


Model Congress can also help you develop other skills, such as public speaking, debating, research, writing, and understanding parliamentary procedure. Additionally, it will give you an opportunity to demonstrate leadership, win awards, and distinguish yourself on college applications through extended commitment and participation.


For more information

Model Congress is a great opportunity to explore your interests in history, politics, and law. It can also help you build important professional and life skills. If you’re interested in joining, talk to a teacher or guidance counselor about opportunities at your high school or in your community. Be sure to check out CollegeVine’s posts on similar activities below:


A Guide to Excelling at Speech and Debate

Should I Join Class Board or Class Government

How to Apply to the Senate Page Program

How to Write Mock Trial Opening and Closing Statements

Extracurricular Activities That Build Public Speaking Skills

How to Develop Extemporaneous and Public Speaking Skills


Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academicschoosing coursesstandardized testsextracurricular activitiesand much more!


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Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.