Happy May! Summer is just around the corner, and the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee is just eight days away (not that I'm counting). In just over a week, spellers from all around the country and all around the world will take the stage in National Harbor, Maryland to take on the dictionary and see the payoff of all their hard work. So, what do you need to know about this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee?
This year's Scripps National Spelling Bee is the largest ever. 567 spellers will take the stage in the preliminary rounds. That's 48 more than 2018's 519 spellers. This ongoing expansion is largely a result of the bee's RSVBee program, and it could very well make the bee even more competitive than ever.
The tiebreaker test that finalists had to take in the previous two years is no longer a part of the competition. The tiebreaker test was a step taken by Scripps to decrease the likelihood of co-champions. While the scores never actually had to be used in the two years where it was administered, the removal of the test means a reversion to the pre-2017 rules, where co-champions could be declared without attempting to break the tie with a test score.
The preliminaries test is taking place on Monday instead of Tuesday. Presumably since the bee has more spellers than ever, Scripps is taking this step to make more time for Round 2 on Tuesday--especially since Round 3 will kick off on Tuesday evening after Round 2 before concluding on Wednesday.
A few more bits of advice specifically for spellers:
Breathe. I know this particular piece of advice is given over and over, and I know that it probably seems trite at this point. However, it truly is important to breathe consciously throughout the competition. When I was competing, I felt extremely stressed at times, even to the point where I was hyperventilating. It's so important to try to control that as much as you can, as difficult as it might be. Additionally, set aside a few minutes for yourself each day of Bee Week to just focus on breathing deeply and clearing your head. It can really make a world of difference.
Sleep. Another trite piece of advice, but something I often failed to do when I was a speller! It might seem tempting to stay up all night cramming words for the competition, but cramming late at night will not help you. You won't retain very much of what you're trying to learn, and you'll be exhausted the next day, when you need to be at your best. Give yourself permission to go to bed and get some rest. I promise you'll be better off because of it.
However, of course, you should study some while you're at the bee. Make sure you have lists of your most difficult words with you so that you can review them. Both of the years that I competed at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, words that I reviewed during Bee Week ended up being used in the bee. Don't overdo it, but make sure you're doing what you need to do in your free time.
Go to Bee events. You don't have to go to all of them if you don't want to, but three years later, the most important part of my participation in the spelling bee has been the memories I got to make and the friends I got to meet through the spelling bee--in fact, some of those people are still my best friends today. Going to Bee Week events (especially the Farewell Party--it really is worth staying up late), as well as exchanging Beekeepers (spelling bee autograph books), is the best way to meet people and really have an unforgettable experience.
The most important piece of advice I have for you, however, is to relish the experience and don't worry too much about your placement. The experience of Bee Week is just as important as the competition itself. You've done so much hard work, and now all you can ask of yourself is that you try your best. Your hard work will likely pay off very well, but even if you don't meet your own expectations, it doesn't mean you failed--luck is a huge factor in spelling bees. Memories of the bee and lessons learned will last so much longer than any placement or prize that you could receive.
So spellers, this is your moment. Everything you've done to prepare for this will be worth it. Get on that stage and dazzle the world with your talent. You are prepared, you are passionate, and you are unstoppable. May the odds BEE ever in your favor!