The Scripps National Spelling Bee, a.k.a. “Bee Week,” begins today! If you qualified for the National Spelling Bee this year, congratulations and good luck! This blog post will let you know what to expect at Bee Week, and I give you my top 3 tips for the week.
On Sunday, you will attend an orientation, where the National Spelling Bee (NSB) staff will give you a schedule for the week and some goodies. They will give you a BeeKeeper, which has a page with information about every speller at the Bee. When spellers meet, they will autograph each other’s BeeKeepers, which is one of the coolest traditions at the NSB.
Monday morning and afternoon is the Memorial Day BBQ. You will take a bus to a nearby park, where you can play around with other spellers and eat lots of good food. ESPN will also be doing some interviews here, so you might get a taste of the spotlight before competition even begins. The opening ceremony is in the evening, and this will get every speller excited for the bee to begin.
Get some sleep on Monday night, because Tuesday is a big day. The preliminaries test is at 8am in the morning, and then Round 2 of the preliminaries starts immediately after that (it will be broadcast on ESPN3 so your family and friends back home can watch). In the evening, Peter Sokolowski, the editor of the Merriam-Webster dictionary that the NSB gets their words from, will give a talk about his work at Merriam-Webster and how words in English were formed. I learned a lot from this presentation, and I highly recommend attending.
Wednesday is Round 3 of the preliminaries. At the conclusion of the preliminaries, you will receive an email with your score from the preliminaries test on Tuesday. The finalists will also be announced around this time. If you don’t qualify as a finalist, take some time to be sad, but definitely go out and support your finalist friends on Thursday. If you do qualify as a finalist, enjoy the moment and prepare yourself for a lot of media attention.
Thursday is a very big day for all the finalists. The morning finals start at 10 am, and they continue until there are 12 or less spellers remaining, who all move on to the evening finals. If you are an evening finalist, you will have a session with ESPN to make a short video about you, and then you will have a few hours to rest. Before the start of the finals, the NSB will provide you dinner and then you will get your hair and makeup done for TV. Enjoy being on ESPN Primetime, because you are (literally) one speller out of a million to get this opportunity. At the end of the night, and after many difficult words, the Scripps National Spelling Bee champion is crowned!
Friday is a great time to do some sightseeing and relax. The NSB offers a Washington, D.C. tour, but you can always stay back at the hotel to hang out with spellers or look around Oxon Hill. If you are the champion, you will spend all morning doing interviews with news channels all over America, In the evening is the awards banquet, where all spellers who competed are recognized for their accomplish-ments and Bee Week is officially concluded. Afterwards is the Farewell Party, which is my favorite part of the week. You can hang out with your speller friends on the dance floor or take funny pictures at the photo booth. The NSB closes the ballroom around midnight, but spellers will hang out around the hotel even after that.
Here are my overall tips for those at Bee Week:
1. MEET PEOPLE! You are in a hotel with over 500 people from all over the United States and the world. If you ever have some free time, go explore the hotel—there will always be spellers in the lobby, atrium, or ballroom area. Make sure you have your BeeKeeper with you, since it’s a great icebreaker and helps people identify you as a speller. Whenever you see a speller, ask them to sign your BeeKeeper and start a conversation with them! I’ve met some amazing people this way, and I still keep in touch with them, even 3 years after the Bee.
You can also make friends up on stage. Everyone at the NSB says, “You are competing against the dictionary, not each other,” and this is definitely true. You will be amazed at the camaraderie between all the spellers on stage, and since you will be next to them on stage for a few hours, you can definitely take the opportunity to start a conversation with them (I actually used this as a way to distract myself from being nervous).
Definitely take the time to meet some NSB alumni as well. We all love Bee Week so much that we come back year after year, even after we have “retired” from the Bee. These NSB alumni have all been in your shoes before and can offer you unique advice during the week. A lot of them are also very successful and they are going to amazing universities like Yale, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, etc., so you can ask them about that also!
2. Take care of yourself at Bee Week. There is so much happening that it’s easy to forget to eat food, drink water, and get sleep. Don’t spend all your time at the bee holed up in your hotel room to cram a lot of new words. You probably won’t remember these words later, and it will just stress you out more. If you do feel the need to study, review some easier words that you have seen before.
To do your best up on stage, make sure you drink lots of water, and have a snack during the breaks. The lights and cameras on stage can get overwhelming, so don’t forget to leave the stage during the breaks and walk around a little bit.
You have studied for long hours for this bee. Be calm and confident, do your best, and everything will work itself out.
3. Enjoy the NSB Experience as much as you can! The National Spelling Bee has lots of fun activities throughout the week, which are also great places to meet spellers. Go to as many of these events as possible and don’t forget to bring your BeeKeeper!
Oxon Hill is a beautiful town with lots of great places to sightsee and some amazing restaurants— take advantage of them when you have time. The Capitol Wheel (a Ferris wheel near the hotel) has a great view of Oxon Hill and the Potomac River. Oxon Hill is also very close to Washington, D.C., so you can visit the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, etc. if you haven’t been there before.
Bee Week is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so enjoy it as much as possible. If you are still eligible next year, take a break from studying for a while, then start working so you can qualify again!
Once again, good luck to everyone competing and may the best speller win!
If you’re not able to attend the National Spelling Bee in person, you can still watch it on TV:
- Round 2 (May 29): 9:15 AM to 12:05 PM ET and 1-5:20 PM ET on ESPN3
- Round 3 (May 30): 8 AM to 12:35 PM ET and 2-5:30 PM ET on ESPN3
Finals (May 31)
- Morning Round: 10 AM ET on ESPN2
- Evening Round: 8:30-10:30 PM ET on ESPN
* You can test yourself on the words by watching the play-along version of the preliminaries on ESPN3 and the finals on ESPNU.