Getting to the Scripps National Spelling Bee requires competition in several bees along the way. Most students begin in their school's spelling competitions. Winners of these bees go on to compete in an all-county or all-city bee. These bees usually have all rounds conducted orally. Competitors in regional or area bees often have a written test for the first elimination rounds, and the final rounds are conducted orally.
Students who win the regional or area bees go on to state competition. The state winners also have written rounds and finish with oral rounds. State winners make the journey to Washington, D.C. to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, sponsored by the E. W. Scripps Company, a news syndicate.
States can send more than one winner to the spelling bee. The number of spellers each state may send is determined by how many sponsoring newspapers there are in that particular state. A sponsor newspaper need not be owned by the Scripps Company – it only needs to be willing to organize state and/or community spelling bees. The average number of spellers at the national spelling bee is usually about 260.
The ratio of boys to girls varies from year to year, and the 81 winners are split almost evenly between males and females. Eligibility rules mandate that the student cannot be over the age of 16 at the time of the national spelling bee, and cannot have reached the ninth grade at the time of their school final. The competition is run on a non-profit basis, so the spellers are not required to post entry fees for any bee competition.
Spellers have some good incentives to win the national spelling bee. The first-place winner goes home with over 30,000 US dollars (USD) in cash and scholarships. Every competitor takes home some nice prizes. Prizes at the state level are usually determined by the sponsoring newspaper. A national television network frequently covers the final round live, and the winners of the competition receive a great deal of media attention.
Being a good speller helps a student succeed in language arts and literature studies and aids in good writing and organized thinking. These skills can help a student achieve goals far beyond the Scripps National Spelling Bee.