Competition Rules


Groups must consist of permanent, full-time, full-fledged participants who are full-time students enrolled at your school or university. Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis and will take into account the academic enrollment status of the member in question as well as the individual school's policy for participation in registered student organizations. Please contact headquarters with membership questions.

You must notify headquarters of any exceptions or new members not on the original roster included in your application in order for these members to be eligible to compete. Groups who lose members between rounds will not be penalized.

Under no circumstances should groups bring in outside performers for competition. Failure to comply with this regulation may result in disqualification from any and all future competitions. The Varsity Vocals Championship accepts vocal ensembles of all styles, but it is not a choral competition. Groups composed of more than 18 members should contact headquarters before applying.

Music Restrictions

Any music style is acceptable, but repertoire and choreography inappropriate for a family show is not acceptable. No instruments of any kind are allowed.

Set List

Your producer will contact you shortly after you are accepted to notify you of your set list deadline. You are permitted to alter your set list between rounds and before any event, but you will not be eligible for special awards if you do not inform headquarters of these changes five business days before the event.

Time Limit

Each group has 12 minutes. Remember to leave time for brief applause between songs.

Timekeeping begins and ends when a performance begins or ends. If a choreographed or sung entry or exit is part of the set, time begins the moment the first person enters or exits. Otherwise, time begins with the first note sung or pitch blown, whichever comes first, and time ends when the last note is sung.

A timekeeper seated in the front will hold up warning cards as you approach the end of your time limit. Groups who exceed the time limit - if only by several seconds - will be penalized by one place.


Microphones will be provided at the competitions. Equipment will differ from event to event, depending on what the venue can provide. Producers will describe the sound setup to competing groups before the event date. Groups may not bring or provide their own sound, microphones, headsets, processors, or sound technicians.

Groups will be allowed a 10-minute sound check before competition.

Placement and Performance Order

We do our best to slot groups in the quarterfinal events nearest their schools or universities. This is not always possible, given group scheduling conflicts or an overwhelming number of selected applicants being too close or too far from particular competitions. In these situations, we do our best to minimize the amount of travel any group has to do.

Performance order will be determined by a random draw before sound check. Please remember that, historically, groups have performed and placed well from all time slots.


College Tournament Structure:

  • There are seven regions total: West, Midwest, South, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Great Lakes, and United Kingdom. There will be an average of four to five quarterfinals per region, although a quarterfinal may be cancelled at the discretion of headquarters. In the UK in 2015, we will only have one semifinal -- no quarterfinal rounds. Each US quarterfinal can have between six and ten competitors (in special instances more), chosen at the discretion of the headquarters based on the musical aspects of the competition judging criteria. Quarterfinals may start as early as the first weekend in January, and semifinals may be as late as the first weekend in April.
  • The first place and second place groups in each quarterfinal will be named Quarterfinal Champion and Quarterfinal Runner-Up and will advance to their region's semifinal.
  • The highest scoring group at semifinals will be named Semifinal Champion and will advance to the finals held in New York City. They will join the other semifinal champions as well as the winners of any other country's a cappella tournament that has been approved for inclusion by Varsity Vocals.
  • The second and third place group from each semifinal is eligible to participate in the Wild Card Round. This is a video submission round that will be evaluated by our judges using our judging forms. The winner is named Wild Card Champion and will advance to finals.
  • The highest scorer at finals will be named the International Champion.
  • The final scores of the groups that place will be made public. The scores of the eliminated groups will remain confidential.

High School Tournament Structure:

  • There are six regions total: Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, South, Southwest, and Northwest.
  • The Midwest, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic regions will all have quarterfinal rounds, where the top two or three groups from each quarterfinal will move on to the regional semifinal. The top two groups from the Midwest, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic semifinals will advance to ICHSA Finals.
  • The South, Southwest, and Northwest regions will function the same as previous seasons: one semifinal round per region, with the winner advancing to ICHSA Finals. As more competitors join in these regions, we will likely expand and add quarterfinal rounds as well.
  • We have a tentative spot held for a West regional semifinal, but this is dependent on the number of applicants in the region. If this event does not take place, we will hold an online wild card round after all semifinals conclude for groups that placed in the top three in their semifinal but did not advance to ICHSA Finals.


This is the evaluation form and the definitions of the criteria that our judges use in evaluating competitors:

ICCA/ICHSA Judge Score Sheet

ICCA/ICHSA Category Summary Sheet

There will be three judges at college quarterfinals and at all high school events, and five judges at college semifinals and finals. Each of the judges has the responsibility to critique the performances in the following categories: Vocal Performance, Visual Performance, and Subjective Rank. The judges will determine these scores individually and without deliberating among themselves.

However, the judges will deliberate in selecting recipients of special awards in the following categories: Outstanding Soloist, Outstanding Arrangement, Outstanding Vocal Percussion and Outstanding Choreography. These awards are not required and may be given at the judges' discretion.

Outstanding Choreography can be given to a group on the performance of the song or to the individual choreographer only if he/she is a current member of the group.

Outstanding Arrangement can be given to an arranger only if he/she is a current member of the group.

In the event that a Varsity Vocals staff member is present during this deliberation, he or she may not cast a vote or influence the judges in any way. When necessary, an external moderator will take the place of the staff member.

All scores will be tabulated by a Varsity Vocals staff member and approved tabulators. When there are five judges, the highest and lowest total scores will be discarded. First, second and third place winners will be recognized according to their final scores.

Groups who exceed the 12-minute time limit will be penalized by one place.

Judging score sheets may be retained by the producer for our records. Groups will receive a copy of their judge sheets within one week of the competition date, if not on the evening of the event.

Our adjudicators are vocal music professionals who have been certified by Varsity Vocals to evaluate our performers. As part of this process, they are required to maintain the highest ethical standards and practices in all judging activities. Judges who do not uphold these standards may be suspended or have their certification revoked.

A school or university affiliation is not adequate to preclude a certified adjudicator from serving on a panel. Other potential conflicts of interest will be handled at the discretion of headquarters.

Judges deserve to be treated with respect from our competitors and their friends, families and fans. Penalties for abusive behavior toward judges, including from directors, students and parents, may include disqualification from future Varsity Vocals competitions.


Competitors are required to maintain the highest ethical standards and practices as Varsity Vocals representatives. They will recognize that judging is a service, because the competition and judging are a way of promoting the art of a cappella and gaining valuable feedback.

Critical evaluations of the program should be directed to headquarters.


Groups may sell their merchandise after concerts only. Groups will not be allowed to sell the Best of Collegiate A Cappella (BOCA) or Best of High School A Cappella (BOHSA) albums. At some competitions, Varsity Vocals must take a percentage of the merchandise sold to accommodate venue overheads or other associated fees. At any show where this applies, headquarters will notify the competitors as soon as possible.


Groups accepted to competition are expected to appear in any competitions to which they advance. Groups who drop out for any unapproved reason will be barred from competition for one year. Their competition entry fees will not be returned.


By participating in any event sponsored in whole or in part by Varsity Vocals, your group and each individual group member agree to be bound by Varsity Vocals Terms of Use and Application and Competition Policies and you grant Varsity Vocals the right to record you and your group's performances at any Varsity Vocals event. As a condition of participating, you hereby grant permission for Varsity Vocals and those acting under its authority to use the names, photographs, voices, likenesses, recordings and/or performances of you and your group as included in your group's entry materials and/or recorded by Varsity Vocals or those acting under its authority at any Varsity Vocals event, for any and all purposes, including for merchandising, resale, advertising, and/or publicity purposes, in any and all media now known or hereinafter invented without territorial or time limitations and without compensation.

You understand that Varsity Vocals reserves the right to waive any of the entry and competition requirements in its reasonable discretion and you agree that Varsity Vocals and Varsity Vocals judges' decisions are final in all matters relating to any Varsity Vocals contest or event. As a condition of entering, you agree to (a) release to Varsity Voacls its agents, representatives, and contractors and each of their officers, members, directors, employees and agents, from any and all liability, loss, or damage incurred with respect to your group's participation in any Varsity Vocals event(s), including any travel related thereto; and (b) consent to the jurisdiction and venue of the federal, state, and local courts located in Cook County, Illinois and a choice of Illinois law in any matter relating or concerning a Varsity Vocals contest or event, without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules. By participating, you represent and warrant that you are the age of majority in your state or territory of residence (or you have obtained express permission from your parent or legal guardian to participate) and that you and your group's participation and performances in any Varsity Vocals event will not violate the rights of any third party.

Groups accepted to competition are expected to appear in any competitions to which they advance. Groups who drop out for any unapproved reason will be barred from competition for one year. Their competition entry fees will not be returned.