Polygence blog / Education and College Admissions

Finance Competitions for High School Students

6 minute read

Finance is the study and management of money, investments, and other financial instruments. It encompasses a wide range of activities, including banking, investing, lending, and managing assets and liabilities. It’s a fascinating balance between art and science and is one of the most popular fields of study in the realm of business. If you’re interested in a career in finance, a great way to get started is by participating in a finance competition for high school students. A finance competition can help you to develop critical thinking skills, while also helping you build your resume if you’re interested in a top undergraduate business school. Engaging in these top business competitions for high school students helps students build a solid foundation for their future, whether they aspire to specifically study finance in their undergraduate studies or just have a general interest in business.

In this article, we’ll dive into what you can expect from a finance competition, share our comprehensive list of finance competitions for high school students, and also provide tips for how you can best prepare for a competition.

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What to Expect From a Finance Competition

Many finance competitions take the form of a stock-market game where you have an amount of virtual money to start off with and you begin to make investment decisions over a period of a few months. In some instances, you may also have to give a written explanation for why you made the investments you did and what your strategy was. As a result, you’ll definitely gain experience with making investment decisions, but just not with actual money! You’ll also gain a better understanding of how to better manage your own money and make smarter decisions. Competitions will typically have preliminary rounds that are online, and top performers will then usually be invited to an in-person conference where students can hear from speakers, pitch their investment ideas, and learn more about finance in general.

Moreover, finance competitions are typically very friendly when it comes to working in teams. You’ll be able to work in teams of 3-6 and come up with investment strategies together. Many competitions will also offer cash prizes, but keep in mind that the real value of entering a competition comes from the skills that you’ll learn from participating and the benefits to your own future financial wellbeing!

Top Finance Competitions for High School Students

#1 National Personal Finance Challenge

This team competition organized by the Council for Economic Education offers high school students the opportunity to build and demonstrate their knowledge in the concepts of earning income, spending, saving, investing, managing credit, and managing risk. In the first round of the competition, student teams compete in a fun, online 30-question challenge. The high-scoring student teams are invited to their state finals.  State champions then proceed to the National competition, where teams use their knowledge to create a financial plan for a fictitious family scenario. The top 16 teams in the National Finals will advance to compete for the national championship title in a Quiz Bowl in Cleveland, Ohio on an all-expenses paid trip. 

This competition combines both quiz bowl-style competition as well as a case study format in the National competition. Most importantly, participating in this competition can help you to better understand personal finance so that you can manage your money more effectively in the future!

Location: Finals in Cleveland, Ohio

Competition Dates: Exam Period is from March 27 - April 26. Finals on May 19 - 20

Prize: $250-2,000 for 1st - 4th place winners

Eligibility: All high school students

Application Deadline: Not specified

#2 Wharton Global High School Investment Competition

With over 9,000 students participating in last year’s investment competition, the Wharton competition is one of the most popular finance competitions in the country. In this competition, students examine a short case study featuring a potential client (a real Wharton graduate working in business) and work in teams of 4-7 people to meet that client’s long-term investment goals as they try to win his or her business. Students are given an approved stock and exchange-traded fund (ETF) list and access to the Wharton Investment Simulator (WInS), which allows them to buy and sell stocks and ETFs. Over the course of 10 weeks, students develop an investment strategy, analyze industries and companies, and build a portfolio using $100,000 in virtual cash. 

Winners of the competition are selected on the strength and articulation of their team strategies, not on the growth of their portfolios, which is a key differentiator between this investment challenge and many others. Through this challenge, you’ll learn a lot about diversification, risk, and how to clearly articulate an investment strategy. You’ll also be guided by a teacher mentor who can advise your team. If you’d like to learn more about previous winners and the strategies they used, you can check out the Previous Winners and Case Studies webpage. Succeeding in this finance competition can provide excellent resume building opportunities that could help you secure a business internship opportunity for high school students.

Location: Finals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Competition Dates: Not specified

Prize: Finalists attend Global Finale at Wharton in Philadelphia

Eligibility: All high school students

Application Deadline: Around September. Registration opens June 17

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#3 Trading Day

Run by the Stevens Institute of Technology, Trading Day includes both a virtual and in-person trading competition, as well as educational webinars to help students learn about the stock market. The trading competition portion of this program is structured as a trading game, where students create a mock portfolio using the Dow Jones MarketWatch Virtual Stock Exchange. Participants all receive $1,000,000 in play money to invest and build their portfolios for a month. The 25 students with the top performing portfolios at the end of the month are invited to Steven Institute of Technology’s campus in Hoboken, New Jersey, for a live trading competition. At this event, students learn directly from the finance faculty about the latest trends in the financial industry, take a “Bloomberg 101” tutorial, receive a campus tour and get the opportunity to utilize the 24 Bloomberg terminals that we have in our trading labs. If you’re confident about your ability to invest in the stock market this is a great opportunity for you.

Location: Finals in Hoboken, New Jersey

Competition Dates: February 1 - 29, and April 19

Prize: Tour of Stevens Institute of Technology and use of Bloomberg terminals

Eligibility: High school sophomore or junior

Application Deadline: January 19

#4 Finance Knowledge Bowl

Hosted by the Young Investors Society, the Finance Knowledge Bowl tests students on their personal finance and investment knowledge. The first round of the competition takes place virtually on Kahoot. Top scoring students will then be invited to the Finals round of the Knowledge Bowl, where the final round will include specific open-ended questions on 3 selected companies (Nvidia, Microsoft & Google). To prepare for the finals you’ll read through the companies’ quarterly reports and learn about their strategies for artificial intelligence. The Young Investors Society also provides their own video resources to help you learn about investing and prepare for the competition.

Location: Online

Competition Dates: January 17 - 24

Prize: $250-1,000 in cash plus Golden Ticket to pitch in the Global Stock Pitch Competition at the 2024 Global Youth Investment Summit in NYC (May 30-31st)

Eligibility: All high school students

Application Deadline: Not specified

#5 Global Youth Investment Summit

Formerly known as the Global Stock Pitch Competition, the Global Youth Investment Summit provides High School students hands-on mentoring in financial analysis. Students (either individually or in teams of two) create a “best stock idea” and analyze a publicly-traded company. Each student/team then writes a report on their chosen company with a “Buy” or “Sell” recommendation and then presents and defends their analysis in a written report. Students will also be able to receive real-time feedback from a panel of judges in their state/territory events, which can be really helpful for future learning. The Top 100 teams in the state/territory events will be invited to participate in the Global Youth Investment Summit in New York City. Participating in such a stock market game can help students understand market dynamics and investing basics.

The Summit itself, which was hosted last year at Cornell Tech University in NYC, has a very busy schedule for teams, where students will participate in personal finance and case study competitions, hear from keynote speakers, and also compete in the Stock Pitch finals. 

Location: Cornell Tech University, New York City

Competition Dates: May 30 - 31

Prize: $1,000 - 5,000 for 1st - 3rd place + 1 month paid internship

Eligibility: All high school students

Application Deadline: Not specified

#6 Capitol Hill Challenge

The Capitol Hill Challenge (CHC) collaborates with Congress to help public school students nationwide participate in a fun, educational online competition to learn more about economics and finance. CHC matches Members of Congress with students, teachers, and schools in their respective Congressional district by zip code, with priority consideration given to public schools demonstrating the highest need as measured by federal school assistance programs. 

CHC features the acclaimed Stock Market Game™ program, where student teams manage a hypothetical $100,000 online portfolio of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, impact investments, and cash. This stock competition is a great way to learn workplace skills such as collaboration and critical thinking and also learn about the basics of investing. For this competition, you cannot register yourself and will need to have a teacher register your team. You can also check out the competition website to learn more about the specific rules of the CHC competition.

Location: Online

Competition Dates: January 16 - May 2

Prize: Awards and national recognition

Eligibility: High school students with invitation from SIFMA foundation, priority given to Title I public school students

Application Deadline: Not specified

#7 Top Trader Stock Competition

Hosted by the University of Texas at Dallas, the Top Trader Stock Competition starts students off with an initial balance of $1 million dollars of virtual currency, and participants can invest in stocks and ETFs. In addition to cash prizes, students can also take advantage of earning Investment and Personal Finance Knowledge certificates along the way.

Location: Online

Competition Dates: June 4 - July 26

Prize: $200-600 in cash prizes. $50 registration fee

Eligibility: All high school students

Application Deadline: May 24

#8 Ithaca College High School Investment Competition

In the Ithaca Investment Competition, you can test out your investment skills and join a team of three to six students (plus a teacher/advisor). Portfolios with the best performance will win cash prizes ranging from $1,000 to $3,000. This competition will help you learn the basic principles of the stock market as your team experiences its ups and downs in real time. High school senior participants will also receive a fee waiver to apply to Ithaca College!

Location: Online

Competition Dates: November 6 - March 29

Prize: $1,000 - 3,000 for 1st - 3rd place

Eligibility: All high school students

Application Deadline: November 3

#9 US Junior Investment Challenge

The United States Junior Investment Challenge (USJIC) is a nonprofit organization on a mission to empower and educate teenagers about personal finance literacy and economics. USJIC believes that the next generation should be equipped with the right knowledge to make financial decisions, and they found that two-thirds of high school students fail a basic financial literacy test. In the annual challenge, students can form groups of up to 3 and start with $100,000 on the Investopedia platform. Teams then begin to trade stocks. Competition placement will be judged solely on portfolio performance, but it is also strongly encouraged for participants to submit a short statement detailing their investment strategy.

You can learn about strategies and results from last year’s competition, and also explore USJIC’s own educational materials.

Location: Online

Competition Dates: July 1 - August 15

Prize: $5 - 15 in cash prizes

Eligibility: All high school students

Application Deadline: No deadline specified, but registration opens on June 1

How to Prepare for a Finance Competition

If you know ahead of time that you’d love to do a finance competition, it’s important to start researching which ones you’d like to participate in. Many investment competitions will overlap since most of them are about managing a portfolio of stocks, so if you feel like you can handle participating in multiple competitions that’s also something to consider. You can also consider contacting a current undergraduate student studying finance to learn how to prepare, or, if possible, reach out to a graduate student with experience in such competitions.

Before the competition and even during the competition, you should familiarize yourself with the language of finance and understand the basics of the stock market. Youtube videos are a great first place to start, so that you can immediately begin to implement learnings to your virtual investment portfolio. You can even further supplement your business acumen by exploring other business programs for high school students.

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Finance Opportunities at Polygence

Interested in doing a finance project on your own timeline? Explore Polygence’s Research Mentorship Program where you can work with an expert mentor in finance to help your research! If you’re stuck on what to create, check out our blog piece on business, economics, and finance passion project ideas.

If you’re looking for inspiration from other students who are also interested in finance, you can explore past finance research projects created by Polygence alumni.