Why High Schoolers should consider the High School Fed Challenge 

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Students participating in the program through available online courses.

Why High Schoolers should consider the High School Fed Challenge

The High School Fed Challenge offers students the opportunity to learn about how the Fed (the Federal Reserve) manages the economy while they take on the challenge of managing monetary policy. The challenge is held by the Fed itself and also gives students an inside look at how the Fed and specifically the Federal Open Market Committee plays a critical part in the U.S. economy. Students who participate in this esteemed challenge learn macroeconomic concepts through the lens of the U.S. Central Bank and gain knowledge about the Fed that’s relevant in our daily lives. 

High school students attending the Iowa Young Writers' Studio.

This challenge was founded in 1994 by Lloyd Bromberg, Director of Education at the NY Fed, and has since remained a relevant program to be a part of for high school students interested in economics, business, or finance. 

How Does Challenge Work?

Students who choose to participate in the challenge are often at schools that have participated in the challenge in the past, however, all schools in the U.S. are welcome to join. This challenge begins in regional and district rounds of competition, where students in teams of 3-5 people get together to analyze the current state of the economy, back it up with data and propose a monetary policy recommendation for the FOMC. One Fed Challenge Team from each district that is participating gets the chance to compete in the national challenge in Washington D.C., where they get the chance to present their recommendations to FOMC members.

two high school students in front of their laptops

Students that are in grades 9-12 are welcome to join the competition if they live near a participating Federal Reserve District. The original district that started the High School Fed Challenge is the New York Federal Reserve, which offers more information about how to join and register for the competition. In order to participate, a Faculty member at the school must register the team for the students with the NY Federal Reserve, or contact their local Federal Reserve district to find more information.

There are two divisions for teams to participate in, which are the “Maiden Lane” and “Liberty Street” divisions. Maiden Lane is designed for students who are just getting into economics and have not yet taken any Economics-focused course in high school yet. The Liberty Street division on the other hand requires that at least one student is enrolled in an Economic-focused course or has participated in the High School Fed Challenge before.

The High School Fed Challenge is designed for students to engage with the economy in a meaningful and casual way. The presentation is given in a conference-room-like setting and offers students the opportunity to present in a rather casual setting, which lasts about 12 minutes, and afterward, judges have 13 minutes to ask them specific questions, in which they answer based on their data. Preparing for the questions that the judges ask is the toughest part of the competition and requires students to be extremely knowledgeable about all of the moving parts of the economy and how they might come into play with the monetary policy that they are recommending. This contest is designed to expose students to economic concepts that they wouldn’t typically be studying in a high school setting and

What You Can Expect to Learn at the High School Fed Challenge.

This program was designed to expose students to what the Central Bank does and particularly how the FOMC’s policies affect the economy that we live in. Taking on the macroeconomic perspective of the Fed gives students an education on a topic that they typically wouldn’t study until college. This not only gives them a leg up when it comes to applying to business school but also gives them a great foundation of knowledge about the economy that will help them when they take economics classes in college.

Some of the specific goals of the High School Fed Challenge are:

  • Increase understanding of Macroeconomics and the Fed’s role in monetary policy/ ensuring financial stability.
  • To promote interest in economics as a field of study and as a potential career.
  • To build a relationship between students, teachers, and the Fed.

This opportunity allows students to analyze real and current data of the economy and engage with the actual people that are directly involved with changing the monetary policy. The opportunity to get directly involved in Federal Reserve is not only rewarding in the sense of learning but also in the sense that they are directly conversing with the policymakers themselves. This puts students in direct dialogue about what monetary policies should be changed and, if they make a strong enough point, their suggestions could even be put into action.

Who Should Join the Challenge?

Now that we’re familiar with the High School Fed Challenge, we must ask which students should get involved in this challenge?

This challenge, as it is put on by the actual Federal Reserve of the United States, would be of great value to students interested in pursuing business, economics, or finance as a field of study. Students who pursue a degree in any of those fields can expect to learn this knowledge in college and will be leagues ahead of their peers when it comes to studying the U.S. economy and how it is run.

a female med student looking at the camera smiling

This program is also designed to inspire students to pursue a career in the industry of economics, finance or business and can also serve as the gateway to a kickstarting a degree in any of those fields. Many students who participate and do well in the High School Fed Challenge end up working for the Fed in the future as well.

Skills Learned at the High School Fed Challenge

Giving a Presentation – Giving a presentation is one of the most used skills in a business setting and will help students articulate their points in a structured and professional manner. Having the ability to give a meaningful presentation will serve students all through college and the High School Fed Challenge offers students a great opportunity to practice and gain confidence in their presentation capabilities. Having the capability to tell a story through an authentic and powerful presentation can even help with college admissions and potential scholarships, as some schools offer scholarships to students, based on their ability to present. The Federal Reserve of New York, with its main goal being to help students succeed in the challenge, even offers free resources on how to create a presentation, including proper formatting and data presentation, as well as tips on effective presenting as well.

Public Speaking – Students that participate in the high school Fed Challenge have the opportunity to give a presentation to a group of well-respected adults that are interested in what they have to say. Having the ability to speak publicly and converse in an adult manner with economic leaders in the United States is extremely helpful in preparation for college and for the workforce. Public speaking is a powerful tool for students to have, as it is becoming a key part of American education and there is no better time to work on this skill than in High School. About 73% of the population has anxiety when it comes to public speaking and overcoming that fear sooner rather than later will help students tremendously when it comes up later in their life.

Thinking on Your Feet – Another great skill to have and be able to achieve alongside public speaking is the ability to think on your feet. Students at the High School Fed Challenge are asked in-depth questions about their presentation and they are expected to answer immediately with all of the knowledge that they know about economics. These answers are oftentimes the most compelling piece of the student’s argument and it is very important that students are able to think on their feet and answer with a well-thought-out and logical explanation. The ability to think on your feet will serve students whenever they are communicating a point to others and help them answer in an efficient and respectful way.

Advanced Economics in High School

For students interested in economics at a young age, High Schools are typically not the best place to learn about the subject. High School typically only require one economics course for students to take in the entirety of their high school career, which is hardly enough time to even scratch the surface of micro or macroeconomics. It’s also proven that people with more education about economics have a much higher chance to make more money in their lives.  Starting this economic education as early as possible can only set students up for a more financially successful future. The High School Fed Challenge is known for challenging students to learn very in-depth knowledge about the economy in order to even be considered to participate. Learning about economics is one of the greatest and historically successful ways to further your economic mobility and the High School Fed challenge offers the support, resources, and suggested readings for students to get a head start on learning how to manage their money and also how their tax money is being spent.

Subjects Covered in The High School Fed Challenge

The High School Fed Challenge offers students the opportunity to study various different economic principals, including concepts from the GDP, unemployment, inflation, monetary policy, and more. The Federal Reserve of New York also offers a study guide including higher-level economic concepts, as well as specific questions they should be able to answer in each category. This study guide is completely free and offers a great start of concepts for students to dive into if they are interested in expanding their knowledge of the economy in High School. Some of the more important concepts that students are expected to know to compete in the challenge are saving money, spending money, inflation, and managing debt. All of these subjects are extremely important to be aware of, especially for students that come from the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum. Having a solid understanding of how money is borrowed, saved, and spent from both the perspective of the individual and the government is especially important for students that are looking to take on debt for college. At AdmissionSight, we understand that the best college in the country doesn’t come at a small cost, and most of the time, taking on debt is the only way for you to attend. Having a good understanding of how debt works well before college will only serve you tremendously as you endure student loans and learn the benefits of living prudently in the year to follow college.

The Fed Challenge in College

While the High School Fed Challenge is an amazing program that lets students learn about and participate in economic discussions at a young age, the challenge also continues into college if students wish to do so. Put on by the same district of the Fed,  the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, college students, like the high schoolers participating in the competition, are given the same opportunity to act as monetary policymakers and pitch to the FOMC. This challenge is sometimes built into a regular college economics course, and students who participate in the challenge during high school have an enormous advantage over students who are just getting started in the challenge.

The 2018 Summer School Staff poses for a photo op.

Why Not Start Now?

This challenge offers an amazing opportunity for students to put economic theory into policy and is a great way to show college admissions advisors that you’re able and willing to get involved in important conversations about the economy and the world.

At AdmissionSight, we understand that College Admissions Advisors aren’t just interested in looking at your SAT and ACT scores to admit you to the college. There are too many students in the mix for test scores to make a dramatic shift in your likability as an admittee, so they are increasingly looking at how students place in other competitions as an important factor in considering their application. The High School Fed challenge sure does have the wow factor that college admissions advisors are looking for and if you place well, this competition could become the missing piece that your application needs to be successful.


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