Entrepreneurship is the buzzword of the decade. As a high school student, participating in entrepreneurship competitions that attract talent from all over the world is great exposure, and winning these competitions can give you a serious edge in your college applications.
In this blog, we'll be covering 10 of the most prestigious entrepreneurship competitions you can make the most of as a high school student. Adding your achievements in this field, combined with a rigorous academic profile and passion projects, can be an important step towards your dream school.
The Wharton School of Business at UPenn is considered one of the most prestigious business schools in the world. Participating in the annual Wharton Global High School Investment Competition can expose you to teams from across the world, help cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset from an early age, and hone your finance skills. Registration is free of cost, the competition involves a 10-week crash course on investing, business analysis, pitch creation, and portfolio building.
You participate in a team of 4-7 students from your school and send in 2 deliverables that will be shortlisted for a semifinal round. At the Global Finale, the top 10 teams pitch their ideas for funding at Wharton.
Check out the free learning resources and case studies from previous years.
Location: Virtual pitching rounds with a final presentation at the UPenn
Eligibility: Domestic and International high school students
Prize: Certificates, a complimentary spot in the Wharton Online Summer Program for winning teams
Registration: Open from 1st June through 16th September 2023 (based on last year's timetable)
Competition dates: 26th September to 22nd April 2023
This is one of the biggest virtual pitch competitions for any high school student looking for cutting-edge exposure to the world of entrepreneurship, the Blue Ocean Competition has invited over 2293 participants from over 135 countries. Once you register, you are introduced to mentors and fellow students from all across the globe, with whom you can interact and receive feedback, mentorship, and support through Q&A sessions, brainstorming sessions, and more.
All participants are provided with a starter pack of business plan templates, guides to setting up a perfect pitch, as well as resources that help you minimize risk and maximize opportunities. Participants are required to present a 5-minute pitch individually or as a team at the end of the challenge.
Here are a few resources you should take a look at before participating!
Eligibility: High school students (including international students)
Prize: Certificates, cash prizes from $500-$1000, including a sponsored internship for first place
Registration: The application can be filled out any time before submission of the final pitch
Competition dates: 18th February 2023
A competition aimed at building entrepreneurial aptitude, skillset, and exposure to enterprise, the GYEC is an annual 12-hour startup competition open to all students aged 14-19. The competition is virtual, and all participants are presented with a global problem that requires actionable and well-thought-out solutions. At the end of the 12-hour competition period, you submit your final pitches along with your team (preferably up to 8 students). You are required to hold basic knowledge in relevant areas such as science, tech, marketing, and business communication.
Take a look at the winners of the 2022 Challenge here!
Prize: Certificates, trophies, and awards
Registration: Applications open between 1st February and 31st March 2023. Selected participants are informed on 22nd April 2023.
Competition dates: 27th May 2023
This renowned Olympiad has a business vertical. The overarching aim of Genius is to invite solutions to solve environmental issues. You can choose to participate in one of the two categories of the competition - social responsibility and entrepreneurship.
You will work on a new product or technology to decrease human impact on the environment. You can also offer improvements to existing products or technologies to make them greener or more sustainable. This involves a combination of science, engineering, and business sense. The product/solution should also be accompanied by a business plan and a go-to-market plan.
Eligibility: Open to all US and international students from grades 9-12
Prize: Certificates, renewable scholarships of up to $20,000
Registration: Applications are open from November 10 - March 1
Competition dates: Finals are held between 12th to 16th June 2023
Application Fee: $50 per project
The Diamond Challenge, hosted by the University of Delaware, allows students to learn, lead, and pitch their startup ideas. You can choose to pitch an idea for either business or social innovation, and the competition involves a total of 5 rounds. This includes a submission round, a pitch round, 2 semi-finals, and a final round. Here is an idea of the business ideas that made it to the semifinals in 2022.
Location: Virtual pitching rounds with a final presentation at the University of Delaware
Eligibility: Students between the ages of 14-18 can participate in teams of 2-4 people
Prize: Certificates, cash prizes of up to $100,000
Registration: The submission round closes on 8th January 2023 (based on last year's timetable)
Competition dates: The final summit takes place between the 23rd -25th of April 2023 (based on last year's timetable)
6. SAGE GLOBAL
SAGE hosts an annual challenge that guides students through solving global issues with the help of entrepreneurial thinking and innovation. You can participate in this competition if you're in high school or an undergraduate student at college. You along with your team must identify a global need and create a social enterprise that solves this need. If shortlisted internationally, your team presents your final pitch to a panel of imminent judges.
Eligibility: All students between 13-19 years of age
Prize: Certificates and cash prizes
Registration: Submissions are accepted from 1st to 15th August (tentative)
Competition dates: 1st to 15th August (tentative)
The CONRAD Spirit of Innovation Challenge invites students from across the globe to look for complex global issues and solve them using innovative, holistic solutions. You can choose to work in any of the following spheres for 3 competition rounds - Aerospace & Aviation, Cyber-Technology & Security, Energy & Environment, the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Health & Nutrition, and Oceans: The Plastic Problem.
You are exposed to a community of thousands of budding entrepreneurs from across the globe and are provided with the opportunity to hone your business analysis, presentation, design thinking, and ideating skills. The competition has seen some of the most innovative solutions to issues like CyberTech, aerospace, and energy and environment, all from students such as yourself!
Eligibility: Students aged 13-18, in teams of 2-5 students
Prize: Certificates, the "Pete Conrad Scholar" award, scholarships to universities, as well as discounted access to professional services for the winning team
Registration: Applications are open from 20th August to 5th November 2022 (based on last year's calendar)
Competition dates: January to April 2023 (based on last year's calendar)
Application Fee: $499, waiver available
This competition focuses on leveraging design thinking to solve real-world problems. Think of it as a research-based entrepreneurial solution. Once you register, you will be guided on using data visualization as an effective method to communicate and solve real-world challenges. You can use both secondary and primary data for your submission, which will be screened in two stages. All finalists are mentored by some of the biggest names in data design, and virtually present their projects at the Virtual Judging Weekend at Cooper Hewitt. For this challenge, your entry will be judged on the basis of the following criteria - innovation, impact, relevance, and communication. If a career in data design, data analysis, or data science excites you, participating in this competition will add volumes to your experience - all highly beneficial for a stellar college application!
Eligibility: Students aged 13-19 can register individually or in teams of up to 3 students
Prize: Certificates, a gift package worth $500 from SHOP Cooper Hewitt, and a Family membership to Cooper Hewitt.
Registration: Applications close on 13th February 2023
Competition dates: April to 11th June 2023
9. DECA Events
DECA, formerly known as Distributive Education Clubs of America, has been hosting annual business plan and investment competitions for a decade now, spanning across various niches and sub-niches, a few examples being
Restaurant and Food Service Management Series
Business Solutions Project
Franchise Business Plan
Sports and Entertainment Marketing Series
If there’s a particular niche you wish to ideate upon, you can look up DECA’s official website for more details on relevant competitions. DECA’s events contribute to career readiness, research readiness, and a sharp entrepreneurial mindset in its participants.
Eligibility: Open to all high-school students
Prize: Certificates, awards, and cash prizes of up to $500
Registration: Applications close on13th February 2023
Competition dates: You can find the DECA Calendar of Events here
A prestigious competition aimed at measuring participants’ fashion and finance management skills, the FCCLA Virtual Business Challenge lets participants understand and control aspects of the stimulation (as found in the Virtual Business classroom software). The challenge requires you to utilize your personal finance and fashion management skills! Once registered, you can check your team’s real-time score on FCCLA’s website alongside your participation and manipulation of the stimulation as seen on the classroom software.
Eligibility: Open to all high school students in the USA
Prize: Certificates. Website recognition and cash prizes of up to $1000
Registration: Applications open on 4th October 2023
Competition dates: Round 1 - 18th October to 11th November 2023; Round 2 - 21st January to 24th February 2024 (based on last year’s dates)
If you’re looking to make the world a better place, here are a few themed innovation challenges that you can participate in - The Green Business Idea Competition and the Technovation for Girls Challenge.
Additionally, you could also check out the Junior Achievement National Student Leadership Summit, The Paradigm Challenge, and the World Series of Innovation!
One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program
Participating in these innovation challenges is a great way to understand how to solve real-world challenges. Another way of doing this is to work on your own research project.
If you are looking to start your own research journey with 1-1 mentorship from a top PhD, check out the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. You can find the application form here.
Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.