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10 Ways to get a High School Business Education

If you are keen to make your mark in the world of business, whether corporate or your own, starting your journey in high school can give you a significant edge. A business education is not simply about understanding finance or how to sell, it is rather a holistic approach to understanding and deriving value from everything from sourcing, to operations, to strategy, to production, to marketing, to sales. Whether you're aiming to enhance your academic profile, kickstart your own startup, or simply gain a competitive edge for college and future career opportunities, understanding the basics of business is key. 


With that, let’s dive into 10 awesome ways that can help you get a high school business education.


1. Enroll in Business Pre-College Programs

Pre-college business programs are excellent for gaining a head start in your business education. Leading institutions like Wharton, Stanford, and Harvard offer summer sessions that simulate the rigors of college-level business courses. These programs often cover a wide range of topics, including marketing, entrepreneurship, finance, and even niche areas like sports management and technology. For example, Wharton’s Summer High School Programs not only teach theoretical business principles but also engage students in simulations and team projects that mimic real-world business challenges. This early exposure is invaluable, helping you develop critical thinking skills and a solid understanding of business dynamics. 


If you want to enhance your problem-solving skills, gain a deeper understanding of business operations, and build a valuable network of like-minded peers and mentors that can be instrumental in your future plans, then this is a solid option to consider.


2. Take Online Business Courses

If you’re serious about obtaining a business education but lack the funds or the means to secure a spot at one of the admittedly expensive options listed above, online learning platforms such as Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy offer accessible business courses for high school students designed by renowned business schools and industry experts. These platforms provide courses in areas ranging from introductory business and economics to more specialized subjects like supply chain management or pricing strategy. For instance, Coursera features courses developed by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where students can learn about financial accounting from the same professors who teach MBA students. These courses often include video lectures, peer discussions, and projects that offer practical experience. Completing these courses can also lead to certification that adds value to college applications, demonstrating a commitment to learning and a passion for the field of business.


3. Join School Business Clubs

High school business clubs such as DECA and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) provide platforms where you can deepen your business knowledge and actually apply it in various competitive events. These clubs offer activities that range from smaller, more approachable local community service projects to serious national competitive events. They allow you to compete in, and therefore learn by experience, categories such as business plan development, digital marketing campaigns, and role-play scenarios that require problem-solving in real-time. Beyond the competitive aspect, you can also apply to leadership roles within these clubs to further enhance skills in management and organization and also build a strong, influential network. Participation in these clubs is highly regarded by colleges and can significantly enhance your resume by showing active engagement and achievement in the field of business.


4. Compete in Business Competitions

Business competitions such as the National Business Plan competition or The Stock Market Game offer practical, competitive experiences that put your business acumen to the test. In the National Business Plan Competition, for example, students create and present comprehensive business plans, receiving feedback from business leaders. This not only hones your planning and presentation skills but also gives you a taste of what pitching to investors might be like. Similarly, The Stock Market Game provides a simulated environment for students to engage in stock trading, learning about financial markets and the importance of economic strategy. These competitions are crucial for learning under pressure and provide a real-world understanding of business dynamics and the financial markets.


5. Attend Business Workshops and Seminars

Workshops and seminars are fantastic opportunities for you to gain insights from experienced professionals and academics in the business world. These events often focus on current trends in business, such as digital marketing, global economics, or entrepreneurial strategies. Local universities, business schools, and community centers frequently host speakers and seminars, offering you a chance to engage directly with experienced professionals and understand careers, opportunities, and tailwinds in your field of interest.


6. Join a Startup Incubator for Teens

If you’re interested in starting your own business, then joining a teen-focused startup incubator like Young Founders Lab or BETACamp can be incredibly beneficial. These programs support young entrepreneurs through mentorship, resources, and sometimes even seed funding to help launch viable business ideas. Incubators also provide a collaborative environment where you get to work with peers who have similar ambitions and challenges, deepening your learning and providing you with potential co-founders for your business idea(s). This experience is invaluable for learning the nuts and bolts of starting a business, from ideation and market research to product development and launch. Moreover, the exposure to the startup ecosystem through these programs can inspire innovative thinking and offer a realistic glimpse into the entrepreneurial lifestyle.


7. Follow Business News and Podcasts

Staying updated with the latest in business and economics is crucial for any budding business student. Regularly following trusted news outlets like Bloomberg, Financial Times, and The Wall Street Journal helps you stay informed about global business trends and economic policies, and understand their interconnectedness. Podcasts such as NPR’s “How I Built This” offer narrative insights from successful entrepreneurs, providing lessons on overcoming challenges and the realities of building a business from the ground up. If you’re looking for inspiration for your own entrepreneurship efforts, or already have an idea and want to figure out a systematic plan to bring it to fruition, then this is a great option to help you out.


8. Take Part in an Internship

Internships provide a pathway to understand business concepts in a real-world setting, offering hands-on experience that classroom learning cannot replicate. Whether it's a summer position at a local startup or an internship with a major company, the practical skills gained are invaluable. These experiences not only enhance understanding of business operations but also help in building a professional network. Furthermore, internships can help clarify career interests and sometimes lead to future employment opportunities. Sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or local job boards can be useful resources for finding internship opportunities tailored to high school students.


9. Start Your Own Business

There's no teacher like direct experience, and starting a business can be one of the most comprehensive learning opportunities available. Whether it’s a tech startup, a small service like lawn care or tutoring, or selling products online, the act of starting and managing a business can teach critical skills such as budgeting, customer service, marketing, and strategic planning. The process of dealing with suppliers, customers, and possibly even employees introduces real-world business challenges and solutions, providing a profound learning experience that will stand out on any college application or resume.


10. Read Business Books

Reading widely from business books recommended by top business schools can provide foundational knowledge and advanced insights into the mechanics of business, strategy, and innovation. Books like “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries and “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman offer perspectives on entrepreneurial strategies and decision-making processes. Another recommendation is “The Personal MBA” by Josh Kaufman that can serve as an accessible yet comprehensive guide to essential business concepts, ideal if you want to understand business management.


If you’re looking for an incubator program that helps you establish a developed startup in high school, consider the Young Founders Lab! 


The Young Founders Lab is a real-world start-up bootcamp founded and run by Harvard entrepreneurs. In this program, you will work towards building a revenue-generating start-up that addresses a real-world problem. You will also have the opportunity to be mentored by established entrepreneurs and professionals from Google, Microsoft, and X. You can access the application link 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.


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