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All About the High School Fed Challenge: Should You Participate?

If you're a high school student with a keen interest in economics, finance, or public policy, then you would (should!) be familiar with the Federal Reserve System. But did you know that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York also hosts a prestigious national competition specifically meant for students interested in economic research and monetary policy?


In this blog, we will dive into the High School Fed Challenge, its structure, timeline, eligibility, and prestige!



What is the High School Fed Challenge?

The High School Fed Challenge is a team-based competition for high school students, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The competition aims to promote a deeper understanding of the Federal Reserve's operations, the U.S. economy, and the broader global economic landscape. You and your teammates will be tasked with analyzing economic conditions and recommending a course for monetary policy. The primary objective of the challenge is to develop skills in teamwork, research, data literacy, and analytical writing, and promote interest in economics as a subject for study and the basis for a career.



Who is eligible to participate?

The eligibility criteria for the challenge are as follows:


  • You must be enrolled in a high school in the Second Federal Reserve District, which includes:

    • New York State

    • Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren Counties in New Jersey

    • Fairfield County in Connecticut

    • Puerto Rico

    • The U.S. Virgin Islands

  • You must be enrolled in grades 9-12 at the time of registration.

  • Each eligible high school may register one team for the competition and each registered team can submit one entry for the competition each year.



Competition timeline & application

The High School Fed Challenge follows the below schedule:


  1. Theme Announcement & Registration Begins - September 12, 2023

  2. Registration Deadline - February 15, 2024

  3. Paper Submission Deadline - March 15, 2024

  4. Notification of Publication Decision - May 15, 2024 (for winners)


With respect to registration and the application process itself, keep the following aspects in mind:


  • Your school will designate a faculty advisor for your team, who will be your primary point of contact with the New York Fed and will be responsible for all registrations, submissions, and inquiries.

  • Your team can comprise between 3 and 8 students, all enrolled in grades 9-12.


How is the High School Fed Challenge structured?

The structure of the competition and submission process is straightforward:


  • Your team will need to submit one podcast script on the economic theme designated by the New York Fed for the current challenge.

    • The theme for the 2023-24 Challenge is the Economics of Work. The Fed has a dual mandate to promote maximum employment and price stability, and in keeping with that, is inviting research on the types of work that people do and how, and how these concepts shift and evolve over time.

  • Your entry has to include:

    • A title page including the title of the entry, the competing school name and location (city, state, or territory), first and last names of student authors, first and last name(s) of the faculty advisor(s), the total word count of the entry, and the name and edition of the selected style guide for citations.

    • The main 1500 – 2500-word submission (excluding citations).

    • Citations and bibliography. These must follow a research style guide, such as APA, Chicago Style, or MLA Handbook.

  • Your entry MUST include academic research, which may be primary and/or secondary research and may be qualitative and/or quantitative.

  • Your entry must be in English or Spanish and submitted as a PDF.


Your entries will be judged basis of the following rubrics:


1. Economic Analysis

  1. Analysis - Your entry’s economic analysis has to be clearly stated and data-driven.

  2. Data usage - All the data used, whether qualitative or quantitative, should support the concept.

  3. Data sourcing - You should be using varied data sources that reinforce each other and your final conclusion(s).


2. Theme & Rigor

  1. Topic relevance - Naturally, the topic you and your team choose has to be relevant to the theme designated by the New York Fed. This is one of the areas where your advisor will be most able to assist you.

  2. Concept, content & research - Beyond relevance, your topic should address a compelling economic concept, backed with rigorous academic research.


3. Composition

  1. Adherence to format - Make sure to follow the required submission format and word limits.

  2. Organization - The more coherent and structured your submission, the better.

  3. Citation - Appropriate and relevant crediting of sources in your submission.


We highly suggest you go through the entire rulebook here.



Prizes on offer

While the High School Fed Challenge does not have any monetary prizes associated with it, it has something arguably more valuable - winning submissions selected by the judges will be featured in the Journal of Future Economists, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Even if you’re not one of the lucky few, all entering teams will still receive recognition in the Journal.



Is it prestigious?

The High School Fed Challenge is a highly regarded competition in the academic world, with only one winner out of the 60-70 teams that participate. It is the only competition officially hosted by the Federal Reserve for high schoolers, providing a platform to showcase their analytical and presentation skills to the wider economic and policymaking community. Winning or even participating in such a competition can significantly bolster your academic profile, demonstrating your understanding of advanced economic concepts and grounding in research methodologies. The fact that the names of all teams are shared in the Journal of Future Economists provides you with both community recognition (and the resultant opportunities) as well as a noteworthy addition to your profile.



Pros and Cons of the High School Fed Challenge

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to invest your time and effort into the High School Fed Challenge, here are some pros and cons to consider.


Pros:


  1. You will enhance your knowledge: Whichever topic you end up choosing, you and your team will have to work hard with your mentor, build up your understanding of core economic and monetary concepts, and do plenty of research to have a chance of winning. The Fed also provides a large resource bank specifically for participants, along with its own massive research bank, that you will have to navigate with your advisor to dig through and master the relevant theory needed for your submission. All of this means that you will be learning advanced subjects and greatly boosting your knowledge of economic theory.

  2. You will develop skills: Beyond just the knowledge you will inevitably gain over the course of drafting your submission, you will also need to learn time management, how to work in a team, critical thinking, how to apply research methodologies, and data analysis. In short, this challenge will instill in you a host of important skills that will help you beyond just school and college.

  3. You will gain exposure: Having your name featured as a participant, or even a winner, in one of the nation’s most prestigious economics magazines, will do wonders for you should you want to enter the world of economic research and monetary policy.


Cons:


  1. You need to be committed: The topics that the Fed asks participants to tackle are complex and dense. You will need to work hard, study much beyond the regular high school level, and have a rigorous schedule to be able to stand a chance of winning. Moreover, all of this will be going on during your school year, so you will need to manage this on top of your existing school work and extracurriculars. Make sure you are ready for the commitment before signing up.

  2. You must be in the Second Federal Reserve District: Unfortunately, the challenge is restricted only to the Second Federal Reserve District. This means that if you’re a high school student anywhere else in the country, you will simply not be eligible.

  3. Your school must have adequate faculty and resources: The challenge is based on advanced concepts that require extra effort by dedicated faculty who can work with you, and said faculty is also the primary point of contact with the New York Fed. While any faculty member can be appointed an advisor by your school, it will be best for you if the advisor has plenty of relevant experience so they can appropriately guide and mentor you and your teammates.

  4. You need a strong team: Speaking of teammates, you will need at least two other people willing to work with you, and if you get up to seven more, then all the better. This is a highly competitive and difficult challenge, and all of you will need to be if not thoroughly well versed in economics then at least willing and able to put in the time and effort.



Should you participate in the High School Fed Challenge?

In conclusion, if you have a genuine interest in economics and research is something that intrigues you, the High School Fed Challenge can be an enriching experience. Not only will you gain a deeper understanding of economic concepts, but you'll also develop essential skills like teamwork, critical thinking, and data analysis. Just be sure you have the ability to juggle the workload with your existing commitments and have both a team and an academic mentor to join you on your journey. Whether you're aiming for a career in economics or just looking for a challenging academic experience, this competition is worth investing in.


You could also consider applying to internships in the field of economics, or check out other economics competitions open to high schoolers.

Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re looking for the opportunity to do in-depth research on topics like economic theory or monetary policy, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! 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.


Image Source: High School Fed Challenge logo

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