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Economics for Leaders (EFL): Should You Do It?

If you are interested in Economics and its real-world applications, you may have encountered Economics For Leaders (EFL). This program, organized by the Foundation for Teaching Economics, is supposed to explore the intersection of economics and public policy.


EFL is a selective summer program designed to equip student leaders with the tools and knowledge needed to integrate economics into decision-making. The program's objective is to groom the next generation of leaders since public policy choices are getting increasingly more complex to navigate. One way of doing this is to build a deeper understanding of economics among students and help them understand its practical applications.


Who can apply to EFL?


Students currently sophomores and juniors in high school are eligible to apply.


International students are welcome to apply and should check out the additional requirements to support their application.


Here is the information you’ll need to submit as part of your application:

  • Basic Personal Information

  • Letter of Recommendation

  • Transcript

  • Personal Statement – You will be asked to respond to a prompt in 750 words or less

Timelines and costs


The program has a virtual and in-person version.


The mail EFL programs are:

  1. Economics for Leaders Virtual

  2. Economics for Leaders

Some other programs offered are:

We will discuss the virtual and in-person EFL programs in more detail!


Economics for Leaders (virtual): The application deadline for the 4-day virtual program usually falls in May. The program runs in various sessions over June and July.


The cost to attend the EFL Virtual program is $800. There is also a $35 processing fee.

The program is taught over Zoom. You can expect to spend approximately five hours per day, Monday – Friday participating in class and completing homework assignments. Each day the program consists of 4 sessions with a 40-minute lunch break in the middle.


Economics for Leaders (in-person/residential): This 1-week program is hosted between June and July on various college campuses across the country (Yale, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UT Austin - to name a few). The slots tend to fill up more quickly than the virtual program!


The cost to attend FTE residential student programs is $2,100 which includes room and board. Students are responsible for their transportation costs to and from the program location Scholarships are available.


Here’s a sample schedule:

Pro tip (for both programs): Submitting your application early makes you eligible for “early bird” discounts and scholarships are available. If you need more help with paying for the program, check out this guide by EFL.


Information about the program (virtual and in-person):


10 Topics are taught, and the program uses the context of5 Economic Reasoning Propositions (ERPs)’ to reach the application of these topics:

  • Economic Growth and Scarcity

  • Opportunity Cost

  • Open Markets

  • Markets in Action

  • Labor Markets

  • Incentives, Innovation, and the Role of Institutions

  • Property Rights

  • Government

  • Money & Inflation

  • International Markets

In addition to this, leadership topics are taught in the context of the Leadership Pyramid Matrix used in university leadership courses.


Our review


Pros:

1. Compact and good for an introductory (yet challenging) taste

If you want to understand how economics and public policy interact and have limited exposure to the subjects, then this is a compact, yet challenging experience. It will give you a decent idea about whether you want to spend more time doing research in this intersection, building a passion project, and help you decide on possible options for majors and minors in college.


The application-oriented nature of the program is also pretty good because public policy is all about decision-making (as is economics!).


2. Affordable with options for funding

You have a virtual option that saves you the cost of board and travel. Even the residential program has more competitive pricing compared to other pre-college programs of the same duration. If you apply early enough, you get a pretty significant early bird discount as well!


3. Gives you college credits

EFL has partnered with the Department of Economics at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, to offer students the option of earning undergraduate credit while participating in the program. This option requires an additional fee of $244 payable to the University of Colorado.


It's important to note that this credit is considered an elective course and will not count toward an economics major. If you're seeking college credit to contribute towards your GPA, this option may not be suitable for you. However, if you're looking to further validate the learning outcomes of EFL, this is an opportunity to earn an additional credential.


4. Opportunity to build a good network and experience campus life

Both the virtual and the in-person program offers you the chance to network with high school students from all over the world. The Foundation for Teaching Economics also attracts really good mentors in the field of economics, so you can expect to be taught by great faculty and find a long-term mentor in them.


The in-person program will only enhance this experience and also give you a taste of campus life. Since the program is run on many campuses, try to see if your dream colleges feature on the list and pick one of the programs that run on campus.


Cons:

1. Not in-depth enough

This is a good, compact introductory course on Economics. However, if you have taken AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics, then you won’t find anything new about what’s being taught.


2. Moderately selective, but not prestigious

The program is selective, but from publicly available information it appears to have an acceptance rate of about 50%. This would mean that it’s likely to be well-received by admissions officers but they won’t be blown away by it as a stand-alone accomplishment. Unless you can show how you’ve taken the learning outcomes and applied them further (maybe for a research or passion project).


3. More of a conference, rather than a program

Given the short duration and overall teaching style, we would classify this more as a conference than an academic or research mentorship program. This is not strictly a ‘con’ unless you are specifically looking for an immersive and academically rigorous experience!


Should you do it?


If you don’t have a substantial background in economics and would like a more budget-friendly introductory course, then you can consider this program as a solid option for getting acquainted quickly.


If you are looking to showcase your scholar profile and abilities in economics and/or public policy and have a solid understanding of the subjects or exposure to them, then consider a research mentorship program. We’ve shortlisted a bunch of other programs here and even shared research ideas.


One other option - Lumiere


If you are interested in doing university-level research in economics, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 2100 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: Foundation for Teaching Economics logo

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