For high schoolers interested in the business world, virtual business challenges are increasingly becoming an unmissable option for both learning and exposure. You get to compete with peers from different corners of the world, dive deep into the art of ideation, tap into a wealth of resources, and receive feedback from industry experts.
In today’s blog, we’ll discuss how the FCCLA Virtual Business Challenge is structured, costs, eligibility, its prestige, and some tips that can help you win!
What is the FCCLA Virtual Business Challenge?
The Virtual Business Challenge is hosted by the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), which is a national Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) for students in Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) education in public and private schools through grade 12. The FCCLA has over 237,000 student members across 5,100 chapters. It is endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education (Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education) and the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS).
They conduct this event in partnership with Knowledge Matters, which provides interactive, browser-based, educational simulations for teaching business, marketing, and personal finance/financial literacy. The challenge is effectively a business simulation, based on the Virtual Business software provided by Knowledge Matters that is already being used in one-third of all high schools in the US. You can participate in one of two available business tracks, and the competition is held asynchronously, making this as rigorous or as intense a challenge as you and your team choose to make it.
Who is eligible?
The key eligibility criteria are:
Membership: You must be a paid, affiliated FCCLA member in grades 9-12. There are no registration fees for the challenge itself.
Team Composition: While individual participation is an option, you can also form a team of up to 3 members.
Rounds: The challenge is divided into two rounds - Fall 2023 and Spring 2024. You can choose to participate in one or both, depending on your readiness and strategy.
How does the application process work?
You and your team will need to register starting October 3, 2023. You will also need to choose your business track: Personal Finance or Fashion. After that, it is your choice whether you want to participate in one or both rounds:
Round One: Starts on October 16, 2023, at 10:00 AM EST and concludes on November 9, 2023, at 5:00 PM EST.
Round Two: Kicks off on February 5, 2024, at 10 AM EST and wraps up on March 1, 2024, at 5 PM EST.
National Championship Round: This is the grand finale, taking place online from April 1-5, 2024. Naturally, it is only open to the qualifying teams.
How is the competition structured?
The Virtual Business Challenge is structured as follows:
Each round’s challenge will focus on different concepts in the simulation. You will not be able to control everything in the simulation, and will only be able to manipulate the actions enabled for that specific challenge. All other parameters will be set and controlled by the simulation. Assignments explaining challenge goals and objectives will be available within the competition files.
The Personal Finance track simulation file is automatically submitted after it is run for two virtual years, and the Fashion track simulation file is submitted after one virtual year. You can run the simulation multiple times within the time limit of the round, so there is no cap on how many times you want to retry your submission!
You can then visit the ranking page in order to see where your submission ranks nationally and by state. You will always be ranked based on your best score, and in case of a tie, the team with the earliest submission will win out.
The top eight teams from Round One and Round Two (so 16 total) will go on to compete in the National Championship. If you’ve qualified in one, you will not be ranked in the second.
Prizes on offer
If you win the National Championship Round, you will be eligible for cash awards to attend the National Leadership Conference in Seattle, with an option to participate in the Knowledge Matters exhibit. Here's a breakdown of the cash prizes:
1st Place: $1,000
2nd Place: $500
3rd Place: $250
Is the FCCLA Virtual Business Challenge prestigious?
Being organized by a large CTSO with a massive member count lends the Virtual Business Challenge some degree of prestige. Thanks to its national membership and its endorsement by the US Department of Education, the FCCLA is able to draw in teams from across the country. However, that also means that the challenge is limited to a national scope, and also limited by membership, making it less accessible than open challenges. There is also no real data on how many teams actually participate in it. All in all, we would say the competition is somewhat prestigious, but its accessibility to existing members of the FCCLA makes it worth pursuing.
Considering The Pros and Cons Pros:
The competition can help you with skill development: The challenge offers hands-on experience in virtually managing an entire business. While the simulation keeps the challenge simplified, it still covers various aspects of running a firm in the chosen industry track. It will test and build your adaptability, critical thinking, innovation skills and analytical skills thoroughly.
You will receive a solid amount of exposure: The FCCLA is not a small organization, and winning the challenge not only brings you recognition from the award itself, but also access to their National Leadership Conference, which will allow you to network with industry experts and attend youth workshops.
The challenge is highly accessible for members: If you’re already an FCCLA member and interested in business management, there’s almost no reason for you to not participate. Registration is free, and the asynchronous and fully remote structure allows you to set your own pace and schedule.
Participation is restrictive for non-members: Of course, if you’re not a member of the FCCLA, you simply cannot participate in the competition at all.
Participating has a limited impact on your profile: As mentioned earlier in the blog, while the challenge is no doubt a great learning experience, you should not go into it expecting it to boost your profile for college applications or job applications.
Some tips to win
If you’re keen on participating in the Virtual Business Challenge, here are some tips that you should focus on to maximize your chances:
Familiarize yourself with the software: As soon as registration begins (or even earlier if your high school already provides access to Knowledge Matters’ simulation), make sure to familiarize yourself with how the simulation software works. This will help you be a little faster and more productive when you are working on the submission.
Form a strategy: You don’t need to participate in both rounds, and you don’t need to be glued to your computer throughout the challenge. What you do need, however, is a clear and coherent strategy for how you and your team will approach the simulation, what you will focus on, your business plan, etc., and also how many attempts you will reasonably make.
Try to build a team: Building from the previous point, to get your strategy in place, the best place to start will be to build a strong team. While you can participate solo, teamwork really is in your best interests here. Each of you will be able to focus on a specific area of the virtual business and complement each other’s strengths while shoring weaknesses.
Learn from mistakes: Speaking of weaknesses, you’ll be making plenty of mistakes initially. That’s how business simulations work, it takes a while to get the hang of it. Don’t be disheartened, rather make copious notes of what worked and what didn’t work in your strategy, and modify it for the next submission. Remember, there is no cap on how many times you can run the simulation! Learn, adapt and retry as best as you can.
Be persistent: This is one of the rare competitions that allows you to keep shooting your best shot repeatedly. Try to make full use of that and keep refining your submission as much as you can.
FCCLA’s Virtual Business Challenge is an easy-access simulation that should definitely be on your radar especially if you’re already an FCCLA member. The fully remote, asynchronous nature of the competition, free entry, and cash prizes on offer make it an enticing opportunity for any high schooler interested in business management. While it may not be the most prestigious of challenges, it still sees participation from schools across the country and will definitely be a great learning experience for you. Should you choose to participate, make sure to have a plan, stick to it, and keep at it, and you may stand a fair chance of winning.
Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you’re looking for the opportunity to do in-depth research (including business research), 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: FCCLA logo