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The Young Founders Lab: Should You Apply?

Starting a business in high school is one effective way to showcase your commitment to your subject and your interests. Not only does it signal to college admission officers that you are a proactive problem solver, but it also showcases your ability to apply theoretical knowledge that you’ve covered in school in practical situations!

One drawback of starting a business in high school is that you might be confused about where to start and how to go about it. Some programs address this confusion by providing a guided start-up experience. In this blog, we cover one such program - the Young Founders Lab, a real-world start-up bootcamp for high school students. 

What is the Young Founders Lab?

The Young Founder’s 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.

Apart from building the start-up itself, you will also participate in interactive classes on business fundamentals and business ideations, workshops and skill-building sessions, case studies, panel discussions and more!

Who are some of the Founder mentors you will work with?

A considerable advantage of this program is that you have the opportunity to work with already established entrepreneurs who have successfully raised millions of dollars in fundraising from Y-Combinator, Harvard Innovation Labs, and Stanford Accelerator. These founders provide mentorship to you as you launch your own start-up. The structure of the program is such that you have a group of founder mentors and you work in a small group of other students to work on your own start-up idea. 

For example, you could potentially work with Fintech Launch, led by Kevin Junker, who is an alumnus of Cambridge University, Google and McKinsey. Fintech Launch is a business accelerator that focuses on bridging the gap between financial products in the U.S., Europe and SouthEast Asia!

Alternatively, you could opt to work with Billion Dollar Startup Ideas, which Micheal Bervell, a Harvard Business School and Microsoft alum, leads! Billion Dollar Startup Ideas itself is one of the world's largest aggregators of Unicron-level start-up ideas with a reach that spans over 850,000 people!

Who is eligible to participate in the Young Founders Lab?

The program is currently open to all students who are currently enrolled in high school! The program does have a selection process which involves an interview, though, the website and brochure does not state how candidates are compared against each other after the interview stage.  Do note that while you can register individually, your final start-up will be in a group. 

Where is this program conducted?

This program is 100% virtual, with live, interactive workshops and worktime on Monday to Friday (from 12-3 PM Eastern Time). 

What is the timeline and structure?

The 2024 edition of the program starts on June 5th and spans over 4-weeks.

There are 3 application deadlines that you can choose between:

  • Early Decision Deadline: March 17th, 2024

  • Regular Admission Deadline 1: April 14, 2024

  • Regular Admission Deadline 2: May 12th, 2023

You can access the application link here!

What is the format of the program?

The program is split into 3 phases. Phase 1 of the program is where you will cover the business fundamentals and gain more insight into the ideation process. 

In Phase 2, you will conduct market and user research to build a prototype. 

The last phase is where you will actually launch your start-up, gain traction and achieve your goal of producing a revenue-generating start-up in high school. The program culminates with a demo day where you can display your final startup to potential investors!

What is the cost to attend?

The total cost to attend the 4-week program is $2900. There is financial aid for those who demonstrate need. 

Pros and Cons of the Program:


1. The virtual lab is entirely remote. 

A huge advantage of this virtual lab is that it is entirely remote which is a great option if you’re looking for a flexible option to work on your start-up at your own pace. Moreover, you can gain access to mentors and investors from across the globe which widens your reach and network. 

It also gives you the opportunity to save on transportation and housing costs. In this way, YFL is a pretty solid option because it offers you many choices and does not require you to travel/relocate, saving you a lot of time and money! 

2. You will produce a tangible output. 

Unlike some summer schools, the outcome of YFL is a developed, revenue-producing start-up. This makes the outcome of the program more significant as you can also use it in the activities section of your Common App. Mentioning how you developed your own revenue-generating startup will differentiate you from other applications as it demonstrates your passion and proactiveness for finding solutions to real-world challenges. 

3. You will have the opportunity to work with established entrepreneurs as mentors

Participating in this program is an excellent opportunity to network with leading experts in their respective fields. The Host Companies and managers are ex-Harvard, ex-Columbia and ex-Microsoft and have been featured in Forbes 30 under 30. Networking before high school is one aspect many students miss out on, and this can impact your journey to gain LORs, future work opportunities, and guidance for further research. 

4. You will have a guided experience with building a start-up. 

You may be confused about how to go about building an unstructured/independent start-up. The continuous guidance offered by the startup mentors, investors and founders at YFL can solve this, and this mentorship will allow you to maximize your potential and refine your project! 

5. You have access to a supportive student community.

As this program is highly selective, participating in this program will allow you to interact and connect with determined, and goal-oriented students like yourself. Having this supportive alumni network will be extremely helpful when looking for other opportunities and internships.

6. Financial aid is available 

This opportunity does offer need-based financial aid slots for students so your finances don’t have to be a hurdle when considering this program. However, do note that financial aid applications will be more competitive (around 2-3 times more). 


1. There is a program cost 

This is certainly a drawback. The program is structured to provide support for students in building their own start-ups (e.g., with interactive classes and mentorship). But that also comes with a cost attached.

2. If you’re in a particular time zone, it may be hard for you to attend classes.

As the workshops are conducted from 12 - 3 pm ET (or 9 am - 12 pm PT), if you live in time zones with a significant time difference, you might be expected to attend late at night, or you might have to miss out on the interactive classes which is an integral part of the experience. 

6. The program is fast-paced and may not be long enough to build complex products

Since the program only lasts a few weeks, you will be expected to pick up on concepts and practices quickly, as opposed to a 3-4 month program that is paced a lot more slowly than YFL. You will need to make sure that you can reasonably match your expectations and manage your time to ensure you complete your start-up within the given time frame.

Which universities are YFL students getting into? 

In the 2022-2023 admission cycle, program alumni were accepted to top universities, such as Yale, UPenn, Stanford, Cornell, Columbia, Oxford and Cambridge. A survey of more than 340 students revealed that 20% of our alumni who applied to an iVY League University (or Stanford) got in, which is almost 4x higher than the general rate of acceptance!

Our Review: Should You Apply?

We think that YFL is a solid option if you’re looking for a guided experience with building a start-up in high school. One of the biggest advantages of this lab program is that it enables you to launch a start-up, which is a lucrative opportunity that is advantageous in the long-term! 

Common feedback was that the program is well structured and has multiple rounds of mentorship and feedback, so you can fully expect to be well-guided when building your start-up. One drawback of the program is the cost, but you are gaining guided mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs. 

We’ve also looked at testimonials from students, and some standard features that YFL participants liked were the opportunity to do real-world projects, the guided mentorship, and the chance to go beyond the classroom. An additional benefit is the opportunity to get an LOR from your start-up mentor, which might help boost your application!

Lastly, since YFL is entirely virtual, you can balance this opportunity with your other extracurriculars.

One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program.

If you’re eager to delve deeper into business research and add value to your college application, consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program. This selective online high school program, co-founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford, offers a unique opportunity to explore research in economics, finance and beyond. Last year, the program received over 4000 applications for 500 available spots. To apply, you can find the application form here.

Manas is a publication strategy associate at Lumiere Education. He studied public policy and interactive media at NYU and has experience in education consulting.



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