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Wharton Essentials of Finance: Is It a Worthwhile Experience for High Schoolers?

If you're a high school student with a budding interest in finance, you're probably looking for opportunities to dive deeper into the world of numbers, stocks, and investments.

Pre-college programs are particularly useful in the field of finance as they provide you access to college-level courses, network with like-minded peers, and bolster your college applications - by jumpstarting your core financial knowledge, demonstrating your passion for and dedication to the field, and by familiarizing you with the demands of college-level finance.

One such program that stands out is the Wharton Essentials of Finance program. In this post, we’ll delve into what this program has to offer.

What is the Wharton Essentials of Finance Program?

The Wharton Essentials of Finance program is an initiative of the Wharton Global Youth Program, a branch that utilizes Wharton resources and opportunities to provide high school students with a transformative educational experience. The Essentials of Finance program is an exploratory on-campus program structured on the basis of Wharton’s undergraduate finance program, with a focus on the fundamentals of finance with real-world applications and case studies.

Over a span of three weeks, participants will be on the University of Pennsylvania's campus, engaging in a variety of activities from lectures with notable Wharton faculty to real-world case studies, from interactions with guest speakers to a team-based analysis project. The program is the brainchild of Wharton Professor Michael Roberts, who aims to integrate concepts of both personal and corporate finance and explore how these concepts find practical application.

Eligibility Criteria

To be a part of this program:

  • You must be a high school student enrolled in grades 9-11.

  • Both national and international students can apply.

  • While there is no GPA required to be eligible, a minimum 3.3 unweighted GPA is recommended. The program is highly selective so make sure you understand the application process detailed in the next section.

Application Timeline, Process, and Costs

Wharton Global Youth programs are distinctive in that they have two separate deadlines:

  • Priority Deadline: January 25, 2023 - you will have a greater chance of admission if you apply in this period, and the program is also likely to fill up during this time.

  • Priority Decisions Released: March 15, 2023.

  • Final Deadline: April 5, 2023.

  • Final Decisions Released: April 26, 2023 - any slots that remained open after Priority Deadline will be filled in this decision release.

  • The available session dates for 2023 were as follows:

    • June 4 - 17

    • June 18 - July 1

    • July 9 - July 22

    • July 23 - August 5

An application to the Essentials of Finance program requires the following:

  • Your high school transcript

  • A recommendation completed by a high school guidance counselor, teacher, or advisor

  • A short essay based on a prompt. For 2023, the topics were:

    • Tweet-style bio: In 140 characters or less, give us your biography as if it were a tweet.

    • Envision you are a portfolio manager. Select a fictional couple as your client and select up to three companies for them to invest in. Please briefly introduce the couple, make recommendations tailored to your client, and explain your investment recommendations. 400-600 words

  • If you’re a non-native English speaker, you will also need to submit test scores to verify your English proficiency. The minimum requirement is 7 for IELTS and 100 (iBT) for TOEFL.

  • You can also optionally share any standardized test scores to supplement your application.

  • A non-refundable application fee of $100 ($359 for international students). If you’ve attended a public or charter school in the School District of Philadelphia, this fee is waived.

The registration fee for the program is $7,299. While steep, Wharton also offers scholarships for those who:

  • Come from a historically underrepresented group or identify as first-generation to college.

  • Demonstrate financial need.

We recommend going through the Costs & Aid page in detail.

Program Structure

The Wharton Essentials of Finance program is meticulously structured to offer students a blend of theoretical knowledge and practical exposure, along with a healthy experience of campus life. On a typical day, you can expect to attend over four hours of lectures, engage in group discussions, work on case studies, and take some time off for extracurriculars on campus. The curriculum covers the following topics:

  • Personal finance

  • Corporate accounting

  • Corporate finance

  • Fixed income

  • Equities and impact investing

  • Risk and the cost of capital

  • Capital structure

  • Derivatives

What makes this program truly special is the faculty. You will have the privilege of being taught by Wharton's award-winning faculty members, ensuring a great learning experience. With plenty of focus on group projects and peer learning, you will also interact aplenty with TAs consisting of graduate and undergraduate students at UPenn, enriching your learning and exposure even further.

Is It Prestigious?

The Essentials of Finance is one of the more prestigious pre-college programs in finance available. For one, it is run by Wharton, whose reputation resonates internationally, ensuring that you will gain a significant edge in your academic and professional pursuits should you be a part of it. Secondly, it’s a moderately selective program, with an acceptance rate of 22%, that requires you to have a strong blend of academics, extracurriculars, and the ability to put your best foot forward. The program's structure, which allows for plenty of interaction with and exposure to industry experts, offers unparalleled insights into the real world of finance. Lastly, the quality of the program itself - its diverse syllabus, its rigor, and its exposure, all backed by Wharton's distinguished faculty, ensures that you will experience academic excellence.

Pros and Cons of Attending


  1. You will have access to quality education: The fact that the course is modeled after Wharton’s undergraduate finance program and is in fact taught by much of the same faculty guarantees that it is one of the highest-quality finance education programs available in the country.

  2. You will get excellent exposure: This course requires you to spend plenty of time with not only Wharton’s faculty, who are industry leaders themselves, but also with guest lecturers, TAs working in the field, and your own peers.

  3. You will get the chance to boost your profile: Every participant gets a certificate from Wharton, which can set your college application apart. It will demonstrate that not only do you already have extensive exposure to the field of finance, but also that you have already been evaluated and judged as academically gifted.


  1. You may have to shell out a lot of money: While scholarships and waivers are available, there is no denying that the program is pricey and may be beyond the means of many. There is also no guarantee that the scholarship award you are granted will be full, and you may not receive any at all.

  2. You cannot participate remotely: This is a residential, on-campus program, which means if you lack the means to be able to travel to UPenn or if you’re an international student who cannot travel, then you will not be able to participate.

  3. You may not get through at all: Admission is highly competitive with an estimated 20% selection rate, and you’ll need to spend a good couple of months waiting to see if you’ve gotten through or not. We recommend having a backup plan in place for your summer.


The Wharton Essentials of Finance program is a golden opportunity for any high schooler passionate about finance. While it comes with a hefty price tag, the knowledge, exposure, and experience you gain are invaluable. If you're looking to dive deep into finance and get a taste of college-level education, this program is worth considering! If you’re interested in the intersection of AI and Finance domains, then Veritas AI’s Deep Dive: AI + Finance program may also interest you. There are also plenty of research opportunities in the field of finance if you’re interested in building out your theoretical expertise!

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 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. 

You can access the application link here!

Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re looking for the opportunity to do in-depth research on various topics in finance, 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: Wharton logo


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