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High School Students Navigate the Bulls and Bears at TCU

For 38 high school seniors, a week at TCU was more about bulls and bears than Horned Frogs, as they gathered for the TCU High School Investor Challenge. 

June 23,  2014

By Elaine Cole

In one corner: The bulls and bears of Wall Street.

In the other corner: 38 high school students eager to learn the ups and downs of the stock market as they manage $100,000 virtual portfolios.

Welcome to the TCU High School Investor Challenge, where super-smart high schoolers from across the country live in TCU residence halls and take tough classes in economic cycles, time value of money and stock analysis.

“The most interesting thing I learned is how to use and read balance sheets,” Trey Hille, a senior at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth, said. “That’s always been a foreign language to me, and now I really feel like I can look at a balance sheet and understand what a company is doing and interpret that.”

This is not your usual summer camp.

These high school seniors spend one intensive week on the TCU campus. They take accounting with Professor Janice Cobb, stock reports with Dr. Barbara Wood, time value of money with Dr. Joe Lipscomb, economic business cycles with Dr. Ira Silver, finance with Dr. Vassil Mihov and Dr. Larry Lockwood, and get tips on managing a real portfolio from members of the TCU Educational Investment Fund.

Each student manages a $100,000 personal virtual portfolio, submitting seven monthly stock reports. They all meet back at TCU in the spring to see whose stock picks made the best returns.

“My favorite part is definitely managing the portfolio,” Hille said. “It’s fun to mess around with that and learn what works and what doesn’t.”

Joseph Spellmeyer of St. Louis University High School in St. Louis, Missouri, agreed. “I’ve never managed my own stock portfolio with virtual money. Having it all in my own hands is really interesting, trying to manage all the intricacies of the market, figure out what is happening and how it affects stock prices.”

The money may not be real, but the rewards are. The students learn investment, finance and accounting skills, experience college life, and, for those who complete the requirements and are accepted to TCU, they may receive a 3-hour college credit.

“I’ve always been passionate about business, especially finance, so this was a good opportunity for me to decide the direction I want to take in college,” Spellmeyer said.

David Aguirre, from North Hills Preparatory in Irving, Texas, said that the TCU High School Investor Challenge helped honed his direction, too. “I want to go into business but I’m not sure what part of business. This camp helped me direct myself. The most interesting thing I learned is how many different indicators there are that show how the market is either increasing or decreasing in strength.”

Even those who don’t start out with a love for finance find the TCU High School Investor Challenge a good place to start.

Riley Dean, a senior at Fort Worth Country Day, said she chose the program to gain experience in finance and investing. “I haven’t really had any experience [in investing]. After going through all the classes, it’s all falling together. I’m understanding it now so it’s really interesting.”

Now we’ll wait and see who comes out as the next Warren Buffett. 

For more information:  
TCU High School Investor Challenge
LKCM Center for Financial Studies