Section Image: Students and families gather for lunch during the High School Investor Challenge

TCU Neeley’s High School Investor Challenge Empowers Future Financiers

This summer, TCU Neeley hosted two cohorts of the High School Investor Challenge, where students spend a week learning from college finance professors and testing their skills with a $10,000 virtual investment portfolio.

June 13, 2023

By Amber Billops

A group of high school students kicked of their summer studying finance and learning about investing in the stock market during a weeklong camp at TCU Neeley School of Business. The High School Investor Challenge, now in its 18th year, provides a unique opportunity for high-achieving and motivated high school students with a strong interest in the stock market to spend time learning on campus.

The business camp not only offered a platform for high school seniors to learn about investing in stocks but also exposed them to the TCU Neeley School of Business and the finance department. It was an opportunity for students who were undecided about their future majors to gain exposure to the world of finance and test their skills with a $10,000 virtual portfolio.

Campers from the HSIC Camp A showing their Horned Frog pride

Since launching in 2006, the High School Investor Challenge has hosted approximately 650 students, who had an opportunity to manage virtual portfolios ranging from $10,000 to $1,000,000. Even after camp is completed, the learning continues. Each month, the students submit a stock report to be reviewed by TCU Neeley’s Education Investment Fund team. This year, there were two camp sessions - Camp A from June 4 to June 9 and Camp B from June 18 to June 23.

Each camp included approximately 40 students, the majority of whom hailed from Texas, with other attendees representing California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The program offered a top-down approach to investing, teaching about the state of the economy and the types of companies that thrive in different business cycles. Armed with this knowledge, students made informed decisions about which companies to invest in.

“The program went very well. The kids made a lot of friends and, as with programs like this, you tend to make lifelong friends,” said Barbara Wood, a TCU Neeley professor of professional practice in finance and the assistant director for the Luther King Capital Management Center for Financial Studies.

Ellie with her mom and grandmother

“The most important takeaway is they learn to use a model to value stock, and they learn to invest and how to make decisions. They also learn about TCU and the Neeley School of Business, and I think that is as important as learning about stocks,” said Wood.

While on campus, the students participated in activities such as trivia nights and kickball games and had access to the campus recreation center. These opportunities allowed them to form connections with their peers and get a taste of college life.

“Mr. Kelly O’Brien taught us how to present, and that was my biggest takeaway because presenting can be difficult,” said Wilkes Hawkins, a senior at Saint Thomas High School in Houston, Texas. “Showing us how to make a good presentation and how to impact an audience can be applied to anything in life and not just finance.”

Student presentation on a stock

The camps included students who applied for the High School Investor Challenge interested in attending TCU, a feeling that was reinforced for some because of the on-campus experience with the professors and their peers.

“Coming into this camp, I already liked TCU, but I was still open to other colleges,” said Connor Trivette, a senior at Founders Classical Academy in Lewisville, Texas. “Just getting to know the professors, it’s a small college with great athletics, a great business program, and a great culture, I developed a deeper love for this school and now I really want to go here.”

Caulie Bush, mother of rising senior Benjamin Bush from Franklin Tennessee, said the summer camp had a major impact on Benjamin because he is in the entrepreneurship program at his school.

“Having this experience is going to provide him an opportunity to take this knowledge back for next year because he is in the capstone program where is working with a small team of four students in a competitive format to develop a product to take to market. He was very excited to be here,” she said.

Bush family at the family lunch

In April 2024, the business school faculty and staff will host a celebration banquet, welcoming the students and their families back to campus. All participating students will be invited to present their portfolios and their reports from throughout the year, showcasing their achievements to their fellow students, family members, and professors.

Angie Schilsky, mother of Caroline Schilsky, picked up her daughter at the end of the summer camp and said this experience will help her daughter make an informed decision about her future. Caroline is deciding between majoring in engineering or finance.

“We felt like her having this experience would help her determine which of the two majors she is interested in,” Angie Schilsky said. “I think she is leaning more towards finance, so obviously it’s been a great week.”