Essentials of Finance

Essentials of Finance is an intensive two-week summer opportunity for a select group of high school students currently enrolled in grades 9–11. This exploratory program provides a brief introduction to the fundamentals of finance, as well as opportunities to explore finance beyond the stock market, including venture capital, corporate valuation, and alternative investments.


Essentials of Finance provides an introduction to the theory, the methods and the concerns of the world of finance. Learn about the fundamentals of both personal and corporate finance. Delve into the topics such as the time value of money, the trade-off between risk and return, equities and corporate accounting

Each summer, Wharton Essentials of Finance students:

  • Engage with an exploratory curriculum inspired by the undergraduate finance program at the Wharton School
  • Learn fundamentals of finance with real-world applications and case studies
  • Attend lectures and presentations from notable Wharton faculty, lecturers and PhD students
  • Collaborate in small teams to complete an analysis project

Essentials of Finance uses an innovative curriculum developed by Wharton Professor Michael Roberts, which integrates personal and corporate finance concepts and promotes the exploration of how these concepts can be applied practically.

Read more about Professor Roberts' goal of introducing high school students to the "elegant simplicity" of finance.


All participants who complete the program will earn a Wharton Global Youth Certificate of Completion.


Academic classes are held Monday-Friday with extracurricular activities available in the evenings and on the weekends. Students move in on Sunday pre-program, and move out the final Saturday of the program. For more information on campus life, visit our residential experience page. 

While each day varies in format, a typical day includes: 

  • 9:30-10:00 Program Check-in 
  • 10-10:15- Break 
  • 10:15-11:15- Topics Lecture or Guest Speaker 
  • 11:15-11:30- Break 
  • 11:30-12:30- Topics Lecture
  • 12:30-1:45- Lunch 
  • 1:45- 2:45- Group Work 
  • 2:45-3:00- Break 
  • 3:00-4:00- Group Work Debrief
  • 4:00-4:30- TA office Hour and Takeaways of the Day  
Schedule Exceptions:
Students participating in Session 1 (June 9 to June 22) should note the following schedule changes:
  • Wednesday, June 19 - classes will not meet due to the Juneteenth holiday
  • Saturday, June 15 - classes will meet as a makeup
Students participating in Session 2 (June 23 to July 6) should note the following schedule difference:
  • Thursday, July 4- classes will not meet due to the July 4th holiday
  • Saturday, June 29 - classes will meet as a makeup

Session topics include: 

  • Personal finance 
  • Corporate finance 
  • Fixed income 
  • Equities and impact investing 
  • Risk and the cost of capital 
  • Capital structure 
  • Valuation Models 

Students will also have the unique opportunity to attend our Wharton Global Youth Speaker Series, which features presentations and conversations with notable Wharton faculty. The topics covered in these presentations span the breadth of Wharton teaching, allowing students insights into additional topics and cutting-edge research not specifically addressed within their program’s focus area. Previous speakers and topics have included:  

  • Dean of The Wharton School, Professor Erika James: Crisis Management 
  • Professor Michael Roberts: Finance 
  • Professor Ethan Mollick: The Future of AI  
  • Professor Katherine Klein: Social Impact   
  • Professor Michael Platt: Neuro Economics 
  • Professor Barbara Kahn: Marketing 
  • Professor Maurice Schweitzer: Negotiation and Deception 
  • Professor Olivia Mitchell: Financial Literacy 

In the evening, students will have a number of extracurricular activities to choose from. Students can also opt to work on their final project with their group, meet with the program TAs, and/or relax at the dorm. 

Please note, some days may not follow this schedule as there could be a site visit off campus or a simulation in lieu of lecture/recitation schedule. 



High school students currently enrolled in grades 9-11 eager to gain valuable knowledge of finance, investing and accounting. Demonstrated understanding of economics or business is highly preferred, though not required. International applicants are welcome.


Admission to Wharton Essentials of Finance is selective. Each year the admissions committee receives many more applications than there are available places. Selections are based on a record of academic excellence and a genuine interest in developing finance skills. Interested students are strongly encouraged to submit an application by the priority deadline.

Please note that participation in the Essentials of Finance program does not guarantee admission into Penn.

Instructional Team

Academic Director: Professor Michael Roberts

Michael R. Roberts is the William H. Lawrence Professor of Finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and an affiliate of the Institute for Law and Economics and the Wharton Financial Institutions Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He also founded and heads the Wharton Financial Analytics Initiative. Professor Roberts’ research spans corporate finance, banking, and asset pricing. Recent work has examined equity pricing anomalies, collateralized loan obligation (CLO) performance, and the effect of interest rates on bank lending. His research has received several awards including two Brattle Prizes for Distinguished Paper published in the Journal of Finance, a Jensen Prize for best paper on Corporate Finance and Organizations published in the Journal of Financial Economics, and Best Paper awards from the Financial Management Association, Southwestern Finance Association, and Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.  

Professor Roberts earned his B.A. in Economics from the University of California at San Diego, and his M.A. in Statistics and Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley.  

Academic Directors advise the Wharton Global Youth team on instructor hiring and develops the program curriculum, including but not limited to: course topics, suggested activities, readings and capstone projects.

Program Leader: Wayne Williams

Dr. Wayne W. Williams is an Assistant Professor of Accounting at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. He is also the Faculty Advisor for the National Association of Black Accountants. 

Williams worked in several roles as an accounting and tax professional, financial advisor and administrative leader in private industry and government prior to joining academia.   

He joined the Fox School from the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), where he had served since 2004 as a faculty member and as the Department Chair for Business Administration before becoming the Director of Education Services for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program, an entrepreneurship education program that was CCP’s largest grant award to date. He was appointed to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s Task Force on Tax Policy and Economic Competitiveness in 2009. He is currently a member of the Philadelphia Department of Revenue Commissioner’s Tax Advisory Committee and concurrently serves on the City of Philadelphia’s Tax Reform Working Group, 2021-2022.  

Williams earned his Doctor of Education in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania. He received his Master of Science in Taxation and Financial Planning from Widener University, and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from the Fox School.  He is also an IRS Enrolled Agent and Certified Financial Planner™. 

Instructor: Stephanie Perez

Stephanie Perez is a first-generation college graduate hailing from Brooklyn, NY. She holds a B.S. in Accounting from CUNY Hunter College and an MBA in Finance and Strategic Management from The Wharton School. Prior to Wharton, Stephanie worked in the M&A advisory sector providing deal advisory and strategy support to private equity and strategic buyers. She has also worked with community development financial institutions, charter schools and other nonprofit foundations. During her time at Wharton she has delved into the social impact investing space and provided operational and financial guidance to mission based organizations. Beyond her professional pursuits, Stephanie finds fulfilment in mentoring young adults in career and college readiness, attending pilates classes and listening to podcasts (How I Built This, Crime Junkies). 

Instructors work closely with the Academic Director to deliver daily program lectures, facilitate group activities and coach students’ capstone projects.

Teaching Assistants

Teaching Assistants consist of both undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Pennsylvania. TAs facilitate small-group discussions, ensure student understanding, assist with final project development, and hold office hours to answer student questions and share their Penn and Wharton experiences.

“My advice for incoming students is to make friends with people in your program. You will get to meet people across the world that have different perspectives and experiences than you do. You will learn a lot from your classes, but you will also learn from your peers. Also—bring a calculator!” - Kendall B., Maryland, USA