A Princess Anne High School senior won a $20,000 scholarship on Monday after proving he has what it takes to manage his finances.
Aaron Barefoot is one of five winners for the Spring 2017 H&R Block Budget Challenge, and was chosen out of 180,000 high school students nationwide.
The program uses an online simulation tool to prepare young adults for financial readiness by exposing them to real-life personal finance situations.
This semester, the program ran six simulation sessions ranging from early September to late April.
The last session began at midnight on February 9 and ended at 11:55 p.m. on April 20.
Each student received a virtual salary with regular paychecks, a checking account and a 401(k) savings account.
For two months, students managed their expenses by paying rent, utilities, and car payments on time, all while avoiding penalties, overdrafts and other fees.
Students were also faced with realistic scenarios like car accidents and lost cell phones, causing students to think on their feet and make smart financial decisions.
They also received bonus points for completing quizzes about financial topics like earning interest and starting a 401(k).
The program aims to give students the skills, habits and confidence to manage their money wisely after graduating.
Winners were chosen through a “real-world ready” formula based on behavior, knowledge and skills.
Each student’s individual score is calculated by subtracting the total sum of fees and late penalties from his or her savings, and adding the total bonus points earned.
Students earned a point per dollar saved in their 401(k) or earned in interest, and lost a point per dollar for fees incurred. They also lost an extra 150 points for every late fee.
According to the program’s website, H&R Block believes in learning by doing, so students who remained engaged throughout their simulations were rewarded.
“By logging in every five days, paying bills on time and taking all available quizzes, a perfect ‘behavior’ score is possible.”
Participants who demonstrated the most financial responsibility were chosen as winners, and can start freshman year with a large portion of their college expenses covered already.