Officially known as Future Business Leaders of America, FBLA is the oldest and largest business organization for high school students, with nearly a quarter million members nationwide. It’s an excellent program for high school students interested in succeeding in the business world. But is FLBA right for you?
If you’re wondering, “Should I join FBLA?” we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about FBLA and the opportunities and benefits it offers. If FBLA aligns with your interests and career goals, it’s an extracurricular activity worth pursuing!
What Is FBLA?
As the name suggests, FBLA is a national organization of future business leaders. Founded in 1942, FBLA now has high school, collegiate, and middle-level (grades 5-9) divisions. Its mission is to “inspire and prepare students to become community-minded business leaders in a global society through relevant career preparation and leadership experiences.”
The organization’s website also lists several goals, including:
- Strengthen student’s confidence in themselves and their goals
- Create more interest in and understanding of American business enterprise
- Encourage members to develop projects that contribute to the improvement of home, business, and community
- Develop character
- Prepare for useful citizenship
- Encourage and practice efficient money management
- Encourage scholarship
- Assist students in establishing occupational goals
FBLA prepares students for real-world business success through leadership development, conferences, academic competitions, community service involvement, networking opportunities, scholarships, internships, and more.
What Are the Benefits of Joining FBLA?
FBLA members gain the skills, knowledge, real-world experience, and connections necessary to succeed in business. They build confidence, make friends with like-minded students, and can even earn recognition, awards, and scholarships.
Joining FBLA can help you impress college admissions officers, prepare for career success, and give you a head start on future business opportunities.
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Building Leadership Skills
FBLA workshops, seminars, school-based activities, and competitions help members build their leadership skills. You’ll develop essential leadership abilities like public speaking, communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. Several of FBLA’s competitive events and challenges focus specifically on management.
You will also have the chance to take on formal leadership roles by leading a chapter, state, or national office, or spearheading an FBLA program or initiative.
Building these skills now will benefit you throughout college, your career, and life in general. In addition, colleges look for leadership skills in their applicants. That’s because admissions teams know that high school leaders become college leaders and beyond. Everything you do to develop and demonstrate leadership in high school will make your college applications more competitive.
Through FBLA, you’ll connect with other future business leaders in your school, region, state, and nation. You’ll also meet current business professionals and mentors, many of them FBLA alumni. In addition to learning from these mentors, you can build valuable connections.
Connections matter in business, and you never know who may offer you an internship, refer you for a job opportunity, or help you get promoted in the future. And among your peers, you may find a future college roommate, business partner, or at least some lifelong friends with similar interests.
FBLA provides partner programs for members to use in and outside their schools. These programs help students further develop their business skills, often in real-world scenarios.
- Intuit Social Innovation Challenge – Students take on real-world challenges, learning design thinking and entrepreneurship skills along the way. Finalist teams are paired with mentors and receive a stipend to improve upon their idea and have the opportunity to win prize money.
- The Stock Market Game – Students work individually or in teams of up to five to build and manage a successful investment portfolio using a hypothetical $100,000. Over the course of 10 weeks, teams track their investments, practicing money management, critical thinking, problem-solving, math, and research skills.
- Lead4Change – A free leadership program for middle and high school students that provides teachers and chapter advisers with lessons and activities aligned with Project Based Learning, 21st Century Skills, and more. All activities are designed to help students become “passionate, service-minded leaders for life.”
- LifeSmarts – LifeSmarts is a national education competition that quizzes students on topics like personal finance, technology, health and safety, the environment, and consumer rights and responsibilities. FBLA teams can compete on the LifeSmarts website to win monthly challenges and the right to represent FBLA at the annual National LifeSmarts Championship.
- Virtual Business Challenge – High school FBLA members can compete in either the Personal Finance or Management track for the Virtual Business Challenge, either individually or in a team of up to three members. In the Personal Finance track, teams make personal finance decisions for a simulated person by opening bank accounts, paying bills, filing taxes, applying for jobs, paying for goods, budgeting, and more. Teams are ranked based on their person’s net worth. In the Management track, teams manage either a bicycle manufacturing business or a blue jeans manufacturing business by hiring and supervising employees, organizing floor layouts, bidding on organizing, managing layouts, and more. Teams are ranked based on their business’ cumulative profit. Winners can earn up to $1,000 in prize money per team.
Academic competitions and events for FBLA are held at the local, state, and national levels. Preparing for and competing in these events requires students to hone their business and career-based knowledge and skills.
FBLA’s competitive events program is known as the FBLA National Awards Program. There are over 70 events that students can compete in, all within a workforce-simulated environment. Event topics include:
- Business ethics
- Business financial plan
- Coding and programming
- Data analysis
- Digital video production
- Graphic design
- Social media strategy
- Mobile application development
- Public service announcement
- Publication design
- Website design
Event formats include tests, presentations, interviews, and team performance. Many of the events involve real-world scenarios. Here are a few examples from the 2021-2022 competitive events program:
- Introduction to Business Presentation: “Acme, Inc. is a large corporation providing insurance and banking services to consumers and businesses worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought huge changes to Acme, Inc.’s business practices and workplace expectations, such as a temporary work-from-home policy and the implementation of virtual meetings, which were not widely used before the pandemic. Develop a presentation to Acme, Inc. executives about changes in business practices and workplace policies that should remain in place after the pandemic, including work schedule, work location, the format of meetings, or networking opportunities.”
- Social Media Strategy: “You are part of a marketing team for a professional sports franchise. Your team has just been tasked with creating a promotional event at the stadium that will benefit a local non-profit organization. Create the promotion theme and the social media strategy, including a schedule of social media posts, an example of social media posts, and the plan to develop awareness of the non-profit organization.”
- Coding and Programming: “You have been hired by your state or local area’s tourism bureau to develop a program that suggests attractions (can be tourist attractions, restaurants, shopping, things to do, etc.) to potential visitors. Your program will allow users to search for attractions in the area based on desired attributes, such as location, type of attraction, and amenities. Your program must include at least 50 attractions, and users must be able to define at least five desired attributes to search for an attraction.”
Individuals and teams who win at the state level advance to the national level and compete at the FBLA National Leadership Conference.
The national conference also features workshops, general sessions, exhibitions, and the opportunity to meet and network with industry professionals and FBLA members from all over the country.
Like many high school student organizations, FBLA emphasizes community service. Members have numerous opportunities to serve their communities, emphasizing FBLA’s national service partner, the March of Dimes.
Members fundraise and participate in campaigns to get their local communities involved in supporting the organization, which works to improve the health of mothers and babies.
Community service increases your sense of generosity, gratitude, and confidence. It also helps you connect with the people around you and improve skills like communication and leadership. Plus, colleges value applicants who are motivated to make a difference in their communities.
FBLA highlights students who are committed to community service through its Community Service Awards (CSA). The three levels of recognition are CSA Community (50 hours), CSA Service (200 hours), and CSA Achievement (500 hours). Students receive a certificate of recognition from their chapter adviser at the first two levels. Students who reach CSA Achievement are awarded at the National Leadership Conference.
Awards and Recognition
FBLA members can earn recognition and awards in various ways, including winning competitions at the local, state, and national levels. You can earn awards and recognition through partnership programs like the Virtual Business Challenge and the Stock Market Game.
In addition, members can participate throughout the year in FBLA’s Business Achievement Awards. Participating students complete a portfolio of real-world business accomplishments while developing their business and leadership skills.
Participants can achieve four different levels: Contributor Award, Leader Award, Advocate Award, and Capstone Award. Those who achieve the Capstone Award level can submit their projects for competitive review and compete for the grand prize of $5,000. Here’s a quick look at each level:
- Contributor – Members are introduced to the foundations of FBLA and learn about the unique opportunities available to them.
- Leader – Members explore their personal leadership style and learn about the fundamentals of FBLA.
- Advocate – Members choose a content area or business skill they would like to develop further. Once completed, they may select another business skill or concept and pursue an additional Advocate award, or they may choose to advance to the Capstone Project.
- Capstone – Participating members design, complete, and reflect on a project that solves a real-world problem. After completion, they may choose to submit their project for judging at the National Leadership Conference.
You can earn trophies, medallions, and prize money for some of these achievements. For all of them, you learn essential business skills and receive the recognition that you can highlight on your college applications.
Not only does participating in FBLA prepare you for success in college and your career, but it can also help you pay for college! FBLA members are eligible for a variety of scholarships, at both the state and national levels.
National FBLA scholarship opportunities include the FBLA Distinguished Business Leader Scholarship, the National Technical Honor Society Scholarship (for students in both NTHS and FBLA), and the John H. Poteat Scholarship (for students in both NTHS and FBLA). Additionally, Johnson & Wales University awards scholarships up to full tuition for FBLA members.
At the state level, scholarships for FBLA students may be awarded by schools, organizations, or your state FBLA chapter. Eligibility requirements may include specific FBLA accomplishments or certain college and career plans, like majoring in a business-related subject.
For example, FBLA members in Pennsylvania are eligible for scholarships from 13 different schools, and both FBLA Georgia and FBLA Arizona give out more than $10,000 in scholarships each year. For more information about state-level FBLA scholarships, search “FBLA scholarships in [your state].”
FBLA in College
If you enjoy your FBLA experience in high school, you can continue it in college. The college division of FBLA is known as Phi Beta Lamba, and it will further prepare you for a career in business or business-related fields.
PBL members build on their high school FBLA experience by working to develop a personal brand, building relationships with mentors in the business community, being a mentor to others, and completing internship experiences. Like high school members, they can compete in national events and earn awards, recognition, and scholarships.
If your college doesn’t have a PBL chapter, you can start your own or participate individually through PBL Direct, which provides access to membership benefits and programming without a chapter presence.
Final Thoughts: Should I Join FBLA?
If you were asking, “Should I join FBLA?” when you started reading, you’ve probably realized now that FBLA membership is enormously beneficial for high school students.
You can gain real-world business experience, skills, and knowledge while networking with like-minded high school students and business professionals across the country. You have the opportunity to serve your community, compete in challenges and events, and earn recognition, awards, and even scholarship money. Each of these activities will boost the competitiveness of your college applications and give you a solid foundation for success in college and your future career.
Of course, FBLA is only right for you if it’s a fit for your interests and career goals. When the admissions team looks at your extracurricular activities, they want to see who you are and what you’re truly passionate about. If you’re into finance, business, entrepreneurship, or other business-related fields, joining FBLA will benefit you!
If not, high schools offer many other organizations that may better fit your passions and future plans. Find clubs and opportunities that will help you reach your future goals, and that you’ll genuinely enjoy along the way.