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Irrational Behavior in Financial Decision-Making

Why is it that smart people make foolish spending decisions? Why are we inclined to sell winning investments too early, but hold losers too long; why do we purchase extended product warranties that we don’t need; why do we have such difficulty staying within our budgets? The field of Behavioral Finance takes lessons from psychology to explain when, and why, we make irrational investment, saving, and spending decisions.

Are you a high school student who would like to become a better investor by learning to predict, and thus avoid, the settings in which you personally are most at risk of making poor financial choices? Would you also like to learn some tools and skills that can help you to identify financial irrationality on a market-wide scale? If so, this is the course for you.

In this 4-week, certificate course, Professor Emma Rasiel, Eads Distinguished Professor of the Practice and Associate Chair of the Economics Department at Duke University, has adapted material from her popular undergraduate Behavioral Finance class for a high school audience. Topics include:

  • Availability (the more we hear about something, the more we believe it) 
  • Framing (how easily we can be influenced to change our minds)
  • The Endowment Effect (once we own something, we don’t want to give it up)
  • Confirmation Bias (why we only look for news that supports our point of view) 

You will spend 2 hours per week in live Zoom sessions with Professor Rasiel, and 2 hours per week on asynchronous study materials, including individual and group activities and games to reinforce the lessons learned. You will also be able to ask questions and seek guidance on discussion boards that will be closely monitored by Professor Rasiel and her experienced teaching assistants.


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  • · February 8 – March 3, 2021

Live sessions: Mondays and Wednesdays, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. EST

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Emma Rasiel is Associate Chair of the Economics Department at Duke and Eads Professor of the Practice at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. She teaches several undergraduate finance classes, including Investments, Intermediate Finance, Behavioral Finance and Equity Research. She has also taught a number of finance courses for Executive MBAs at Fuqua.

Emma is also Teaching Director of the Duke Financial Economics Center (DFE), where she runs corporate-sponsored training programs to help prepare students for jobs in the financial markets. She is Director of Graduate Studies for Duke’s MS in Quantitative Finance, and is collaborating with Duke’s Engineering School Pratt in launching the new Master of Engineering in FinTech.

Emma completed her PhD in finance at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, in 2003. Prior to beginning the PhD program, she was an Executive Director in the London office of Goldman Sachs, where she traded European government bond options. Emma has an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and a BS and MA in Mathematics from Oxford University.

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Technical Requirements

In order to fully participate in your online course, you will need:

  • access to an email account for essential communications for your course.
  • speakers or headphones to hear instructors during live meetings, and a microphone to participate—a webcam is required. 

Minimum requirements

  • Computer running one of the following operating systems:
    • Window 7 or newer
    • Mac OSX 10.10 or newer
    • Access only to a mobile device will not be suitable for fully participating in Duke Summer Session Online. 
  • 1 GB RAM available
  • 2 GHz or faster processor
  • Consistently reliable internet with at least 2k kbps available bandwidth
  • Chrome browser, latest two versions, with cookies enabled
Other requirements
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader and Adobe Flash Player (version 11.2 or higher)—both are free to download
  • Reliable access to Google and the Google domain. 
Technical assistance

If you encounter difficulties with accessing you course, live meetings, online resources, or other technical materials, please contact

If you are having difficulty with hardware or with software unrelated to your course, you will need to seek technical assistance from the computer or software manufacturer.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does the program fee cover?

The program fee covers expenses associated with the online course, such as access to course readings and all online materials, live access to the Duke instructor during scheduled meetings and office hours, and course certificates.

How do I apply?

You can access our application by clicking here or on the Apply Now button at the top of this page.  Please review the application directions to ensure you have submitted a complete application with all supporting documentation, as we will only review your application after it is complete.

Who is eligible to apply?

Students who are currently 9th - 12th graders (2020-2021 academic year) are eligible to apply.

If I require assistance with the application, who do I contact?

You can email and a staff member will assist you.

Is financial aid available?

We are unable to offer financial aid for our online course offerings. Students and their families may wish to contact their own local educational funding organizations, non-profits, community-based organizations, and large corporations to explore financial funding opportunities.

Here are some pointers on how to write a pitch to Community Based Organizations (CBO) or corporations when seeking funding for a course or program:

  1. Locate a company or community-based organization that specialize in the same subject as the course or program of interest .
  2. Do your due diligence by investigating the company or CBO to see how the goals connect with your future goals.
  3. Write a letter to the company or CBO requesting a company sponsorship or funding (avoid the term scholarship, as it connotes university tuition).
  4. Write a statement of how attending the program or taking the course benefits you as a student. Demonstrate how the company or CBO’s investment in you will benefit the company or community as you gain skills from the course/program.
  5. Contact the company or CBO’s volunteer or community support department, which is often found on their website.

What do I have to submit with my application?

You must submit the following:

  • As essay stating why you are uniquely qualified for this program and interested in the course for which you are applying.
  • A résumé highlighting your academic and non-academic experiences
  • High school transcript (an unofficial transcript is acceptable)

Your application will not be reviewed until it is complete.  Please follow the application directions to ensure you are submitting a complete application.

How does the application process work?

You will be notified if any part of your application is missing. Once your application is complete, we will review it and send you an email with the enrollment decision within two weeks of the receipt of the entire application.  

When can I expect to hear about my admission status?

Admissions decisions will be made on a rolling basis and you will receive an admission decision within two weeks of submitting a complete application.

Will attending the online course increase my chances of being admitted to Duke University as a regular undergraduate degree candidate?

Participating in a online course for high schoolers offered by a Duke program and mentioning that you did so on your college application is likely to be viewed by admissions counselors as one indicator of academic seriousness.  However, it is just one indicator among many factors that are assessed in a comprehensive application review and does not guarantee an offer of admission.  For additional information regarding Duke University's Undergraduate admissions process, see this page.

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Duke University Minor’s Policy

We adhere Duke University’s policies for students under the age of 18 years old, following the standards of best practices.

Admission Process Policies

Students must submit the following:

  • A personal statement stating why you are uniquely qualified  and interested in the course for which you are applying.
  • A résumé highlighting your academic and non-academic experiences.
  • High school transcript (an unofficial transcript is acceptable)

Your application will not be reviewed until it is complete. Please follow the application directions to ensure you are submitting a complete application.

Admissions decisions will be made on a rolling basis and you will receive an admission decision within two weeks of submitting a complete application.

Participation Policies

The program is an interactive, collaborative community of learners. Meaningful participation in the online program is the responsibility of the Participant, the Parent/ Legal Guardian, and the instructor. Participants who participate as outlined below will receive a final evaluation and certificate.

It is the responsibility of the Participant to

  • log in and engage with instructor, peers, course activities, and course tools regularly during the four week program ;
  • respond within twenty-four hours to communications from instructors and office staff;
  • notify the instructor at the start of the course about any planned absences, understanding that absences exceeding two synchronous sessions are against Program policy;
  • notify the instructor as soon as possible about any unplanned absences and take steps to prepare work for early or late submission, per the course make-up policy, and schedule submissions with the instructor;
  • check weekly announcements, course calendars, and activity checklists in order to stay up to date with assignments;
  • complete work on time in order to contribute to the community of learners;
  • complete the majority of required assignments and assessments in order to receive a final evaluation and a certificate of course completion;
  • know and understand the success criteria for individual assignments and assessments before attempting them;
  • know and understand the criteria for successful completion leading to a certificate of course completion
  • review and reflect on instructor feedback and look for and opportunities to apply feedback to new tasks.

It is the responsibility of the Parent/ Legal Guardian to

  • provide necessary resources (tools, time, and required technical equipment) for Participants to log in regularly;
  • review email and other notifications from program staff members regularly and, when needed, respond within twenty-four hours to communications from instructors and Duke office staff;
  • discuss your schedule with Participant during the application process, prior to the term, and at the start of the term, understanding that absences from online access exceeding two synchronous sessions is against Program policy;
  • communicate regularly with Participant about any unplanned absences so Participant can inform the instructor and arrange for early submission or make-up work;
  • check in with Participant weekly about coursework and progress in the course toward meeting success criteria and course completion;
  • know and understand the criteria for successful completion leading to a certificate of course completion utilize the available resources to monitor your Participant’s participation and progress as needed.

It is the responsibility of the Duke Online Program instructor to

  • post weekly announcements, activity checklists, and make-up policies, and maintain an updated course calendar;
  • clearly communicate to Participants expectations and criteria for success on all assignments and assessments; 
  • regularly provide timely feedback to Participants on core assignments and assessments;
  • maintain the course gradebook so that Participants can accurately assess their progress;
  • provide a final evaluation that is reflective of the Participant’s work and follows the criteria for successful completion.
  • respond to inquiries and communications from Participants and families within twenty-four hours; and
  • follow participation checkpoints and the program participation policy for instructors by messaging all Participants and families per the policy regarding class assignments and engagement expectations.

Community Standard

  • Participant will take full advantage of the academic opportunities provided by Duke. Participant will apply themselves to the best of their ability in their studies and participate fully in collaborative activities and the Duke community.
  • Participant will not lie, cheat, steal, or plagiarize in their academic and collaborative endeavors, nor will they support the actions of those who do.
  • Participant understands that Duke policies have been developed to promote the safety and enjoyment of the program for all participants. Participant will adhere to these policies and follow the direction of Duke staff members.
  • Participant will be honest, responsible and fair in all their activities as a Participant. Participant will conduct themselves in a manner that is respectful of other Participants, Duke staff, and Duke digital spaces. Participant understands that harassment, intimidation, and bullying will not be tolerated.
  • Participant will share in the responsibility of maintaining an environment where individual actions do not violate the integrity of the community. Participant will accept responsibility for their own actions and accept the consequences of those actions.
  • Participant will view the Program as a community and will recognize the commonalities and respect the differences that make each Participant unique. Participant will abide by Duke University's nondiscrimination policy regarding race, color, religion, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, sex, genetic information, and age.

Digital Citizenship Policies

This Duke Online program utilizes a variety of online resources and other tools and programs that require Participants to post, share, and publish work online in both protected and open environments. This agreement serves as a resource to help Participants maintain safety and privacy while interacting in online environments such as these. It is important that both the Participant and the Parent/ Legal Guardian carefully read and understand this agreement.

I will protect my identity in all online environments. This includes not sharing your email address, home address, phone number, full name, birthdate, location, school name, or any other information that might pose a privacy or security risk.

I will protect the security of my fellow classmates, instructor, and Duke information by not sharing information in our Duke online community with others. It is important that Duke online communities are a safe and welcoming space to share ideas and work. Therefore, it is very important that you don’t share the course content, participant information, or participant work with anyone other than your parents.

I will manage my own passwords. It is crucial that you develop a secure password for all sites, and that you never share that password. You are responsible for managing all passwords you create. Should your instructor assign a tool that requires you to create an account, you will need to remember that password on your own. 

I will be responsible for maintaining or deleting my accounts. You are solely responsible for what happens with the accounts you create after the conclusion of your Duke Online course. Duke and your instructor may share links to your products or capture screenshots of your work, but you own both the products and the accounts you create. It is recommended that you go into the settings of these accounts and change the email address to a personal email at the conclusion of your course. We request that you keep all accounts and products active for one week following the conclusion of your session to ensure your work can be properly assessed and evaluated by your instructor. Deleting these products before that time could result in an incomplete program evaluation from Duke. Duke will not be able to assist you with retrieving passwords or products from these accounts, either during or after the course. 

I will use my Sakai account to communicate with classmates and my instructor.  All course-related communications should be from your Sakai account to your instructor or classmates’ online accounts. You should never use a personal account for course communications. 

I will exhibit appropriate behavior online. Many internet tools allow for a wide range of interaction, including comments, posts, discussions, and peer feedback. Everything you write or share online is a reflection of you, and should be treated as both permanent and public. It is your responsibility to make wise decisions about how you want to be perceived by instructors and classmates, as well as potential schools and employers that might one day see the interactions you have had online. Commit to only sharing appropriate information, images, and multimedia resources. 

I will respect myself and others at all times. Never share a post, comment, or image that could be perceived as disrespectful. Do not engage with or respond to inappropriate or disrespectful posts or images. Report inappropriate activity to your instructor or Duke Director,

I will adhere to copyright laws and fair use guidelines. It is important that you never use copyrighted work without permission, and that you always credit the original producer of the work. This includes text from books or websites, images, videos, and any other resource you obtain. This is particularly important when you are creating and sharing things online that could potentially have a public audience that may interpret these items as your own work. If you are unsure of whether you might be using copyrighted materials, refer to the Duke Online polices or seek the help of your instructor. “I didn’t know” is not an excuse for plagiarism or copyright infringement. 

I understand that it is my responsibility to read the terms of use or service and adhere to any age restrictions. Most web tools have specific age restrictions and terms of use that they expect users to follow. These are typically located at the bottom of all pages, particularly the home pages. It is your responsibility to read, understand, and follow these guidelines. Duke will never expect or require you to use any tool in a manner that violates the terms of use or age restrictions. If you aren’t sure whether you can complete an assignment due to age restrictions, seek the help of your instructor immediately.

I will contact my instructor or Duke staff if at any time I feel uncomfortable about online activity related to my course. You have the right to feel safe and protected when utilizing online tools and resources. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, or experience or witness instances of bullying, harassment, inappropriate language or content, please contact your instructor or Duke staff as soon as possible. If you are concerned about the manner in which you are being asked to share an assignment, your instructor can offer an alternative method or tool, or an alternate assignment.


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Application Process

Application Directions

To apply, click the APPLY NOW button at the top of this page. You will be prompted to create an online account and to fill out a multi-page questionnaire. You can start applying, save your work, logout, login again and continue working before submitting the application.  Once you have submitted your application , you will not be able to make changes or upload supplementary documents. 

Required Supplementary Documents

In addition to our application, you will need to submit the following items in order for your application to be complete. 

Supplemental documents must be submitted via the submission upload link and must be in .doc/.docx or PDF format. Please name your files using the following format:

Last Name, First Name – Document type (resume, essay, or transcript)

We will not review your application until we have received all of the required documents listed below.

  • An essay stating why you are uniquely qualified for this program and interested in the course for which you are applying
  • A résumé highlighting your academic and non-academic experiences
  • High school transcript (an unofficial transcript is acceptable)

Eligibility Requirements

We look for students who have strong character, a commitment to service, and a history of academic excellence. Students who are current 9th – 12th graders are eligible to apply for Irrational Behavior in Financial Decision-Making.

Key Dates

Monday, February 1, 2021 Applications close
Wednesday, February 3, 2021 Final payment due
Monday, February 8, 2021 Online course begins


Selection Process

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. Your application will be reviewed as soon as you have submitted all of your supplementary materials (see Application Directions for more information). You are responsible for ensuring that your application is complete. Applicants  receive an admissions decision within two weeks of submitting a complete application. Seats in each session  are limited, so we strongly encourage you to apply as soon as possible.

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