The Real World works – really it does! The DATA proves it.

This curriculum was tested and proven effective. Users increased their own knowledge of how to successfully transition youths to the Real World AND it also motivated users to DO it!

The Real World Simulation event is proven to increase youths’ knowledge consistently in these areas:

  • Information about renting
  • Budgeting
  • Banking
  • Health insurance
  • Connection between higher education and higher earning
  • Negotiating a budget

Other areas that benefit:

  • Community businesses interact positively with young adults in their community.
  • Young adults want to attend this event (year after year) to practice their skills.
  • Teachers and youth workers feel they have made a difference towards preparing youths to naviage the adult world upon graduation.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Event?

The Real World Simulation event is a one-day simulated program that offers teens and young adults hands-on practice learning around areas of fiscal decision-making pertaining to education, careers, and lifestyle choices in the adult world….before it counts!

What is this curriculum?

This online Real World curriculum is for the adults working with teens. Teachers, social workers, WIA workers, youth ministers, counselors, and other mentors interested in giving youths “a clue” about what the real world is like found this curriculum informative, organized, and motivating.

What is the purpose of the curriculum?

The purpose of the curriculum is to teach adults and community leaders how to duplicate the Real World event, step-by-step, to serve young adults in their communities. Users can download the documents and make adjustments as needed to meet the needs of the population served.

How can this curriculum be used?

  1. The curriculum is best used in collaboration with three agencies, organizations, or schools, to divide up the coordination roles and share the responsibility.  Each organization will need to have at least one user with access to the Real World website and associated documents.
  2. Users must first take the curriculum in its entirety. Once completed, users can return to any portion of the curriculum for a refresher or to share it with a potential collaborator or sponsor.
  3. Use the Interactive Timeline to guide you through the process. Each task is fully described throughout the timeline. Documents associated with the task can be downloaded and customized with agency letterhead and other identifying information.
  4. After a task is completed, the user can “check” the task box.
  5. Once an event is completed, users can “clear” the task boxes and prepare to coordinate another Real World event.

How long does it take to complete the curriculum?

The curriculum takes approximately 3 hours and it will be a FUN 3 hours! The program is interactive which will help retain learning. It includes pre-and posttests and quizzes along the way to reinforce knowledge and important aspects of the program. The quizzes will even explain both correct and incorrect responses.

How long does it take to plan an event?

Coordinating a Real World Simulation event can take up to six months. The Interactive Timeline will take you through it step-by-step. Better start now!


In 2000, ILR, Inc. piloted the “Real World Raleigh” as a one day event. Three organizations were asked to work with ILR and promise to bring their teenagers and young adults to the event. ILR hoped to have 50 participants. The event made more of an impact than initially imagined. As the event became more popular, adults brought their teens from as far as five hours away to attend.

ILR decided that the focus should now be on teaching people how to coordinate the event so they could have it in their own community. In 2005, Nancy Carter began developing the curriculum that exists today on this website. Year after year, Nancy refined and adjusted the curriculum and teaching activities to best transfer knowledge to those in her trainings. Nancy’s enthusiasm for the Real World also transferred to her trainees and Real World events started to “pop up” throughout North Carolina and other states that attended the training.

Program Fidelity

Maintaining the fidelity of the program is important to ILR. The structure provided in the curriculum consistently produces results in youths’ increased learning as stated above. Users are advised to coordinate the event as it is presented ("to the letter") for at least the first event. After one event, the coordinators will learn how to adapt the event to include additional booths, increase attendance, and options to preparing youths and volunteers.

How the idea got started

Programs similar to the Real World happen around the country and in the 1990’s Nancy wanted to do something similar to what she had seen in other places (including the Bill Cosby Show “Theo’s Holiday”). Several similar programs were offered in the junior and high schools.  Students learned about topics related to values and skills needed for adult living throughout the semester and culminated their learning with activities to practice their skills.

Given the nature of her work, Nancy did not have a full semester to make an impact with youths. It had to be done in one-day. The Real World Simulation Event was born by generating most effective activities that met the transition criteria of PREPARATION, MANAGEMENT and FOLLOW UP in a one-day event. PREPARATION involves youths completing career and educational level surveys.  It also includes exposure to the skills necessary to create a budget such as decision-making. On the morning of the event, youths attend workshops in insurance, budgeting, banking, and social skills. Learning these skills gives youths the tools they need to MANAGE the exhibit portion of the day – creating a monthly budget while interfacing with community businesses. The FOLLOW-UP portion of the day comes immediately after the exhibit. Youths maximize their learning when they meet with their adult supporters to process the day. During this meeting they determine what they need to be more proficient in the Real World, create goals for their group or individually, and adults gain insight to where gaps exist in youths’ knowledge base.

Why it’s becoming more popular

The Real World Event became popular first and foremost because it was fun! Teens laughed, made decisions, were active, and developmentally “in the zone.” Adults were thrilled that their teens enjoyed an event that met their goals to prepare them for independence. Once ILR started tracking the data demonstrating increased youth learning at the Real World, programs began to bring more youths to the events.

As Real World events increased in attendance, more programs and organizations decided to learn how to coordinate an event as part of their regular programming.  Today, ILR conducts training sessions using this online training and teaching organizations to work together to coordinate a simulation event in their community. Students have been known to ask their teachers if the Real World could be held every month.

The Real World event meets everyone’s needs. Youths have fun while learning. Adults feel (and know) they are teaching youths tools to be self-sufficient. Community sponsors get involved in helping prepare future employees contributing to a healthy community. Teachers meet educational transition goals. Youth workers meet federal transition goals. Foundations are able to meet altruistic goals. What better way to build healthy communities than by working together!

Data (Research Support)

Results of participant data surveys:

Originally the Real World event included pre and post surveys for youth participants to complete. Results of that data were consistent from year to year, demonstrating youths learning most in areas of housing, banking, and insurance.
In recent years, evaluators use a Retrospective Survey (included in the Real World Toolkit) in light of the conclusion that youths’ elevated pretest survey connected to their opinion that they “already knew” what they needed for the Real World. The event illuminated their thinking. The Retrospective Survey allows youths to consider what they thought they knew in light of what they “now” know (following the event). Results of the Retrospective Survey are statistically more significant than the traditional pre/post method but equally consistent from event to event, regardless of the target group or location.

  • Renting an apartment - average increase of 43%
  • Budgeting - average increase of 24%
  • Banking - average increase of 44%
  • Understanding Health Insurance - average increase of 30%
  • Connecting Higher Education with higher earning - average increase of 21%
  • Negotiating a Budget (Wants vs. Needs) - average increase of 10%

Research supports this type of simulated, hands-on programming

Current research supports youths participating in such simulated, hands-on learning learn more effectively on topics such as financial literacy than most classroom curriculum

This project as stated earlier, was funded for research and development by the National Institutes of Health, National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities. The full research report on the effectiveness of this curriculum is publically available (report) . If you have any questions related to this report or the ARWS curriculum in general, please email us.

Community Engagement

The Real World SImulation is intended to be a community-wide event utilizing community businesses, schools, youth organizations, and resources. By connecting with those community businesses required to navigate the adult real world, youths will experience how those pieces contribute to a productive, healthy life. Community business people and resources have the skills that youths need to be successful in the real world. The Real World brings those people and skills together for one day of experiential learning.

  • Why and ways to engage the community

The Real World Simulation Event is intended to engage local businesses and philanthropic organizations actively in helping build their “future” citizens. Active engagement allows youths and business leaders to prepare each other for the next generation of workers, educators, and active citizens. The ARWS curriculum will outline strategies for recruiting and preparing business people to participate in the event. Coordinators of Real World events typically will comment that businesses have extended youths employment opportunities and have had others utilize their businesses as a direct result of their participation in the Real World.

  • From the Community Businessperson’s perspective -

The following video is recorded with real business leaders who have participated in the Real World event.  After meeting a couple of young people, you will hear first hand from three business persons as they discuss the benefits and reflect on their experiences with the Real World Simulation program.

Pricing & What You Get

  • Forever Curriculum - Once purchased, the ARWS will always be accessible using your user name and password. Updates to the curriculum will be provided without additional charge. Users may find this helpful to “refresh” their learning.
  • Planning Interactive Timeline - This timeline will keep you remain focused on achieving tasks associated with program fidelity. In addition, you have the choice to receive email reminders of critical tasks. Once the curriculum is complete, users may go directly to the Interactive Timeline to plan their event. Once an event is finished, users may “clear” their tasks when they are prepared to begin planning another event.
  • Reproducible documents - Purchasing this ARWS curriculum means a license to reproduce all documents provided in the ARWS Toolkit has also been purchased. Documents can be tailored to meet your demographic needs. Documents are intended for educational purposes only and not available for resale.
  • Single pricing - The one time price of $249.95 provides one user the entire curriculum including quizzes and pre/post testing for 3 hours of training. Purchase may be made directly on this site.
  • Site License pricing - A single organization or school who anticipates having up to 10 users (to accommodate staff turnover or single agency coordination) may purchase a Site License for $1000. Please call (800-820-0001) or email to arrange purchasing and to receive a promo code.
  • Group or Agency licensing - Youth serving groups, organizations, and schools with multiple users (10 or more) interested in learning the Real World Simulation Event can contact ILR for a group license.  Please indicate the number of users your group expects to use the program. Email ARWS Group License 
  • Technical Assistance: Free technical assistance via email or by phone is always available: ARWS Technical Assistance or 800-820-0001.
  • On-site Technical Assistance: This service can be purchased with an outcome based contract. Please contact Nancy Carter for more details.
  • Real World Mentoring: Organizations who wish to have additional face-to-face mentoring can contract with ILR for this service during the planning period. Contact Nancy Carter if interested.
  • Quarterly conference call: Beginning January 2016, ILR will hold quarterly conferences related to Real World Topics and Technical Assistance. Real World Members will be notified of such events.
  • Printed, Hard Copy of the Real World Toolkit: Some users have said they would rather purchase the Real World Toolkit (hard copy in a three-ring binder) rather than print and collate it themselves. If this sounds like you, the Real World Toolkit is available for an additional cost of $74.95 on the Purchase page.
  • Already been trained in the Real World Program by ILR? Upgrade to the online program for only $100. Have access to the Interactive Timeline, updated Real World Toolkit, and additional resources provided only through this online program. Email or call ILR 800-820-0001 to confirm details.