CTY, or Center for Talented Youth, at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) offers an assortment of resources to gifted students. These resources include summer programs and courses, written resources, community awards/recognition, and college counseling.
The first step to many of the CTY programs is registering for the Talent Search. Even the programs that are open to everyone give priority to students who participated in the Talent Search. For your convenience, we've compiled everything you need to know about CTY into one magnificent blog entry guide. I recommend reading it all the way through, but if you only want to read one particular section, you can pick it out from the Table of Contents.
I'll start off by going in depth into the Talent Search and then mention other programs along with links if you want more information than I give in this article.
Table of Contents
Talent Search Participants Only Programs
Programs Open To Everyone Who Qualifies (Not Just Talent Search Participants)
What Is the CTY Talent Search?
The CTY website calls its Talent Search the "gateway to CTY"...meaning, I think, that the Talent Search is the portal through which many students experience CTY programs. Since there are different Talent Searches for each CTY International program, I'm going to limit my discussion to the US Talent Search (including those students who apply to the US Talent Search internationally).
The CTY Talent Search involves the following steps:
Step 1: If you're eligible for the Talent Search (more on that next), register with CTY Talent Search.
Step 2: Next, you select the test that's right for you, register for that, and take it.
Step 3: After you get your score report, CTY sends you a list of the CTY programs your score qualifies you for.
Step 4: If you're not satisfied with your score, or your score is too low for the programs you want to participate in, you can retest at a later date.
Who's Eligible for the CTY Talent Search?
The CTY Talent Search is open to all 2nd-8th graders who qualify by:
- Scoring 95th percentile (or higher) on a nationally normalized test. Examples of these tests include the School and College Ability Test (SCAT), PSAT, and the Spacial Test Battery (STB).
- Scoring 95th percentile (or higher) on any other qualifying state tests. Examples of these tests include the NY Statewide Testing Program or the California Standards Test.
- Displaying superior academic performance. This criterion is ONLY for students without standardized test scores. In order to qualify under this criterion, you must display superior math and critical reasoning abilities.
For more on Talent Search eligibility for 2nd-8th graders, go to the CTY's website.
What if you're in 9th grade or above? Students in grades 9-12 are too old to qualify for the Talent Search; instead, to gain access to CTY programs, they must go through the Diagnostic and Counseling Center. I'll talk a little bit more about the DCC later in this article.
Where Do You Apply for CTY?
You can apply for the Talent Search online.
When Does the CTY Talent Search Happen?
For CTY purposes, the academic year is July 1-June 30, so to qualify for CTY for the next school year you should apply after July 1 (more on deadlines here). It's also not just about when you apply to CTY—your test dates also determine your eligibility. What do I mean by this?
Let's say you apply to CTY at the end of your 7th grade year (e.g. June 19th), but don't take the STB, PSAT, or other test until after July 1. Because you took your qualifying test after July 1, CTY will consider you an 8th grader and require you to meet 8th grade score requirements for all programs and recognition ceremonies, even though you technically registered while you were in 7th grade. I have more information on specific SAT and ACT score requirements here.
Why Should You Do the CTY Talent Search?
What do students get out of the CTY Talent Search? One perk is the opportunity to take above-level tests (that is, you take the SAT or ACT before you're in high school) and compare your results with similarly gifted peers.
Why is this helpful? It can give you information early on about areas you might want to further develop and give you a preview of the test-taking process.
For instance, let's say you take the SAT as a 7th grader and score a 300 on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, which is below par compared to your peers in CTY. You'll know that you have to work on that skill, and as a result be able to better plan for high school and the college admissions process.
If you just took the SAT as a 7th grader without taking part in the Talent Search, you would not have the opportunity to know how you stack up against other students in your grade and age group; instead, you would end up being compared to much older students, which doesn't really tell you anything about where you should be now.
Taking part in the Talent Search also opens up opportunities to enroll in CTY programs, like Family Academic Programs. Even programs for which the Talent Search is not a mandatory prerequisite, like Academic Explorations or CTY Online, give preference to students who are Talent Search participants. CTY Talent Search participants also gain access to a wide variety of other resources. I'll discuss these resources later on in more detail.
Finally, there's the recognition of your prowess at the (aptly named) Award Ceremonies. At year-end ceremonies, CTY recognizes the highest scorers on the SAT or ACT out of all the Talent Search participants. We have more information about these ceremonies in our articles about the SAT and ACT score requirements to qualify, but for now, I'll just say that it is usually gratifying to get special recognition for your talent. It's not just about the medal (although you do get one at the Award Ceremonies)—it's knowing that other people value your hard work.
Devil's Advocate: When Should You NOT Apply to CTY at Johns Hopkins? IF...
...you don't care about taking college entrance exams early, OR
...you don't have any interest in taking part in any of the CTY programs or using any of their other resources,
THEN it might not be worth it to do CTY at Johns Hopkins.
Why? Most colleges don't care about what you did in elementary or middle school, unless it was something truly spectacular, like qualifying for the Olympic Games or playing a solo concert in Carnegie Hall. Bottom line: if you're going to use the resources and take advantage of the programs open to you through CTY, then do it. If not, save your money (and time).
How Much Does CTY Cost?
To enroll in the CTY Talent Search, there is a fee of $50 if you live in the United States, or $60 if you are an international student. In addition, you must pay test fees which range from $38 to $75 in the US, and can be higher for international students.
Disclaimer: all costs mentioned here and in the rest of the article are as of the time this article was published—it's possible that they may change in the future, so be sure to double check before making a budget around these numbers.
Can You Get Financial Aid?
Yes. If you qualify for free or reduced school lunches and are US permanent resident, then CTY will waive your Talent Search application fee and provide you with a voucher to waive your test fees for one test session (either the SAT or ACT). Some students may only receive a partial financial aid award depending on the level of their need.
For more information about financial aid for the Talent Search, as well as for other CTY programs, go to this site. Unfortunately, there is no financial aid for international students available through CTY.
In addition to need-based aid, CTY also provides scholarships to students already part of CTY through the CTY Scholars program.
Talent Search Only: Family Academic Programs
Family Academic Programs at Johns Hopkins' Center for Talented Youth are designed for students and their families or guardians. The programs range from all-day or overnight programs to extended (week-long) educational explorations. Costs vary widely, depending on the length of the program and what it involves.
Just from the research I did for this article, it seems like there are a bunch of amazing opportunities in all sorts of areas for students and families alike (not that I'm jealous or anything, but upcoming programs include traveling to Quito and the Galapagos). As far as I can tell, Family Academic Programs are open to all students and their families with no score requirements; however, if I find out that this is wrong I'll update this article accordingly.
Talent Search Only: Award Ceremonies
CTY recognizes exceptionally high scoring students at award ceremonies at the end of each year recognizing the students who achieve the highest scores in the Talent Search.
There are multiple regional Award Ceremonies every spring, located in various cities throughout the US, China, and in Hong Kong. I discuss what the score qualifications are for these ceremonies in SAT- and ACT-requirement articles, but basically these ceremonies are for 7th and 8th graders who participated in the Talent Search and scored extremely well on the SAT or ACT.
In addition to the regional Award Ceremonies, CTY also has an international awards ceremony called the Grand Ceremony, and it recognizes students who score two to three grades above Advanced level.
If you're still curious about the awards ceremonies, you can learn more here!
The following series of resources and programs are open to all qualified students, including those who did not participate in the Talent Search. But caveat emptor: at least for their summer programs, CTY explicitly states that "when we assign students to courses, we assign returning students first, then Talent Search participants, and then other applicants" (bolding mine).
Some are entirely course-based (Academic Explorations, Intensive Study, and Global Issues at Princeton), providing an opportunity for advanced students to challenge themselves with academic endeavors in the company of similarly advanced peers.
Another program, the Civic Leadership Institute, offers courses in combination with real world experience, allowing students to work with actual communities and grapple with the issues facing them today.
Who can take part in these summer programs? Any students in grades 2-12 who qualify (again, more about qualifying scores in these articles). Students in grades 2-4 are only eligible for the day programs, while students in grades 5-12 can do the residential programs. The summer programs tend to run from the end of June to the beginning of August, with varying tuition costs depending on the program content and locations.
NOTE: Summer programs were completely online for summer 2021, with in-person programming resuming in summer 2022.
CTY Online provides online courses (including courses you can take at your own pace) year-round to students with "outstanding academic ability." If your high school does not have any advanced classes in a particular subject area, they may allow you to take CTY Online courses for credit. Alternatively, some students use CTY Online courses as a way to prepare for AP or IB tests.
Out of all the programs through CTY at Johns Hopkins, CTY Online courses are open to the widest age-range of students, from Pre-K students all the way up to 12th graders. The qualifications, of course, differ depending on age.
In order to be eligible for the program, exceptional Pre-K through 1st graders need to have at least part of a psychoeducational assessment. Students in grades 2-8 who took part in the Talent Search must meet the score requirements for their chosen test; if they didn't test in time through the Talent Search, they must apply for provisional admission. Students in grades 9-12 must submit official score reports for the SAT, ACT, or PSAT, or go through the Diagnostic and Counseling Center.
So how much does this cost? The application fee is $15 (with an additional $20 charge if you are an international student), and courses range in cost from $150 to $1995. Visit the CTY Online website to read more about the program and see if you qualify to take CTY Online courses.
Study of Exceptional Talent
The Study of Exceptional Talent, or SET, is open to students who scored extraordinarily well on the SAT at an early age. We have more information on how the score requirements work in our article on SAT score requirements for CTY, but the short version is that if you took the SAT after your 13th birthday and before your 14th birthday and scored above a 700 on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing or Math section, you’re eligible for the SET. Students under the age of 13 are no longer able to take the SAT.
So what is the SET, exactly? SET is a free program that provides counseling, opportunities to interact with other similarly gifted students, access to CTY resources like the SET Precollege Newsletter, and supplemental letters of recommendation for students applying to college or competitive high schools/prep schools.
Other CTY Resources
The Diagnostic and Counseling Center at CTY provides educational counseling and assessment services to all students. Students in grades PreK-1 and 9-12 or who live too far from a Prometric testing center may go through the DCC in order to qualify for CTY programs.
In addition to assisting students in qualifying for CTY, the DCC also provides educational consultations for families who wish to discuss strategies and educational plans for their gifted child(ren). Depending on the service, the DCC provides assistance online, over the phone, or on the Johns Hopkins University campus.
Getting Into CTY: Cool (Free) Tips, Yay!
That was maybe not one of my better reverse-engineered-acronyms, but more important than my failed acronym-ing: I've made up a list of helpful hints to boost your chances of getting into CTY's Talent Search and other CTY programs.
- If you're waffling between doing the Talent Search and waiting until later to apply to other CTY programs, definitely consider participating in the Talent Search. As I've said before, there are some programs and resources that are only available to students who took part in the Talent Search, and even the resources available to all students give priority to Talent Search participants. If you don't do well on the SAT or ACT when you take it through the Talent Search, you can always retest later.
- When you've started the 7th Grade Talent Search process, don't forget to study for the SAT/ACT.
- Why? Because while CTY is just using the SAT or ACT as a sorting mechanism, if you blow it off, it could prevent you from getting into a summer studies program that you totally deserve to attend (or at the very least, cause you to have to retake the test in order to qualify).
- At the very minimum, you need to be familiar with the test structure and timing. How can you do this?
Actions To Take
#1: Find out which of the accepted tests you've taken and what your scores were, including your composite scores on these tests. Because you can only upload one score with your Talent Search application, you want to be sure you're choosing and uploading your best test score.
#2: Once you get into the Talent Search Program, study for the SAT or ACT.
#3: Make sure to keep an eye on the Talent Search deadlines for updates on the 2021-2022 school year information, including when enrollment begins again.
#4: If after reading this article you're still not sure if the Talent Search is right for you, read more about it on the Talent Search website, or go to the CTY website to find out more about their other programs.
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Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.