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Articles / Applying to College / Johns Hopkins CTY: An Option for You?

Johns Hopkins CTY: An Option for You?

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | July 13, 2017

Johns Hopkins CTY. The "CTY" stands for "Center for Talented Youth." It's a long-standing program that has benefited many young students. Is it right for you your child?

Our son experienced CTY's Expository Writing Tutorial back in the early Nineties. He corresponded (by snail mail!) with a woman on the Johns Hopkins English faculty. I still have the large three-ring binder that contains all his assignments and her comments. I believe that his participation in that course was a significant component in the development of his writing skills and self-confidence.

Obviously, CTY has come a long way since he participated in that course. If you have been thinking about a way to enhance certain of your child's skills or knowledge (and your child can qualify), CTY may be an interesting option for you to explore. Let's take a closer look, starting with some information from CTY's excellent site:

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth identifies and develops the talents of the most advanced K-12 learners worldwide. As part of Johns Hopkins, CTY contributes to the university's mission by preparing and nurturing the bright young people who will go on to make significant contributions to our world.

CTY's roots extend back to our 1979 founding, and even before, to Johns Hopkins psychologist Julian Stanley's pioneering work with academically advanced middle schoolers. His work put the spotlight on exceptionally bright young people and their capacity and enthusiasm for academic challenges matched to their advanced abilities.

Today, CTY is a nonprofit center that identifies young people of great academic promise through our annual Talent Search, then nurtures their intellect and personal growth through gifted and talented Summer Programs, Online Programs courses, and other services and resources. A former CTY student started Facebook. Another co-founded Google. Self-described 'CTYers' routinely compete in the ranks of top national academic competitions such as the Intel Science Talent Search competition and Rhodes Scholar awards.

CTY's broader mission is to be a national voice that supports and encourages academic talent and achievement; to help in locating and nurturing talent from all neighborhoods and nations; and to engage in, and communicate, meaningful research to advance the understanding of teaching the world's most capable young people.

If you're a parent of a very bright child, welcome. We look forward to playing a key role in your child's academic development, as we have since 1979 for so many young people of great promise.

You'll find key links throughout that page's text that lead to explanations of various CTY aspects. If you're looking for some first-person comments about CTY experiences, the College Confidential discussion forum has a long list of threads devoted to that.

Obviously, you need to know how to qualify for participation in CTY. Way back when our son was in eighth grade, he took the actual SAT and his score qualified him for participation. There was a formal ceremony at a regional college recognizing all the CTY qualifiers and he received a very nice certificate (which I have also kept) and subsequently enrolled in the writing tutorial.

Today, many years later, the qualification requirements are quite a bit different. Here's an overview:

Participating in CTY's Talent Search is an achievement in itself. Receiving a qualifying score can earn your bright young learner an invitation to one of our recognition ceremonies or the opportunity to enroll in our engaging summer and online programs.

Test options vary by grade level. Here's what you need to know about the assessments CTY accepts (click "Fees and Deadlines" in the left menu for costs and important dates):

School and College Ability Test (SCAT)

Open to students in grades 2-8, the SCAT is typically a computer-based, timed, multiple-choice, quantitative and verbal assessment. With a short testing time and flexible scheduling, the SCAT is a convenient option for families looking to qualify for CTY programs on a deadline. ...


The SAT is a timed paper-and-pencil-based reading, writing, and math assessment with optional essay that's used globally as a measure of college and career readiness. It is open to Talent Search students in grades 7-8. The SAT is a good choice for students who seek early exposure to the SAT and want to potentially qualify for CTY's Study of Exceptional Talent, which provides resources and support to exceptionally bright students. ...

PSAT 8/9

Open to Talent Search students in grades 5-6, the PSAT 8/9 is a timed, paper-and-pencil-based, reading, writing, and math assessment that establishes a baseline measure of college and career readiness. The PSAT 8/9 is a good option for students who want a preview of the SAT suite of tests. ...


The ACT is a timed, paper-and-pencil-based, English, math, reading and science assessment open to CTY Talent Search students in grades 7-8. It is designed to show what students have learned and measure how they will do in college. The ACT is a good choice for students who seek early exposure to this college admissions assessment. ...

Spatial Test Battery (STB)

Open to students in grades 5 through 8, the STB is typically a computer-based test that addresses a unique skill set. Developed by CTY, it provides information about students' spatial reasoning abilities, which are important in fields of study such as math, science, engineering, and computer science. ...

Since the time my son qualified for CTY, the program has added four more testing options beyond the SAT, which was the only qualifying instrument available to him. One of the reasons for the expansion in qualifying test options may be simply that it can be intimidating for a middle school student to sit in a room with high school juniors and seniors taking the SAT, that legendary college-admissions-success-influencing exam.

This pagealso explains the various testing fees and deadlines. In addition to the test fees, there is a $43 CTY application fee. However, financial aid is available.

The Internet has completely changed the face of CTY since my son's experience. I have to laugh, thinking about today's youngsters sitting down to write a CTY assignment on paper and then send it by snail mail and consequently wait for a snail mail response from the course leader. Those days are thankfully (arguably?) long gone.

Here are three examples of CTY programs conducted online:

World Languages

Online Programs offers academically advanced elementary, middle, and high school students courses in Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, and English Language Development (ELD), featuring interactions with native-fluency speakers, small classroom sizes, and rich multimedia course materials. Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, and ELD courses are open to verbal or math qualifiers.

In each series, students access the real time, virtual classroom led by an instructor twice a week for one-hour sessions. The classroom includes audio and video interactions with live video of the instructor, interactive whiteboard, web tours, chat, quizzes, tests, discussion forums, and other features that enhance online learning. Using broadband internet access, students use their headsets or microphones and speakers to interact with instructors and classmates. In addition to the classes, students have two individualized conversation practices with instructors and teaching assistants each week, using telephone or voice over IP (Skype). These practice sessions emphasize everyday conversational speaking, role playing, and pronunciation. ...

Introduction to Computer Science and Engineering

[This program is open to students in grades 3-6 (!)]

Introduction to Computer Science and Engineering encourages students to utilize their problem-solving skills and creativity as they become familiar with the principles of both scientific engineering and computer programming. The first half of this course covers the concepts of the scientific method, electricity, circuits, and related content. The second half introduces students to Scratch Programming and basic computer programming concepts such as statements, loops, and if-then logic. Using a Makey Makey board as their tool, students will apply their knowledge of scientific engineering and computer science to produce such projects as controlling Scratch programs by completing wired circuits. Students will progress through each unit on their own, but parent involvement for most unit projects is expected. All projects and instrument set-up is thoroughly explained in documentation and video demonstration so students will have varying degrees of independence based on age and experience. ...

Computer Science & Technology

The newly revamped Online Programs Computer Science and Technology Program provides a wide range of engaging and challenging courses designed to teach creative problem solving and programming skills. Students who enroll in individually paced computer science courses may start at any time during the year and progress at their own pace within their enrollment period. AP Computer Science A is offered during the 30-week academic year session and the 12-week intensive summer session, and Intro to Computer Science and Engineering is offered during the 10-week fall, spring, and summer sessions. See calendar for session dates and application deadlines. All courses have prerequisites, so please check the course prerequisite requirements carefully before applying. ...

This is just a skim across the surface of CTY. As a parent of a young student who participated in an early CTY program, I can assure you that it was time and money well spent. For anyone who is concerned about cost, I encourage you to explore the generous financial aid options offered.

If you're a careful consumer, as I am, then check out some of the opinions and experiences of parents who have had their children go through CTY. Some of CTY's programs are residential, allowing young students to fully immerse themselves in a college experience. Our daughter worked as a residential leader at her college during the summer before her senior year. She had a positive experience and was able to share her passion for writing with the youngsters she counseled.

Thus, if you're looking for an option to enhance or expand your child's academic and even social environment, Johns Hopkins CTY may be something for you to consider. I give it my highest endorsement.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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