CTY at Johns Hopkins: The Ultimate Guide

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What do Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sergey Brin, and Lady Gaga have in common? If you said brilliance, talent, and impressive bank accounts, you’d be correct.

But that’s not all—all three are also alumni of the Center for Talented Youth (CTY) at Johns Hopkins University.

CTY at Johns Hopkins serves gifted K-12 students and their families with a wide range of programs and resources. The nonprofit organization identifies advanced learners around the world and develops their talents. If you feel that you aren’t challenged enough in school, a program like CTY might be for you.

In this ultimate guide, we’ll share more info about CTY at Johns Hopkins, CTY programs, how you can get involved, and additional tips and information.

A Brief History: CTY at Johns Hopkins

When a thirteen-year-old boy from Baltimore had already completed all the math courses available at his school, Johns Hopkins professor Julian Stanley worked with him to access more advanced math courses.

Stanley’s goal was to help the student continue developing his academic talents.

In 1979, recognizing that many other gifted students share this need, Dr. Stanley and Johns Hopkins founded the Center for Talented Youth.

Today, there are more than 165,000 CTY alumni worldwide. The organization continues its mission to educate advanced learners, provide academic opportunities to students from all backgrounds, and develop research on recognizing and fostering the talents of gifted students.

What programs does CTY offer for gifted students?

CTY offers summer programs, online programs, family programs, and international programs.

The organization also provides financial aid, scholarships, and disability services, in addition to diagnostic and counseling guidance so students can learn more about their strengths and weaknesses.

How can I get involved with CTY at Johns Hopkins?

The best way to get involved with CTY is to participate in the CTY Talent Search. The Talent Search helps you identify whether CTY is right for you. It also allows you to find the appropriate level of challenge to fit your learning needs.

The Talent Search is recommended for students who “exhibit outstanding academic talent” based on factors such as nationally normed testing, state testing, and ability above peers in the same grade level.

Although you can access some CTY programs without the Talent Search, it is required for most programming, including all summer and online programs.

If you are in grades 2-8, here are the steps to follow:

1) Complete a Talent Search Application online. The application carries a $45 fee in the United States, or a $58 fee outside the U.S.

2) After you complete the application, CTY will send you information about your assessment options. Options vary by grade level and may include:

  • School and College Ability Test (SCAT)
  • SAT
  • PSAT 8/9
  • ACT
  • Spatial Test Battery (STB)

3) Once you choose your test, register and pay the test fee. For students in the United States, test fees range from $38-$65. Outside of the United States, test fees vary.

4) Send scores to CTY. SCAT and STB scores are automatically sent to CTY. If you take the SAT, PSAT 8/9 or ACT, you must request that your scores be sent to CTY.

5) You’ll receive your score report and a list of the CTY programs for which you’ve qualified. You may qualify at the CTY Level or the Advanced CTY Level. If your test scores indicate that you are two grade levels above your current grade, you are at the CTY Level. If you are four grade levels above your current grade, you’ll qualify for the Advanced CTY Level.

6) If you’re unhappy with your score, you can retest later. Participants who earn top scores will be invited to recognition ceremonies to celebrate their outstanding achievement.

Students in grades 9-12 have the option to submit existing test scores from the PSAT, SAT, or ACT. Alternatively, they may take the School and College Ability Test or the Spatial Test Battery at a nearby Prometric Test Center. If you plan to take the SCAT or STB, register with CTY.

About CTY Programs

Now, let’s take a closer look at the programs offered by CTY at Johns Hopkins.

Family Programs

CTY Family Programs are open to all students and families. If you don’t want to participate in the Talent Search, or if you’d like to sample CTY programming first, Family Programs are an excellent option.

According to CTY’s website, these programs “bring bright students and their families together to cultivate their interests, explore the world, and make new friends.” Programs are divided by grade level.

Grades 2-6

Students in grades 2-6 can enjoy interactive family programs through all-day and overnight learning experiences at aquariums, museums, and science centers. Although program structures and prices vary, every event includes hands-on activities.

Examples include:

  • Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead – Four sessions held once a month, with each exploring the intersection between mathematics and art. Parents also attend seminars on topics such as supporting gifted students.
  • Crack the Case – At the Fleet Science Center, students will use physics, chemistry, and observation skills to solve cases like forensic scientists.
  • Magic at the Met – Families will head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to take an educational tour through games and activities based on the Harry Potter

Grades 7-12

Like programs for Grades 2-6, programs for Grades 7-12 generally take place in museums, science centers, and aquariums, and they involve interactive family activities.

Examples include:

  • Literary World Building During this two-day program at Johns Hopkins University, participants craft imaginary realms to serve as settings for their own fantasy stories. The event combines geology, geography, cartography, and descriptive writing.
  • Top of the Pop (Culture!) – Families participate in workshops on science fiction, the hero’s journey, and more as they explore the new Minecraft exhibition at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.
  • Scientists of the Sea The Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota hosts students and families as they solve a Marine Mammal Mystery case, participate in field experiences like collecting marine specimen, kayak through a mangrove forest, take exclusive tours of the aquarium, and more.

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Pathways to College

For high school students, CTY offers a comprehensive program designed to provide a leg-up on the college search.

Program highlights include admissions workshops, private campus tours, student panels with current university attendees, and discussions of application essentials.

Educational Travel

CTY’s Educational Travel programs engage families in learning experiences all over the world. Families build lifelong memories and friendships as they discover natural, cultural and historical aspects of locations such as Chile, Italy, Cuba, Scotland, Brazil, and beyond.

Although travel programs are recommended for students in grades 5-12, younger students may participate after a parent or guardian discusses program content and its pace with Family Academic Programs staff.

Online Programs

CTY Online Programs courses aim to further accelerate and enrich advanced students in their areas of strength. Eligibility is based on grade level and test scores earned. Some programs are offered only at the CTY-level or only at the Advanced CTY-level.

Programs are offered in both individually paced and session-based formats. For courses in critical reading, writing, grammar, and visual fluency, students must have qualifying verbal scores.

For courses in math, science, or computer science and technology, students must have qualifying math scores.

Course options include:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Spanish
  • Young Readers’ Series: Greek Myths Revisited
  • Inventions in Engineering
  • Household Chemistry
  • Building Blocks
  • Grammar FUNdamentals
  • Essay Writing Using STEM
  • Vocabulary, Grammar, and Writing Using STEM
  • The Process of Writing
  • Advanced Placement (AP) courses

CTY Online Programs are accredited by The Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Credit or placement is awarded at the discretion of the student’s school. CTY does not award degrees or diplomas.

Although session-based courses have application and enrollment deadlines, students may enroll in self-paced courses at any time and may start within two weeks.

Summer Programs

CTY is perhaps best known for its annual summer programs. Summer programs offer gifted students the opportunity to engage in challenging academic work alongside peers who share their abilities and love of learning. Eligibility is based on grade level and test scores.

  • Students in grades 2-4 may opt to attend day programs, including one-week courses. Fifth and sixth grade students may attend either day programs or residential programs.

Eligible students in grades 7-12 choose from five residential summer programs. These include Intensive Studies, Academic Explorations, Global Issues in the 21st Century (at either Princeton or Berkeley), or The Civic Leadership Institute.

If you’d like to attend a CTY summer program, you must first establish eligibility. CTY highly recommends participating in the Talent Search to do so. Next, you apply online. If you list multiple sessions, sites, or courses, your chances of being selected for a summer program increase.

International Programs

With CTY International, CTY at Johns Hopkins brings their expertise in gifted education around the world. Educational advising, teacher training, research, and program development are offered in countries such as China, Canada, Greece, India, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia.

Additionally, international students traveling to the U.S. are welcome to enroll in CTY programs if they meet eligibility requirements. International scholars interested in CTY research are encouraged to contact CTY with a curriculum vitae and reasons for their interest.

About CTY Services

Next, we’ll examine some of the services offered by CTY at Johns Hopkins.

Financial Aid

One of CTY’s key missions is to enable all qualified students to access CTY opportunities without the barrier of financial hardship. More than $5 million in financial aid is awarded by CTY annually for income-eligible families.

You can apply for financial aid through CTY’s website. Applications for financial aid for summer programs, online programs, and family programs are separate.


CTY Special Scholarships are awarded for a combination of financial need and merit. Qualifying students may receive tuition and fee coverage for both year-round and summer programs, in addition to mentoring, academic counseling, and other opportunities.

  • The Johns Hopkins CTY Scholars Program is a $25,000 opportunity that includes an assigned educational advisor for all four years of high school, college prep workshops, SAT/ACT preparation, the College Tour and Leadership Institute, two CTY Summer Programs, two Family Academic Programs, and one Online Program.

Applicants must earn qualifying test scores, be from a traditionally underrepresented student group in higher education, and have a combined family income of less than $75,000.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarships are for promising middle school students from families with financial need. Scholarship recipients receive financial support and comprehensive educational advising from 8th grade through high school to pursue their personal academic and career goals.

High-achieving high school seniors may also receive awards of up to $40,000 per year toward tuition at a top four-year college or university.

Disability Services

CTY Disability Services offer testing accommodations, program accommodations, and employee accommodations to create inclusive and welcoming learning environments.

They collaborate with students, parents, and staff to provide appropriate accommodations for qualified individuals with mental or physical impairments that impact a major life activity.

Diagnostic and Counseling

At the Diagnostic and Counseling Center, CTY offers individualized assessments that aim to evaluate students’ strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. They also provide educational guidance and career planning assistance to help families support the educational needs of their gifted children.

Study of Exceptional Talent

The Study of Exceptional Talent (SET) is the original U.S. gifted education program. Today, SET identifies extremely gifted students based on SAT scores.

SET then supports the continued development of exceptional students through individualized educational counseling, special events and opportunities, and a quarterly newsletter geared to individual needs.

To qualify for SET, students must score a 700 on either the Math or the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing SAT prior to age 13. For each additional month of age, 10 additional points are required, up to the maximum score of 800 at 13 years and 10 months. Once CTY receives official notification of qualifying scores, students are invited to join SET.

Final Thoughts: CTY at Johns Hopkins

If you’re a gifted student interested in the programs and/or services that CTY provides, enter the Talent Search or send qualifying scores to CTY at Johns Hopkins.

CTY programming will challenge you, offer you new opportunities and experiences, and connect you with similarly talented peers. In addition, participating in CTY programs provides a helpful boost to your college applications.

Although these programs can be costly, keep in mind that you may qualify for scholarships or financial aid. Additionally, it’s an honor to receive a qualifying score through the CTY Talent Search or to be invited to a CTY recognition ceremony.

And who knows? You just may be the next Zuckerberg, Brin, or Gaga!

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