Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY): The Ultimate Guide for 7th and 8th Graders

CTY Guide for Gifted 7th and 8th Graders

Are you the parent of a gifted and talented child? If so, you may be seeking ways you can challenge and nurture your child’s abilities, outside of the traditional classroom.

One great opportunity to consider is Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY).

This unique program helps high-achieving students discover their full potential and transform into outstanding candidates for prestigious high schools and even colleges. Notable CTY alumni include Sergey Brin (Google co-founder), Mark Zuckerberg, Lady Gaga, and more.

CTY is a large, complex program with many different options for grades K-12. However, our guide will focus specifically on the best paths for 7th and 8th graders.

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Read this guide in chronological order or jump to a question directly by clicking the links.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

What is Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth?

Founded in 1979, Johns Hopkins CTY program is a nonprofit created with one mission at its heart — to offer opportunities beyond the traditional classroom for extremely gifted and talented students.

CTY offers programs for all grade levels, including:

  • Family programs
  • Online programs
  • Summer programs
  • International programs
  • Study of Exceptional Talent counseling program (SET)

Thousands of students enter the CTY programs every year. Their summer programs expand across the United States — one even takes place in Hong Kong!

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What are the differences between the CTY Online and Summer programs?

In our guide, we’ll be specifically focusing on two CTY programs for your talented 7th or 8th grader. For an in-depth look at the rest of their offerings, read our accompanying blog post here: Johns Hopkins CTY: Understanding the Different Programs.

Online Programs

CTY’s Online Programs are for advanced students seeking to enrich and accelerate their education in certain subjects.

These courses offer student wonderful opportunities to learn about areas of study they might not otherwise encounter at school. Students can also explore more advanced subjects, such as computer science, engineering, and world languages, in greater depth.

Here are a few of our favorite CTY courses:

Furthermore, unlike the other programs, students won’t need to travel far nor be restricted by what’s available nearby, as the courses all take place online.

Qualifications and Costs: Just like the Family Programs, the online programs are not free. However, unlike the Family Programs, students can apply for need-based financial aid. Find out more here.

Students must earn a qualifying test score to be eligible for online courses (we’ll dive deeper into eligibility requirements later in this blog). Additionally, there may be prerequisites for joining a course. We recommend that parents consult the course catalog to determine which courses their child can qualify for.

Learn More: Explore CTY’s course catalog for 6-8 graders.

Summer Programs

CTY’s Summer Programs are one of the most popular aspects of Johns Hopkins CTY program. It is a 3-week summer camp for gifted and talented students.

Students get the opportunity to make friends with other exceptional students from all over the world, bond over common academic interests, and most importantly, advance their talents and skills in a rigorous learning environment.

CTY Summer Program is offered in several locations throughout the U.S., as well as Hong Kong.

For 7th – 8th graders, there are two options:

  • Academic Explorations: Students get an opportunity to explore and apply new concepts beyond the traditional classroom.
  • Intensive Studies: Students study a college-level or advanced high school subject at a faster and more advanced pace.

Qualifications and Costs: Academic Explorations introduces students to topics not normally covered in school. It does not require prior knowledge or prerequisites. They do, however, require students to earn a qualifying score on an eligibility assessment (Again, more on this later.)

The Intensive Studies programs are more advanced than the Academic Explorations. Many of the available courses do require prior knowledge and certain prerequisites. These courses also have eligibility requirements.

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What are the benefits of participating in CTY?

Before your child begins preparing or you invest in an expensive summer camp, you may have questions, such as: what are the benefits of Johns Hopkins CTY? Why should you or your child invest the time and resources? Is it the right choice for your child?

Great questions! Let’s answer them.

Here is a quick recap of how CTY can benefit your child in the long run.

#1. Go beyond the limitations of the classroom.

Not every middle school – or even high school – offers advanced options for exceptional students. When gifted students aren’t challenged, they can become bored and frustrated. CTY’s programs, especially their online program, helps students overcome the limitations of their school district by gaining access to many more opportunities.

#2. Showcase your child’s talents and interests for future admission committees.

Johns Hopkins CTY’s programs give your child a child a chance to learn about specific college-level or career-oriented topics (such as computer science, medicine, film, or scientific research). This not only cultivates your child’s interests, but can demonstrate to a future admission committee their passion and skills in those areas.

Specifically, these types of programs look great on a high school admissions application if your child is applying to a STEM school or a school with specialized programs focused on specific college majors or career tracks.

#3. Earn special recognition.

Students who earn top scores on the qualifying assessments can be recognized at special Student Award Ceremonies such as High Honors and Grand Honors, or they can qualify for Johns Hopkins Study of Exceptional Students (SET) program. You can learn more about the SET program in our blog post exploring the different CTY offerings.

Such awards and distinctions look great on high school applications and even on college applications. They demonstrate that your child is extraordinarily advanced. SET members are even given additional letters of recommendations from the CTY organization to add to their college applications.

#4. Join an impressive list of CTY alumni.

Here are just a few of CTY’s prestigious alumni:

  • Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google
  • Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook
  • Jacob Lurie, professor of mathematics at Harvard University, awarded McArthur “genius grant”
  • Elissa Hallem, professor of neuroscience at UCLA, awarded McArthur “genius grant”
  • Lady Gaga, musician and actress
  • Benjamin Firester, 1st prize winner of 2018 Regeneron Science Talent Search

There are also successful politicians, Rhodes Scholars, professors, scientists, and artists who have participated in Johns Hopkins CTY programs.

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How can my child qualify for Center for Talented Youth programs?

There are 3 key elements of a student’s eligibility for Johns Hopkins CTY:

#1. Scores

To qualify for a CTY online program or summer program, 7th or 8th graders must take one of the following standardized tests:

  • SAT
  • ACT
  • SCAT (CTY’s own School and College Ability Test)
  • STB (CTY’s own Spatial Battery Test)

For each of these tests, student must earn a score that places them at either CTY level (two grade levels above their current grade) or CTY Advanced (four grade levels about their current grade). The qualifying scores are different for each test and each grade, but we’ve included the score chart for 7th and 8th graders below:

7th-8th Grade Qualifying Standardized Test Score Levels for CTY

7th-8th Grade Qualifying Standardized Test Score Levels for CTY Advanced


Students’ scores will determine their eligibility for online and summer programs. Some programs require students to earn a CTY level score; others require a CTY Advanced level score. Some programs require students to reach a CTY or CTY Advanced level score only in Math; others only require Verbal; and lastly, others require both Math and Verbal.

#2. Test-Taking Time of Year

In the above chart, notice that the time of the year a student takes the test can also impact eligibility. For example, a student who takes the SAT during their first semester of 8th grade does not have to score as high as a student taking the test during the 2nd semester of 8th grade.

#3. Additional Prerequisites

Furthermore, eligibility tests are typically just to get a student’s foot in the door. Some courses require other prerequisites, such as a minimum age or grade requirement, or even placement tests.

Here are a few examples:

  • A student seeking to enroll in a computer science course may be required to take a computer skill placement test
  • A student enrolling in Calculus is required to have completed Algebra II
  • A student enrolling in an advanced literature class may have to take a reading assessment.

To view requirements for specific online courses, explore CTY’s online course catalog.

To view the requirements for specific summer program, explore the Intensive Studies programs and the Academic Exploration programs.

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How can my child apply to Center for Talented Youth programs?

Once a student has taken his or her test, earned a qualifying score, and submitted that score to CTY, enrollment can begin for online or summer programs.

Parents can apply for online programs at any time. However, summer programs have specific deadlines.

The next deadline for summer applications is January 25th, 2020. After the deadline, CTY still allows applications; however, you will no longer be considered in the initial course assignment process. As a result, you run the risk of losing your seat in your 1st or 2nd choice courses. Thus, we recommend trying your best to meet the initial deadline.

Students who apply before or on the January deadline will receive notification of their course assignment by email on February 1st, 2020.

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How can MEK Review help my child become part of CTY?

During the Fall, we offer a special course for current 7th and 8th graders called Johns Hopkins CTY Prep.

This program is uniquely designed to prepare students to earn a CTY Advanced qualifying score on the December SAT for both the Math and Verbal sections.

Students learn proven strategies and build up their skill level to ensure they are ready to tackle this advanced test.

Our CTY prep course helps students master the SAT, rather than SCAT, STB, or ACT (other qualifying tests), for the following reasons:

  • Perfect Timing: By taking the December SAT, students can optimize their chances to reach the highest possible score before the January 25 deadline for summer programs.
  • Multiple Qualifications: If students are interesting in trying to qualify for the high-honor CTY SET program, they need to earn a 700 on the Math or Verbal of the SAT.
  • College Admissions Readiness: They become familiar with a test they will need to take a few years later for college admissions.
  • Higher HS GPAs: The SAT’s content and skill requirements overlaps significantly with the skills required for advanced high school classes. As they prepare for the SAT, they also learn critical thinking, problem-solving, and reading comprehension skills, important for earning top GPAs.


Registration for Fall 2019 CTY Prep is open, but don’t wait!

Seats fill up fast for this popular course.

Call 855-346-1410 or contact us to register today.

We can’t wait to hear from you!


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