After my daughter, now 13, was identified as qualifying for gifted education prior to heading to middle school, I decided I wanted to provide her with some extra learning opportunities in the summer and throughout the school year. And quite frankly, give her some much-needed encouragement and celebration of her abilities since she often felt bored in her classroom.

Unfortunately, much of what I found involved extra work, and not necessarily programming and courses aimed specifically at gifted kids, who often learn in a different (and frequently much quicker) way.

Enter Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY), which a friend of mine had mentioned to me a few years ago. It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. And I’ll be honest, their list of alumni is pretty impressive. Mark Zuckerberg? Check.

However, navigating their Talent Search seemed a bit overwhelming when we started the process a couple years ago, which is why I’m so thrilled to welcome them as our sponsor, and help other parents too.

If you’ve got a child who you feel needs an extra educational boost, extended learning opportunities, or even just a community of like-minded peers, I’m sharing my own journey through the CTY Talent Search process so that hopefully, your student, like my own 13-year old, might be eligible to access their dynamic programming. -Kristen

Related: Is my child gifted? Helpful advice and online resources from an educational expert

What is Talent Search? 

So, before I explain the application process, it’s important to understand what Talent Search actually is (because I actually didn’t really understand it myself). Talent Search is the gateway to CTY and gives students that opportunity to take an above-level test, which can help identify your child’s strengths and direct you to resources that will help you nurture them. If the words “Talent Search” sound ominous, don’t be scared. It’s really quite a simple process that doesn’t take long at all.

Center for Talented Youth Talent Search | Sponsor

How Talent Search works.

After perusing the CTY website, I decided that this could be something my daughter might really benefit from. The courses cover a wide range of interests, not to mention the opportunities for in-person meet-ups and learning sessions. I simply applied online on their website, then set up a test date for her at a local testing center. Given her age (6th grade at the time), we chose the SCAT, but there are various test options by grade; make sure to check the site to see which tests apply to your child’s grade level.

The SCAT seemed pretty straightforward (no all-morning SAT or anything). In fact, my daughter didn’t even study for it, which is saying a lot for a child who is a pretty nervous test taker. And her results, which did qualify her for both Math and other courses, arrived within a week (possibly sooner, it’s been awhile!).

Once the scores were received, CTY sent a follow-up letter to explain which courses she was eligible for, along with a certificate, which I have to say was very exciting for her (and me).

Related: 10 free educational websites for curious kids that every parent should know

How to navigate the Center for Talented Youth Talent Search | Sponsor

What happens after you find out you’re eligible for CTY? 

Depending on which courses you’re eligible for, you can then peruse their course offerings, summer options, and family programming to determine what your child would like to take. Because we qualified right before summer, my daughter and I decided to wait a bit and look at how her first semester of middle school went before signing up. We actually chose an all-day family program at a local museum as our first CTY experience, and loved it.

You might find that during the school year, your child is too busy with their school activities and you just want to utilize their summer learning opportunities. Or, maybe your child really needs some extra challenges, or has an interest in coursework that’s not available at their school. As a busy parent, I really appreciated the flexibility in choosing what worked best for us and when.

How can my child apply for Talent Search?

You can find all the information you need about the CTY Talent Search on their website. It’s a rolling deadline, so you can start the application process whenever you want.

Thanks to our sponsor John Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth for providing amazing courses and support for parents of gifted kids. I completed this entire Talent Search process long before CTY was our sponsor, however, they did provide my daughter with a complimentary course.