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VSA Frequently Asked Questions

Application Questions

I have a rising 7th or 8th grade student, and we’re hesitant to have them take part in a residential program. Does PTY offer any day program options for rising 7th and 8th grade?

Yes! Programs for Talented Youth also offers Career Connections at Summer Academy at Vanderbilt for the Young (SAVY) as a day program option for rising 7th and 8th grade students. The Career Connections program allows students to experience how expert knowledge and skills are applied in different fields, industries, and/or research. Rising seventh and eighth grade students may choose to attend Career Connections, VSA, or both! Students interested in attending both programs will need to complete two separate applications. PTY encourages students to apply during each program’s priority window to increase the likelihood of being admitted to a top-choice course. More information on the Career Connections at SAVY application timeline can be found at

My student is interested in VSA, but we live out of state. Can my student attend VSA? What does transportation to and from the airport entail?

We encourage students from all over the country and the world to apply to VSA! In summer 2023, VSA had 42 states and 11 countries represented. This summer, we hope to add to that list as we believe that the diversity in our student body creates a powerful community of learners. Students attending any VSA session can fly into the Nashville airport, located approximately 20 minutes from campus. VSA staff work with families who are planning for their student to arrive alone by plane to ensure that a VSA staff member is waiting at the airport to greet the student and to shuttle them back to campus. Per Vanderbilt policy, VSA students should never travel to and from the airport alone. When VSA is over, shuttles with VSA staff take students to the airport. Transportation fees apply for travel services: $75 round trip (there is no discount for one-way service). VSA is unable to support unaccompanied minors, so please check with your preferred airline prior to booking.

What is the “application priority window”? How does it affect my student’s application?

All applications received during the application priority window will be placed in a priority pool regardless of the particular date submitted within this window. This means that all complete and qualifying applications submitted during the application priority window have the same chance for placement. At the close of this window, all applications received will be randomly assigned a number determining their placement in the review queue. Applications received after the application priority window will be time and date stamped upon arrival and reviewed in order of receipt after the applications that were received in the priority window have been reviewed. Applying during the application priority window does not guarantee admission, but it does increase a student’s chances of admission. Because our courses fill quickly, we highly recommend that you submit your student’s application during our application priority window for the best chance at placement.

When are applications due?

While most popular classes fill within the application priority window, we will continue to accept applications throughout the spring until all classes are filled. More information about application timelines can be found at The VSA application fee is non-refundable.

Can students apply for courses outside of their grade level?

No. Students can only apply for VSA sessions that are designed for their current rising grade level.

I have previously attended a PTY program. Do I need to apply again?

Yes. When you log-in to your SchoolDoc account, most of the information you previously submitted for a previous application will be pre-filled for your VSA application. Be sure to provide any updated test scores or financial aid information to your account.

What is the tuition deposit?

The 20 percent tuition deposit is nonrefundable and is due one week after the student has been notified of their course placement. If a student is admitted to a course that is not their first choice, paying the deposit does not remove the student from other waiting list positions. The deposit does secure the student’s placement in a ranked course and, therefore, in the program as a whole. Should a spot open up in a higher-ranked course, the next student on the waiting list moves into that course. Due to long waiting lists, the deposit is necessary to secure the student’s placement and reduce last minute withdrawals. Therefore, we highly recommend that students only rank courses they are willing to take. Of course, once paid, the deposit is applied to the student’s overall tuition balance. If a deposit is not paid by the communicated deadline, a student’s enrollment will be cancelled, and they will be removed from all other waiting lists unless they specifically reach out to the VSA office and request to remain on waiting lists for other courses.

Does VSA offer financial aid?

Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth is committed to making programs available to academically advanced students regardless of a family’s ability to pay the full tuition. Therefore, need-based financial aid is available based on income. The PTY application review process is need-blind and does not consider financial status when placing students in courses. For more information, please see the VSA Tuition and Financial Assistance page.

Are scholarships available?

Programs for Talented Youth works with organizations, companies, foundations, and individuals who are interested in directly supporting students’ attendance through named scholarships. Scholarships are based on criteria defined by the supporting organization, company, foundation, or individual and vary year-to-year. Scholarships, along with criteria, are located on the scholarship page. Scholarships range in monetary aid and eligibility requirements, with select scholarships offering full tuition.

Click here to view the Scholarship page.

Interested in helping support students through a named scholarship or in connecting us with a company, organization, or foundation? Please contact our office to learn more!

Why does VSA use test scores to determine eligibility?

VSA specifically designs courses for academically gifted and advanced learners. Our instructors teach their courses at an accelerated pace and at a level of depth which research suggests works particularly well with academically advanced students. We use test scores as one component in determining a student’s ability to succeed at this accelerated and in-depth pace. Please see the “How to Apply” page for more information and other eligibility options.

Who teaches VSA courses?

Vanderbilt Summer Academy instructors are drawn from the wealth of talented faculty and scholars here in the Vanderbilt University and Nashville communities and include many distinguished professors, scientists, and researchers. All instructors are carefully selected. . Our outstanding VSA instructors serve as academic role models, providing instruction and insights into their areas of study.

Why do I take only one class?

Research supports that students need opportunities to immerse themselves in a content area of interest in order to develop expertise; therefore, each VSA course is designed to be an accelerated, in-depth look at a content area/subject.

How should I select my class?

We recommend that you choose your class based on what interests you. We encourage you to rank three or four classes but be sure that any course you rank on your application is something you would be willing to take. Once you are placed in a class you ranked, your non-refundable deposit will be due. Apply early to have the best chance for placement in your top ranked class!

Will I need to buy textbooks or course materials?

No. All course materials are included in VSA tuition.

Will I receive a grade or credit for my class?

No. VSA does not give grades or award credit. We want you to stretch your intellectual capacity without fear of failure. Instead of a grade, students receive a performance evaluation. This thoughtfully prepared, constructive feedback from the instructor will help students accurately assess their achievements in the course work. More than a number or letter, this rubric is designed to help students understand their performance and abilities and to guide them in charting future academic endeavors.

What is the cancellation policy?

The $50 ($100 for international applicants) application fee is nonrefundable for all applicants. Once the student is admitted and placed in a ranked course, an email notice will be sent. A nonrefundable 20% tuition deposit is due within one week of receiving notification of admission and is required to hold the spot for the admitted student. If no tuition deposit is paid during this time, the student forfeits their space in that course. A student who has been admitted into the program but not placed in any course will remain on the waiting list and will not be asked to submit a tuition deposit unless placement in a course can be offered. If a deposit is not paid by the communicated deadline, a student’s enrollment will be cancelled, and they will be removed from all other waiting lists unless they specifically reach out to the VSA office and request to remain on waiting lists for other courses.

A student who withdraws from the program after submitting the 20% nonrefundable tuition deposit will receive a tuition refund for any amount paid above the deposit amount if VSA is notified before the tuition deadline. No refunds will be granted after the tuition deadline for the session, including if a student must leave early from VSA. Please visit the VSA Tuition and Financial Assistance webpage for specific dates and deadlines.

If Vanderbilt University determines that it is in the best interest of VSA participants to delay or cancel the VSA program, VU staff will issue a timely statement to participants via email and the PTY website to advise of the delay or cancellation. No tuition reimbursements will be given for delays. If a cancellation is announced prior to the program start date, tuition paid, less the nonrefundable application fee, may be applied to a future program of the family’s choosing, or if preferred, a tuition reimbursement may be issued. In the event of a cancellation during a program, VU may, in its sole discretion, elect to provide partial tuition reimbursements. As is the VSA application policy, the application fee is nonrefundable. VU is not responsible for any expense or cost incurred by you in preparing for or arising or resulting from a delayed or cancelled program, including without limitation, the cost of non-refundable airfare, other transportation, lodging and meal expense and the cost of any additional or alternative arrangement you elect or are required to incur or make as a result of a delayed or cancelled program.

Will I have time to visit a specific building, department, person, or team on campus?

We understand you may be interested in attending Vanderbilt and would like to know more about our academic departments and sports teams. At VSA, however, the daily schedule is comprehensive and there is typically not time to visit other entities. Our 11th and 12th grade students are encouraged to use their communicated “S.O.F.T. time” to explore other areas of campus in groups of three.

Will we take a formal tour of Vanderbilt?

While at VSA you will become very familiar with Peabody Campus, however, we do not offer a formal Vanderbilt tour of campus. If you would like a formal tour, we encourage you to schedule that with the Vanderbilt Office of Undergraduate Admissions office either before or after VSA.

Will my VSA instructor assist in my other research interests and/or provide a recommendation letter for me?

It is up to each individual instructor to decide whether they are available and willing to write a letter of recommendation. This is beyond the scope of the VSA experience. If you are interested in seeking a recommendation letter, please talk directly to your instructor about this and give them as much advanced notice as possible if you think that a request might be forthcoming. We also ask that you respect your instructor’s individual decision if they must decline. If they must decline, it is not personal. Instructors are extremely busy researchers, faculty members, or graduate students. Additionally, they are unlikely to have the time to guide you in other required research activities outside of the scope of your VSA course. They are committed to VSA and their extra time is dedicated to your current experience. Any additional support for other high school required projects or research interests during or after VSA are left to each individual instructor’s discretion and would not be associated with or under the regulations and agreements of PTY or VSA.

Will attending VSA help my student get into Vanderbilt University?

No. Admission to VSA is not an indicator of admission to Vanderbilt University. However, attending VSA may provide a student with a more inside look at Vanderbilt as students live in VU’s first-year residential halls and take classes in VU classrooms.

Program Questions

How will students spend a typical day at VSA?

We encourage you to visit the VSA Residential Life page ( for more information regarding typical schedules and out of class activities.

What type of supervision happens during the program?

The VSA daily schedule and degree of supervision is comprehensive. Students who are accustomed to unsupervised time may find the policies and practices of VSA restrictive at times. VSA staff follows VU’s policies regarding the presence of minors on campus (, and student safety is prioritized above all else.

While we understand that students are responsible individuals, VSA requires free time (with the exception of SOFT times for rising 11th and 12th grade students) and recreational activities to be fully supervised and every student to be accounted for at all times. Students are not allowed to leave campus except for designated SOFT times for rising 11th/12th grade sessions and will go to meals and classes in groups with staff accompaniment.

All students will be assigned a classroom assistant who will be their main point of contact during the day and a residential proctor who will be their main point of contact during the evening and overnight. We want you to have a wonderful time while you’re with us on campus, and we encourage new friendships and community building at every turn. If you have questions about student supervision policies, we encourage you to call the VSA office at 615.322.8261.

Who will supervise VSA students?

The VSA residential staff is led by a leadership team composed of both seasonal and year-round Programs for Talented Youth staff, including the VSA program director and assistant director. The VSA director and assistant director are full-time PTY staff members; they move into the residential halls to support VSA students each summer. The VSA residential leadership team features a head of operations, a head of activities, head of health systems, and a head of student care and wellbeing who work together with the program director and assistant director to help ensure each student has a safe and positive experience. In addition to a hardworking crew of program office assistants, VSA is also supervised by a fully trained staff of 25–35 residential counselors (VSA proctors) who live on residential floors near their student groups to provide support and guidance. All VSA staff complete a multi-step screening and interview process, including an extensive nationwide background check. Staff are carefully selected and trained so they are able to help provide the best experience for your student. PTY’s full-time Executive Director supports VSA as well and is known to join in the fun on weekend outings and VSA evening events.

What is a proctor group?

Proctors are residential counselors. They are specially trained undergraduate and graduate students who live in the residence hall with VSA students and organize the residential recreational and social activities with support from VSA’s head of activities. Each student will be assigned to a proctor group. Your proctor will check in on you on a regular basis and help you make the best of your VSA experience.

Where will I live?

The center of VSA residential life is the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons at Vanderbilt. During the year, the Ingram Commons is a residential college for all first-year students. One campus fosters a common experience that encourages class unity and class identity. A house is a community, a home. For more information about Residential life, please visit the VSA Residential Life Page.

Will I have a roommate? May I choose my roommate?

Yes, most students will be assigned to a double room with a roommate. Some students may be assigned to a triple room with two roommates. VSA assigns roommates at random, and this information is not shared until arrival. If you have a specific concern regarding the roommate assignment process, please contact the VSA office.

Where will I eat?

All meals will be provided. Most meals will be served in campus dining halls. These meals are served cafeteria-style and offer a variety of food options, usually including a daily salad bar and grill selection. Students participating in field trips will be provided boxed lunches. The first meal provided will be dinner on Opening Day for each session. The last meal offered for all sessions will be breakfast on Closing Day.

Students who have food allergies or other dietary restrictions should mark the appropriate information on the General Health form and/or Allergy form in the VSA Required Forms so that Vanderbilt Dining Services and VSA can be notified of their needs We encourage you to call the VSA office at 615.322.8261 if you have specific concerns about allergies and dietary restrictions.

Should I book my student’s flight with “Unaccompanied Minor” status?

No. Students flying alone must be old enough to travel alone without the Unaccompanied Minor Service. Vanderbilt Summer Academy cannot provide Unaccompanied Minor escorts for individual travelers. Be sure to check with your airline regarding their specific Unaccompanied Minor policies. VSA cannot provide Unaccompanied Minor escorts for individual travelers, or transport anyone other than enrolled participants.

Will I get to meet my student’s instructor?

Parents will have the opportunity to join virtual open houses led by instructors near the conclusion of their student’s VSA session.

Will there be homework outside of class?

Each afternoon after free time, VSA rising 11th/12th grade students will complete 30-45 minutes of a carefully curated asynchronous assignment from their course instructor. Asynchronous assignments are designed to reinforce, synthesize, and support the rigorous VSA classroom experience so that the instructor can maximize students’ in-class learning time. Examples of asynchronous assignments include, but are not limited to, scholarly readings, reflection posts related to course material, problem set completion, or final project preparation.

May I visit my student during VSA?

Other than check-in and check-out days, we respectfully request that families remain off campus while VSA is in session. If you need to drop off an item for your student, please call the VSA office at 615.369.9777 for directions to the VSA office.

Does a student need additional spending money at VSA?

We recommend about $50–$75 per week for incidentals and occasional optional outings, as well as snacks or souvenirs from the VU bookstore. Please note that the Commons Munchie Mart, located in the Commons Center that VSA students have access to, does not accept cash.

Do I have to participate in all activities?

The VSA Activities team strives to create memorable experiences for all students! We believe the best way to connect with other students and build community is by engaging in curated activities that create space for shared connection! Throughout the week we will have a variety of activities planned that appeal to a variety of interests. All VSA students are expected to participate in these scheduled activities unless special accommodations are requested and approved prior to coming to VSA.

Do I need a computer?

Yes. Either a computer or iPad will be needed for completion of assignments during study hall and asynchronous times. We also have restrictions on the use of these devices, which we will ask you to follow. The policy for use of electronics will be outlined in your student handbook. VSA is not responsible for lost or stolen items. VSA has a limited number of loaner laptops available for students. Please contact our office prior to the start of VSA if you will be unable to bring an iPad, tablet, or laptop to campus.

Can VSA accommodate dietary restrictions?

Yes, in most cases, with adequate prior notice, we are able to accommodate most dietary needs. Once admitted into the program, you will be asked to supply additional information as part of the student’s required forms.

What should I wear?

VSA is an academic environment that requires a casual but appropriate dress code. We ask that students use good judgment in packing for the session and consider clothing options that would be appropriate in a school setting. Nashville is hot outside in the summer, but indoor spaces are often cool with ample air conditioning. Be comfortable and bring layers! Plan for the occasional rainy day by bringing a poncho or raincoat and rainproof shoes.

Students are prohibited from wearing clothing that displays profanity, offensive slogans or graphics, or advertises products or services that are illegal or illegal for minors. Students should refrain from wearing clothing that is unsafe for program activities or exposes undergarments. If staff determine that a student is not meeting these expectations, the student will be asked to change their attire.

Will I do my own laundry?

Students attending our two-week sessions will do their own laundry. Laundry facilities are available in the residence hall. Don’t forget to pack a laundry bag or hamper, laundry detergent, fabric softener, etc. If you’ve never done laundry, you might want to ask your family for a crash course before you arrive at VSA! There is no cost for utilizing washing machines and dryers in the residence hall.

May I bring a car to campus?

No. VSA is an intense summer experience, and student safety is always a priority. Students will not have access to parking nor will there be a need to drive. Students participating in the 11th/12th grade sessions will have designated days to walk to CVS or other approved areas surrounding campus.

May I bring a cell phone?

Yes. However, we do have restrictions on the use of these devices, which we will ask you to follow. The policy for use of electronics will be outlined in your student handbook. VSA is not responsible for lost or stolen items.

Can I bring my personal musical instrument?

Students may bring personal instruments, however, we cannot guarantee a private space or time for practice to take place. VSA is not responsible for any damaged or stolen items.

What does health, safety, and wellness look like during VSA?

VSA offers a wealth of comprehensive resources to students to ensure the safety and well-being of their participation in the program. Vanderbilt Summer Academy does not employ full-time medical personnel. However, a nurse works with VSA staff to review health records, support medication collection and distribution, and triage medically related concerns. In the rare event of a medical emergency, students will be taken to the closest hospital, which in most instances is the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Student safety is prioritized above all else and VSA takes extensive measures to ensure students feel safe. All Residence Halls remain locked throughout the program and are only accessible by approved student and staff card access. Residence Halls are supervised overnight by a security team and VUPD does regular sweeps of the campus. There are also numerous emergency Call boxes located around the campus that can be accessed at any time. During VSA, students will often travel with their proctor groups to various locations: the dining hall, class, activities, etc. to ensure students are safe and also accounted for.

Vanderbilt Summer Academy’s Assistant Director also serves as Head of Student Support and leads an experienced student support team. This team focuses on supporting the social and emotional wellbeing of students while at VSA.