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How To Apply for VSA

Choosing a Course
Application Checklist
Additional Application Materials
Admissions Process and Placement

Frequently Asked Questions


Please read on to learn more about the VSA application process in preparation.

There are a few things you should have ready before applying:

1) Have your eligibility test scores, assessment scores, and/or ability scores ready to upload (electronic copies, scanned documents, or high-resolution photos taken with a smart phone are all acceptable).

2) If applying with a portfolio, select a work sample and obtain your transcript/extended report card from your school.

3) Your statement of interest regarding why you think VSA would be a good fit for you.

4) Your course choices (you may rank as many as you like, but be sure you have a real interest in the courses you apply for; you can be placed in any course you rank).

While we do accept hard copies, we strongly encourage you to apply using our online system for ease of communication and payment going forward.


When students apply to Vanderbilt Summer Academy, qualifying documentation will be requested at the time of application; qualifying documentation, however, may take a number of different forms. Students may submit an individual ability or advanced achievement assessment (i.e. WISC, Stanford-Binet, Woodcock Johnson, WIAT, etc.), ACT, SAT, or PSAT scores near the 95th percentile and above for their age group in one or both sections of the test, or an admission portfolio for further assessment and review. ACT/SAT scores that were achieved through Talent Search programs such as the Johns Hopkins (CTY), Northwestern University (CTD), Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP), among others are accepted, but you are not required to go through a Talent Search to apply to Vanderbilt Summer Academy.

While standardized test scores near or above the 95th percentile are typically a strong indication that VSA is an appropriate curriculum match for a student, we recognize that there are circumstances in which test scores are either unavailable or not the best indicator of a student’s academic potential. For this reason, VSA also accepts a portfolio application composed of supporting documents that provide a well-rounded assessment of a student’s advanced academic performance. To learn more about qualifying test scores or the specific portfolio requirements, please refer to the relevant sections below.


The table below outlines suggested scores by grade and test type that correspond to the 95th percentile. Typically, VSA students who score at this level for their age and grade are successful within the rigor of our programs. Beginning March 2016, a new version of the SAT is offered with a few changes to the numerical score assessment. VSA accepts SAT scores from either the old or new SAT, and we’ve listed the 95th percentile scores for both tests below. To determine eligibility, do make sure to compare your student’s scores with the student’s grade at the time of the test, the specific test taken, and the corresponding eligibility score.

Students need only to qualify in one subject area, as long as that area is commensurate with the course content the student is interested in taking. Again, do make sure that the scores are based upon the grade in which the student took the test. Once a student has qualified for VSA, they do not have to submit further test results for the subsequent years.

ACT/SAT scores that were achieved through Talent Search programs such as the Johns Hopkins (CTY), Northwestern (CTD), and Duke TIP are accepted, but you are not required to go through a Talent Search to apply to Vanderbilt Summer Academy. Recent individual ability and achievement assessments (i.e. WISC, Stanford-Binet, Woodcock-Johnson, WIAT, etc.) are also accepted in lieu of ACT/SAT/PSAT scores.


7th 20M or R 26M or 27R 500M or CR
8th 22M or R 28M or 30R 550M or CR
9th 25M or R 30M or 32R 590M or CR
10th 27M or R 32M or 33R 630M or CR
11th 29M or R 35M or 35R 670M or CR

*Current 6th grade applicants may qualify with any qualification method, but portfolio and/or individual ability assessments are most common. Call our office with questions about 6th grade eligibility.

VSA also accepts PSAT scores. To understand how the PSAT score denotes eligibility, consider the PSAT score for either math or critical reading. Similar to the SAT and ACT eligibility scores, a score near the 95th percentile or above in either math or critical reading would qualify the applicant for VSA. In addition to a new SAT, the PSAT has undergone recent revisions, so if you have questions about PSAT eligibility, we encourage you to call our office for additional information.


For students who wish to submit a portfolio of materials in lieu of SAT/ACT/PSAT scores, VSA offers a portfolio assessment option. To apply via portfolio, students should complete the VSA application and statement of interest and submit the following items:

  • Recent nationally normed school-based group assessments indicating a score near the 90th percentile or higher score in at least one full-section (e.g. total math, total reading, verbal, nonverbal, quantitative). Acceptable assessments include but are not limited to: ERB, CogAT, Terra Nova, ITBS, Stanford Achievement Test, OLSAT, MAT.
  • Two teacher recommendations; Online or PDF
  • School transcript or most recent report card (transcript preferred).
  • Sample of recent course work relating to the VSA course the student wishes to take.

For online applicants: once an online application account is created, all qualifying documents can be uploaded into our online application system. Teacher recommendation forms can be automatically forwarded to the individual teachers from the online application.


Please see the International Student page for more information about application requirements.

Choosing a Course

Please consider course choices carefully. As you review the course descriptions in this section of the catalog, rank-order as many of the courses as you like, knowing that you may not get placed in your first choice. While we do our best to place students in their first-choice courses, we often have to place students in second- or third-choice courses based on availability. Please note that ranking more than one course never hurts the possibility of receiving your top choice class, and ranking several courses increases the chances of being placed in a class. Rank only those courses that you are truly willing to take. If you get placed in lower ranked course, you will remain on the waiting list for higher ranked courses, but know, a spot may not open in a higher ranked course. Rank thoughtfully to ensure you will enjoy your VSA experience!

Application Checklist

Incomplete applications cannot be fully processed. Make sure to include all required materials in your application:

  •  Admission application (online or paper), completed and signed
  • Qualifying documents (first-time VSA students only). Copy of ACT, SAT, or PSAT scores OR portfolio application materials
  • Nonrefundable Application fee: $50 ($100 for International Students)
  • Application statement, completed and signed

Additional Application Materials

A small number of courses require supplemental materials in order to determine specific course eligibility and fit. See the course listings if you need to include the following supplemental materials as part of your application.

  • Transcript
  • Upon placement into some classes, additional required forms will need to be completed for VUMC; some sections may duplicate PTY’s required paperwork.

If you are applying in the priority window, you may request recommendations to be completed by your teacher before the start of the application priority window to ensure that all supplementary materials are provided by the close of the window. Application that require supplemental information are not considered complete until all additional materials are provided.

Financial Assistance

Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth is committed to making programs available to academically gifted students regardless of a family’s ability to pay the full tuition. Therefore, need-based financial aid is available based on income. The VSA application review process is need-blind and does not consider financial status. More information on PTY’s financial assistance application can be found on the Tuition and Financial Assistance page.

Admissions Process & Placement

VSA begins accepting applications during a period called the Application Priority Window, but applications are accepted long after this window and until all VSA courses have filled. Many of our courses fill quickly, so we recommend that students apply as early as possible for the best chance of receiving their top choice course. Our VSA admissions process is intended to facilitate an equal opportunity for all potential participants to be placed in the courses that interest them.

Application Priority Window

On January 6th, 2020 at noon CT, the application online application for Summer VSA 2020 will be available for submission on the PTY. There will be a two-week priority application window, which will end January 20th, 2020 at noon CT. Paper applications received before or during the window will be time-stamped as received during the window.

All applications received during the priority application window will be considered part of the primary application pool regardless of the specific time submitted. All complete and qualifying applications submitted during the application priority window have the same chance for placement. Upon the close of the window, all applications received will be randomly assigned a number determining their order in the review queue.

Applying during the priority window does not guarantee admission, but it increases your chances of admission. We strongly recommend that students apply during the window. If space in a course remains after the priority window, courses will be filled on a first-come, first-serve system, based on availability and eligibility. A waitlist will be maintained for full courses.

Course Placement

In your application, you should rank your course choices in order of preference, with 1 indicating your first choice. You may rank as many choices as you like. We will make every effort to place you in your first choice. However, courses fill very quickly, and we will place you into your highest-ranked course based on seat availability at the time we review your application. Thus, rank only courses you are willing to take. Once you are placed in a course you ranked, you will be notified and your spot will be held with your nonrefundable 15 percent tuition deposit. If you are placed in a lower-ranked course, you will remain on the waiting list for any higher-ranked courses regardless of whether you pay the deposit to secure your spot in a lower-ranked course.

Admission Notification

Once a completed application has been submitted within the priority window, a student can typically expect an admission notification via email within three weeks after the close of the priority window. For students applying outside of the priority window, an admission notification within the application submission date can be expected. If the student is admitted, the admission notice will also include the tuition statement and instructions for paying the 15 percent tuition deposit, which holds the student’s place in the course. For families who have applied for financial aid, financial aid information may be included in the admission notice if financial aid materials have already been submitted. The tuition deposit for financial aid applicants will not be due until the financial aid materials have been processed and the award communicated to the family. Only complete applications are fully processed, so, if any items are missing (e.g., application fee, qualifying documents, essays, etc.), PTY will contact you to alert you to the incomplete status, and you will have five business days to submit the missing items.

Waiting List

A waiting list notification is due to space availability only and is no indication of student ability or merit. At the time of your application review, if no openings remain in your first choice course, we will look to see if a seat is available in your second choice course, and so on. Even if we place you in a lower-ranked course (due to availability), you will remain on the waiting list(s) for your higher-ranked course(s). If a seat becomes available in a higher-ranked course, we move the first student on the waiting list into that seat. Waiting lists are held until close to the start of the program session. No tuition deposit will be owed until you are placed in a course that you ranked in your application. The application fee, however, is nonrefundable.

If your student has been waitlisted, and you have questions about their status, please contact PTY at 615-322-8261 or

Required Forms

After admission into the program, families will receive instructions concerning required forms. Required forms includes emergency contact information, participant permission, medical information, immunization records, media release, etc. All students who participate in programs through Programs for Talented Youth (PTY) must have current health insurance documentation and required forms on file with PTY.

Cancellation Policy

The application fee is nonrefundable for all applicants. A student who withdraws from the program after submitting the 15 percent tuition deposit will receive a tuition refund for any amount paid above the deposit amount if VSA is notified before the tuition deadline. A refund of 50 percent (less the application fee and deposit) will be provided if a cancellation is made after the tuition deadline and before the refund deadline. No refunds will be granted after the refund deadline for the session.


Equal Opportunity

In compliance with federal law, including the provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, Executive Order 11246, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, as amended, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, Vanderbilt University does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of their race, sex, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, military service, or genetic information in its administration of educational policies, programs, or activities; admissions policies; scholarship and loan programs; athletic or other university-administered programs; or employment. In addition, the university does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression consistent with the university’s nondiscrimination policy. Inquiries or complaints should be directed to the Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Disability Services Department, Baker Building, PMB 401809, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, Nashville, TN 37240-1809. Telephone (615) 322-4705 (V/TDD); Fax (615) 343-4969.