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How To Apply

Choosing a Course
Application Checklist
Supplemental Materials
Admissions Process and Placement

Frequently Asked Questions

2019 VSA Applications will be accepted beginning February 6, 2019 at noon.

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 (this can be as simple as taking a picture with your phone)

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

3) Your two short essays–found by clicking here–and have them ready to cut and paste when the time comes

4) Your course choices (you may rank as many as you like, but be sure you have a real interest in the courses you rank because you might be placed in one of them).

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, he or she does 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, Woodcok 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

You can register directly for either the SAT or the ACT through their websites (though an official report mailed directly from The College Board/ACT is not required):

Vanderbilt PTY code: SAT 3697

Vanderbilt PTY code: ACT 5165


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 essays 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.


VSA welcomes international applicants. Because of the fast-paced nature and academic rigor of our courses, VSA is not a good fit for students who are not yet comfortable with reading, writing, and speaking in English. For this reason, demonstrated proficiency in English is required for applicants whose first language is not English.  In addition to test scores or a portfolio application, as detailed above, students whose first language is not English should submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. While these scores are preferred, students without TOEFL or IELTS scores may submit an English-language portfolio which should include a short description of past English language studies or speaking experience and a letter of recommendation from an English teacher. We may also request a phone or Skype interview at the discretion of the VSA admissions team.

Please also note that any supporting documents in your application (including transcripts, work samples, financial aid supporting documents, etc.) not originally in English must be accompanied by a certified translation.

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

  • Admission application (online or paper), completed and signed
  • Qualifying documents (first-time VSA applicants only): copy of ACT, SAT, or PSAT scores OR Portfolio Application materials (see above)
  • $40 application fee (non-refundable, required for all applications and payable with online application or as a check or money order)
  • Two essays, completed and signed.
  • Financial Aid Form and supporting documents may be submitted along with the application or at anytime during the admissions process.

Additional Application Materials

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

• Transcript
• Two Online Teacher Recommendation Forms (form request available online on the PTY website under “Forms and Documents”)

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 one-week 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 Wednesday, February 6, 2019 at noon CT, the application online application for Summer VSA 2019 will be available for submission on the PTY. There will be a one week priority application window, which will end Wednesday, February 13, 2019 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.

Admission Notification

Priority window applicants can expect to receive admission notification emails 3-4 weeks after the close of the window. Completed applications submitted after the priority window typically will receive an admission notification within 3 weeks of submission. The admission notice will also include the tuition balance and instructions for paying the nonrefundable 10% tuition deposit, which holds the student’s place in the course and program. 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 aid amount communicated to the family. Only complete applications are processed, so if any items are missing (e.g., application fee, qualifying documents, essays, etc.), we will contact you to alert you to the incomplete status, and you will have five business days to submit the missing items.

Waiting List

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 lists for your higher ranked courses. If a seat becomes available in a higher ranked course, we move the next 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

Welcome Paperwork

All students admitted to Vanderbilt Summer Academy must complete welcome paperwork by the stated deadline. These documents ensure that your student is able to participate in VSA and alerts program staff to any information necessary to insure students have a successful VSA experience. Welcome paperwork will be sent shortly after admission to the program.

Please note that Vanderbilt University requires all students participating in VSA to have health insurance coverage and provide insurance documentation.


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.