Talent program qualification as acedemic edge for top boarding schools

Hello, I was wondering how would the top boarding school admissions view Talent program qualifications like CTY SET or Davison Young Scholars, which are harder that a 99+% SSAT score. Would it be a clear edge for application?

Others may have a better answer, as neither of my BS-applicant kids were in this bucket. But it seems to me that BS consider academics in two ways:

  1. To make sure that the applicant is academically-inclined enough to be successful at the school, and
    1. To round out their class and include a certain number of academic super-achiever types of kiddos.
    2. Most of the conversation here on the board focusses on the first: clearing the hurdle of giving the admissions team confidence that kiddo will be able to keep up academically. When we talk about that hurdle, it doesn't seem to matter much whether a kiddo gets an 85 or a 91 or 99 on SSATs (assuming strong academics), and there are tons of kids who clear that hurdle. CTY would certainly clear that hurdle easily and put kiddo in the (relatively large) group of kids who are considered seriously for admission. But in this context, that still makes this achievement a threshold competency (meaning the price you pay just to put your hat in the ring); not a competitive advantage (meaning the wow factor that gets you in).
    3. So if all the kids passing mid/high 80's SSATs end up clearing the hurdle, does academic achievement ever become a competitive advantage? The THING that wows the admissions team? The truth is: I am not sure, because again my kids aren't in that category. But. I have to believe that if they seek out tippy-top hockey players, that they also seek out tippy-top math kids and tippy top science kids and tippy top writers, etc... So if kiddo is not only CTY/Davison level, but truly a world-class academic, then I would have to believe that this would be a competitive advantage.

Again, one person’s take. But a considered, thoughtful one (or I wouldn’t have responded).

I think it may depend on the schools you are applying to. Schools at the top of the BS heap, either in name recognition or some other “top 10” list, get a lot of kids that are in the 99% SSAT category. Each of those schools turns down kids like that every single year. So is it enough to get you in? I skew towards no, it isn’t. Every kid I know at my kid’s school who is at that academic level has some other odd talent or interest or is also an amazing athlete.

One thing to point out that some may not be aware of is that CTY SET level definitely qualifies as spikey, and definitely beyond a 99th%ile on the SSAT would indicate by itself.

“CTY” level is considered 2 years above grade level.
“Advanced CTY” is 4 years above grade level.

“SET” (“Study of Exceptional Talent”) is considered “exceptionally advanced” and is a whole other ball of wax. It comes with a whole set of requirements for SAT (not SSAT) scores, e.g. a 700 or better on math or verbal at age 12 or younger, that kind of thing. And then those kids are chosen to receive separate mentoring and other services geared toward these demonstrated academic strengths.

I think the comments above are still valid, i.e. a school will only have so many slots for a super spikey math (or verbal) kid, and they’d rather choose the spikey math kid who is also an awesome tuba player and hockey goalie.

But, CTY SET is something that is ‘above and beyond’ a 99th%ile SSAT. Hard to say how much emphasis an AO would place on this however.

More info for those interested:

There are several other talent searches and I bet many BS applicants have participated. SET is particular to CTY, but other searches have similar distinctions. At some point a kid clears the hurdle of being really smart and further distinction is not likely to result in a higher chance of admission. Because after that hurdle is cleared, the AOs are looking for what else a kid contributes to the BS community.

Also, SET is an independent achievement that is worth noting and may not correlate with a 99% OA SSAT. I know at least one kids who easily achieved math SET criteria, but took his knocks on the SSAT verbal.

@Altras not surprised about that kid! (I guess that’s why they call it spikey)

I do think a school like PEA (where Dr. Feng teaches math and also coaches the IMO) might zero in on super spikey math kids, though for sure they’d rather that kid also bring other stuff to the community.

Oh yup, I get what they mean in terms of how “super smart” those kids are. But I am still leery of saying they will function as a hook.

It doesn’t matter much. My BS kids were both double SET (and about the same in both math and English). And both were CTY and one was 99% SSAT and the other 98%, one perfect math ( surprisingly not the math kid). The math kid was seriously looked at for math reasons esp at those schools which have very advanced math programs where there are kids who do calc in 9th grade ( and not because they had access to Alg II in 7th grade). But I don’t think that it these tests carry that much weight. Maybe Davidson (which my kids did not apply to). One of my kids got into 2/4 and the other 2/2.

There are lots of CTY kids at BS, ( don’t know how many are SET as I have never asked) and Davidson kids too. They are sprinkled across multiple boarding schools though. Some Davidson kids are exceptional in writing or other things which are not weighed on standardized tests.

I know that not all top 98/99% are at PEA or PA. The larger BS, like PEA and PA have more kids so they can have more programs. But there can be variances too. Some kids know they don’t want to be on the math team or that they want to pursue another field so they’ll find out if their top school has that aspect. My kids have friends who are 99%/National Merit semi-/Finalists and they were also at multiple BS schools depending on a lot of factors. So if you have a kid like that, then look closely at curriculum because most schools ( and many which are often cited) can’t meet the needs of kids who are more than about two years ahead in math. IMO, you don’t want to pay for college level classes if you are also paying for BS.

And though one might think these kids are spikey, they usually aren’t. They are often kids who just do well on taking tests and also might be into singing, dancing, art, or whatever.