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About ATS

About Academic Talent Search (ATS)

The Academic Talent Search (ATS) program was founded by Dr. Terry Thomas in 1982. In the early 1980s, Dr. Thomas saw a need in northern California for the application of Dr. Julian Stanley's research in academic acceleration. Dr. Stanley's creation of the Study for Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) at Johns Hopkins University led to a greater national awareness of the need for talent identification and development opportunities for advanced adolescents. Believing that students should have a broad palette of educational options at a young age, and committed to the advancement of the gifted adolescent who frequently lacks support and nurturing from a public school system with limited resources, Dr. Thomas established the Academic Talent Search program at California State University, Sacramento (Sacramento State) to fill the void.

Since 1982, ATS has offered acceleration opportunities as well as enrichment coursework to sixth through ninth grade students (students entering grades seven through ten) from throughout the greater Sacramento region. Beginning in Summer 2009, ATS also began offering courses for students currently in grades four and five. Classes are held on the Sacramento State campus, giving participants the opportunity to sample university life at an early age. Parents report that the collegiate environment is beneficial in developing students' self-confidence and independence. For some students, particularly those from disadvantaged and underrepresented households, coming to Sacramento State for ATS classes makes college seem like an attainable goal.

Past partnerships with local organizations and companies such as Intel, SMUD, McClellan Air Force Base, Whole Foods, and the Discovery Museum have allowed students to discover, hands-on, the real life applications of the theoretical principles they study in class.

Current ATS partnerships include:

  • Sacramento Theatre Company
  • The Golden 1 Credit Union

Although ATS is sponsored by the University, it is a self-supporting program which receives no federal or state funding. ATS is committed to ensuring that no student is deprived of the opportunity for academic excellence and makes available financial aid scholarships to students each summer.

Since its founding, ATS has provided instruction to more than 40,500 academically talented young scholars. Many of these students have gone on to achieve great success in college and in their chosen careers.


Student in classes
Excellence in Education
In 2004, ATS Executive Director and Founder Dr. Terry Thomas was honored as the first recipient of the University's Lifetime Achievement Award for Community Service.