A large group of students spelling out TIP on Duke University East Campus


The Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) is based on an academic talent search model developed by Julian Stanley, whose seminal research project, the “Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth” (SMPY), is widely credited with bringing awareness of the need for gifted education into the mainstream and sparking efforts to serve academically talented youth around the world.

Using his credibility as an expert in the field of giftedness, Stanley established the first center for identifying and recognizing gifted students at Johns Hopkins University in 1979, calling it the Center for Talented Youth (CTY). Thanks in part to Stanley’s close working relationship with Duke Provost William Bevan—a former colleague of Stanley’s in the Psychology Department at Johns Hopkins—Duke TIP was established one year later as an extension of CTY’s talent search model with a $10 million dollar grant from the Duke Endowment.

By the end of its first year, Duke TIP had established itself in 13 Southeast and Midwest states. Over 11,000 seventh grade students from more than 2,000 schools applied to the first talent search in 1980–1981. In 1994, TIP launched a second talent search for fourth and fifth graders, which then expanded to include sixth graders in 2012. Today, TIP’s two talent searches welcome nearly 100,000 new participants each year and serve over 450,000 students annually—making it the largest academic talent search in the world.

A boy smiling and wearing a medal during a recognition ceremony

Educational Programs

Duke TIP’s first summer residential program was offered on Duke's West Campus in 1981, with 151 students from 25 states attending and a curriculum that centered on both mathematics and humanities. Subsequent years saw steady expansion in the number of courses offered, students served, and expansion to other campus sites. The first non-Duke sites opened in the 1990s at Davidson College and Wake Forest University in North Carolina, and other locations were soon added. Programming also expanded to include various permutations in TIP’s Summer Studies Program as well as a Field Studies Program for older students, established in 1993.

TIP has also always offered educational programs during the school year. The first commuter program debuted in September of 1981 and, within a few years, had been adapted into Scholar Weekends for students in grades 7–11 and Academic Adventures, a Saturday program for students in grades 4–6 that began in 2003.

In 2004, Duke TIP launched its first eStudies program, offering gifted students in grades 7–11 the opportunity to tackle challenging course content online. Its flexibility, affordability, and small classes made eStudies an appealing option for TIP families, launching a period of growth between 2004 and 2016. CRISIS, TIP’s week-long residential summer program for fifth and sixth graders debuted in 2012, offering younger gifted students the opportunity to solve a hypothetical community crisis through project-based learning, profession-specific research teams, and a fun, immersive learning experience.

Total summer program enrollment more than doubled during this same time period and pilot programs for international students also took place, including offering programs for gifted students in India and China as well as summer classroom enrichment programs for gifted educators in the US and China. TIP opened two regional offices to support this expansion and, in 2014, established a new headquarters in an historic downtown Durham building.

Much of TIP’s growth since 2016 has concentrated on online learning. eStudies has seen consistent growth each year, and a web-based program called eInvestigators, which debuted in 2016, has proved to be the fastest-growing program in the history of Duke TIP. This online program for fourth through sixth graders allows gifted students to research and solve a real-world mystery with their online classmates over a month-long term. More recently, Duke TIP has added new CRISIS and Summer Studies Program sites, expanded eInvestigators even further, and implemented a concerted effort to increase our talent search outreach, especially to schools with underserved populations.

From a single site on the Duke University campus in 1980, Duke TIP has grown to include 24 summer campus sites, two online programs, and an additional seven expansion sites dedicated to one- and two-day academic year programming. Between our talent searches and educational programs, Duke TIP’s 2018 student base includes participants from every state as well as over a dozen foreign countries. Each year, 450,000 plus students are served through our two talent searches and more than 13,000 students a year participate in a TIP educational program.