Identifying the Duke Talent Identification Program5 min read

By now, most 7th grade students selected for the Duke Talent Search have already taken the qualifying ACT or SAT exam. As you wait for College Board to report back scores, you might be wondering “what exactly is Duke TIP? What does it mean for my student to have been selected as part of this program?”

As a former Duke TIP participant and long-time employee of the program, I’m here to elucidate what exactly Duke TIP is and what exactly you’re entitled to if your student is selected.

What Exactly is Duke TIP?

Duke TIP is one of four major talent searches in the United States, with the other three being the Center for Talented Development by Northwestern University, The Center for Talented Youth by John Hopkins University, and the Rocky Mountain Talent Search by the University of Denver. Each of these programs centers primarily around a specific geographic region, and Duke TIP specifically draws students from the South, Southeast, and Midwest of the United States.

TIP is the second longest-running talent search, having been established in 1980, a mere year later than John Hopkins’ CTY, which was founded in 1979.

How do I Qualify for Duke TIP?

To qualify for Duke TIP, 7th grade students take the SAT or ACT exam, under regular timed conditions.
To qualify for Duke TIP, 7th grade students take the SAT or ACT exam, under regular timed conditions.

The Duke TIP talent search is a two-fold process. First, middle school counselors recommends certain high-achieving students to Duke to be considered for the talent search. Next, Duke invites these students to take an officially proctored SAT or ACT exam. These SAT and ACTs are usually taken in the December of a student’s 7th grade fall, and there is no difference between the Duke TIP exam and the real exam—in fact, Duke TIP students are often seated in the exact same testing rooms as juniors and seniors in high school. However, it’s important to note that this administration of the ACT or SAT *will not* be officially recorded on the student’s record, so there’s no need to worry that universities or colleges will see this score report—this information is used exclusively by Duke TIP.

Once scores are released, Duke invites all students who score above a certain threshold to attend its summer programs, and these thresholds are listed below, courtesy of These thresholds are static, meaning they aren’t adjusted year by year, though TIP is likely to change their threshold for students testing in 2016-2017 in response to the shift to the New SAT.


If you were in the…when you took the…and you scored…then you  qualify forAcademythen you  qualify forCenter
7th Grade
SATany one of the following:M 500-560
CR 500-560
WR 500-560
M ≥570
CR ≥570
WR ≥570
OR a combination of:n/aM ≥520 and CR ≥520
M≥520 and WR≥570
ACTany one of the following:M 18-19
E 25-26
S 20-23
R 20-24
M ≥20
E ≥27
S ≥24
R ≥25
OR a combination of:n/aM ≥19 and E ≥25
M ≥19 and R ≥24
Go to Academy Go to Center 
SATany one of the following:M 540-600
CR 540-600
WR 540-600
M ≥610
CR ≥610
WR ≥610
OR a combination of:n/aM ≥520 and CR ≥560
M ≥560 and CR ≥520
M ≥520 and WR ≥610
M ≥560 and WR ≥570
ACTany one of the following:M 21-22
E 28-29
S 22-24
R 22-25
M ≥23
E ≥30
S ≥25
R ≥26
OR a combination of:n/aM ≥19 and E ≥28
M ≥22 and E ≥25
M ≥19 and R ≥25
M ≥22 and R ≥24
Go to Academy Go to Center 
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What is the difference between Academy and Center?

TIP challenges students through advanced science, math, social science, or humanities subjects taught at a college level.
TIP challenges students through advanced science, math, social science, or humanities subjects taught at a college level.

The Duke Talent Search is primarily geared towards inviting students to attend the Duke TIP summer camps. There are two distinct “levels” of TIP, one being Academy and the other being Center. Both Academy and Center offer the same Duke TIP base experience—a three week summer camp located on a college campus where students split their time between academic and residential activities. However, the Center sites offer a slightly more rigorous course curriculum taught by slightly more experienced instructors. For example, one of TIP’s longest-standing instructors, Dr. Kane, has been teaching Macro and Microeconomics at TIP for over 30 years. He teaches at the Duke East Campus Center site, and his instruction was so phenomenal that I was personally able to achieve 5’s on both the Macro and Microeconomics Advanced Placement exams solely through his course, without even taking a formal year-long class in school. That being said, as both a participant and employee of both TIP Academy and Center sites, I can say with complete confidence that both TIP programs offer phenomenal social and academic experiences.

Should my student attend Duke TIP?

This is ultimately a personal decision you should make as a family, but I can say that most, if not all, of our Duke TIP students immensely enjoy their time in the program. The price of Duke TIP is exorbitantly expensive, listed at $4,050 for the 2016 three-week term, but TIP really is an incredible experience. For students who might not be challenged in school, TIP provides an opportunity to be pushed and motivated while surrounded by similarly talented peers. For students who might not completely fit into social groups at school, TIP provides a supportive and receptive environment, one which is nearly guaranteed to have students with similar interests and passions. Indeed, these social intangibles are the primary reason so many students return year after year. It’s impossible to accurately describe the full emotional impact TIP has on our students, but these 4th year speeches, speeches given by Duke TIP students on the last day of their last year at TIP, might give you an idea of how truly unique an experience TIP is.

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