The highly touted national Academic Talent Search Program has permanently ended. All previous activities for for excelled middle school students will now be part of Duke's PreCollege program, a still evolving enrichment opportunity for students in 7-8th grades.
What is a Talent Program?
For the past three decades, talented 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students could take the ACT® or SAT® tests in middle school to see how they performed compared to their peers. These scores would provide students with opportunities to enroll in special classes, summer programs, and special Scholar Weekends.
Additionally, an early ACT® or SAT® was solid preparation for taking these test in 11th grade as part o the college admissions process.
What's Available Now?
While Duke TIP in its original form may no longer exist, the Duke organization is continuing to provide related resources to advanced students. See our master list below.
There are other organizations that offer Talent Searches in which an SAT or ACT test score is used for admission into enrichment programs and for recognition ceremonies.
Center for Talented Youth (Johns Hopkins University)
Midwest Academic Talent Search (Northwestern University)
Center for Bright Kids (Western Academic Talent Search)
Each of these programs has rules and geographical restrictions which may determine the best fit for any one student but reaching out to them is a good start if you are seeking an Academic Talent Search opportunity for your student in middle school.
Taking SAT & ACT in Middle School
7th and 8th graders can still register for and take the SAT & ACT tests. For the SAT, you will need to register independently through the College Board. The Collegeboard states that any test scores from 7th and 8th grade administrations will be automatically removed from a students’ record aka score reports, so these scores are not reported when the student later applies to college.
Middle school student who are at least 13 years old will be able to signup online for the ACT school students can also take the ACT test. However, if a student is under the age of 13, you won’t be able to sign up online. Clicking here will download a PDF with info and instructions.
Prepping for Middle School SAT or ACT
You will not need to prep for a middle school SAT or ACT! However, you will want the student to be familiar with the test before they sit down for the real exam. The best way to do that is to use the test-maker's own material to review for 3-4 weeks before your test date. Such material is free of charge and widely distributed by various websites.
SAT Prep - https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/sat
ACT Prep- https://www.test-guide.com/free-act-practice-tests.html
Of course there are companies ready to sell you hours of prep for any standardized tests. Such prep is not only expensive but it often lowers scores due to demotivating the student. At the middle school level, the best prep is with a friend and possible a tutor. Just one hour every other day for 4 weeks is ideal. The student will feel comfortable walking into the exam and they will have reviewed all pertinent topics but they will not be burned out or frustrated by hours of prep for something that is completely optional at this stage.
Talent Search Resources & Other Middle School Academic Competitions
Whether your middle school student is measurably precocious or just wanting to explore, it is a very good ideal to seek out challenges outside of the classroom. From contest and competitions to mentorships to summer and day camps, what you do now will directly affect college admissions later. The list is too big to publish here but you can download the PDF and click on the links to learn more about the top ways to engage your middle school student while also preparing them for excelled academics and successful college admissions.
Download Resource PDF