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What Is the Duke University Summer Program for Middle School Students?


After canceling their summer residential programs in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic, Duke has officially announced that they’ve permanently canceled their TIP program. 

To take its place, Duke has created the middle school pre-college program! This program is brand new in 2022, and it’s designed to help middle school students get a jumpstart on their college prep. 

Since the Duke University middle school program is brand new, we’ll go through everything you  need to know about what it is, how to apply, and the benefits you’ll receive as a participant. We’ll cover: 

  • How the Duke pre-college programs changed, and how the new Duke summer programs are different from the old Duke Tip program
  • If Duke University middle school program is still used to identify and enrich talented students
  • What you should consider before applying to the Duke pre-college program for middle schoolers 
  • How to apply to the Duke middle school program 

Read on to find out everything you need to know about the new system!




Duke Middle School Pre-College Program vs. The Duke TIP Program

Formerly known as the Duke TIP program, the Duke University middle school program has gone through a major overhaul.

Duke TIP–aka the Talent Identification Program–was established in 1980 to identify academically gifted middle school students. Through TIP’s 7th Grade Talent Search, students were signed up to take the Pre-SAT or SAT. 

One goal was to help students prepare for college by giving them experience with the testing process. Taking part in TIP was also a requirement for attending Duke summer programs, taking their eStudies courses, and participating in their Scholar Weekends. The highest scorers also were awarded medals (not to mention bragging rights) at a year-end awards ceremony.

All of that is now a thing of the past. So, what’s different about Duke pre-college programs now? Does Duke Pre-College require standardized test scores like it did when it was TIP? We’ve listed the key differences and similarities below.


The Differences Between Duke TIP and Duke University Pre-College Programs

First, we’ll start with the obvious here: the name is different. 

Duke pre-college programs were all part of the TIP program. Now all of Duke’s offerings for middle and high school students are housed in their Continuing Studies department and rebranded as the Duke Pre-College Middle School Program and the Duke Pre-College High School Program respectively. 

Second, the Duke University middle school program has been stripped down. This could just be due to the fact that 2022 is the first year that the new Duke pre-college programs exist, but currently students in 6th through 8th grade only have the option to take part in Duke summer programs. For 2022, these consist of three two-week sessions of living on campus and taking classes in a variety of subjects (more on these later). EStudies courses and Scholar Weekends are not available for middle schoolers at this time. 

Finally, and this is the big one, Duke is no longer using standardized test scores to identify “talent.” This means that taking part in Duke summer programs is not dependent on how high you score on the Pre-SAT/SAT or ACT. 


The Similarities Between Duke TIP and Duke University Pre-College Programs

First of all, Duke pre-college programs are still intended for talented and dedicated students. According to their December 2021 press release, Duke has said that they are “eager to expand [their] definition of ‘talented’ to maximize access to [their] signature academic rigor and to strengthen [their] growing community.” 

Unfortunately, since the new Duke summer programs are still in their infancy, their new definition of “talented” is still a bit unclear. So if you’re interested in taking part in their programs, the best thing you can do to show your talent is to send in an outstanding application!

Second, Duke summer programs for middle-schoolers are still designed to prepare students for high school and college. The goal is to provide challenging coursework that allows students to continue exploring their academic interests during the summer months. More importantly, this coursework is more rigorous than what’s offered at most middle schools, which allows students to potentially develop their skills beyond their standard grade level.

Finally, the residential programs work the same way as before. Students choose a course they’re interested in, and are taught by Duke faculty and grad students on campus. For two weeks you live in a dorm, take classes, and experience what it’s like to be a college student. 




Why You Should Consider Attending Duke Pre-College Programs

Whether your goal is to get a jump-start on college prep or you just want to learn more about a subject you’re interested in, attending a summer program at Duke could be a good idea for you. But if you're still on the fence about whether or not to apply, here are some of the reasons you might want to go.


You’ll Be Challenged

Duke summer programs involve two weeks of intensive learning in a subject of your choice. If you enjoy stepping out of your academic comfort zone and deep-diving into topics you may not get a chance to explore in school, you might love this experience.


You’ll Make Connections

Not only will you get to know teachers at Duke who may be able to write recommendation letters for you when it’s time to apply to college, you’ll also have the chance to make friends with students who share your academic interests!


You’ll Build Your Academic Resume

One way to impress colleges is to show them that you’re eager to learn, serious about your academics, and willing to put in the time and effort it takes to succeed. Attending Duke’s pre-college program can be added to your resume, which can be helpful if you’re applying for internships, academic programs, or even jobs while in high school. 


The 2022 Duke Pre-College Middle School Program

As of 2022, students have three session options to choose from:

  • Middle School Session 1 (June 19th-July 1st, 2022)
  • Middle School Session 2 (July 3rd-July 15th, 2022)
  • Middle School Session 3 (July 17th-July 29th, 2022)
Each session is available to 6th to 8th graders living in the United States. Students can choose one course per session they apply to (if you want to take more than one course, you’ll have to attend more than one session). Courses are offered in:

Keep in mind that specific topics vary year by year. For 2022, topics include “Mastering the 60 Second Documentary” (Technology), “Astrophysics” (Science), “Cryptography” (Math), “Audio Engineering” (Engineering), and more. 

Each subject area offers between one to four different class topics this summer, so check the links above for more information about each possible class you could take.




How to Apply Duke University Middle School Pre-College Programs

Applying for a spot in one of these residential programs is a bit easier than it was in previous years since you no longer have to take a standardized test first. Having said that, you’ll still need to do a few basic things:


Step 1: Fill Out the Online Application for Your Specific Class

From the Duke Pre-College Middle School Program main page, click on the subject area you’re interested in (such as Engineering or Social Science) from the drop-down menu on the left. This will take you to a list of the specific course topics offered in that subject. 

Click on the topic you want to study (such as Audio Engineering), and you’ll see an “Apply Now” button in the upper right corner of your screen. Clicking that will take you to the appropriate application.


Step 2: Upload Your Most Recent Report Card

The middle school program also allows you to submit “grading reports” as long as your name and your school’s name are on the document. 


Step 3: Upload a Personal Statement

This statement should describe why you are “uniquely qualified and interested in the course for which you are applying.” Be sure to check out our guide to writing a personal statement if you’re not sure how to tackle this part of your application!


Step 4: Pay the Non-Refundable Application Fee

As of 2022, the Duke Pre-College Program application fee is $75. If you’re applying to more than one session/course, you only have to pay this fee once.

Once Duke receives all of your application materials, they’ll contact you with a decision within two weeks. If you’re accepted to the program, you’ll just need to pay the program fee and get ready to attend!




3 Tips for Applying to Duke University’s Middle School Programs

If you’ve decided that you want to apply to participate in one of Duke’s summer residential programs for middle school students, you’ll need to show them that you have the talent and drive to succeed! Good grades are important, but what else can you do to prove yourself? Below are our top three tips to maximize your chances of being selected.


Tip 1: Apply Early

Applications for Duke’s summer programs are accepted on a rolling basis. That means that they’ll start accepting students as soon as their application period opens. They’ll continue to accept students until the application period closes or until the program spots fill up. Because spots are limited and may fill up quickly, you have the best chance of getting chosen if you send in your application as soon as possible!


Tip 2: Research Good Personal Statements

Your personal statement is your chance to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Lots of students get good grades, so this statement is going to be the primary way that Duke will know whether or not you’re a good candidate for their program. They want to know why you’re specially qualified to take part, and why you’re interested in attending.

In a nutshell though, you want to make sure your statement demonstrates your strengths as a student, and provides lots of specific details and anecdotes to prove it!


Tip 3: Edit, Edit, and Edit Some More

This tip is also about your personal statement (seriously, it’s THAT important). Avoid the temptation to just write one draft of your personal statement and send it out immediately. Take your time, and edit carefully. Your statement should be free of grammatical errors, well-organized, and full of only the best possible details. 

The good news is that you don’t have to do this alone. Ask a trusted teacher, counselor, or advisor (or even a parent or family member) to read through your statement and provide feedback on how you can make it even better. 

Taking the time to really hone your writing shows that you’re a serious student who is ready for the opportunities Duke’s programs provide. 




What’s Next?

If you’re applying to a Duke Pre-College Program, you’ll need to submit an awesome personal statement. Our explanation of everything you need to know about personal statements will help you whip yours into shape.

If you’re not sure what makes a personal statement great, it can be helpful to read through other students’ essays and statements first. Here’s a list of 145 sample essays that have impressed top colleges and universities in previous years.

The Duke Pre-College programs no longer require standardized tests, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should put off taking the ACT or SAT! We’ll walk you through deciding whether you should take the ACT or SAT as a middle schooler or not. 



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Ashley Robinson
About the Author

Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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