Five hundred of the state's smartest seventh-graders will descend on Kansas University at 1 p.m. Sunday for Duke University's Talent Identification Program awards.
It will be the first time many of the youngsters set foot on KU grounds, and administrators hope it won't be the last.
"These are students who will be National Merit and high-ability scholars five years from now," said KU Associate Provost Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett. "We are very interested in having them come to campus; we'd be happy to have all of them attend KU."
TIP is a 20-year-old program that seeks out seventh-graders who score in the top fifth percentile on national standardized tests.
Students who participate take a college entrance exam the SAT or ACT and those who score highest are bestowed with state or grand honors.
Students receiving state recognition must score at least 510 of a possible 800 on the SAT math or verbal assessments. To receive grand recognition, students have to score 650 or better.
TIP awards students in 16 states throughout the Southeast, Midwest and Southwest. In Kansas, 2,499 students have participated in testing. Of those, 946 qualified for state recognition and 74 received grand recognition. Lawrence boasts 41 state scholars and three grand scholars.
Joy Baldwin, director of TIP identification and support services, said the goal of the program is to offer gifted students encouragement and resources.
"The talent search enables students to have an academic network," she said. "We keep in contact with them through their 10th-grade year."
Although the students are young mostly 12 and 13 years old many are already thinking about college, McCluskey-Fawcett said.
"There are maturational differences, but most of the students at these awards are quite interested even though college is a ways off for them," she said. "At least, the parents are certainly interested."
Deanell Tacha, KU alumna and chief judge of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, will deliver the Kansas ceremony's keynote address.
"She (Tacha) is a Kansan," McCluskey-Fawcett said. "We are really trying to put an emphasis on Kansas students that they can go as far as they want to go."