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What is the Davidson Institute?

Gifted Programs

What is the Davidson Institute and how does your organization help gifted people?

The Davidson Institute is a non-profit that serves profoundly gifted young people between the ages of 5 and 18. The gifted students we serve are those who score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ and achievement tests. Our gifted programs help ensure that our nation’s gifted youth have the opportunity to excel in a supportive environment where they can truly be themselves. You can think of the Davidson Institute as the larger umbrella that houses several other programs like our scholarship, summer camps, online courses, and online parenting support. Our main programs and services include:

  • Young Scholars: A free source of resources, educational webinars, online community, and professional support for families with a profoundly intelligent child between the ages of 5 and 18.
  • Explore: Explore courses online are available to qualified gifted students, ages 9-13, to enrich their education by taking advanced middle school courses adapted from the Davidson Academy’s rigorous curriculum.
  • Summer Programs: STARS (for ages 8-11), REACH (for ages 11-13), and THINK (for ages 13-16) are residential summer programs focused on supporting the academic and social needs of gifted students.
  • Fellows: Our Fellows scholarships recognize young people 18 and under for completing a significant project in the categories of math, science, technology, engineering, medicine, music, literature, and philosophy that has the potential to make a positive contribution to society.

Our sister organizations, the Davidson Academy in Reno and the Davidson Academy Online, are two schools started by the Davidsons where students are grouped by ability rather than age, offering a unique gifted high school experience.

We also provide information throughout our website to help guide families through the journey of raising a gifted child such as our Prospective Families pages, which include information about gifted identification, educational options, and social-emotional development. We also have many additional articles on giftedness and twice-exceptional students in our Resource Library.

How does your organization work?

The Davidson Institute operates as a 501(c)3 non-profit. While our offices and in-person events are in Reno, Nevada, many of our services are available to families across the country online. Our mission is to recognize the nation’s profoundly gifted youth and support them academically, socially, and emotionally, so they may reach their highest potential. It is our hope that there are no limits to what our brightest youth can achieve. We operate all our programs and services off our core values. Our core values are:

  • Resilience
  • Leadership
  • Curiosity
  • Stewardship
  • Courage
  • Partnership
  • Intelligence

What motivated the creation of the Davidson Institute?

In 2000 former educational software entrepreneurs, the Davidsons, founded the Davidson Institute out of a concern that our nation’s most gifted and talented young people are largely neglected and underserved. In their book, Genius Denied, the Davidsons describe the “quiet crisis” in education: gifted students spending their days in classrooms learning little beyond how to cope with boredom as they “relearn” material they’ve already mastered years before. This lack of challenge leads to frustration, underachievement, and even failure. Some gifted students become severely depressed. There are thousands of highly gifted children in the U.S. and millions more whose intelligence is above average, yet few receive the education they deserve. Many school districts have no gifted programs or offer only token enrichment classes. The Davidson Institute and its many programs aim to support gifted students, their parents, and educators to help nurture their talents and passions.

Our first pilot program was the Davidson Young Scholars, which aimed to provide support and a place of community for profoundly gifted children. In 2005, the Davidsons worked to pass Nevada state legislation to open a new kind of public school for profoundly gifted middle and high school students on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, called the Davidson Academy. In 2017, the Academy launched an online option to serve profoundly gifted students living anywhere in the United States and Canada. During this time, we’ve also launched several summer programs and our Fellows Scholarship, as well as produced numerous resources to help guide families with gifted children.

How does the Davidson Institute determine their criteria for profoundly gifted students?

The Davidson Institute is dedicated to serving and supporting the families of young people whose IQ score is at least three standard deviations above the mean IQ score of 100. While gifted children are under-served in general, students on the extreme end of the gifted continuum face unique challenges that often go unrecognized by the general population. Given that research in fields related to giftedness, neurodiversity, and intelligence testing are ever evolving, we know that the terms or labels associated with giftedness are not necessarily universally agreed upon and are subject to change as these fields advance. As an organization, we continue to work to be as inclusive as possible, recognizing that every child is more than a test score and that giftedness can take myriad forms, which are often asynchronous in their development.

We review our eligibility and testing requirements regularly. In determining program eligibility requirements, the Applications Team works closely with leading neuropsychologists in the gifted field to set testing requirements that will help us to best identify the gifted young people who would benefit from our program. Our eligibility requirements are also set with the goals of our program and the services we are able to offer in mind.

How do I get in touch with the Davidson Institute for more information about their programs or with questions?

Please use our Contact Us page to submit inquiries or find the email address of the specific program you are interested in applying for – we’d love to hear from you!


Grace Niu

I have two boys, one is 11 year old and the other is 9 year old. I am very interested at your programs and want to know more!

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Please note, the Davidson Institute is a non-profit serving families with highly gifted children. We will not post comments that are considered soliciting, mention illicit topics, or share highly personal information.

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