The purpose of this study is to examine how children's starting level and development of social competence (i.e., task orientation and peer sociability) during kindergarten and first grade predict gifted program enrollment by third grade, even after considering children's cognitive ability. A second purpose is to examine the extent to which the relationship between children's social competence and gifted program enrollment differs depending on children's socioeconomic status (SES), ethnicity, and gender. Latent growth curve analyses conducted on 347 children revealed that students enrolled in gifted programming were not only those high in cognitive ability, but also those showing early task orientation. Neither peer sociability's initial status nor growth was a significant predictor of gifted enrollment. Multigroup comparisons demonstrated different predictive paths for higher versus lower SES groups. Implications are discussed including important questions raised by this study and the need for teacher training in the identification of giftedness. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.