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Equinox main block 1

NEW for 2016!

Popular course such as Astrophysics 101, Neuroscience Honors, and College Composition & Rhetoric are returning for 2016. New offerings include Digital Journalism; 21st Century Identities; and Waves, Fields & Particles: Quantum Mechanics to choose from. Our 5 week course offerings will expand to include a Build Your Own Computer course, which will confer a Computer Technician certificate to successful students.

2016 Course Catalog, full course descriptions, and all program details will be available mid-December. 


Partnership Courses 2016

Mobile Makers Academy Chicago will once again host Equinox students in a dev shop in River North, offering an eight-week iOS Bootcamp & Swift Development course in three weeks.

Our partnership with Windy City Lab, Arduino Microcontrollers in Robotics & The Internet of Things, returns for 2016.

Forms & Downloads:


Application Process

Applicants are encouraged to apply early, as many summer courses begin to fill and close as early as mid-March each year. Complete applications are reviewed as they are completed and received starting January 15. Courses are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Application Requirements

All Applicants will submit through their MyCTD application:

  • Application
  • Current or most up-to-date transcript
  • Statement of purpose (This is a brief statement—no more than 50 words—in which applicants explain their interest in a first-choice course)
  • Essay of approximately 250 words on the following topic:

"It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different."—Neil Gaiman

Describe a time when you wanted something significant to change in your life or in your world. What was it? What efforts did you undertake to change it and why? What did you learn from the experience?

  • Proof of prerequisite, if noted in course description (This is typically fulfilled with the prerequisite course’s inclusion on a report card, or another document issued by the student’s school. Prerequisite courses must be completed before the beginning of the Summer Program, but may be in progress when the student is applying to the course.)
  • Graded writing sample, if noted in the course description (This should be a piece of writing composed for a course the student is currently enrolled in, including the teacher’s grade and comments.)
  • Tuition deposit ($500.00 due upon application submission in MyCTD)

Please see Eligibility Requirements for New Scores, Recent Participant/Returning Student, and Admission Portfolio details for additional application requirements. 

Eligibility Requirements

New Students

Students enrolling in Equinox must meet the minimum test score requirements as listed in the course descriptions. The preferred documentation is an above-grade-level test score (e.g., ACT® or SAT® test taken in grades 7 through 9) taken within 2 years of application. For more information about test scores to submit, please see our Eligibility page.

Admission Portfolio

Students who do not have test scores to submit as part of their application, or whose scores do not meet the minimum requirement may still apply to the Equinox program with an Admission Portfolio application, which includes:
  • Copy of test scores if available (Above-grade-level or grade-level)
  • Transcript (Most current available)
  • Two teacher recommendations (one must be from current year teacher in subject of course student is applying to attend)


Some courses require that students complete prerequisites in order to qualify for admission. Prerequisites are listed at the beginning of each course description. Any student applying to a course with a prerequisite must submit a report card, letter or transcript showing that the prerequisite has been met.

Returning Students

Students previously enrolled and successful in a Center for Talent Development (CTD) Spectrum or Equinox course within the last two years are eligible to re-enroll if they are now applying for a course in the same area of demonstrated strength. Returning students who wish to take a class in a discipline different from that which they initially qualified must submit new test scores or an Admission Portfolio.
Please note: Students moving from the Saturday Enrichment Program or Gifted LearningLinks may not apply as returning students. Previous courses taken in the Saturday Enrichment Program or the GLL program may be submitted as the prerequisite for the applied for course if appropriate. Please see our Eligibility page for more information.

Application Review Process

Once the summer program office receives a completed application (which means all supporting materials have been received), it is forwarded to the appropriate Program Coordinator for review. Once an enrollment decision is made, the program coordinator will notify the applicant via e-mail using the primary email address provided in the application. The process takes approximately four weeks from the time a completed application is received. Incomplete applications are
not reviewed. Incomplete applications do not “hold a spot” in the desired course. Due to the volume of applications, the review process may take longer in April, May, and June.

Course Availability

Applications are reviewed in the order received when complete. A course listed as available on the website at the time an application is submitted may be filled before that application is processed due to the queue of applications awaiting processing.


Applications submitted through midnight, April 15, 2015 are charged the early application fee. Applications submitted after April 15, 2014 are charged the regular application fee. Note that applications close on June 8, 2015, and this is also the withdrawal deadline for full fee refunds (minus the withdrawal processing fee). Although CTD tries to accommodate late applications, enrollment may not be possible. Please be sure to complete the application online, including all supporting materials, as applications are reviewed only after all supporting documents and information has been received. As of June 8, 2015, applications that remain incomplete will be deemed inactive, will not be reviewed and no follow up contact will be made.

Financial Aid Opportunities

Financial aid for the 2015 Summer Program is no longer available.
CTD offers need-based financial aid, awarded as requests are received, starting in January.  Families are encouraged to apply early as the amount of aid available is limited. The Financial Aid application deadline is April 15, 2015.
  • The amount of financial aid awarded varies from partial to full tuition, and awards are based on family income and extenuating circumstances (e.g., loss of job, unforeseen medical expenses, etc.). Most families awarded aid have a total household income of less than $50,000.
  • Financial aid is awarded for one program and one session per child.
  • To be considered for financial aid, families must complete the Financial Aid Application, available once a family has applied through the online application. All supporting materials (tax information, statement of need, etc.) must be included in the financial aid submission in order for an application for financial aid to be considered.
  • The amount of financial aid granted and the balance due are reflected on an invoice included in program acceptance materials. Any outstanding balance must be paid by June 8, 2015, unless arrangements have been made with CTD for a payment plan.
  • For students enrolling in 3-week program computer technology courses (e.g., Programming in Python, Java, HTML/CSS etc.), two need-based scholarship opportunities exist: The Sandra Dennhardt Scholarship and the Gary Greenberg Scholarship. The application deadline for these scholarships is April 15.


High academic standards and a diverse student body ensure that students learn from their instructors and one another. In 2014, more than 500 students participated in Equinox, traveling to campus from urban, suburban and rural settings across the country and around the world. Each year, many students choose to return for a second or third summer, and 80-85% choose to reside on campus to experience a true college environment.

Some students attend Equinox for academic enrichment, while other participants view it as an opportunity to complete a one-semester or one-year course during a three-week session.  Equinox students enroll in one course per three-week session (or one AP science course for a full five weeks) and may attend one or two sessions each summer. Classes meet for five hours a day, five days a week. All courses require several hours of homework daily. In order to maximize personal attention, Equinox courses are generally limited to 18 students per class. Master-level instructors emphasize an approach to teaching that underscores student strengths and encourages high achievement.
To enhance and complement classroom activities, and make class and homework more productive, Equinox students are required to bring a laptop or tablet to the program. Residential students in writing-heavy courses are also encouraged to bring a small, portable printer, as access to printers is extremely limited in the residence halls. Some courses require laptops (instead of a tablet) – please read specific course descriptions for more information.
In the Equinox program, students live with their course cohort and RTA.  The Residential Teaching Assistant offers academic help in addition to guidance for living in the Equinox community. The intentional integration of academic and residential life offers maximum support and homework assistance that is right next door.  
All students receive a narrative evaluation of their work. These evaluations provide individualized feedback about student work habits, attitudes, and performance, their strengths and areas for growth. Additionally, Equinox teachers are available for parent conferences on the last day of each session.

Center for Talent Development is accredited through North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI). Students may earn credit for successfully completed honors courses. All students who complete an Equinox course with a grade of C- or better may be eligible for either one or two semesters of high school credit.

Acceptance of credit(s) at a student’s academic year school depends on that school’s institutional policy concerning the recognition of credit from outside institutions. Students who wish to receive credit from their home school for an Equinox course should discuss this option with their academic counselor or school administrator before applying to Equinox.

Campus Life

While academics are a central focus at CTD, student life is also a primary focus of the program. Students develop life-long friendships, engage in recreational activities, and enjoy local events and resources under the supervision of exceptional residential staff.

Living and learning together 24 hours a day, seven days a week builds a camaraderie rarely experienced before college. Bonding over late-night study sessions, early-morning runs to the beach and weekend trips into the city do more than foster friendships – they build community and an increased awareness of the cultures, issues and assets of the world at large.    

Residential students are assigned housing based on the course they take. They live with classmates in a Northwestern University residence hall under the supervision of trained residential teaching staff.  Male and female students share floors, but they have separate rooms and bathrooms. Students eat with residential staff and other members of the University community in a residence hall dining room.

Equinox students who prefer to reside at home while participating in the Summer Program may choose to commute. Lunch is provided to all Equinox commuter students. Commuter students and residents take the same courses and are responsible for the same assignments. Commuter students can be dropped off and picked up at a campus location convenient to their family; they may take a train or drive to campus themselves and go directly to class. Staff does not monitor commuter drop-off and pick-up.

Activities are an important part of the Equinox experience, and they provide a healthy balance of work and play. After class, students may participate in a variety of afternoon and evening activities. Favorites include the beach, playing capture the flag, joining pick-up soccer games, and trips to local museums and concert venues. Equinox students can also sign out for walking trips to downtown Evanston with friends. Students have plenty of self-directed time to fill with study, friends, and downtime, as well as social activities that promote community living and creating new, lasting friendships.

For residential students, the weekend finds students enjoying a broad range of activities, such as social dances, off- and on-campus movies, museums, and talent shows. The learning that occurs outside of class through casual conversation and shared experiences is just as important the knowledge gained in class. For this reason, we encourage residential students to remain on campus during the two interim weekends.

Note for 2015: RESIDENCE HALL AVAILABILITY Northwestern University is undergoing a major renovation project involving all of the residence halls on the Evanston campus for the next several years. While CTD strives to provide space for all students who wish to reside with us on campus, available rooms may be limited, and will be provided on a first come, first serve basis. Due to renovation schedules, residence halls in use may not have air conditioning.


Students in Equinox are required to bring a laptop of tablet with word processing software and the ability to connect to the Internet. Courses in these programs make frequent use of technology. A portable printer is helpful for students in writing and humanities courses. Some courses require a laptop (instead of a tablet). See course descriptions for details.
Because of the short duration of our programs, neither CTD nor Northwestern University provides technical support, including e-mail or Internet accounts, for personal computers. Students are given access to the Northwestern Guest wireless network on campus after arrival and orientation.

Safety & Conduct

The goal of the CTD’s Summer Program is to foster intellectual and social growth in a safe and engaging environment. We take every reasonable step to ensure the safety of Equinox students. Our trained faculty and staff teams provide clear conduct guidelines and strategic supervision.

CTD staff members accompany Equinox residential students for most off-campus activities. Students may sign out of the residence hall with a buddy during two daily activity periods. Students must remain within the community boundaries set by CTD when signed out.

Additionally, all students are coached in safety procedures, including using emergency phones on campus if necessary and dialing the emergency phone numbers printed on the back of student identification cards which students carry with them at all times. In order to maintain a safe and inviting learning environment, all Summer Program participants must adhere to the CTD Honor Code. The Honor Code establishes standards and expectations for student behavior and reflects CTD’s commitment to fostering character development, integrity and respect for diversity.

The Family Handbook (provided upon enrollment acceptance) includes detailed information about the CTD Honor Code and additional Summer Program rules and policies. These rules help to ensure the safety of our students and staff, and all students who attend must be committed to respecting them.

Program Orientation

When a student is accepted into the program, the family will receive an acceptance email detailing next steps. Families all receive a link to our enrolled students information page (including family handbooks, packing lists, etc.), as well as information about our online health information system. Families will also receive information about Opening Day, and other opportunities to connect with our staff before the start of the program.

International Students

Because courses are taught in English, TOEFL or IELTS scores are required of students for whom English is not the first language to assess proficiency and assist in course placement. Please see the International Students Page for more information.

The CTD Summer Program has been identified, by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and Northwestern University, as an academic program, which requires a student visa for any non-U.S. citizen/permanent resident. Any admitted student who is not a U.S. citizen, U.S. permanent resident, or in another visa category, which allows for study, requires sponsorship for a student visa. Please see the International Students Page for more information.

Copyright 2014 Northwestern University Center for Talent Development