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Spectrum main block 1

NEW for 2016!

Popular courses such as Non-Fiction Writing Honors, Persuasion & Debate, VEX® Robotics, and Introduction to Biomedicine are returning. New, exciting course offerings include Megagames: The Die is Cast and C++ Programming Intensive.


Application Process and Requirements

Applicants are encouraged to apply early, as many summer courses begin to fill and close as early as mid-March each year. Applications opened in MyCTD are processed and reviewed by program staff when they are completed by the applicant or applicant's family, beginning January 4, 2016. CTD considers an application complete when all necessary documentation to demonstrate eligibility and to satisfy course prerequisites (as necessary by course) has been provided online in the applicant's MyCTD account. Courses are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

You will need a credit card to open an application. We recommend that you prepare all necessary supporting documents (test scores, teacher recommendation, etc.) for the application in advance. Applicants will be emailed a confirmation that they have opened an application. The parent e-mail provided in the online application is the address to which CTD communications will be sent.

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. When an enrollment decision is made, the Program Coordinator will notify the applicant 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, and do not “hold a spot” in the desired course. Due to the volume of applications received, the review process may take longer in April, May, and June.

All applicants will submit through their MyCTD application:

  • Application
  • Current or most up-to-date transcript
  • Statement of purpose (approximately 50 words in which applicants explain their interest in a first-choice course)
  • Essay of approximately 250 words on the following topic:

"You can change your circumstances by changing your attitude." – Eleanor Roosevelt

All of us have to participate in activities and projects we do not enjoy or are certain we cannot accomplish. Changing our mindset can change our approach, and lead to success. In 250 words, describe a time you faced an obstacle you felt certain you could not handle, but then made a conscious effort to change the way you were approaching the situation. What exactly did you do to help you accomplish your goal?

Note: your statement of purpose and essay can be uploaded in the same document.

  • 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 due upon application submission in MyCTD); deposit does not hold a seat in the course

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 Spectrum must meet the minimum test score requirements as listed in the course description. The preferred documentation is an above-grade-level test score (EXPLORE® test taken in grade 5 or 6, if applying as a student in grade 7 or 8; ACT® or SAT® test taken in grades 6–9), taken within 2 years of application. Students from India, UAE, Kuwait or Singapore who have tested with ASSET Talent Search may be able to apply as new students with qualifying test scores. More information is available on CTD’s ASSET Talent Search page. 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 Spectrum 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 most applicable to 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 who successfully completed Enrichment Intensive courses (such as Solstice or Apogee courses) must apply as new students for Spectrum Credit Intensive courses. Grade 8 students who previously enrolled and successfully completed a CTD Spectrum course 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 qualfying test scores or an Admission Portfolio. Please see our Eligibility page for more information.

Deadlines and Course Availability

Applications opened through midnight, May 15 are charged the "through May 15" application fee. After May 15, the tuition fee increases by $100, and full tuition is due at the time of application. Applications close on June 10, and this is also the withdrawal deadline for full fee refunds (less the withdrawal processing fee of $60). Although CTD tries to accommodate late applications, enrollment may not be possible.

Applications are reviewed only after all supporting documents and information has been received. As of June 10, 2016, applications that remain incomplete will be deemed inactive, will not be reviewed, and no follow up contact will be made.

Applications are reviewed in the order received and completed by applicants or their families. 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.

Financial Aid Opportunities

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 was April 15, 2016. If you have already begun a financial aid application, but need to update or complete information, you may still log in to do this.

  • 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 10, 2016, unless arrangements have been made with CTD for a payment plan.

Technology Scholarship

Students with financial need applying to the following technology courses are eligible to apply for the Sandra Dennhardt Technology Scholarship:

  • Introduction to Java Programming Honors, HTML & CSS Honors, or C++ Programming Honors

To apply, complete the online application form. As part of the application, students must submit an "essay", conceived and developed by the student, explaining why they chose the course, what goal they hope to achieve by taking the course, and why they think developing technology skills like the ones learned in the course will be valuable for future courses or career choices. Essays may be in written form (e.g., approximately 250 word statement) or other media (e.g., 30–60 second audio, video).

If you are not applying for financial aid, parents/guardians must also submit a brief statement (a paragraph or two) describing the need for financial support.

The application deadline for this scholarship was April 15.

Payment Plan

A five-month payment plan is available. To apply, you must submit the payment plan application form available on our website. The payment plan application is due within 30 days of receiving your acceptance notification. The fee for using the payment plan is $50. Families that are eligible for financial aid will not be assessed the service charge for using the payment plan.

Reimbursement through a Flexible Spending Account

Parents with Flexible Spending Accounts may be eligible for tuition reimbursement (check with your accountant or tax preparer).


High academic standards and a diverse student body ensure that students learn not only from their teachers, but from one another as well. In 2015, more than 600 students participated in Spectrum, traveling from urban, suburban and rural communities in 28 states and 10 foreign countries. Many students return for a second and third summer, and more than 70% choose to reside on campus.


Some students attend Spectrum solely for academic enrichment, while others view Spectrum as an opportunity to complete a one-semester or full year high school honors-level course during a three-week session. Spectrum students enroll in one three-week course per session and may attend one or both 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, Spectrum 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, Spectrum students are required to bring a laptop or tablet. 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.

Spectrum residential students attend mandatory study sessions led by teaching assistants on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Commuter students are encouraged to participate in these study sessions and in afternoon activities. On study session evenings, commuters may stay for dinner for a per meal fee.

All students receive a final, narrative evaluation of their work. These evaluations provide feedback about achievement and performance in the course, student strengths, areas in need of further development, and student work habits and attitudes. Additionally, Spectrum teachers are available for parent conferences on the last day of each session.

CTD 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 a Spectrum honors credit-bearing 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 a Spectrum course should discuss this option with their academic counselor or school administrator before applying to Spectrum.

Campus Life

While academics are central at CTD, student life is also an important component of the program. Students develop life-long friendships, engage in recreational activities, and enjoy local events and resources while under the supervision of specially trained residential staff.

Residential students at Northwestern University live in a residence hall under the supervision of our exceptional residential staff. Male and female students are traditionally housed on separate floors or wings, and restrooms are also gender-specific. Students eat every meal with residential staff in a campus dining hall.

Spectrum students who prefer to reside at home while participating in the Summer Program may choose to commute. Commuter students are dropped off and picked up at a central location monitored by Summer Program staff.

Activities are an important part of the Spectrum experience, and they provide a healthy balance of work and play. After class, students may participate in a wide variety of activities. Favorites include swimming, playing Capture the Flag, participating in Ultimate Frisbee and soccer, and engaging in various arts and crafts. Quiet time is an option for those students who wish to study or relax with friends.

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 these shared activities, is just as important as that which occurs in class. For this reason, we encourage residential students to remain with the Spectrum program through the two interim weekends.

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-served basis. Due to renovation schedules, residence halls in use may not have air conditioning.


Students in Spectrum are required to bring a laptop or 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 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 Spectrum students. Our trained faculty and staff provide clear conduct guidelines and careful supervision. On-campus, Spectrum students must be with a buddy any time they leave the residence hall. Off-campus, a CTD staff member always accompanies Spectrum students. 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 includes detailed information about Summer Program rules and policies. These rules help ensure the safety of our students and staff, and all students 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. Application status is also reflected in MyCTD. Families will have access to enrolled student information, including required forms, family handbooks, packing lists, etc. in MyCTD in March. Families will receive information about Opening Day in the weeks just prior to the program's start date.

International Students

Because courses are taught in English, TOEFL (or TOEFL Jr. for grades 4–8) 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