Master Core Subjects at an Advanced Level
CTD’s Online Core Essentials courses are designed to help students master essential subject-area content at a more advanced level than typically available at their grade level in school. These flexibly paced, 9-week courses are facilitated by supportive instructors who provide personalized feedback. Courses allow for academic acceleration, provide activities that encourage autonomous learning, and provide foundational, subject-area skills.
Why Choose Online Core Essentials Courses?
Core Essentials courses provide a deep dive into math, science, and English & Language Arts topics. Curriculum is designed for the online classroom with bright learners in mind. Courses have weekly requirements and students are free to engage in course work each week as their schedules allow.
- Flexibly-paced course work that offers less repetition and allows students to explore big ideas and engage in higher-level thinking and conversation with classmates
- Personalized guidance and feedback from instructors
- The ability to accelerate through standards-aligned curriculum
In addition to Core Essentials courses, CTD offers a diverse range of online program options; view a full list here.
The Online Core Essentials Program welcomes applications from returning applicants as well as new score and portfolio applicants. Before beginning the online application at my.ctd.northwestern.edu, determine which type of applicant you are based on the descriptions below.
Pre-qualifed Review Applicant
You are a pre-qualified review applicant if you are grade 3 through grade 9 and you meet both of the following criteria:
- You have successfully completed a CTD course through the Weekend Enrichment Program, Summer Program or Online Program at the Emerald Tier, or a tier with a higher score requirement, within the previous twenty-four months.
- You are applying for a course with the same qualifying subject area (Verbal or Math) of a CTD course you previously completed.
New Scores Applicant
You are a new scores applicant if you are in grade 3 through grade 9 and you meet one of the following criteria:
- You have not attended any CTD program for the past two years and you have qualifying grade-level test scores (Verbal or Math) for your desired course that are no more than two years old.
- You have previously attended a course with the Weekend Enrichment Program, Summer Program, or CTD Online Program, but you are now applying for a course with a different qualifying subject area (Verbal or Math) and you have qualifying grade-level test scores.
- You have participated in above grade-level testing such as the PSAT™8/9 test taken in grades 3, 4, 5, or 6 or the ACT® or SAT® test taken in grades 6, 7, or 8 (NUMATS).
New Portfolio Applicant
You are a portfolio applicant if you are in grade 3 through grade 9 and you do not have qualifying test scores because you have either:
- never taken a nationally normed standardized achievement test, OR
- taken this type of test but not achieved a qualifying score.
An Admission Portfolio includes the following documents:
- Required: one teacher recommendation form (available once you have submitted your application) indicating that the student is performing 1½ to 2 years above grade level in the subject area of the course to which the student is applying;
- Required: most recent school report card indicating exceptional performance in the subject area of the course to which the student is applying;
- If available: most recent standardized testing report (e.g. NWEA/MAP) or results of a state grade-level assessment.
CTD Online Core Essentials courses are at the Emerald Tier for eligibility. To qualify for Emerald Tier courses, students must be in grade 3 through grade 9 and must also provide one of the following:
- Achievement of a score of 90th percentile or higher on a nationally normed grade-level assessment in the required qualifying subject area (Verbal or Math) for the desired course; OR
- Successful completion of a CTD course, with the same qualifying subject area within the past two years; OR
- Submission of a portfolio application, consisting of a teacher recommendation (available after submitting the application) and the student’s most recent report card, demonstrating that the student is performing exceptionally well in the qualifying subject area.
A small number of Core Essentials courses may have prerequisites. Please read individual course descriptions carefully for more information.
For families looking for insights into student learning or interested in assessment for program eligibility (test scores are valid for 2 years for CTD programs), Center for Talent Development offers REMOTE assessment using MAP. Because of the requirements of remote testing, there are limited dates and times available. Registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Learn more.
Requests for Grade Advancement/Acceleration
CTD course content is advanced or grade-level accelerated, as reflected in course descriptions and the standard admission requirements. Though course content is advanced, students can engage with intellectual peers who are also age- or grade-level peers. Therefore, most students should apply for courses aligned to the grade-level in which they are currently enrolled. Still, for some students demonstrating a need for an even higher level of instruction than CTD’s advanced and accelerated courses already provide, further acceleration may be an option. Visit the Requesting an Accelerated Placement web page for more information about the process, timeline, and required materials.
Tuition increases by $25 after the Early Bird rate deadline dates:
- Summer: June 4
Please see CTD's withdrawal and refund information for policies.
CTD offers need-based financial aid awarded as requests are received. Families are encouraged to apply early because the amount of aid available is limited. Please see the Financial Aid page for details.
- The deadline to complete a financial aid application is two weeks prior to the start date of the class.
- You will receive the FACTS application link in your application confirmation email once the $60 dollar tuition deposit is paid and the application is submitted.
- It is imperative that you complete the financial aid application as soon as possible as it may take FACTS up to ten days to process your information.
- If you previously completed a FACTS application for the 2019-2020 academic year for CTD, you must still attach the 2020-2021 FACTS application to your FACTS account. You will be able to link your FACTS account to this new FACTS information. You may need to update financial information.
- If you experience difficulties with the FACTS process please call the FACTS helpline at 866/412-4637.
Students in Online Core Essentials courses should expect to spend 2-5 hours per week engaged in course activities. Students have flexibility in terms of when they complete course work, and instructors provide weekly pacing guides to help students stay on track with course material. Students’ ability to manage their time and adjust their efforts accordingly are keys to success in the program.
Some Core Essentials students participate in their courses at home, while others learn online in a school setting (such as a computer lab, media center, gifted resource room, or study hall) where Core Essentials courses serve as alternatives to traditional study.
Students will be engaged in academically stimulating and engaging activities designed to develop higher-level thinking skills. A student should have a keen interest in the subject, be eager to work through academic challenges, and have a desire to learn in an online platform.
Our dedicated instructors will initiate and guide online discussions, and students should possess effective communication skills, including comfort in asking clarifying questions, and be willing to contribute to written discussion posts and complete assignments.
Core Essentials courses offer two live online class sessions during the course. Instructors make every effort to schedule real-time class sessions around students’ busy schedules, and class sessions are recorded for later viewing if a student is not able to attend.
Schoology, the learning management system used by CTD, is a user-friendly platform designed specifically for K-12 online learners, and is COPPA compliant.
Students will receive login information to Schoology via e-mail 12-24 hours before the course start date.
With their login information, students will receive information about a live, online orientation for all new Online Program students. (Returning students are also welcome to repeat the orientation.) The orientation will be recorded for students to view at a later time, if desired.
Access to course material, including instructor contact information, syllabi, and assignments, begins on the course start date.
The course acceptance notification email will contain a link to CTD’s online bookstore, where students can find textbook requirements (if applicable) for their course.
Textbooks can be purchased from CTD’s online bookstore, or from another vendor of choice. The use of a textbook varies by course, and not all online courses require one.
Textbook and supply costs (i.e. lab kits, if applicable) are not included in course fees.
All students receive an evaluation after completion of the course. The evaluation provides feedback on the student’s mastery of course content, ability to navigate the online course environment, and future course recommendations. An e-mail notification will be sent when the evaluation is available for access via MyCTD.
All course work and communication (including instructor contact information, the course syllabus, and assignments) take place within the Schoology course site. Schoology can be accessed on a desktop or laptop computer, or with the Schoology mobile app for iOS or Android tablets and phones. While tablets may be sufficient for most course work, some web tools and/or websites may require the use of a computer.
Students need access to a stable internet connection and updated web browser.
Participation in “live” course activities or multimedia recordings may require a computer web camera, microphone or headset.
See Frequently Asked Questions about Online Program courses.
- For questions regarding Online Program admissions and financial aid, please contact:
- For questions about current Online Program enrollments, please contact:
- For questions about school partnerships with Online Programs, please contact: