AWE is coming to a town near YOU!

Scroll down to see what courses are being offered in the coming months in the Midwest and on the West Coast! 


Application Process

AWE welcomes applications from new applicants, returning applicants and portfolio applicants. When beginning the application process, click on the applicant type, best suited to you based on the descriptions below.

New Applicant
You are a new applicant if you are in grade 3 through grade 8 and you meet either one of the following criteria:

  • You have never attended any Center for Talent Development program and you have qualifying test scores (see eligibility section below) that are no more than two years old.
  • You have previously attended a Weekend Enrichment Program, Gifted LearningLinks Program or the Summer Program, but you are now applying for a course in a different subject area and you have qualifying test scores.

Returning/Recent Applicant
You are a returning applicant if you are in grade 3 through grade 8 and you meet both of the following criteria:

  • Within the last two years, you have successfully completed a Center for Talent Development (CTD) course through the Saturday Enrichment Program, Summer Program or Gifted LearningLinks Program.
  • You are now applying for an AWE course in the same subject area of the CTD course you previously completed and wish to use your old scores as evidence of your qualifications for the program. 

Portfolio Applicant
You are a portfolio applicant if you are in grade 3 through grade 8 and you meet the following criterion:

  • You do not have qualifying test scores because you have either 1) never taken a nationally normed standardized achievement test or 2) taken this type of test but not achieved a qualifying test score (see eligibility section below). 


To qualify for AWE admission, students must be enrolled in grades 3 through 8 (depending on the course) and provide evidence of one of the following:

  • Within the last two years, successful completion of a Center for Talent Development Saturday Enrichment Program, Gifted LearningLinks or Summer Program course in the subject area of the AWE course to which the student is applying;
  • Within the last two years, a national percentile score at the 90th percentile or above on a nationally normed standardized test in the subject area of the AWE course to which the student is applying;
  • Participation in above-grade-level testing such as the EXPLORE® test taken in grades 3, 4, 5 or 6 or the ACT® or SAT® in grade 6, 7, 8 or 9 (NUMATS); or
  • Submission of an Admission Portfolio.

Admission Portfolio
An Admission Portfolio includes the following documents:

  • Required: one teacher recommendation form indicating the student is performing 1½ to 2 years above grade level in the subject area of the AWE course to which the student is applying;
  • Required: recent school report card indicating exceptional performance in the subject area of the AWE course to which the student is applying;
  • If available: most recent state testing report; any results of EXPLORE®, ACT®, SAT® or other nationally normed test

Homeschooler Admission Portfolio
A Homeschooler Admission Portfolio includes:

  • Two teacher recommendations forms  from adults unrelated to the applicant; and
  • Parent’s statement describing the student’s learning in the appropriate academic area over the past year, including references to curriculum, books, projects and activities.

Additionally, the Homeschooler Admission Portfolio may include any or all of the following, depending on availability:

  • Copies of the student’s best work in the appropriate academic area;
  • Copies of teacher evaluations from any classes taken from umbrella schools, co-ops, etc.;
  • Copies of any available standardized test reports taken in the last 24 months;
  • Copy of transcript or grade report for current academic year (Please indicate if this was produced by a parent); and
  • Any other information that might provide insight into the student’s academic strengths and help us place him/her in the appropriate course.

Acceptable Tests for AWE Eligibility
To prove eligibility, applicants may submit one of the following tests taken within the last two years demonstrating a score in the 90th percentile or above (National Percentile Rank):

  • EXPLORE®, ACT® or SAT® Test
  • Stanford Achievement Test
  • Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)
  • Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT)
  • Terra Nova Test
  • ERB Tests: Comprehensive Testing Program, Independent School Entrance Exam
  • Northwest Evaluation Association Tests (NWEA): Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), MAP for Primary Grades
  • Otis-Lennon Test
  • Kaufman Test of Education Achievement (KTEA)
  • Weschler Tests: WPPSI, WISC, WIAT
  • Woodcock-Johnson Test
  • Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT)
  • California Achievement Test
  • PSAT®
  • Any other achievement test with a National Percentile Rank (NPR %)
  • PARCC Test Update: Because new data is available on the validity and reliability of PARCC tests, CTD will now accept PARCC scores for admission to some programs. PARCC scores in the Exceeds category (Math or English/Language Arts) may be used to qualify for enrichment programming that requires a grade-level achievement score at the 90th percentile or 95th percentile.

Financial Aid Opportunities

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.

  • 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.

Course Environment & Locations

The AWE program is offered in locations throughout the Midwest for students in grades 3 through 8. Since sites have many attractions nearby, parents and family members can pursue their choice of activities while students are in class.

AWE courses are from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  Students break for 45 minutes each day to eat lunch they have brought.

AWE courses are continually updated as dates and sites are confirmed. Check back often for new course offerings!

Safety & Conduct

The AWE staff takes every reasonable step to ensure the safety and well-being of every AWE student, including the following:

  • Requiring a high standard for student conduct; and
  • Protecting student information. 

High Standards for Student Conduct
In order to maintain a safe and inviting learning environment, AWE 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.

Protecting Student Information
Center for Talent Development (CTD) at Northwestern University is committed to protecting the privacy rights of all children. Our protocol, with regards to the data and information we collect and what is done with it, is outlined in the Privacy Statement section of the Policy Statements web page.

Program Orientation

Acceptance notifications are sent via e-mail two to three weeks following receipt of a completed application. Please pay special attention to this notification.  One week prior to the event, a second email is sent that contains:

• Classroom location
• Program orientation
• Program policies
• Supplies
• Behavioral expectations


Physics & Engineering Afloat: Ship and Sailboat Design (Gr. 3-4, Evanston, IL)

June 16, 2018 - June 17, 2018 9:00 am to 2:30 pm

Why do some ships have many sails while some only have a few?  What is a junk boat? How does a sailing ship cut through waves?  Through inquiry, design, and trial, young designers learn about the history and current uses of sailing ships. In this project-based course, students investigate the laws of physics that propel a ship’s motion. Young ship-makers put their research and planning skills to the test as they race their own model ship designs.
Subject Area: Engineering

Subject Area
Technology & Engineering
Evanston, IL

Comparative Anatomy: The Animal Kingdom (Gr. 5-6, Evanston, IL)

June 16, 2018 - June 17, 2018 9:00 am to 2:30 pm

What is the shape of a squid’s brain, and how does it differ from other cephalopods? How does that shape impact a squid’s daily existence? In this hands-on lab course, young biologists dissect and compare a variety of animals of different species and taxonomic groups, from earthworms to mice. Discover the differences between endoskeletons and exoskeletons, organ systems both common and novel, and how anatomical adaptations are suited to an organism’s environment.
Subject Area: Science

Subject Area
Evanston, IL

Nanotechnology and the Solar Cell (Gr. 7-8, Evanston, IL)

June 16, 2018 - June 17, 2018 9:00 am to 2:30 pm

How do nanoparticles help scientists and engineers create inexpensive, next generation solar cell devices? Using nanotechnology and plant pigments, make artificial photosynthetic devices for capturing the sun's energy and convert it to electricity. Measure the performance of silicon-based solar cells, create a spinach dye-sensitized solar cell, and design your own efficient solar cell using your choice of vegetable or fruit dyes to power a digital clock.
Subject Area: Engineering

Subject Area
Technology & Engineering
Evanston, IL
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