Spectrum Video Pageblock

NEW for 2020!

Learn to create a fictional world of your own in Fantasy Writing and World Building, and produce original music in Composing Digital Music and Designing Digital Instruments. Returning favorites from 2019 include Financial Algebra and Scare Quotes: Horror Fiction.


Application Process & Deadlines

Applications are submitted using MyCTD, the online course application system. Applicants are encouraged to apply early; many courses begin to fill as soon as mid-March.  Applications are reviewed in the order in which they are completed.  Incomplete applications do not "hold a spot" in the desired course.  Additionally, the $500 deposit does not hold a seat in a course.  Once you have paid the deposit and submitted the appication you will recieve an email with further instructions. You will then be able to return to the application and select View Application Details to upload any necessary documents and to get the teacher recommendation link if necessary.

The grades 6 to 8 Spectrum Summer Program welcomes applications from returning applicants as well as new scores and portfolio applicants. Before beginning the online application, determine which type of applicant you are based on the descriptions below.

Returning Applicant - Please read description carefully. Applicants must make sure they are qualified to apply as a returning applicant.
You are a returning applicant if you are in grade 6 through grade 8 and you meet both of the following criteria: 

  • You have successfully completed a CTD course through the  Summer Program or Online Program at the Magenta Tier or Indigo Tier (for Advanced Enrichment courses) or Indigo Tier (for Accelerated courses), within the previous twenty-four months. 
  • You are now applying for a grades 6 to 8 Spectrum Summer Program course with the same qualifying subject area (Verbal, Math or Science) as a CTD course you previously completed.
  • NOTE: Students may NOT apply to Spectrum as recent participants from Solstice, Weekend Enrichment or Leapfrog-Spark Programs.

New Scores Applicant
You are a new scores applicant if you are in grade 6 through grade 8 and you meet either one of the following criteria:

  • You have not attended any CTD program for the past two years and you have qualifying test scores (Verbal, Math or Science) for your desired course that are no more than two years old.
  • You have previously attended a course with the Summer Program or CTD Online Program, but you are now applying for a course with a different qualifying subject area (Verbal, Math or Science) and you have qualifying test scores. 

New Portfolio Applicant
You are a portfolio applicant if you are in grade 6 through grade 8 and the following is applicable to you:

  • You do not have qualifying test scores because you have either:

             1) never taken the required grade-level assessment or above-grade-level test


             2) taken this type of test but not achieved a qualifying score.

 An Admission Portfolio includes the following documents:

  • Required: one teacher recommendation form, the link to which will be available in your MyCTD account once the application is submitted, 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 state testing report (e.g. NWEA/MAP) or any results of a grade-level test.

Please note that students are to apply to the grade level that they are in as of January 2020 for Summer Program courses.  For the purposes of the Summer Program, students are considered to be in the grade they just completed and NOT the grade they will enter in the fall.

Applicants are encouraged to apply early, as many courses close by mid-March. Due to the rolling enrollment nature of our program, courses that are listed as available may close before a student's application is complete and comes up for review.  We strongly suggest listing second and third choice courses on applications. Applications are processed and reviewed by Admissions staff when all necessary documentation has been provided through the applicant's MyCTD account. 


Our residential space is limited.  For the last several summers we have experienced more demand for residential space than we have the capacity to provide.  If you are interested in joining us as a residential student we encourage you to COMPLETE your application as soon as possible.

It can take up to a week for our staff to first review newly submitted applications as well as any documentation added to complete an application later. Until our staff has verified the documents it will not yet be reflected in what you see in MyCTD.  We kindly ask you to not call nor email our office to confirm receipt of documentation or application items within a week of submitting them.

It may take 2 to 4 weeks for an admissions decision to be made once the application is complete.  You will recieve an email once an admissions decision has been made.


Application deadlines are typically in June, but courses are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Eligibility Requirements

The grades 6 to 8 Spectrum Summer Program is comprised of courses representative of both the Magenta and Indigo eligibility tiers.  The qualifications for these two tiers are different due to the increased rigor of the Indigo accelerated, credit-bearing courses.  Please do make sure to thoroughly read the admissions requirements, including any prerequisites in the individual course descriptions.

To qualify for Magenta Tier Spectrum Advanced Enrichment Courses students must be in grade 6 through 8 and must also provide one of the following:

  • Achievement of a score of 95thpercentile or higher on a nationally normed grade-level assessment in the required qualifying subject area (Verbal, Math or Science) for the desired course. 
  • Successful past completion of a CTD course at the Magenta or Indigo Tier, with the same qualifying subject area (Verbal, Math or Science) within the past two years. 
  • Submission of a portfolio application, consisting of a teacher recommendation and the student’s most recent report card demonstrating that the student is performing exceptionally well in the qualifying subject area. 
  • Participation in above grade-level testing such as the PSAT™8/9 test taken in grades 4, 5, or 6, or the ACT® or SAT® test taken in grades 6, 7 or 8 (NUMATS) within the last two years.
  • 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.

To qualify for Indigo Tier Spectrum Accelerated Courses students must be in grade 6 through 8 and must also provide one of the following:

  • Qualifying score on an above grade-level assessment in the required qualifying subject area (Verbal, Math or Science) for the desired course.
  • Successful past completion of a CTD course, with the same qualifying subject area (Verbal, Math or Science)  at the Indigo Tier within the past two years.
  • Submission of a portfolio application, consisting of a teacher recommendation and the student’s most recent report card demonstrating that the student is performing exceptionally well in the qualifying subject area. 
  • 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.

Prerequisites and Graded Writing Sample

Many courses require additional prerequisites for admission, listed at the beginning of the course description. Any student applying to a course with a prerequisite must submit documentation showing the prerequisite has been met unless CTD already has such information from previous applications, or if the prerequisite has been met via a CTD course.
Graded writing samples are required for English Language Arts classes in the Spectrum Program.  Evidence that the writing sample has been assessed for academic purposes can be provided on the writing sample itself or by submitting an accompanying rubric or other feedback that is clearly tied to the writing sample.  Providing an ungraded writing sample will result in a delay of the application being deemed complete and may cause an applicant to miss out on a class that fills to capacity.



Tuition for In-Person Courses in 2020

  • Commuter student: $2,335
  • Residential student: $4,135

Tuition rates increase by $100 after May 14.

Withdrawal Policy

  • Requests for withdrawals and refunds must be made in writing by Monday, June 8th, 2020. E-mail requests should be sent to CTD-admissions@northwestern.edu.
  • Withdrawals are subject to a processing fee of $60. (Update: With the challenges currently being presented by the spread of COVID-19 CTD is suspending its $60 withdrawal processing fee.)
  • Withdrawal requests made after the deadline will recieve 50% of fees paid, less the processing fee.
  • Students who withdraw after the start of the program are not eligible for any refund.
  • Once a refund has been initiated, it may take up to six weeks to appear in the account from which it was paid, depending on the type of account and the billing cycles.

Financial Aid

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 apply for financial aid for the Spectrum Summer Program is April 9, 2020.  However, funds are limited and historically our financial aid has been fully dispersed before the deadline date.
  • Do NOT wait for your 2019 tax info to be completed. You can provide your 2018 info along with your 2018 W-2.
  • Financial aid applications are not reviewed until a student has completed their course application and has been placed into a class.  Acceptance emails for students who have indicated they are applying for financial aid are not sent until a financial aid decision has been rendered.
  • 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 have a FACTS account with another institution or you have applied for financial aid with CTD in a previous year, you must still link your account to this year’s FACTS application for CTD.  You may need to update financial information.

  • ·         If you experience difficulties with the FACTS process please call the FACTS helpline at 866-412-4637.

  • five-month payment plan is available for students in Spectrum.

Technology Scholarship

Students with financial need applying to technology courses may apply for the Sandra Denhardt Technology Scholarship.  For a list of eligible courses and more information please see our Scholarship Opportunities page.

The application deadline for this scholarship is April 15.

Payment Plan

A five-month payment plan option is available. The payment plan application is due within 30 days of acceptance. There is a $50 service charge for using the payment plan; families eligible for financial aid will not be assessed the service charge.



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 daily homework. Students receive a final evaluation on achievement and performance in the course; areas in need of further development; and student work habits and attitudes. Courses are generally limited to 18 students.

CTD is accredited through the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, and students who complete a credit-bearing course with a C- or better are eligible for one or two semesters of high school credit. Students who wish to receive credit for a course should discuss their school’s policy concerning credit from outside institutions with an academic counselor or school administrator before applying. Advanced enrichment courses do not carry high school credit.

Daily Schedule

Spectrum students develop life-long friendships and enjoy a summer on Chicago's North Shore under the supervision of professional, caring staff.

Residential students are roomed by gender, but assigned to all-gender floors and all-gender residential groups. Roommates are matched based on a variety of factors, including age, hometown, and gender. Accessible bathrooms are available on each floor. Students eat with staff and University community members in campus dining halls.

Intersession stays are available for residential students attending both sessions for an additional $185 fee.

NOTE ON RESIDENCE HALL AVAILABILITY: Northwestern University residence halls are undergoing a major renovation project 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 assigned to CTD may not have air conditioning.

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, and are encouraged to participate in afternoon activities and evening study sessions.

Academic Day Schedule
7:45 - 8:15: Commuter drop-off
8:15 - 8:30: Students are walked to class by Teaching Assistants
8:30: Class begins
Varies by class: Lunch, one hour
2:45: Class ends
3:00: First commuter pick-up opportunity
3:15 - 5:00: Activities
5:00: Second commuter pick-up

Tuesdays/Thursdays only (optional for commuter students)
5:30: Dinner
6:30 - 7:45: Study session
8:00: Third commuter pick-up
Evenings and weekends find residential students enjoying a broad range of activities, such as dances, off- and on-campus movies, trips to downtown Chicago, and talent shows.

Families are invited to visit classrooms on Closing Day. A schedule will be sent during the last week of the session.


Safety & Conduct

CTD takes every reasonable step to ensure student safety. Faculty and staff provide clear conduct guidelines and careful supervision. Students are coached in safety procedures, including the use of on-campus emergency phones; student ID cards are worn at all times and include emergency phone numbers on the back.

Summer Program participants must adhere to the CTD Honor Code, which establishes standards and expectations for student behavior and reflects CTD’s commitment to fostering character development, integrity and respect. Summer Program rules and policies help ensure the safety of our students and staff, and students are expected to abide by them.


Spectrum students are required to have a personal laptop or tablet with word processing software and the ability to connect to the Internet. Some courses have specific technology requirements; see course descriptions for details.

International Students

TOEFL, TOEFL Jr., or IELTS scores are required of students for whom English is not the first language AND who do NOT have qualifying test scores in English. (E.g. SAT, ACT, PSAT 8/9, NWEA/MAP, etc.)

The CTD Summer Program requires a student visa for any non-U.S. citizen/permanent resident. Please see the International Students Page for more information.

Copyright 2014 Northwestern University Center for Talent Development