Equinox Video Pageblock

NEW for 2020!

Investigate the current state and possible futures of humans as a species Anthropocene: the Promise and Peril of Human Being.  Students write and produce their own audio drama in Podcast Master Class with Audacious Machine CreativeOur new Machine Learning Seminar will expose students to core skills and careers in AI software development. 


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 application 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 9 to 12 Equinox 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 9 through grade 12 and you meet both of the following criteria: 

  • You have successfully completed a CTD course through the  Summer Program or Accelerated Summer Online Program at the  Indigo Tier within the previous twenty-four months. 
  • You are now applying for a grades 9 to 12 Equinox Summer Program course with the same qualifying subject area (Verbal, Math or Science) as a CTD course you previously completed.

New Scores Applicant
You are a new scores applicant if you are in grade 9 through grade 12 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 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 9 through grade 12 and the following is applicable to you:

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

             1) never taken the required 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 transcript 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 provided 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

To qualify for Indigo Tier Equinox Courses students must be in grade 9 through 12 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. (Please see course descriptions for score details.) 
  • Qualifying score on the

    PSAT/NMSQT, SAT or ACT taken on-level in grades 10 or 11. (Please see course descriptions for score details.)

  • Successful past completion of an Indigo Tier CTD course, 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. 
  • 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 if the scores are no more than twenty-four months old.

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, Humanities and Social Science classes in the Equinox 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 metric 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.


Fees, Financial Aid, Scholarships & Withdrawals


Residential: $4135
Commuter: $2385

Partnership Courses (IOT Engineering and CPU Architecture)
Residential: $5550
Partnership Commuter: $3975

5-week AP Chemistry
Residential: $5695
Commuter: $3015

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 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 2019 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 Equinox.

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.



High academic standards and a diverse student body ensure that students learn from their instructors and one another. In 2019, more than 500 students participated in Equinox; each year, many students choose to return for a second or third summer, and 80% choose to reside on campus to experience college life.

Some students attend Equinox to learn more about a subject they love, while others view it as an opportunity to bolster their transcripts as they anticipate college applications.  Equinox students enroll in one course per session and may attend one or two sessions each summer. Classes meet for five and a half 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 instructors emphasize a strengths-based approach to teaching that underscores student strengths and encourages high achievement, creative thinking, collaboration, and independent inquiry.
Residential Teaching Assistants offer 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 final evaluation of their work. These evaluations provide individualized feedback about student work habits, attitudes, and performance, their strengths and areas for growth.

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 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. In some cases, a school that cannot accept credit earned at CTD may still be able to reflect the work completed at CTD on a transcript. 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.

When prompted in the application process, students who wish to receive credit or have their coursework reflected on their high school transcript should opt to have a transcript mailed to their school by selecting "send transcript."

Campus Life & Daily Schedule

While academics are a central focus at CTD, campus life is also a priority 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.

For residential students, living and learning together 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 perspectives of students from all over the world. Residential students live in a Northwestern University residence hall under the supervision of trained residential staff. Equinox supports a gender-inclusive residential community; floors are gender-inclusive, roommates are same gender. Students eat with residential staff and other members of the University community in a campus dining hall.


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

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.

Equinox students who prefer to live at home 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 also take a train or drive to campus themselves and go directly to class. Equinox staff do not monitor commuter drop-off and pick-up.

Daily Schedule
8:00 - 8:15: Students transition to class. 

8:30 - 12:00: Class

12:00 - 1:00: Lunch

1:00 - 2:45: Class


Commuter students are welcome to participate in afternoon activities and evening office hours:


3:00 - 3:15: Students transition home and/or to residence halls.

3:30 - 5:30: Afternoon activities and sign-out.

5:30 - 7:00: Dinner

7:00 - 9:00: Evening TA office hours and sign-out.

9:00: Residential curfew. 

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

Safety & Conduct

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

CTD staff members accompany Equinox residential students for activities off-campus/outside town boundaries. 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. Commuter students adhere to the same rules and procedures.

Students wear their ID cards and room keys at all times. 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 that students wear 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, personal integrity and respect for diversity.


Students in Equinox are required to have a laptop or tablet with word processing software and the ability to connect to the Internet. Some courses require a laptop instead of a tablet; 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 ACT or SAT scores.

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