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Leadership Intensive Courses

Global Leadership Intensive (Grades 4-6) 
Investigate what it takes to be a leader while creating sustainable solutions to pressing global issues. 

Leadership for Today (Grades 7-8 & 9-10) 
Build leadership skills that help you reach your full potential through interactive workshops, learning sessions with civic leaders, and a final service project. 

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Leadership for Today welcomes applications from returning applicants as well as new score and portfolio applicants. Before beginning the online application, determine which type of applicant you are based on the descriptions below.

Returning Applicant
You are a returning applicant if you are in grade 7 through grade 10 and you meet the following criteria: 

  • You have successfully completed a verbal/reading qualifying area CTD course through the Weekend Enrichment Program, Summer Program, Civic Education Project or Online Program at the Emerald Tier, or a tier with a higher score requirement, within the previous twenty-four months. 

New Scores Applicant
You are a new scores applicant if you are in grade 7 through grade 10 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 grade-level test scores (Verbal or Reading) that are no more than two years old.
  • You have participated in above grade-level testing such as the PSAT™8/9 test taken in grades 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 7 through grade 10 and the following is applicable to you:

  • 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 score.

 An Admission Portfolio includes the following documents:

  • Required: one teacher recommendation form, from a language arts or humanities instructor, the link to which will be available in your MyCTD account once the application is submitted 
  • Required: most recent school report card indicating exceptional performance in verbal or reading skills; 
  • If available: most recent state testing report (e.g. NWEA/MAP); or any results of a grade-level test such as PSAT™8/9 taken in middle school.

Accepted Students

Accepted students will recieve admissions materials via email 1- 3 weeks after their application is complete.  Enrollment information will include housing and travel details, a packing list, required health information, as well as program rules and policies.


The application period for Leadership Instensive will close Monday, June 15th, 2020.  

After May 14th, 2020, tuition increases by $50.00.

Applications submitted after June 8th must be accompanied by full tuition payment.


Leadership for Today Eligibility

To qualify for Emerald tier Civic Education Project (CEP) courses, students must be in grade 7 through grade 10 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 verbal/reading qualifying subject area; OR
  • Successful completion of a CTD course, with a verbal/reading qualifying subject area within the past two years; OR
  • Submission of a portfolio application, consisting of a teacher recommendation and the student’s most recent report card, demonstrating that the student is performing well in language arts or humanities.


Leadership for Today Tuition 

Tuition includes all program expenses:
  • Room and board 
  • Service Project and field trip fees
  • Books and materials
  • Staff instruction and supervision

Tuition through May 14, 2020        

Tuition after May 14, 2020

Commuter Student $875 $925
Residential Student $1,495 $1,545

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 Leadership Instensive is April 9, 2020. However, funds are limited and historically our financial aid has been fully dispersed before the deadline date.
  • Financial aid applications are not reviewed until a student has completed their course application and has been placed into the program.  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 previously completed a FACTS application for CTD you must still begin with the current link in the application confirmation email for this year’s program.  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.

Payment Plan

Other Sources of Support

We strongly suggest that families with financial need also seek outside support. Accepted students should start soliciting additional funds right away. Local religious or community organizations, businesses, local government offices, friends, and relatives are all potential sources of support. In addition, local schools and private agencies often provide summer scholarships for talented students.


Global Leadership Intensive (Grades 4-6) 
Investigate what it takes to be a global leader in these week long intensives, where you will create sustainable solutions to pressing issues around the world, using Chicago as a laboratory to extrapolate local discoveries to a global scale. Talent in any subject area and the courage to consider challenging topics is all you need to succeed in this skills-building course. Each Intensive will cover a unique topic so that each week may be taken on its own, paired together, or treated as an extension to the first or third sessions of Solstice.

Leadership for Today (Grades 7-8 & 9-10)
Participate in interactive workshops and experiential learning sessions where students build critical thinking and public speaking skills, and gain practice in working in diverse groups. The hands-on nature of the course allows students to build confidence in a supportive, community-oriented environment, and develop a well-rounded awareness of the opportunities and challenges of being a leader.


Leadership for Today Curriculum Framework: 

  • Unit 1: Foundations of Leadership: Identity & Diversity 
  • Unit 2: Effective Leadership: Communication & Problem-Solving 
  • Unit 3: Informed Leadership: News and Media Awareness 
  • Unit 4: Sustainable Leadership: Conflict Resolution & Self-Care 
  • Unit 5: Leadership in Practice: Service & Action  

Leadership Intensive courses are appropriate for students at various comfort and skill levels, and instruction will be tailored to meet students of diverse backgrounds and talents. 


Leadership for Today students form strong bonds with like-minded peers from across the country and around the world. Staff are invested in the success of every student, and help build a safe and supportive environment for growth and self-discovery. 
Students who choose to live on campus experience a true living-learning community. Students reside in one residence hall, under the supervision of program staff. Most students are assigned to double rooms, but on occasion, students are assigned to singles or triples. Students live on all-gender floors, and are roomed by gender. Accessible bathrooms are available on each floor. 
One staff-organized residential activity is offered each afternoon to all students, or students may choose to take downtime. 
Students in grades 7-10 who prefer to reside at home while taking the course may choose to commute. Commuter students are encouraged to participate in afternoon activities and evening reflection sessions. 


Leadership for Today students earn 4 service hours through their participation in the course. CEP is happy to complete any forms required for students to show proof of earned service hours; contact our office for assistance. 

Evaluations & Transcripts
All students receive a narrative evaluation after completion of the program. The evaluation provides feedback on the student’s achievements in the program and outlines areas for further growth. Students also receive certification of service hours. Evaluation materials are sent to families (and schools, if requested) following program completion.


Student safety is paramount at all times during the program. We take careful steps to ensure the well-being of our students, including:

Hiring Experienced Staff Members
Our staff is a talented group of educators brought together by their commitment to teaching highly able young people about civic engagement and social responsibility. The lead staff member on each program is typically a high school teacher or other education or youth development professional with expertise in service-learning. The assistant staff members on each program are typically college graduates working in the education or nonprofit fields, graduate students, or exceptional senior-level undergraduates. All staff are selected through a highly competitive process that weighs such factors as academic background, service-learning experience, and experience working with youth in a residential setting. The process also includes a criminal background check. Alumni consistently report that one of the best aspects of the program is the quality of the staff teams.

Working with Established & Well-Respected Host Agencies 
We work closely with host organizations to provide safe volunteer and learning environments. Host agencies orient students to the communities and activities they will be engaged in and outline precautions students can take to minimize risk and help ensure the safety and well-being of all group members.

Providing Careful Supervision 
While students are ultimately responsible for their own conduct, our trained staff teams provide clear guidelines and careful supervision. Our programs maintain small class or group sizes of 12 to 18 students, and offer a high staff to student ratio of at least one staff member for every six students.

Requiring a High Standard of Student Conduct 
Our programs are highly structured and operate with a strict set of rules regarding appropriate boundaries and staff supervision. These rules help to ensure the well-being of our students and staff, and all students who attend must be committed to respecting them. Students and families are asked to review our Honor Code so that all participants are aware of the program's expectations and their personal responsibility to contribute to a positive living and learning environment. 

Safeguarding Student Health 
Staff members keep health information about each participant on hand at all times and are available to screen student medical concerns and provide first aid. Students who become ill or injured are taken to walk-in clinics or emergency rooms for treatment. Families are responsible for all health care costs incurred by their children during the program.

Ensuring Emergency Preparedness
We are committed to ensuring the highest level of preparedness for all types of emergencies. Creating and maintaining a safe and secure program environment is a responsibility shared by administrators, staff, and students. Administrators organize service experiences and plan travel routes with an eye to safety and supervision. Staff monitor weather conditions and alter outdoor program activities in the event of inclement conditions. Staff are trained on fire, weather emergency, and evacuation plans and protocols and prepared to manage emergency situations. Finally, students are oriented to ways they can help ensure their own and their fellow group members' safety and well-being.

For information about how we manage Internet use and student privacy, as well as discrimination, disabilities, and sexual harassment, please review CTD's Policy Statements.



For information regarding Leadership Instensive admissions, contact:

For information about Leadership for Today or other CEP programs, contact:

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