Taking Action Page block with Video

Taking Action students...

  • Serve communities in need

  • Learn about important social problems and inspiring solutions
  • Develop and practice leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills
  • Earn academic credit and service hours
  • Explore an exciting city
  • Build lasting friendships with bright, motivated peers
  • Discover ways to make a difference in the world!

Forms & Downloads:



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. Complete applications are reviewed as they are received starting December 10. 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.

Taking Action: Leadership & Service, a collaborative effort between CEP and the Spectrum Summer Program welcomes applications from returning applicants as well as new scores and portfolio applicants in grades 7 or 8. 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 7 or grade 8 and you meet both of the following criteria: 

  • You have successfully completed a verbal qualifying area CTD course through the  Summer Program or Online Program at the Magenta Tier or Indigo Tier, within the previous twenty-four months. 

New Scores Applicant
You are a new scores applicant if you are in grade 7 or 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 verbal/reading test scores that are no more than two years old.
  • Participation 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) within the last two years.

New Portfolio Applicant
You are a portfolio applicant if you are in grade 7 or 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, ie English Language Arts or Humanites
  • Required: most recent school report card  
  • 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 2nd 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.  Due to the requirements of many of the service sites we work with, TALS is only available to students in 7th and 8th grades who will be 13 by the time of the program.

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.  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.


The application period for Spectrum Session 1 (June 28 - July 17, 2020) will close Monday, June 15th, 2020.  

The application period for Spectrum Session 2 (July 19 - August 7, 2020) will close Monday, June 29th, 2020. 

After May 14th, 2020, tuition increases by $100.00.

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


To qualify for Magenta Tier, Spectrum, Taking Action: Leadship & Service students must be in grade 7 or 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 subject area of Verbal/Reading.
  • Successful past completion of a CTD course, with a Verbal/Reading qualifying area at the Magenta or Indigo Tier.  
  • Submission of a portfolio application, consisting of a teacher recommendation form from the student's English Language Arts or Humanities teacher, and the student’s most recent report card.
  • Participation 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) 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.



  • Commuter student, tuition only: $2,485
  • Residential student tuition: $4,135


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.
  • 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 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

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.

Reimbursement through a Flexible Spending Account

Parents with Flexible Spending Accounts may be eligible for tuition reimbursement; please consult your accountant or tax preparer.


Each year, more than three million Americans experience homelessness. Fifteen million people go hungry. One out of every five children in America lives in poverty. Why does this happen? And what can young people do about it?
Academic Challenge
This innovative curriculum integrates academic study with meaningful community service for an experience that participants describe as "eye-opening" and "life-changing." Students split their time between the classroom and supervised hands-on service projects with community organizations ranging from homeless shelters to Head Start programs to top political offices. Through academic research, small group work, and facilitated reflection, students investigate the root causes of and proposed solutions to pressing social problems. Young student leaders gain a deeper understanding of complex social issues and learn how to make a difference in communities. 
This course enhances communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities, and prepares students for a lifetime of leadership and civic engagement.
Meaningful Service
During the course, students experience service like never before – service that not only strikes a chord in the moment, but resonates throughout their time in the program and for years to come.
Year after year, students report that the service experiences are the most eye-opening element of the program. The city becomes a classroom, and the issues communities
are facing become a text. Students are able to connect with people, hear their stories, and gain an understanding of the issues that readings and assignments alone can’t provide.
Several times a week, as a class, students engage in service projects that span neighborhoods, organizations, and approaches to addressing social problems. During a typical project, students might serve a meal to someone who is hungry, run activities at a youth center, or conduct outreach for a neighborhood improvement organization.
All service experiences are coordinated
by CEP and facilitated by the Instructor and Teaching Assistant, who create a supportive environment where students feel safe to participate in activities they may have never attempted before.
For more information about the academic experience, see Academics on the Spectrum Program website.


Students who complete Taking Action: Leadership & Service earn 100 hours of service-learning credit (including 25 hours of direct service) towards school or extracurricular requirements.
Students interested in pursuing credit should discuss this option with school officials before applying to the program. Students or families should contact the academic counselor, registrar, principal, or other school administrator responsible for granting credit at the student's academic-year school. You may download a sample syllabus to share with school officials prior to the program.
Additionally, let school officials know that you will be able to document your completion of the course with a detailed evaluation from the instructor and certification of service hours. Often a school district will require a certain number of contact hours to qualify for credit. Taking Action: Leadership & Service provides 100 contact hours with the discipline.
The acceptance of credit at a student's academic-year school depends on the student's successful completion of the course and the school's institutional policy about the recognition of credit from outside institutions. While successful completion of a course indicates that a student has mastered the material covered, we cannot guarantee that the academic-year school will acknowledge or accept the credit earned.


Taking Action: Leadership & Service students have the option to live on campus at Northwestern University with other Spectrum Summer Program participants.
Living on campus offers an opportunity for students to experience a true living-learning community on a top college campus. Students participate in a wide range of engaging recreational activities, and 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.
For more information about the residential experience, see Campus Life on the Spectrum Program website.


Student safety is paramount at all times, and we take careful steps to ensure the well-being of our students.
Within the academic program, students participate in hands-on service experiences in neighborhoods throughout Evanston and the north side of Chicago. 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.
Our programs are highly structured and operate with a strict set of rules regarding campus and community boundaries and appropriate 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. 
See Safety & Conduct on the Spectrum Program website for details.


For information regarding Taking Actions admissions, contact:
For questions regarding the curriculum or academic program, 
Copyright 2014 Northwestern University Center for Talent Development