Taking Action Page block with Video

Taking Action participants...

  • 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!



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.


The safety of program participants 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.


Taking Action: Leadership & Service brings together a diverse group of bright, motivated students with an interest in service and a desire to develop leadership skills. 

Taking Action is open to students who:

  • will have completed grade 7 or 8 by Summer 2018;
  • have a sincere interest in learning about communities, social issues, and civic engagement; and
  • can demonstrate a high level of academic ability, through either:
    • strong reading or verbal test scores, including:
      • 95th percentile or above reading or verbal score on a nationally normed standardized test taken within the last two years;
      • OR for students who have participated in above-grade-level testing through Northwestern University’s Midwest Academic Talent Search or similar service, a score of EXPLORE R ≥14, ACT R ≥19, or SAT CR ≥440, on test taken within the last two years;
    • OR an admission portfolio, including:
      • Transcript (most current available, official or unofficial);
      • Teacher recommendation (must be from a current year humanities or social studies teacher).

See Eligibility Requirements on the Spectrum Program website for details.

International Applicants
Visit the International Students page for more information.


                                    Early Application         Regular Application
                                    (through May 14)        (after May 14)
Commuter                    $2,185                         $2,285
Residential                   $3,795                         $3,895

The rates above include the standard Spectrum tuition plus the additional $125 field study fee. See Summer Program Tuition & Payment Policies and Refunds & Withdrawals for details.


Step #1 (All Students):
Submit an Online Application including:
• Tuition Deposit ($500)
Step #2 (If Required):
Submit Supporting Documents including:
• Test Scores (See Eligibility for details)
• Transcript (most current available, official or unofficial)
Teacher Recommendation (must be from a current year humanities or social studies teacher).
See Application & Eligibility Requirements on the Spectrum Program website for details.
January 3
Applications Open
Applications and financial aid requests are reviewed on a rolling basis
Students are encouraged to apply early 
April 16
Financial Aid Application Deadline 
May 14
Early Bird Application Deadline 
Within Four Weeks of Complete Application
Admissions materials e-mailed to families 
Within 30 Days of Admission
(No later than June 11)
Tuition balance and forms due  
June 11
Withdrawal Deadline
Full refund (less a $60 processing fee)
June 15 (first session)
June 29 (second session)
Application Close Deadlines
Late applications may be accepted and considered as space permits
See Application Process & Deadlines 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