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STARTALK: Summer Language Institute in Arabic and Chinese for Chicago Public Schools High School Students

Chicago Public School (CPS) high school students studying Arabic or Chinese can apply to take a free summer language course at the University of Chicago, in a program funded by STARTALK.

This program has been designed by the University of Chicago and the CPS Office of Language and Cultural Education for CPS students who want to keep their language skills up during the summer and gain an edge going into their studies for next year. The courses are taught entirely in Arabic or Chinese, using creative teaching methods.

Only CPS students who will be taking their third or fourth year of high school classes in Chinese or second or third year of high school classes in Arabic in 2017-2018 may apply.

Participating students will receive:

  • 4-week course in either Arabic or Chinese taught by University faculty
  • Field trips, guest speakers, and special activities, including an information session with College Admissions
  • Cultural instruction in areas such as music, painting, calligraphy, and dance
  • All course materials free of charge, including textbooks
  • Lunch each day in a University dining hall
  • CTA pass for travel to and from the University of Chicago campus
  • Transcripts showing your grade in your University of Chicago language course that can be requested whenever you need them—for college admissions and beyond

Program Requirements

This program is open to students that are:

  • Currently enrolled in CPS High Schools as freshmen, sophomores, or juniors, and
  • Currently enrolled in Chinese Year/Level 2 or 3, OR Arabic Year/Level 1 or 2, and
  • Will enroll in Chinese, Year/Level 3 or 4 OR Arabic Year/Level 2 or 3 in CPS for the 2017-2018 school year


  • Applications open March 13, 2017
  • Final deadline is May 8, 2017 at 5:00pm CST; any hand-delivered materials must be in our office by 5:00 pm CST.
  • The online application and all supplementary materials must be received by the final deadline
  • Click on the maroon "apply now" button near the top of the page to start your application. You will be prompted to create a user name and password that you can use to save your application and return to it, so you can keep working on it over time until you are ready to submit it.
  • Please enter the names and email addresses of your current Arabic or Chinese teacher and one other teacher in an academic subject (your choice) in your online application when prompted to do so; when you save their information, each teacher will receive a unique link to submit a letter of recommendation online. This means that you do not need to collect actual letters from your teachers to submit with your application; we will request one via email, which the teachers will submit electronically. Make sure your teachers know to expect this request from us, however.
  • You will need to submit school transcripts for grades 9, 10, and/or 11, as applicable, plus a recent grade report if these grades are not yet showing on your transcript. There is a place in the application where you can upload a scanned copy of your transcript; we recommend this as the quickest and easiest way to get your transcript to us. If your school will not allow you to do this yourself as part of your application, your school can send a copy to

Personal Essay and Writing Sample Guidelines

The online application has a place for including a personal statement (in English). Please write your response to this question and polish it before you begin the online application process: in an essay of 250 to 500 words, explain why you want to participate in the Summer Institute in Chinese and Arabic for CPS High School Students. How would this program help you reach your goals for the future? Please be as specific as possible in your answers, so that we can get a good sense of who you are and what matters to you.

In addition to the personal statement that is part of the online application, you must also submit a handwritten (not typed) writing sample in either Arabic or Chinese (depending on which language you are applying to study) that addresses a topic of your own choosing. This sample should be 50 to 100 (for first-year Arabic students) or 100 to 150 words (for second-year Arabic and Chinese students) long. Do not use Google Translate (yes, we can tell when you do this); we want to see how well you know the alphabet/characters, vocabulary, and constructions appropriate for a language student at your level. Please be sure to put your full name on this sample. You should scan this sample or take a photo of it with your phone, save it as an image or pdf, and upload it to the online application where it prompts you to do so.

June 17, 2017
June 26- July 21, 2017
10:00 AM–3:00 PM

  • Students must make a commitment to daily attendance throughout the entire four weeks of the program.
  • The program is non-residential; students commute from home to campus daily.

This grant-funded program is free to all admitted students, including daily lunches, a CTA pass for travel to and from campus, and books and materials.


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Chicago, IL


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