School Counseling, M.Ed.

Katie J

Frequently Asked Questions

Field of School Counseling

What does a school counselor do?

There are various roles that school counselors play in school – and this depends on the school context, culture, leadership, level, as well as a number of other factors.  One of the best ways to learn this first hand is to shadow a school counselor, or talk to local school counselors to learn more about their work. The school counseling program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill approaches the school counselor's role from a strengths-based perspective, which focuses on promoting the potential, assets, and resources of individual students and schools. Graduates of the program learn to establish and lead a comprehensive school counseling program based on the American School Counselor Association's National Model to promote academic, career, and personal/social development for K-12 students.

What career opportunities exist for graduates of the UNC-Chapel Hill School Counseling program?

Graduates of the school counseling program at UNC-Chapel Hill earn a master's of education degree and are eligible for licensure by the state of North Carolina to work as a K-12 school counselor in public schools. In other words, all graduates of the program are qualified to work as a school counselor at the elementary, middle, and high school level. While almost all graduates work as a school counselor, some have chosen to seek licensure for private practice (see NCBPLC), work in higher education settings, or various other roles.

Can I work in another state with a school counseling license from the state of North Carolina?

Most states offer reciprocal licensure for school counselors who are licensed in the state of North Carolina. However, some states have additional or distinct requirements in order to be employed as a school counselor in public schools. For more information, see State Certification Requirements. State requirements may change or be updated frequently; please consult the respective state's Department of Education for more information.

Is the school counseling program accredited?

Yes. The school counseling program at UNC-Chapel Hill is nationally accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The program is also approved by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

Applying to the School Counseling Program

May I meet with the faculty to obtain additional information about the program?

Applicants can contact faculty or student representatives to meet for particular questions or more information. Contact information for graduate student representatives and faculty is available on the website. Most of the program information is available online and it does not enhance an applicant's chance for admission if previous meetings occur with faculty.

Who might apply to the UNC School Counseling program?

Applicants to the school counseling program at UNC-Chapel Hill come from various fields and stages of life. Successful school counselors tend to be intellectually capable and socially responsible, and they enjoy working in school and with children and youth. Applicants must have a completed bachelor's degree from an accredited four-year college or university.

What are you looking for in an applicant?

We look for applicants with a solid undergraduate record (minimum of 3.0) and prior experiences that have allowed one to gain self-awareness and knowledge in working in schools and/or with children and youth. We look for a statement of purpose that shows a commitment to working with children and youth in a school setting, as well as clarity regarding why the school counseling program at UNC-Chapel Hill is a good fit for the applicant. In essence, we consider the information provided in the application and supplemental materials in seeking to answer the following questions: Can this applicant succeed in a rigorous graduate program? Has this applicant made a careful, well-educated choice regarding this career and program? Is this applicant likely to become an outstanding leader in school counseling, contributing to the profession in significant ways?

Additional consideration will be given to applicants with counseling-related experience and/or experience working with children and youth, and to applicants who would enhance the diversity of the counseling profession. The faculty encourages prospective students from diverse cultural, ethnic, lifestyle, and racial backgrounds to apply. It is the goal of the School Counseling Program to recruit a student body that is representative of our diverse society and who can contribute to student development as school counselors. Accordingly, the program welcomes applicants from both genders regardless of sexual orientation, from all racial groups, and from persons with disabilities.

Do most students in the program have counseling-related experience?

Most students who are accepted into the program do not have professional counseling experience, but have experience, either as a professional or volunteer, working in schools and/or with children and youth.

Do I need to have teaching experience or certification in order to apply to the program? Is there extra coursework for students without teacher certification?

Teacher certification is not required, nor is there extra coursework for students without teacher certification or teaching experience. However, previous teaching experience is desirable in applicants.

What information do you consider in making decisions?

Admission to the program is based on several factors, including rigorous undergraduate preparation, strong letters of recommendation, competitive undergraduate grades, relevant experience with schools and children/youth, and a clearly written personal statement of professional objectives. The primary criteria the faculty weigh include previous experiences with schools and/or children, clarity on understanding and passion for school counseling, and ability to succeed in a rigorous graduate program. All of the criteria are important in the application process, including the potential fit (e.g., diversity, life experience) and contributions to the cohort model. We use the application materials to help us make a determination of whether you will be a successful student, a committed and competent professional, and whether our program can meet your personal and professional goals. The faculty also take life experience and diversity into account in an effort to recruit a cohort that is representative of our diverse society.

Will taking time off after completing my undergraduate degree be a disadvantage?

No. Many students accepted into the School Counseling program entered the workforce for a number of years before applying to the program, and because of those experiences (in a variety of fields), they can provide different and worthwhile perspectives on school counseling.

May I enter the program at different times during the year?

No. Because the school counseling program is on an accelerated 14-month course of study that is sequenced and cumulative, students are only admitted in the spring preceding each program cycle, and all students enter and graduate from the program at the same time (end of May).

I'm finishing my undergraduate degree during the summer. Can I still apply to the program for the fall?

No. Since the program begins in late May, and students are only admitted once a year (in the spring) – the undergraduate degree requirement would not be fulfilled.

How competitive is your program? How many applications do you get each year? How many students are you likely to admit?

Admission is competitive. In a typical year, the school counseling program at UNC-Chapel Hill receives approximately 100 applications, interviews a total of approximately 50 applicants, and enrolls 20-25 students into each cohort.

May I pursue my degree on a part-time basis?

No. The accelerated 14-month course of study includes coursework and field placement during the workday and thus requires full-time enrollment only.

Do you require prerequisite courses?

No. The school counseling program at UNC-Chapel Hill requires no prerequisite coursework.

Is it possible to enter the program with an undergraduate major other than education or psychology?

Yes. Applicants with undergraduate majors in areas such as education and psychology often bring highly related knowledge and experiences, and may have completed related program coursework in areas such as human development. However, all undergraduate majors are welcome and encouraged to apply. We do suggest that the more information you have about the school counseling profession, the more informed decision you can make about applying to graduate school, and the stronger your application will be.

Do you require applicants to take the GRE? What kinds of scores do admitted students typically earn?

Applicants are not required to take the GRE if they have a cumulative undergraduate grade point average (UGPA) of 3.5 or better or they already hold a master's degree.

Applicants who do not meet the above criteria are required to take the GRE.

Any applicant that wishes to be considerd for a merit scholaship through the Graduate School is required to submit GRE scores.

Can I substitute my Miller Analogy test score or some other test score for the GRE?

No. However, you may not be required to submit a GRE score (see criteria above).

I already have a master's degree. Do I still need to take the GRE?

No, if you already have a master's degree you do not need to take the GRE.

Do I have to take the subjects tests of the GRE? Do I have to pass part of the PRAXIS before I apply to the program?

No. The program requires only the GRE General Test in order to apply. Also, you if you meet the criteria, you may not need to submit GRE scores at all (see above)

When is the deadline for applications?

We highly recommend you submit all materials no later than mid-December to ensure that you meet the deadline. The deadline for receipt of applications and all supporting material is in mid February (see the Application link). No late applications and no late supporting materials (transcripts, letters of recommendation, Statement of Purpose) will be accepted after this deadline. Be sure to begin the application process sufficiently early to assure that all materials arrive on time. It is also important to take your GRE early to allow enough time to have your scores reported to UNC and matched to your application. The matching process can take up to 10 days. If your GRE scores are not matched to your application, your application will be considered incomplete. Further, please be sure that persons who write your letters of recommendation are aware of the deadline and that letters received after the deadline will cause an application to be incomplete. UNC policies strictly preclude reviewing any late application or applicants adding materials to an incomplete application after the deadline.

Does the program require supplemental application materials? Do I send these materials with my application or directly to the School Counseling program in the School of Education?

In addition to the Graduate School application, applicants to the School Counseling program must submit a Statement of Purpose, Resume and a List of Experiences Working with Children/Adolescents. Both of these materials should be sent to the Graduate Admissions Office in the School of Education. For more information, please see Supplemental Instructions.

How long should the Statement of Purpose be?

There are no specific minimums or page limits set for The Statement of Purpose. Even so, a concise, well-written statement is preferred.

Whom should I ask to write letters of reference for me?

The most effective letters are those from two sources: faculty from previous educational experiences and professional supervisors who know you very well and also know what it takes to succeed in graduate school, and individuals who are very familiar with your experiences and successes in working in schools or with children and youth. Less useful are references from friends or people who don't know you or your relevant experiences well. We realize that some applicants have been away from college for an extended period of time, and that letters from former instructors may not be feasible, and we take that fact into account.

Do my letters of recommendation need to be submitted at the same time?

No, your letters of recommendation may be submitted individually but must be received by the Graduate Admissions Office in the School of Education by the application deadline of February 12, 2019.

Are the application deadlines different for international students?

No. The application deadlines are the same for everyone. However, international applicants should apply early in order to allow sufficient time for financial and visa document preparation. The Graduate School recommends that international applicants submit a complete application no later than December 1.

Does being able to speak a language other than English enhance my application?

It is highly advantageous to be able to speak another language, especially Spanish, for the field of school counseling and for our regional needs. Proficiency in foreign languages is not required, but such proficiency will enhance your application and provide you with a valuable set of skills and may enhance your career options.

I have a graduate degree in education. May I take the courses from your program that the state department of public instruction requires for licensure and not enter your degree program?

No. The School Counseling program does not offer a non-degree, certification/licensure-only training track and is not able to accommodate non-degree seeking students due to limited faculty resources and cohort nature of the program.

I have a degree in mental health counseling, social work, etc., and I want to get licensed as a school counselor. What courses do I need to get licensed, and can I take them through this program?

In order to graduate from the master's of education in school counseling at UNC-Chapel Hill and earn our recommendation for licensure, applicants must complete the entire course of study sequence of the program. It is possible that transfer credits (maximum of 12 hours) could be applied to some courses in this sequence, but such decisions are made subsequent to admission on a case-by-case basis, and those credits cannot have counted toward a previous degree. Alternative licensure routes in NC are available, but our limited resources do not allow us to offer them at UNC-CH at this time.

Do you admit transfer students?

We do not admit 'transfer' students per se, but it is possible to transfer some graduate coursework completed elsewhere in place of some program requirements. Every year, students accepted into the School Counseling program fulfill the entirety of the required coursework together as a cohort.

If I have a previous graduate degree or coursework, can I apply the credit hours to my degree?

Upon recommendation of the School Counseling program and approval by the Graduate School, credit hours can be transferred to fulfill certain required coursework. Transfer credits are considered on a case-by-case basis only after students have entered the program. Proposed transfer credits must be at the graduate level and cannot have counted toward the requirements of an undergraduate or previous master's degree. Generally, no more that 12 credit hours can be transferred into the program.

Can I receive transfer credit for previous graduate coursework in counseling, or must I complete all of my counseling courses in the program? Or will transfer credit be allowed only for elective courses?

An important consideration in decisions about all transfer credits is inspecting the syllabus for the proposed transfer course and comparing it to the syllabus for the required 'comparable' course in the program. One advantage in proposing transfer credits for the two elective courses in the program is that these electives occur in the final summer session of the program.

I am considering applying to the School Counseling program and the School Psychology program. What is the difference between the two programs? Will it hurt my chances to apply to both of them?

It is advantageous to determine the desired career path before application. While it does not functionally limit your application, clarity on career path is a desirable characteristic. More information about school counseling can be found at the American School Counseling Association website. More information about school psychology can be located at the National Association of School Psychologists website.

How much is tuition for the program?

Tuition to the School Counseling program depends on your residency status. For more information, please see Student Account Services.

Does the program offer financial aid? What kind of funding is available?

Unfortunately, funding for the School Counseling program is limited, and the program cannot guarantee that any student will receive financial aid. Forms of financial assistance are available through the University's Office of Scholarships & Student Aid. These include grants, loans, and campus employment. Research/teaching assistantships are generally not available to graduate students in the School Counseling program. Occasionally, the Graduate School awards university fellowships and assistantships to applicants to the School Counseling program. These decisions are made by the Graduate School. For more information, please see Funding Resources.

Can I call or email someone to talk about financial aid and assistantships?
Is it possible to work while in the program?

Because the School Counseling curriculum is an accelerated 14-month program that requires full-time study, outside employment is not recommended, especially if it involves more than a 10 hour per week commitment. In addition, employment during day-time on weekdays is not possible due to the student's coursework and field-site placement.

What happens after I submit my application?

Immediately after the application deadline, all complete applications are given careful consideration to determine which applicants will be invited for an interview. The top applicants are invited to interviews during late January and February. During the interview process, recommendations for admittance are made by the faculty and sent to the Graduate School for final approval. In some cases, a student may be put on a wait list, with a decision on admittance deferred until we receive replies from other admitted students. Final word on admission status comes from the graduate school.

Does your program require in-person interviews?

If invited, in-person interviews on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus are highly encouraged in order to provide as the best opportunity for the faculty as well as the applicant to determine whether the School Counseling program is a good fit. In the event that an applicant cannot travel to Chapel Hill for an in-person interview, a telephone interview will be scheduled.

When will I hear if I have been granted an interview?

Students who have been selected by the admissions committee to participate in the next phase of the application process will be invited to attend a campus interview in late January or early February. Interview decisions tend to be made by mid to late January.

How long will the interview be? What should I do to prepare for the interview?

Although the actual interview only lasts about one hour, we advise that you reserve at least two hours for the interview process (e.g., parking, finding the building, etc.). In preparation for the interview, it is helpful to reflect upon why you would like to pursue a master's degree in school counseling and the experiences that have led to your decision.

When do the campus interviews take place?

Campus interviews take place on Fridays in late January and early February. Campus tours are also possible through the UNC Visitors' Center.

Does the program provide financial support for campus interviews?

The program does not provide financial support for campus interviews.

When will I know whether I have been admitted to the program?

The Graduate School notifies applicants about admission by mail usually by mid-March.

If I am admitted to the program, how long do I have to make my decision?

Because of the competitive application process and the early start date of the School Counseling program, students offered admission have approximately three weeks upon notification to decide whether to accept.

How should I prepare for graduate training in school counseling?

The school counseling program at UNC-Chapel Hill has no coursework prerequisites. However, for all applicants, relevant employment or volunteer experiences working in schools and/or involving children or youth is strongly encouraged. We also recommend that applicants interested in applying to the program explore the field of school counseling. Suggestions for facilitating your understanding of the field include the following: explore the American School Counselor Association website, interview/shadow a practicing school counselor in an effort to learn about his or her day-to-day roles and both the positive and negative aspects of the job, and read books and journal articles about the field of school counseling, particularly those that address the strengths-based school counseling model.

Program Characteristics

How long does the program take to complete?

Unlike most master's degree programs in school counseling which often require two years (four semesters) of full-time study, the 60-semester hour program at UNC-Chapel Hill takes 14 months to complete. Students begin the program in late May and finish in July of the following summer.

How does the 14-month program work?

Students begin in late May with two summer sessions (one "semester" of coursework), taking 12 credit hours. During the regular academic year, each semester includes 9 credit hours of coursework and 9 credit hours of practicum/internship, which are earned by spending three days a week at a site placement throughout the entire year. The program concludes with two summer sessions (another "semester" of coursework) in the following summer. For the complete course of study sequence, see Program of Studies.

What will my schedule look like?

Every cohort takes the required course of study sequence together. During the summer session, classes are typically held every day (or three days a week, depending on the session). Then, during the academic year, students are at their placement sites for three days a week and take classes during the other two days of the week. The two elective courses required by the program are usually taken at the end of the program—during the second summer session of the second summer "semester." For the complete course of study sequence, see Program of Studies.

What exactly is a cohort?

The School Counseling program enrolls students according to the cohort model, which means all students begin, progress through, and finish the program at the same time. This model encourages shared perspectives and experiences as each class of students learns and grows together. The cohort serves as an important support mechanism.

How many students are in the program each year?

We enroll approximately 20-25 students each year. This number helps ensure a faculty-student ratio that complies with national training standards.

How and where are the practicum and internship placements arranged?

During the first summer session in the program, students are asked to specify their preference for a primary placement level (elementary, middle, or high school) for their field experiences (practicum and internship). The school counseling program arranges for K-12 public school sites no more then 30 miles from the UNC-CH campus, and students need to be able to provide their own transportation to these sites. Sites and mentor school counselors are selected based on the quality of the mentor, the quality of the school counseling program at the school, the diversity and opportunities at the school, location, and a variety of other characteristics. The majority of training experiences are completed in this placement site, although some additional field experiences at different levels and/or schools are completed to supplement and broaden training. Students spend three days per week at their school placement for the entire academic year. Thus, students are given the opportunity to experience the complete school year at their placement sites. Because of the field experience requirements, students follow the calendar of the school district rather than the University's calendar.

Is there a thesis or comprehensive exam requirement in the program?

The program does not have a thesis requirement.  The School Guidance and Counseling section of the PRAXIS II exam serves as the comprehensive exam for the program as well as a requirement for School Counselor Licensure in North Carolina.  The minimum passing score is 570.

What are the benefits of graduating from a CACREP-accredited program like the one at UNC-Chapel Hill?

CACREP accreditation provides recognition that the school counseling program has been evaluated and meets standards set by the profession, assuring that students receive the appropriate knowledge and skill to be a successful school counselor. Moreover, research suggests that graduates from CACREP-accredited programs perform better on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE).

What exactly is strengths-based school counseling, and why is it such a benefit?

Strengths-based school counseling (SBSC) is a contemporary model that reflects and emphasizes the school counselor's primary role to promote and advocate for positive youth development for all students and for the environments that enhance and sustain that development. SBSC characterizes positive youth development as nurturing and enhancing empirically identified student strengths or competencies rather than focusing on student weaknesses and problem areas. Strengths-based school counselors employ a variety of direct (e.g., counseling, classroom guidance) and systemic (e.g., consultation, advocacy) level interventions to promote culturally relevant student development in the academic, personal/social, and career domains. The strengths-based perspective identifies the counselor as a school leader who works with students, teachers, administrators, parents, and other members of the community and promotes strengths-enhancing environments for all students. For more information, please see: Preparation Model.

With a degree from the UNC-Chapel Hill School Counseling program, can I be licensed as a licensed professional counselor in NC?

The master's of education degree in school counseling from UNC-Chapel Hill and licensure from the state of North Carolina will provide the necessary graduate education or licensure to work as a school counselor. Graduates from the School Counseling program at UNC-Chapel Hill are also eligible to become a licensed professional counselor after two years of experience. More information about licensure in the state of NC is located on the NC Board of Licensed Professional counselors website.

What is the placement rate for graduates from the program?

Placement rates vary somewhat from year to year. In most years with the exception of fiscal crisis in 2009, almost every graduate of the program has been able to secure employment as a school counselor as long as they are flexible with respect to geographical location. This will always depend on candidate circumstances, but the U.S. Department of Labor suggests, "Employment for counselors is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2016."

How soon after I graduate from the program will I be licensed and able to get a job?

Graduates will be licensed and able to be employed as a school counselor in North Carolina public schools by the fall immediately following completion of the program.

What resources are available for students from diverse backgrounds or with diverse needs? 

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a diverse campus and many resources are available for students. The main "For Student" section is the most useful starting place for student life (e.g., LGBTQ, housing) and student services (e.g., writing center, women's center).

Will I need a laptop computer?

It is advisable that students have a computer (desktop or laptop), though the School Counseling program does not require a particular brand or operating system. Because at least three days each week are spent at placement sites and not on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, access to computer labs is not always convenient.

Will I need a digital voice recorder or other equipment to record my counseling sessions?

Yes, you will need a digital voice recorder to record your individual counseling sessions. Information about digital recorders is available in the student handbook and will be provided in the program orientation. You also may need to record video of your group counseling and/or classroom guidance sessions.  In many instances, video equipment will be available at your placement site or from the School of Education.

Once I've been accepted, what can I do to prepare for the program?

The best preparation for the school counseling program is to review the program website, including course syllabi available on the program of studies page. Although courses are continually updated, course materials (textbooks and websites) can be located and reviewed. Otherwise, it is best to come rested and ready to learn and grow.