School Counseling Program: Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-Related Questions

How has the program responded to COVID-related restrictions?

Despite the disruptions caused by the global pandemic, the WWU Counseling faculty and staff continued to meet all the program requirements outlined by our accrediting body, CACREP. Students continued to accrue the necessary Practicum and Internship hours and complete their course requirements. In spring quarter 2020, we moved all our classes to a synchronous Zoom-based model in alignment with U.S. Department of Education guidelines. We also created secure systems and training procedures for students and supervisors to provide tele-mental health services through our Counseling Training Clinic. During the 2021-22 academic year, some graduate counseling classes met in person on campus, and others met on Zoom. First-year practicum students in our Counseling Training Clinic provided tele-mental health services during winter quarter and provided a mix of tele-mental health services and in-person services during spring quarter.

As of September 2022, our plans for the 2022-23 academic year are as follows:

  • Western continues to require COVID vaccinations for students, faculty, and staff. The University’s COVID Information page can be found here:
  • Consistent with Washington’s Secretary of Health Mask Order, masks are required in our Counseling Training Clinic regardless of vaccine status.
  • Graduate counseling courses are in person. All classes will be subject to the guidance provided by the University.
  • We are not yet certain whether 1st year practicum students will be conducting counseling sessions via tele-mental health or by meeting face-to-face in our Counseling Training Clinic. We are well-prepared for either option.

No, when we admit students to the program in the spring, we expect that they will be ready to begin in the fall.

Questions About the School Counseling Program

We accept six students per year. The program is intentionally small in order to maintain small student/faculty ratios and class sizes.

We are nationally accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Accreditation is important for different reasons: 1) Accredited programs must demonstrate that they meet high standards for curriculum content, practice hours, faculty qualifications, and student support services, 2) Accredited programs are required to post key indicators on their websites including retention, graduation and national exam passing rates.   This allows potential students to assess program quality and compare programs.

The WWU school counseling program is also approved by the State of Washington to offer a K-12 ESA Residency certificate in school counseling.

No. The WWU School Counseling Program is offered on the campus in Bellingham only.

WWU does offer a CACREP-accredited Rehabilitation Counseling Program in the Everett, WA area.

The program does not lend itself to part time study because of the highly structured nature of the practicum and internship experiences. With only a few exceptions, required classes are taught during the day during the fall, winter, and spring quarters.

The program requires a minimum of 90 credits to be completed in two years of full-time graduate study. The degree is a Master of Education (M.Ed.) School Counselor.

A thesis is not required. Students are required to complete a written comprehensive examination in school counseling prior to completion of the program.

No. All courses are in person at the Bellingham campus.

Questions About Applying to the Program

Complete applications are due February 1 of each year.  We do not begin reviewing any applications until after that date.

The faculty screening committee will review all applications to the program and select a group of about 12 applicants for personal interviews. Those interviews are usually scheduled for late February or early March. During the pandemic, those interviews will be held virtually.

Admission offers are typically made by mid-March and teaching assistantship decisions are typically made by mid-April.

All of the application materials are due on February 1. It is a good idea to complete all prerequisite courses and line up recommendation letters well in advance of the deadline.

Our program is small and we receive many fine applications. However, this should not necessarily discourage you. If you believe that you have special qualities that we should consider such as related work experience with children or other documented success in a similar role, be sure to let us know. Successful applicants have a proven record of academic success, experience working with children and youth, and a strong desire to become an accomplished counselor in a school setting.

Yes, we welcome students with diverse academic experiences and encourage all students to apply for the program. If you did not major in Psychology, you will need to complete the prerequisite courses, which include:  Introduction to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Research Methods or Statistics, and Abnormal Psychology.  To have the best chance of admission, these courses should be completed before you apply for the program.

Applicants with strong academic records who majored in Psychology or a related field, such as Sociology, Education, or Human Services, and those from other fields (e.g., Environmental Science, Spanish) have also been very successful in our programs as long as they have completed the prerequisites and have a record of experience working with children/youth/families. 

The Graduate School states that, in order to be eligible for full admission, applicants must have a 3.0 cumulative GPA (on 4.0 scale) calculated over all post-secondary coursework. Applicants with advanced degrees from accredited institutions are considered to have met GPA requirements.

The Counseling Program average GPA for admitted students for the past several years has been in the range of 3.4-3.5.

Recommendation letters should address the academic, professional, and personal qualities that make you a strong candidate for graduate training in school counseling. 

It is advisable to have a mix of recommendation letters. We recommend you identify at least one professor who can speak to your ability to complete graduate level coursework and identify supervisors or co-workers who can discuss your potential as a counselor. Relatives and personal friends should not serve as recommenders.

When you apply through the Graduate School’s application system called CollegeNet, you will have the chance to enter contact names and email addresses for your recommenders. Please notify your recommenders that an email will be sent directly to them with a link for uploading their letter reference letter. They may need to check their junk mail for this email. 

Questions About Tuition, Fees and Work

A breakdown of tuition and fees for the Counseling Program can be found on the Tuition and Fees page.

Teaching assistantships are available on a very limited basis. Some students will receive a teaching assistantship for one quarter during their first year in the program. During that one quarter, the student will receive a stipend and substantial tuition waiver. Information regarding stipends and waivers can be found on the grad school teaching-assistantship page .

If you are interested in being considered for teaching assistant positions, be sure to submit a current resume with your application that includes your work and volunteer history.

The counseling program is a full-time program, and classes are typically held during business hours during the week. Some students find that they are able to work part-time, flexible jobs during their first year in the program. Due to the time demands of internship, it is typically not possible to work during the second year in the program.

Questions about Certification

In order to be employed as a school counselor in Washington State, a person must have a master’s degree in counseling from an approved program and complete all of the requirements related to certification (e.g. A comprehensive exam and a fingerprint background check).  For details, see the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction information page: Washington OSPI

Background checks of criminal history are required of all students who work with children in any setting. According to Washington State law RCW 43.43.830, any person with a positive criminal history for “crimes against persons” is not allowed to work with children. Participants in the WWU program will be required to complete a background check before starting any practicum or internship experience in a school setting.

Upon completion of an approved program in the State of Washington, the student is recommended for a Residency ESA Certificate for K-12 School Counseling.  ESA stands for Educational Staff Associate. This is a special category of credential for persons who work in schools in supporting professional roles including school psychologists and school social workers.

No, teaching experience or a teaching certificate are not required for certification as a school counselor in Washington State.  Teaching experience is also not a program admission requirement. That being said, experience with teaching, group facilitation, and/or classroom management are important skill sets for work as a school counselor.  Additionally, there are a few states that require documentation of teaching practice for certification.  Be sure to check the requirements for certification in the states where you would like to live after you complete your graduate degree.

Every state has its own requirements and some do require previous experience as a teacher. You will need to contact the Department of Education websites for specific information for each state. In general, people certified in one state by a CACREP accredited program can become certified in other states. However, the issue of teaching certification may be a factor.

Unfortunately, WWU does not offer a “certification-only” program. Please contact the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction for eligible programs.