School Counseling Program: Frequently Asked Questions

Questions About the School Counseling Program

We currently 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.

No. All courses are in person at the Bellingham campus, unless a faculty member receives accommodation to move the course online/hybrid. In the event this occurs, counseling students will be notified to plan accordingly.

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; however, students can opt into a thesis if they select to do so. Research opportunities are often available for students interested in conducting research, but this is not a programmatic requirement.

School counseling students are required to complete a written comprehensive examination in school counseling prior to completion of the program (this takes place toward the end of their second year).

Questions About Applying to the Program

Complete applications are due February 1st 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 individual interviews. Those interviews are usually scheduled for late February or early March.

Admission offers are typically made by mid-March and teaching assistantships (if awarded) decisions are typically made by mid-April.

The completed application must be submitted by February 1st, no exceptions. It is a good idea to request recommendation letters well in advance. It may also benefit your application to have all written materials reviewed by others before you submit (i.e., trusted editors, writing centers).

Our program is small, and we receive many strong applications. However, this should not discourage you. If you believe that you have special qualities that we should consider such as unique lived experiences, related work experience with children or other documented success in a similar role, be sure to let us know.

Successful applicants have a strong desire to become an accomplished counselor in a school setting, an interest and commitment to interrupting systemic inequities and injustices, experience working with children and youth, and evidence that they can be successful academically.

Yes, we welcome students with diverse academic experiences and encourage all students to apply for the program. If you did not major in Psychology (or closely related field such as Sociology, Education, or Human Services), you may need to complete or plan to complete the prerequisite and/or recommended courses, which may include Developmental Psychology, Behavioral and Mental Health Psychology (a.k.a., Abnormal or Personality), and Lifespan Developmental Psychology.

If you have questions about whether your previous coursework may count for the prerequisite courses listed above, please contact us.

If you have work or lived experience, you believe may count for the prerequisite courses list above, please contact us.

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.

At times, students with lower GPA’s are admitted to our program, however, they include a statement as to the reason(s) their GPA is lower than the required 3.0 and evidence in how they plan to be successful in our graduate counseling program.

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.

It is important to understand that not all students admitted to our program will receive a teaching assistantship, as these are limited in numbers for our program. Being financially stable is a difficult thing to do while in graduate school, but we hope you visit the tuition and fees link above and spend time reviewing the cost of living in the Bellingham area.

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.

It is important that prospective students understand the financial commitment with graduate school and plan accordingly.

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 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 people who work in schools in supporting professional roles including school counselors, 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.

COVID-Related Questions

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.

During the 2022-23 academic year, all graduate counseling classes returned to regular in-person meetings on campus. First-year practicum students in our Counseling Training Clinic provided both tele-mental health and in-person services during winter and spring quarters, depending on their clients' preferences. The Counseling Training Clinic is a health care facility, and thus all persons in the clinic were required to wear masks consistent with the Washington state Secretary of Health Order 20-03. When the statewide requirement was rescinded on April 2, 2023, the counseling faculty and staff chose to continue the mask requirement until the end of the academic year in June.

As of August 2023, our plans for the 2023-24 academic year are as follows:

  • Western no longer requires COVID vaccinations for students, faculty, and staff. 
  • Graduate counseling courses will be in person unless a faculty member receives an accommodation for a select course. All classes will be subject to guidance provided by the University. The University's COVID information can be found here: COVID Information
  • The counseling faculty and staff will make decisions regarding mask requirements in the Counseling Training Clinic based on COVID-19 Community Level and other factors.
  • The counseling program may continue to offer first-year practicum students opportunities to provide tele-mental health services (in addition to in-person services) through our Counseling Training Clinic. This decision will be finalized prior to the start of winter quarter.

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