UNDERGRADUATE COUNSELING PROGRAMSPreparing as an Undergraduate for a Counseling Graduate Program and Career Having a clear and well-designed plan from the very beginning of your schooling is ideal for eventually embarking upon a professional counseling role. The individuals who decide to enter the counseling field often have undergraduate majors in many different fields. There is not just one major that is acceptable. Ideally, if you know early in your undergraduate career that you want to go into counseling, there is a primary focus that can greatly enhance you as a candidate. A Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology is the logical choice for an undergraduate degree leading to a future career as a counselor. Here is a good place to start to learn about relevant programs: http://study.com/undergraduate_schools_of_counseling_and_psychology.html
PROGRAM PREREQUISITES Seek out different information on websites for different programs. Look for prerequisites that need to be accomplished. Often, specialty counseling programs will require particular classes. Ask questions from the admissions departments. Counseling programs that include a specialty in a creative arts therapy field may require arts, performance, or studio classes. Counseling psychology programs often require lots of psychology courses. Take as many as you can. In many states, in order to become a school counselor, you must have a teaching background. Some schools show preference to candidates who have backgrounds in education or a related social service field. ACADEMIC REQUIREMENTS Master’s programs in counseling often set a minimum undergraduate GPA of between 2.7 and 3.0. You are more likely to be given consideration for acceptance if you’ve gained valuable experience since graduating, as well. If you’ve taken any graduate courses, you will usually be expected to have a GPA of at least 3.0. Sometimes candidates have the option of enrolling in a few graduate courses before formal admission to the Master’s program. This has proven a benefit to many students in which they can really “get their feet wet” before formally beginning. Most of the graduate counseling programs require candidates to take a formal admissions test such as the GRE. Many schools utilize a combination of factors for determining the quality of candidates based on both test scores and GPA. The schools are looking for well-rounded students who are truly devoted to working as professional counselors. EXPERIENCE IN THE FIELD Another key advantage to obtaining a degree in human services or social sciences is that you are better positioned for internships and paid employment in the field before graduate school. This can greatly enhance your resume when you actually apply. You should take a look at your state’s Department of Mental Health office for volunteer or paid employment options. Another good resource is your state or local division of Mental Health America. One helpful recommendation is to join HOSA-Future Health Professionals. Formerly known as Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), this organization is a national career and technical student organization endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and the Health Science Technology Education Division of ACTE. HOSA is composed of secondary and postsecondary/collegiate students. Headquartered in Southlake, Texas, HOSA is the very well established student organization that prepares students to enter the healthcare field. One key advantage to this group is being able to explore various health professions while developing your speaking and interpersonal skills. Secondly, one is able to make personal and professional connections that last a lifetime! ACE THE APPLICATION! Make sure that you are involved in work experience (either paid or volunteer) that is directly related to the degree program. Make lasting professional relationships and cultivate them for references. Graduate programs will usually ask for three references from those who can attest to what you will truly bring to the profession. You will more than likely be asked to write an essay or personal statement. You will want to convey great communication skills, a keen insight into the profession, and dedication to helping people. If all goes well in the application process up until this point, the next step would be to meet them face-to-face for an interview. You’ve got this!