A career as a school counselor can be both rewarding and challenging. If you enjoy helping people and have an analytical mind for problem-solving and assessment, school counseling may be an excellent field for you. School counselors must obtain an undergraduate or graduate degree before applying for certification. Admission into graduate school counseling programs can be competitive and require several steps.
Some programs require the standard test called the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Similar to how the SAT applies to undergraduate admissions, this standardized test assesses an individual’s language, math, and problem-solving abilities. While the test has value and merit, many institutions no longer require it for admission.
Standardized tests are often flawed and less accurate at predicting success than other, less tangible factors. While a strong understanding of research, statistics, and variables is necessary for counselors, calculus-level math is not. The math skills assessed on the GRE are often unrelated to the school counseling profession.
Many valuable and competitive school counseling programs do not require the GRE for admission. We will list them in this article, but first, let’s discuss the other requirements typically found in a school counseling program.
Admission Requirements for Masters in School Counseling Programs
When seeking acceptance to a Master’s degree program in school counseling, you can expect to have to provide the following for admission:
- Official Transcripts from your undergraduate studies
- An essay or personal statement of goals
- Letters of Recommendation
Let’s look at these requirements more in-depth.
1. Official Transcripts from Undergraduate Studies:
Admission to a graduate program requires first completing an undergraduate degree in a related field. The transcript of your academic record from your undergraduate institution will show that you completed your degree and how you performed in your courses.
2. An Essay or Personal Statement of Goals:
This requirement will vary slightly at every college or university, but almost all require a writing sample for admission. This writing sample gives the admissions officers a look into your personality while assessing your writing skills. They want to learn about you and what motivates you to become a school counselor.
3. Letters of Recommendation:
Most graduate programs require one to three Letters of Recommendation in their applications. The best people to recommend you for admission are former professors, teachers, or coaches; your boss or supervisor (past or present); and someone working in a related field who has observed your work and desire to enter the profession.
Your resume should be clear and concise, not too long or wordy. It should highlight your education, extra-curricular activities, and ways you have begun to work in the field. If you desire to enter a school counselor program, highlighting jobs or volunteerism in that or a related area is best. For example, if you were a camp counselor in the summers of college, that is a relatable area of work.
These requirements are often viewed as more valuable predictors of your ability to succeed in a School Counseling program than the GRE standardized exam. However, many programs include a clause that if your undergraduate GPA is below a desired standard, they may require you to take the GRE to gain admission.
No GRE Required School Counseling Programs
The University of Alabama is a large public university in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The graduate school has an enrollment of over 5,000 students and 77 programs. Graduate programs are offered both in-person and online.
The Master of Arts in School Counseling program is CACREP and NCATE accredited and requires students to keep a 3.25 GPA throughout their studies. Students are trained through a comprehensive curriculum and internship program that qualifies them for work at all levels of school counseling.
Named a “Best Value” in Education, Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, has been educating students for 160 years. It is known as Alabama’s top public university and has a population of over 23,000 students.
At a large university such as Auburn, the choice of programs is vast and expansive, and many programs don’t require the GRE for entry. The Graduate School offers various counseling programs, from certificates or Master’s to Ph.D. They offer programs in School Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Rehabilitative Counseling, Counseling Psychology, and Counselor Education, to name a few.
The student body at Auburn University is a good mix of studious and social, with Greek Life and Athletic events as the main focus of social life.
SDSU is a large, high-ranking public university in beautiful San Diego, California. They offer a full-time, in-person, 60-credit Master of Science program in Counseling with a specialization in School Counseling. This specialization meets the California Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credential requirement.
The program is CACREP-accredited and typically completed in 2 years. Students will learn to become leaders, advocates, and agents of change within the school system. SDSU describes admission to the program as based on a constellation of skills and knowledge.
Colorado State is a large public university located in Fort Collins, Colorado. They offer 26 graduate programs and have a graduate student body of over 7,000 students. The Master of Arts in Counseling and Career Development comes with a choice of specializations, including School Counseling.
The School Counseling MA is a 60-credit program that generally takes two years to complete, is CACREP-accredited, and does not require the GRE for entry. With this degree, graduates are prepared to work to meet students’ academic, social-emotional, and career needs through individual, group, and classroom interactions.
Sacred Heart is a private Catholic university in Connecticut with an NCAA Division I Athletics program. Its graduate school has a student body of nearly 3,000 and offers a CACREP-accredited program in School Counseling.
The Master of Arts degree is a 60-credit hour program. This program incorporates real-world experience and current curriculum trends to prepare competent, ethical, effective, and data-driven school counselors who are social justice advocates and leaders to support Pre-K to 12 students across academic development, college and career readiness, and social-emotional learning and development.
WCSU is a small public university located in Danbury, Connecticut. The graduate school has an enrollment of about 600 students. Most grad students at WCSU are enrolled part-time.
Western Connecticut offers a 48-credit Master of Science in School Counseling program that has been recognized as one of the top programs in the state. The program is CACREP-accredited and boasts a knowledgeable and caring faculty as the reason for its success. The program accepts only approximately 14 students per year and offers specializations in play therapy and marriage and family therapy.
Loyola University in Maryland has two School Counseling programs: Master in Education and Master of Arts. Both programs are CACREP-accredited and lead to certification as a school counselor in the state of Maryland. Loyola has a 90% job placement rate after graduation, making the return on investment high for prospective students.
Loyola is a private Catholic university located outside of Baltimore, Maryland. The graduate school has about 1700 students in its 24 programs.
Located in New Castle, Delaware, on the outskirts of Philadelphia, this small, private university has a 100% acceptance rate. The Graduate School is extensive, with over 5,700 students and 37 programs. Wilmington University has NCAA Division II Athletics and is listed as a “best value” university in the United States.
In addition to not requiring the GRE for entry, the Master of Education in School Counseling is CACREP-accredited and generally takes three years to complete. The first two years are coursework, with the third year devoted to a clinical training experience. Wilmington’s program is a hybrid model that utilizes both asynchronous and synchronous digital and in-person learning.
Barry University is a private Catholic university in Miami Shores, Florida. Barry uses Rolling Admissions and has a 64% acceptance rate. The Graduate School offers 44 programs with a student body of over 3,700.
Barry’s Master of Science in Counseling is CACREP-accredited and offers three specializations: Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Marital, Family and Couple Counseling, and School Counseling. The School Counseling program is offered both fully online and in person. In addition to being offered at the Miami Shores campus, the School Counseling program is also available at the Nassau, Bahamas campus of Barry University.
A private university called Nova Southeastern University is located in the Fort Lauderdale and Miami area. NSU is a large school with over 15,000 graduate students enrolled in full-time and part-time study.
The Master of Science in Counseling program with a concentration in School Counseling is a 48-semester-hour program. It is accredited by the Council of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and recognized by the American school counselor Association as meeting their school prep standards. These acknowledgments make NSU’s program one of the top in the field.
GSU is a large public university located in Statesboro, Georgia. It has over 19,000 undergraduate students and over 3,000 graduate students. GSU also has campuses in Armstrong, GA, and Liberty, GA, and a school dedicated to fully online studies. GSU has rolling admissions and is known for having top activities ranking for Greek Life, Athletics, and food on campus.
GSU offers a Masters in Education in Counselor Education and has two concentrations: Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling. It is a CACREP-accredited in-person program with a 60 credit hour requirement and 600 hours of internship experience. Entry terms for the program are only fall or summer.
Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, has a graduate school that offers 16 graduate programs to its population of just under 2,000 grad students. Drake offers a master’s in Counseling program with specializations in School Counseling, Mental Health Counseling, and Rehabilitative Counseling.
The School Counseling program at Drake University will prepare you to work as a counselor in elementary and secondary schools. It is a 60-credit Masters degree that leads to licensure in Iowa. Drake’s program is CACREP-accredited.
A public university located in Boise, Idaho, this school offers a Master of Arts in Counseling with a School Counseling Cognate. As the Idaho licensing mandate dictates, the program requires 700 hours of field experience.
The Master of Arts program is 60 credit hours and is CACREP-accredited. BSU’s program is highly competitive and only admits a few students per year. Courses are offered over fall, spring, and summer terms and take 2 to 3 years to complete. Once finished, students can work in private and public schools at the elementary and secondary levels.
DePaul is a private Catholic university in the heart of Chicago, Illinois. The large graduate school has over 7,000 students enrolled in one of 100 graduate programs. DePaul University is known for highly rated academics and NCAA Division I athletics programs.
DePaul offers a Master of Arts in Counseling with a specialization in School Counseling. The program is CACREP-accredited and allows students to become licensed as professional school counselors through the Illinois State Board of Education.
UIS is part of the University of Illinois system. It is known for smaller classes and being a “Best Value” in education. This mid-size public university offers more than 70 graduate programs, certificates, and in-person and online learning options. Most grad students at UIS are utilizing part-time study and either working or tending to other obligations while completing their degree.
UIS has a Master of Arts in Human Development Counseling with a concentration in School Counseling. The program is CACREP-accredited and can be completed in as little as one year.
Located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, LSU is a large public university known for its above-average academics and exciting NCAA Division I Athletics. LSU is ranked as the #2 school in the country for College Athletics. LSU Graduate School has a large student body of over 5,700 students and over 70 programs. Many of these programs do not require the GRE, and some of them are offered online.
LSU’s Master of Education in School Counseling is a 60-credit program typically completed in three years. The program focuses on evidence-based practices and advocates for social justice. It prepares graduates to work in schools at the elementary and secondary levels. The CACREP-accredited program meets the educational requirements of the Louisana Department of Education for certification as a school counselor.
In the coastal city of Baltimore, Maryland, lies the large, private institution of Johns Hopkins University. One of the largest graduate schools on this list, the student body is over 20,000 students attending one of the over 100 programs. Johns Hopkins is a highly competitive university with only an 8% acceptance rate.
The Master of Science in Counseling program with a concentration in School Counseling at JHU is 60 credits and takes three to five years to complete. It is CACREP-accredited and offered in person only.
Portland, Maine, is home to a mid-sized graduate school at the University of Southern Maine. They offer in-person and online programs, with their most popular options being Social Work, Business, and Education.
USM’s Master of Science in Counseling has the option for a School Counseling concentration that prepares students to work in schools with elementary and high school students. Graduates of this program are prepared for the National Counseling Exam (NCE) and the Professional school counselor Certification through the Maine Department of Education.
MSU is an above-average public university located in the small city of Springfield, Missouri. It is known as one of the top institutions in the country for online college programs. The graduate school has 3,500 students in 54 programs, 23 of which are offered entirely online.
The Master of Science program in Counseling is CACREP-accredited and, in addition, offers certificates in Play Therapy, School Counseling, and TeleMental Health. Graduates of the program can apply for licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with Missouri. The program takes 60 credit hours; students typically finish in two years.
UNC Greensboro is a mid-sized public university in the North Carolina education system known for its diversity, liberal education, and gorgeous campus. Students report that UNCG is an inclusive and active community with events where people of different backgrounds come together.
UNCG offers a Master of Science in Counseling with a concentration in School Counseling. The program is CACREP-accredited and in-person on the main campus. Classes are offered during the day only, and students primarily study full-time. Greensboro’s Department of Counseling and Educational Development (CED) is consistently listed as a top counseling program by the US News and World Report.
The large public institution of NDSU is located in Fargo, North Dakota. With NCAA Division I athletics, NDSU is celebrated as one of the country’s best places for college sports. The graduate school has an enrollment of 2,900 students and offers 69 programs, both in-person and online.
The Master of Science in Counseling with a School Counseling Specialization is 60 credit hours, including 100 hours of practicum and 900 hours of internship experience. A student typically takes three years to complete, and the program does not require the GRE for admission. Students can obtain a Master’s of Education or a Master of Science in Counseling.
A public university with gorgeous Spanish-style architecture sits 12 miles outside New York City in Montclair, New Jersey. It has a graduate study body of just over 4,000, with 60% enrolled in part-time study. The admissions requirement for undergraduate GPA is 3.0 or higher.
Montclair offers a Master of Arts in Counseling with a concentration in School Counseling. The program consists of 60 credit hours and three semesters of fieldwork. Classes are available in the evenings and in the summer session. Graduates are qualified to work as school counselors in elementary, middle, and high schools.
LIU has a Master of Science in School Counseling program hosted at their C.W. Post and Brentwood campuses. Located just outside New York City, LIU has grown recently and is now a premier private university on Long Island.
The MS in School Counseling is a 48-credit-hour program with classes offered primarily in the evening. Internship and practicum classes are required, giving students hands-on experience before entering the field. Graduates are eligible for certification as a school counselor through the New York State Department of Education.
Hofstra University offers large university sports and programs while keeping a small school feel. This large, private university, located just outside New York City in the suburban town of Uniondale, New York, has an exciting NCAA Division I athletics program and a School of Medicine and Law.
Hofstra’s Master of Science in Education in School Counseling requires 48 credit hours of coursework, including internship experience. The program is CACREP-accredited and meets the educational standards for the school counselor certification through the New York State Department of Education.
This list of colleges and universities that do not require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for admission is extensive. In recent years, higher educational institutions have taken a more holistic approach to reviewing applications for admission. This holistic viewpoint puts more emphasis and meaning on personal pieces of the application and less importance on standardized tests. When a school does not require the GRE for admission, they evaluate the applicant more intensely on their writing ability, previous coursework (undergraduate), and letters of recommendation.
This list proves you can be admitted to several competitive and valuable counseling programs without taking the GRE. Click the links on each school to read more about their programs.
Online No GRE Required School Counseling Programs
Online education has been growing at colleges and universities in recent years. The following programs do not require the GRE for admission and are provided to the student online. Classes may be synchronous or asynchronous, and all practicum and internship hours must be done in person at appropriate facilities.
USC-Rossier offers a fully online Master of Education in School Counseling degree. A student can complete this 49-credit Master’s program full-time or part-time, and it will take students typically 2 to 3 years to complete. The master’s in school counseling program curriculum is informed by professional competencies and standards set by the American School Counselor Association’s National Model for School Counseling and prepares candidates to meet the California Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credential requirement.
Barry University makes this list again because in addition to its in-person program, Barry offers a MS in Counseling in a fully online format. Barry’s online Master of Science in Counseling is CACREP-accredited and offers three specializations: Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Marital, Family and Couple Counseling, and School Counseling. In addition to being offered at the Miami Shores campus, the School Counseling program is also available at the Nassau, Bahamas campus of Barry University.
Kansas State has recently changed its School Counseling Master’s program at the Olathe campus. The program will no longer be offered in person and is now only presented in an online format.
Kansas State created an Education Specialist Degree in School Counseling that is fully online and brand new beginning in the Fall 2023 semester. This program will meet the certification requirements to be a Licensed Professional Counselor in Kansas and it replaces the old master’s degree in school counseling.
ASU has a fully online Master’s in Education in School Counseling with three unique concentrations. Students can choose to concentrate their studies in Crisis & Trauma, Special Populations, or General Counseling. The 48-credit Masters program can be completed in as little as 24 months.
SBU is a small private school in upstate New York. They launched an online graduate school in 2016. The Master’s in Education School Counseling is fully online coursework and SBU supports students in finding local internship experience. The program is CACREP accredited and prepares students to be certified school counselors as well as sit for the Licensed Professional Counselor exam.
The Future of School Counseling
Counselors are in more demand than ever. school counselors are on the front lines of the mental health crisis impacting today’s youth. As people become more open to receiving support and healthcare companies expand their coverage for mental health concerns, the number of people seeking a supportive and helpful counselor is growing. school counselors have similar training and abilities as Social Workers and Psychologists. Many provide different types of therapy but cannot prescribe medication.
Overall, the field of counseling can be both challenging and rewarding. There are many different paths that an individual can take in the field of counseling, and completing the research upfront can help ensure that a professional finds a fulfilling graduate degree and career.