Applying to Graduate School


The decision to enter graduate school is both exciting and anxiety provoking. If you are reading this book, you have already taken the first of many steps. You are beginning a journey that will be challenging yet rewarding. Pursuing a graduate degree is a choice that not everyone can or will make. At this point, you are among a select few that will begin the process of obtaining higher education that will be focused on a particular field of study. People choose to continue their education beyond a bachelor’s degree for reasons that include career advancement in their current field, or they may be returning to school to enter a new field if their interests or circumstances have changed. As you reflected in chapters 5 and 6, your decision to pursue a master’s degree in counseling is based on many personal and professional considerations.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 2015), a master’s degree is defined as "a degree awarded for successful completion of a program generally requiring 1 or 2 years of full-time college-level study beyond the bachelor’s degree.” According to NCES, 751,751 master’s degrees were awarded in 2012-2013. There are several types of master’s degrees awarded based on subject and/ or discipline area. Degrees such as Master of Arts (M.A.) and Masters of Science (M.S.) are general degrees geared toward advanced scholarship and research. Specific degrees such as Masters of Education (M.Ed.) may be geared toward more specific fields of study, such as counseling. Master’s degrees in counseling can be M.A., M.S., or M.Ed., depending on where the college or department is located as well as state regulations regarding the degree. The specific letters are more a reflection of where the program is housed rather than an indication that one qualification is better than another when it comes to a degree in counseling.

As we begin our discussion on applying to graduate school to pursue a counseling degree, it is important to recognize that a college or university’s Graduate School is often separate from the counseling program for which you will be applying. For most institutions, the Graduate School has an application process that is the first step, which may require completing an application along with an application fee. Any additional materials that you need to submit may be directly related to the counseling program to which you are applying. Thus, it is important for you to provide information requested by both the Graduate School and the counseling program, making sure you are submitting the correct documents to the appropriate place by the deadlines provided.

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