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Tips for Improving Your Application to the School and Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master's Programs
The Department of School Psychology, Legal Specialties, and Counselor Education Screening Committee carefully reviews each and every application to our Master's in Counseling programs. A Screening Committee consisting of a minimum of three faculty members independently evaluates and rank orders each application. This rank-ordered list is then forwarded to the Department Chair who invites the top applicants for an interview. Currently, the Department's resources permit admission of approximately 15 students each Spring and Fall semesters. There are several criteria upon which potential student's applications are evaluated. These are:
- Related work and/or volunteer experience.
- Academic potential (based on cumulative undergraduate GPA and cumulative graduate GPA, if applicable).
- Performance on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
- Letters of Recommendation.
- Consistency of your written statement with the departments' offerings.
- Quality of your written statement.
With these criteria in mind, there are several recommendations that, when employed, may serve to improve the competitiveness of your application.
Applicants should be sure to emphasize their degree of related work and volunteer experience. Applicants are not expected to have counseling experience. Rather, applicants may wish to emphasize any type of human service or relations experience that they feel is relevant. Applicants may choose to represent this information in their vita and/or in their written statement. Further, applicants are encouraged to explain how their experience has helped influence their decision to become a counselor. The Screening Committee recognizes that life-experience provides parameters that may serve to limit one's opportunity for related work or volunteer experiences. Such factors are weighed when evaluating this category.
The Department recommends a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. However, based on the strength of applications in the past 2 years, persons with undergraduate GPAs of 3.25 or better have a stronger chance of being admitted. This should not discourage potential students with lower GPAs from applying to our program. Applicants with GPAs lower than 3.0 are encouraged to address this point in their application materials. The Screening Committee recognizes that many students show incremental improvement during the course of their academic careers. Also, the Committee is aware that life circumstances may intervene to exert a negative impact on a student's academic performance. As a potential applicant, you should not be discouraged from applying to our program if your GPA is not as competitive as you would like; however, it is important to discuss this limitation in your personal statement. You may wish to address why you expect your graduate studies to be more productive than your undergraduate GPA would suggest. Finally, some prospective students may wish to apply to The University of Toledo's Graduate School under Special Student status. Such status would allow a student to take up to three (3) courses in our department in an effort to demonstrate academic proficiency. As mentioned above, the Department's Screening Committee does consider both undergraduate and graduate GPAs in their review process.
Beginning in the Fall of 2003, all applicants to our Department will be required to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. GRE scores that are more than 5 years old are considered outdated and will not be accepted. It is recommended that potential students consider studying review materials for this assessment. There are several review programs and texts available for consumers' use. The Screening Committee pays particular attention to the GRE Verbal and Quantitative subscales. While a GRE review is recommended for all applicants, those who have been away from the academic environment for a number of years are particularly encouraged to consider this option. It is now possible to take practice GRE tests online at http://www.testprepreview.com. When last we checked, practice exams were free of charge.
The Department requires that you submit three (3) letters of recommendation. You are encouraged to carefully consider your sources for recommendations. While not required, the Screening Committee recommends that you solicit as writers persons who are familiar with your past academic work and your potential for success at the graduate level. You are encouraged to consider including support from persons who are familiar with any related work or volunteer experiences that you may have. While you have very little control over what your letter writers actually submit, the Committee looks favorably upon letters that include the nature and length of the writer's relationship with the applicant, the writer's familiarity with the applicant's work (academic, occupational, or both), the writer's perspective on the applicant's potential for success as a graduate student and as a licensed counselor, and any personal strengths or characteristics that might make you as an applicant stand out. Brief letters that fail to address these areas are not as helpful to you as an applicant. It is your responsibility to monitor your writer's progress to ensure that the Department receives your support letters in a timely fashion.
The Screening Committee places heavy emphasis on the quality and focus of the personal statement. Graduate students in this Department are required to produce numerous papers of a scholarly nature. The personal written statement is the Department's first exposure to your writing ability and potential for success in our program. Typos, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and the like stand out like a sore thumb and reflect negatively upon your application. Because you have a great deal of time to prepare your written statement, the Screening Committee expects that it will be technically error proof. The Committee strongly encourages all applicants to critically review their written statement for technical accuracy. Further, potential students are encouraged to have someone else proof read their statement. Applicants may wish to seek assistance from the Writing Center, which is located in The University of Toledo's Carlson Library.
Inaddition to technical accuracy, the Committee is concerned with evaluating the degree of fit between the applicant's goals and the mission and purpose of the Department's Course offerings. A graduate program of study is not to be entered into lightly. Numerous challenges will arise that test students' level of commitment and tenacity over the course of their studies. Those students who are committed to the profession of counseling and to their academic success hold greater likelihood of successfully navigating these challenges. As such, it is critically important that you take pause and give reflection to your desire to become a professional counselor. Your written statement should reflect this process. The Committee is interested in noting that you know what you are getting into if you are accepted for graduate study. You may demonstrate this, in part, by indicating the match between the Department's course offerings and your career and professional ambitions.
Previous experience suggests that some applicants have not had a clear idea regarding professional counselor's roles and functions. Students are encouraged to articulate knowledge of counselor's work, their interest in this type of work, and their personal commitment to the field of counseling. There are numerous ways in which potential students may inform themselves on these matters. Department faculty are open and willing to meet with potential students to discuss their interests in the field. Applicants are encouraged to consider conducting a job interview with a currently employed professional counselor. Also, there are web-based resources that may be useful (e.g., the Occupational Outlook Handbook [http://www.bls.gov/OCO/] , the American Counseling Association [http://www.counseling.org], the Ohio Counseling Association [http://www.ohiocounseling.org], the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage & Family Therapists Board [http://www.cswmft.ohio.gov/]).
Itis our hope that these recommendations serve useful to applicants to our Department. We look forward to and are honored by the opportunity to review your application!