Signs of an Excellent Counseling Degree Program
There is only one way to measure the excellence of a counseling degree program: you must ask yourself the question, “Does the program meet my needs?” Many students fail to assess college counseling degree programs in this manner. Typically a potential enrollee will look at aspects which are not answers to the subjective question, but rather factual characteristics of the institutions. For example, one way many students evaluate the desirability of a college is by the reputation it has with friends, family and other influential people in their lives. They neglect to realize that the opinion or experience of another can only speak for the suitability for that individual, not necessarily anyone else.
When contemplating a college’s counseling program, reframe the issue. Instead of wondering “Is this a great college?” make your main inquiry “Is this a great college for me?”
5 Signs of Excellence—for you.
#1 One sign of excellence is the fact that you have visited the campus, explored the housing options, spent at least one night in the area and you feel at home. It does not matter how prominent the college might be, if you are miserable in the environment where it is located you simply will not do your best work. Consider the weather, the local culture; in other words look at the pros and cons of where you will be living.
Christian A. Todey B.A. had dreamed of attending the college where her parents had studied, met and fallen in love. She had never traveled to the south before and it took three summer days in the middle of summer for her to know she could never be happy at their alma mater.
“I was bound and determined to attend college in Tennessee…until I went to visit there. The heat was suffocating and the bugs unbearable. I heard about the yearly tornado season and the ice storms in the winter. That was enough for me—there was no way I was going to go to college there, end of story.”
-Christian A. Todey B.A. (Psychology)
#2 A second sign of excellence in a counseling program is the fact that you have met faculty, administrators and students involved in the program and you like what you see, hear and experience. Meeting the people in the counseling department after you are enrolled is about 6 months too late. Once you are attending your first week of classes you are stuck, for better or for worse. The time to shake hands is at least 6 months in advance of enrollment; it gives you plenty of time to ponder and examine all of your options.
Betty Jackson has been an admissions counselor for a total of 15 years. She strongly encourages applicants to visit the campus and meet members of the faculty before making any commitments.
“I believe that any student considering enrollment should make it a point to be physically present on campus for at least a day. I encourage them to drop by the department of psychology as well as attend one lecture.”
-Betty Jackson, Admissions Counselor
#3 A third sign of excellence is that those people who have received counseling degrees from that particular program are working at jobs similar to the one you are targeting. This step truly evaluates the counseling program in at least two important ways. First, you are finding out if the school lives up to any placement promises that it might make. Second, it lets you know if the institution’s counseling program is what employers (or graduate schools) are finding acceptable. The counseling or psychology department should be able and willing to refer you to graduates or alumni records to demonstrate the placement history of their graduates.
#4 A fourth indicator of excellence would be the extent to which the financial aid department is willing to assist you in meeting your particular needs. An excellent college will have advisors who are friendly, helpful, and able to negotiate a reasonable financial package on your behalf, as well as let you know what your repayment responsibilities will be upon graduation.
Greg Pullman B.S. was a student at a 4-year university which did not inform him adequately regarding what his repayment plan would be for his student loans. He suggests that every potential student require full-disclosure;
“I found out the hard way that I was not going to be prepared for repaying my student loans. I finally worked out a payment plan with the lender, but I would tell any student to make sure they are given a dollar figure and that it makes sense considering what they will probably earn the first few years.”
-Greg Pullman B.S.
#5 Finally, look into the reputation the counseling program has within the counseling community where you intend to be domiciled. Talk to the human resource departments at various companies where you would consider going to work. If you are interested in government employment, seek out the relevant hiring sources and go over the list of programs you are considering. Find out which ones are held in high regard by their employee development departments.
In conclusion, there is never one reason why a counseling program is excellent. And what is excellent for you might not be excellent for someone else. Wisdom looks at the big picture; it analyses the various factors that play a part in the learning process and chooses the program that best balances the needs and interests of the student. Find out what excellence is for you, and you will be able to find an excellent counseling program.