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Question: Are There Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs That Do Not Require the GRE or That Will Waive the GRE Requirement?

Answer: Yes, there are online master’s in counseling degree programs that do not require applicants to submit GRE test scores, and there are also programs that will waive the GRE requirement for applicants who meet certain criteria. Online master’s in counseling programs typically weigh several factors as part of the admissions process, including but not limited to a candidate’s undergraduate grade point average (GPA), one or more letters of recommendation, and a personal goals statement. GRE scores may be among these factors. However, some programs allow applicants to provide scores from the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) instead of the GRE, and some programs do not require any standardized test scores. In addition, programs that require the GRE may extend waivers to applicants who hold a graduate degree in another field and to applicants who have worked for several years and are licensed in a field related to counseling, such as nursing, social work, or teaching.

Admissions to Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

Admissions criteria for online master’s in counseling programs vary by program. The baseline admissions requirement is a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. While online master’s in counseling programs typically do not require applicants to have enrolled in a specific undergraduate major, some programs prefer applicants to have taken one or two undergraduate-level courses in psychology, sociology, or another behavioral science. Admissions to an online master’s in counseling program may then depend on several factors, such as a candidate’s undergraduate GPA, two or three letters of recommendation, a written personal goals statement, and/or answers to one or more essay questions provided by the program. Some programs may also request an in-person or videoconference interview with qualified candidates as part of the admissions process.

The GRE, or Graduate Record Examinations, is one of several standardized tests that graduate school admission boards may use to assess a candidate’s proficiencies in mathematics, reading comprehension, analytical writing, grammar, and other areas. The exam, which is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), consists of six sections and takes three hours and 45 minutes to complete. The first two 30-minute sections are Analytical Writing questions that must be answered in essay form. There are then two 30-minute Verbal Reasoning sections and two 35-minute Quantitative Reasoning sections, with a ten-minute break given at the test’s halfway point. Once the exam has been graded, the ETS issues a report that includes scores between 130 and 170 on both the Verbal and Quantitative sections, and a score between zero and six for the Analytical Writing sections.

Individual schools and graduate programs are free to determine whether or not to require applicants to submit GRE results and how heavily to weigh each of the GRE’s three scores in their admissions decisions. There are online master’s in counseling programs that place a relatively high value on the GRE to assess applicants, programs that place less stress on standardized test scores, and programs that opt not to use the GRE and to instead rely on other criteria for admissions. There are also online master’s in counseling programs that require the GRE but that will waive that requirement for certain applicants. Programs that require the GRE may insist that applicants furnish scores from within five years of the application deadline for the program.

Online Master’s Programs With GRE Waiver Policies

GRE waivers are generally granted on a case-by-case basis to online master’s in counseling program applicants who meet one or more of several criteria. Some programs extend waivers to students who maintained a minimum GPA of 3.0, 3.2, or higher on a four-point scale in their bachelor’s degree program. Prior acceptance to and/or success in a graduate program may also qualify applicants for a GRE waiver. And many online counseling programs will provide a GRE waiver to applicants who already hold a master’s or a doctoral degree in another field, have worked for several years in a field related to counseling, and/or have a professional license or certification in another field, such as teaching, nursing, or social work.

It is important to note that GRE waivers are typically not granted automatically. Applicants may be asked to submit a waiver application or a letter requesting a waiver in order to receive a waiver. Applicants who believe they qualify for a GRE waiver may nonetheless be denied a waiver in which case they are required to submit GRE test scores in order to qualify for admission.

It is also important to note that admissions requirements for online counseling degree programs may differ by the type of program. For example, online master’s in school counseling programs may require applicants to have some experience teaching and/or be certified to teach by a state board of education. Online master’s in marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, rehabilitation counseling, and substance abuse counseling typically do not have this requirement. Potential applicants should examine a program’s admissions requirements and procedures carefully prior to submitting an application in order to determine the program’s specific requirements.

Online Master’s in Counseling Program GRE Policies

To illustrate the differences in standardized test policies and other admissions requirements for online master’s in counseling programs, we have chosen three online programs that provide a representative overview of what applicants typically encounter. It is important to note that schools and program directors may change admissions policies from year to year. Potential applicants should examine application requirements carefully before applying to a program.

No GRE Requirement: The Family Institute at Northwestern University offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling program that does not require applicants to submit GRE or any other standardized test scores. Applicants are asked to provide two letters of recommendation, an up-to-date résumé, a statement of purpose, an answer to one essay question, and undergraduate transcripts.

GRE Waiver Policy: The online Master of Arts in Counseling program offered by Wake Forest University requires that applicants submit scores from the GRE along with undergraduate transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. However, Wake Forest will waive the GRE requirement for applicants who hold an advanced degree from an accredited university. The program conducts short interviews with most applicants and prefers candidates with a minimum undergraduate GPA above 2.5.

GRE or MAT Accepted: North Carolina State University offers an online Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling that does require students to submit standardized test scores, but that will accept either the GRE or the MAT. In additional, applicants are asked to supply three letters of recommendation and college transcripts.


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