Frequently Asked Questions

Application and Admissions

Is there rolling admissions? When are applications reviewed? Are applications reviewed on a continuing basis?

The department only accepts application submissions during the application period (between October 1st and January 15th) for enrollment in the following fall. The department doesn’t review applications until the application deadline passes. This means submitting your application early has no influence on your admission. Late or incomplete applications

Is Cal State Apply the only way to apply? Are all the application materials found in Cal State Apply?

All applicants must use Cal State Apply for admission. There are multiple parts of the application and applicants will receive instructions regarding all materials that will need to be uploaded into Cal State Apply. In addition, the Admissions section of our Department website provides detailed instructions for completing the application.

Be sure to read the instructions on our website regarding submitting the application fee online. That is all you need to do after completing Cal State Apply.

If I am not accepted into my desired specialization, can I apply for another? Is there a backup?

No. You must select one specialization (if you have multiple areas of interest, you may choose a secondary area that becomes your emphasis in addition to your primary specialization). Applicants may only apply to one specialization per application period. There is no opportunity to indicate a “back-up” specialization. If you are not admitted into your chosen specialization, you will need to consider reapplying the following year.

In the application process, does it make a difference in acceptance whether I choose an emphasis or not?

In terms of admission, there is no preference given whether an applicant indicates an emphasis. It is best to choose the specialization that is most aligned with your goals and if there is another specialization that you would also like to add into your plan, indicate that as your emphasis. You may add or drop an emphasis when you start the program.

Do I fill out the Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement? For the Personal Statement, is there a minimum word count?

Only complete and upload a “Personal Statement” (see instructions on our department website). Do not complete the university “Statement of Purpose”. For the Personal Statement, there is no minimum; maximum is around 1300 words (2-3 pages). It is important to write, read, review, revise, sometimes multiple times to ensure that you are clear, focused, succinct and minimize redundancy. Take time to think this through. Relate your personal experience to your professional goals, making sure you address the specialization and emphasis (if any) for which you are applying and stating why you are choosing this program. Some questions to consider: Why are you choosing to pursue this program? What experiences have you had that brought you to this point? How have your work and/or volunteer experiences contributed to your potential as a counselor? What has contributed to your understanding of yourself and others in terms of cultural identity and how that relates to your experiences and goals? Content will vary depending upon your experiences and personality. Pay attention to grammar, organization, and correct language usage. All students in our program are expected to engage in self-reflection and analysis of highly sensitive issues (e.g., cultural experiences and perspectives, family, history, sexuality, personal psychological issues). This is standard practice in most high-quality counseling programs. There is no specific prompt, rather it is an opportunity for us to get to know who you are and why you have chosen this path. It is important that you are the author of the Personal Statement and will need to verify that if you are admitted to the program.

Do I need to submit official transcripts during admission? Do I need to submit transcripts from all institutions or the one where I received my degree?

Cal State Apply requires unofficial transcripts from all higher education institutions where you have completed coursework, even if you did not receive a degree from that institution. If you are admitted to the program, you will be asked to submit all official transcripts to the university. If you believe your past academic record does not reflect your current potential (e.g., was completed a long time ago), be sure to address that in your personal statement.

Will in-progress and planned courses be taken into account during the admissions process? Does my degree need to be completed before I apply?

Bachelor’s degree must be posted on the transcript by the time a student begins the Master’s program. If the applicant is enrolled in required undergraduate courses at the time they apply, we will assume that those will be completed successfully. If accepted, the final transcript showing the posted degree is required before beginning in the fall semester. The GPA at the time of application is based on courses completed up to that point. Undergraduate prerequisite courses are no longer required by the program and although we consider courses applicants may have completed within our program, completion of those courses are not a significant consideration in the admissions review process.

I completed my undergraduate degree outside the United States. Do I need to get my transcript evaluated/converted to a US GPA before applying?

Yes, you will need to contact the Division of Graduate Studies for evaluations of degree from universities outside the United States. If you are an international student, please also visit the Office of International Programs for all international student questions. (

Do I need to take the GRE or CBEST to apply to the program?

No, for this application cycle, we are not requiring the GRE. For students pursuing the PPS, we advise that you take the CBEST either before or soon after starting the program. It is not required for the application. If you are admitted to the program, your Personal Statement will be used to assess your writing skills (thus, make sure you are the author of your Personal Statement).

Who should I ask to be recommenders? Can I submit more than two letters of recommendation?

Ideal people to write letters of recommendation would be professional or academic contacts who have been in a supervisory or instructor role and know about your potential as a graduate student and counseling trainee. Personal relationships are not appropriate for letters of recommendation (e.g., family, friends, personal therapists, etc.).

No more than two letters will be accepted. The requirement is two letters of recommendation exactly (submitting more than 2 letters may be subject to disqualification). The admissions committee will only review 2 letters.

Is there a specific format of recommendations that the recommender must follow?

No, there is no specific format; however, applicants can download recommendation form from the Department website (optional) and forward to your recommenders if you prefer. It is also acceptable for letter writers to use their own letterhead. Letters of recommendation must be signed by your letter writer and submitted through Cal State Apply. The first step is for the applicant to submit their recommender’s information, then Cal State Apply will send an automated email to the recommender with instructions. For more information, please visit our admission section of our website.

Is there a separate deadline for the letter of recommendations?

Letters of recommendation are due along with the Cal State Apply application (January 15). Letters of recommendation must be submitted through Cal State Apply system by your recommenders. It is important to monitor Cal State Apply and talk with your letter writers early, and check in with them throughout the process.

Can you give us an example of what our resume should look like?

There is no specific format for resume, however, we recommend you visit the Career Services website of your undergraduate institution for tips and guidance on creating an effective resume. It is best if you can write it with your goal of a graduate program in counseling in mind.

What is expected or recommended in terms of volunteer or work experience?

Each applicant’s situation, experience, and strengths are different. There is no one right profile of an applicant and we look at the overall picture. It is important that applicants have clarity about the field of counseling and the specialization they want to pursue. Experience can help with that. There are many different volunteer opportunities in the community that provide great experience related to counseling. At the same time, we understand that the current health situation makes volunteer opportunities more challenging.

Where would I take recommended undergraduate courses?

Counseling 690, is offered every fall at SFSU. Undergraduate psychology courses can be taken at SFSU or at any other community college or university. Undergraduate courses at SFSU can be taken through “Open University” if you are not an enrolled SFSU student.

How many students are admitted to the program?

Each year, we admit approximately 50-60 students total across all programs. Last year we received 300 applications (20% acceptance rate) and this year we anticipate a higher number of applications based on the preliminary data we are receiving from Cal Apply so far.

When are students typically notified of the admission decision?

Notification of acceptance are usually sent out by the university (not the Department of Counseling) starting April 1st.

If I am accepted into the program and I want to wait to begin, can I defer to the following semester?

Unfortunately, deferring admission is not allowed by the university. You must take at least one course in the fall semester to which are admitted to be considered a matriculated student. After that semester, you may request a one semester leave at any point in the program.

Where can I find more information about the admissions process?

While applications are open; we will post detailed instructions on how to complete the application in the Admissions page of our website. Click on “instructions” and then read the document. There is an additional link within that document with detailed information. Please note, this information is only available on our website during the admissions application window.


Program Questions

How does the department’s commitment to multicultural and social justice values “show up” throughout the program?

The program is committed to continuous evolution in living these values. We emphasize various aspects of these values in faculty research, our professional involvement in the community and nationally, in curriculum, and in our recruitment and retention of students as well as faculty. This past spring, we intensified our efforts to examine all of these aspects of our program and embarked on a multiyear self-study and plan for transformation. In addition, students are encouraged to pursue topics they are passionate about in coursework and the culminating experience project (similar to the thesis). We will continue this process as we recognize the need to continuously grow and challenge ourselves. The individual faculty bios and descriptions of the specializations may give you more specific information.

Are there opportunities to do research with faculty?

There are often opportunities to do research with faculty. This will vary depending on what research individual faculty members are doing and where the project is in the process. This can often be done for independent study credit. It will be important for students to reach out to faculty to discuss their interests and whether there are research opportunities.

Will classes be in person, online or hybrid for the Fall 2021? How is the Department approaching online teaching?

We anticipate being in person but will only know once the university and the SF Dept of Public Health make that decision. If classes continue to be virtual in fall 2021, they will be synchronous, meaning that they will meet at a specific time and day each week with potentially some asynchronous activities. The majority of faculty have completed training through the university’s Center for Equity and Excellence in Teaching and Learning and restructured their courses to optimize distance learning for counseling training. The virtual environment has brought some benefits and some challenges. Some students really like that format, mostly in terms of convenience but also in terms of access to different learning modalities. Other students find it to be a very difficult way to learn. Many instructors have worked to build in different ways of engaging with each other and building community.

If I want to take classes part time, could I potentially decrease my time to graduate if I take summer classes?

The minimum amount of time to complete any counseling specialization is 2 years (2 academic years, not 4 semesters). The master’s degree requires a minimum of 60 units to graduate including 2 years of internship (traineeship). Please look at the traineeship/internship webpage for more information on courses and hour breakdown.

The department makes its best effort to offer summer courses, however the university decisions about summer offerings vary from summer to summer based on funding. Thus, it is best to plan to take one’s courses during the academic year. We hope to offer summer and when it’s available, it may help lighten the load but it is best not to depend on it. Even if a student is able to take summer courses, they still must complete 2 years of internship.

Is working part time during the program a possibility or not recommended?

Anything is possible. You may choose to complete the program part time or full time (7 years is the maximum limit set by the university). Keep in mind the time commitment for traineeship is 12- 16 hours/week for 1st year internship and 16 – 20 hours/week for the 2nd year internship. We highly discourage working full time for students who are attempting to complete the program in 2 years. In addition to the workload in courses, most internships require day time/weekday hours and thus it is very difficult to manage a full-time work schedule while completing internship.

Is it possible to complete the program by taking only night classes? Only day classes?

No, some classes are only offered at night, some only in the day. This may vary from semester to semester but students will need to be somewhat flexible. Further, most internships require daytime/weekday hours.

What is a typical schedule for a full-time vs part time student? 

Full Time:  15 units per semester & 16 hr./wk. of traineeship for 2 academic years

Part Time: This varies based on the number of units a student completes each semester.

For more details on required classes, please visit the specialization page and look at the curriculum sequence of study.  Please do not rely on summer course offerings in planning your curriculum; they are rarely offered and usually only serve to make your future semester loads lighter.

How many days per week are students typically on campus for classes?

Usually, students are on campus 2 to 3 days and the rest of week is for internship.  We try to organize the class schedule so that students following the standard curriculums only need to attend class twice a week if possible. All past schedules are available on the SF State class schedule website.

How does a combination of Specialization and Emphasis work? Does it matter which is your Specialization and which is your emphasis?

All students take a core set of classes plus 2-4 specialization or emphasis classes plus internship. If you have an emphasis, you are required to take all the specialization classes identified by your emphasis in addition to completing the internship requirements for both your specialization and your emphasis. In some cases, the internships can “double count” in other cases they do not overlap. In those cases, a student would likely need to complete 3 years of internship or more depending on the situation. The only specialization that MUST be a specialization is MFCC. All others can be either Specialization or Emphasis. For school counseling, it is also recommended that School be the specialization given the internship requirements. To think about it in undergraduate terms, a specialization is like your major and the emphasis is like a minor.

How can I find out more about each Specialization?

The Academics portion of our website provide great information. In addition, within the next few weeks, short videos will be available and online presenting each specialization.

Is it possible to add an emphasis, drop an emphasis or change specializations after I am admitted to the program?

 It is possible to apply to add an emphasis or change your specialization after successfully completing one semester (minimum). However, there is no guarantee that your request will be approved. The coordinator of the specialization or emphasis will review your Application to Change request along with consideration of other applicants, students already in the specialization or emphasis, your academic record, and your justification for requesting the change. It is important that you thoughtfully consider the options and apply to the program that best fits your goals.

Can I take other classes at SFSU even if they are not in the Counseling Department or for the Counseling requirements?

Yes, students are able to take classes outside the Department provided the receiving department allows them to. In most cases, classes outside the department cannot be used to fulfill counseling graduate requirements.

Do you accept courses transferred from other universities?

It is possible that incoming students may be able to transfer up to 12 units from another graduate counseling program (pending approval by the department for each course). A process of review is required to determine if the courses are equivalent to Department of Counseling courses. Courses taken after beginning in the program cannot be transferred in.

Do you offer scholarships, graduate assistantships or other financial support? How much does it cost to attend SFSU?

The Department grants about 18 small scholarships each year ranging from $500-$2000. In addition, there is one large training grant for students with CMHC specialization (listed below). Opportunities for a larger number of scholarships is available through the SF State Financial Aid office. The Graduate Studies website provides excellent information about tuition, scholarships and financial aid on their website “Funding your Education”

Students in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program are eligible for a training stipends/scholarship each year (20 students each year thanks to a federal grant). Students receive approximately $10k-13K annually for one or all of the years in they are in the program. Stipends can be used for anything (rent, books, expenses, tuition, travel etc.). The stipends entail a “work payback” which requires graduates who received a stipend to work in a non-profit behavioral health organization or a state/federally funded agency that serves those with health and behavioral health conditions and disabilities for two years for each year the stipend was received.

There are no paid graduate assistantship positions however there are some part time jobs available through the campus. There are a few opportunities to get experience as a TA for undergraduate classes although these have been for academic credit (currently there are no stipends available).

How big are the cohorts and classes? Do students take all their classes with the same cohort?

Class sizes depend on the type of class and range from a maximum of 10 in the internship and practicum classes to 25 in the core classes. Historically, we accept a total of about 50-60 students per year across all specializations. Each student has a full-time faculty member as an advisor and there are about 15-20 advisees per faculty member. Students will often have classes with the same peers. However, because students are able to choose how they will do the program (part-time, full time), there is some variation in who you will see in your classes.

What does the final project or thesis look like?

Students are required to complete a Culminating Experience Project as their capstone project and it is completed during the second semester of their second internship year. Students enroll in a course during that semester that guides them through the conceptualization and writing process. For MFT students, the project is an in-depth case study whereas for Career, College, CMHC, School and Gerontological counseling, students have the option of completing a grant proposal, program design, research proposal, or program evaluation.

Are students paired with a mentor in the program once they are accepted?

All students will have a faculty advisor that they meet with at least once a semester to help guide courses, internship questions and professional development. In addition, some years, there have been opportunities for advanced students to “buddy” with incoming students. We have also just started a new platform through Career Services that provides opportunities for students to connect with program alumni.

Do students pursue doctoral programs after graduating with their master’s degree?

The majority of our students are interested in practicing as counselors after completing their degree and are not interested in pursuing doctoral programs. However, we do have a number of graduates and alumni who pursue doctoral programs including PhD programs, PsyD and EdD programs in counseling psychology, clinical psychology, counselor education, higher education leadership, and other related fields.


Licensure and Credential Q&A

Do I get the license when I complete my degree?

Important: Universities do not grant licenses. We offer degrees that lead to the license and once a student graduates with a Masters in MFCC or Masters in CMHC, there are additional requirements for licensure after completing the degree including post degree supervised hours and licensure exams.

Is it possible to pursue the LPCC and the MFCC at the same time? If so, how many additional units would that require?

First, it is important to clarify that pursuing the license goes beyond pursuing a degree. The MFCC degree is the first step to pursuing the MFT license and the CMHC degree or emphasis is the first step to pursuing the LPCC. To pursue a path that will prepare students for both licenses concurrently, applicants would need to apply to the MFT specialization and CMHC as an emphasis. It is important to review the courses required for each specialization to determine the overlap and additional courses. In addition, internships must fulfill MFCC requirements and CMHC requirements. Although it is possible to double count internships in many cases, it is possible that a student may need to complete an additional internship for their emphasis depending on whether their sites are approved for both MFCC and CMHC. It is important to note that, in addition to completion of the Master’ s degree, both the LPCC license and the MFT license require post degree exams and an extensive number of post degree supervised counseling hours. This is true of any professional license. It is likely that a combination of MFCC specialization with CMHC emphasis will require 2.5 or 3 years minimum.

What is the difference between LPCC, LMFT, LCSW and Clinical Psychology?

We advise you to look into each of the programs you are interested in and see what their emphasis is in terms of the types of settings they work in, the type of clientele they work with and the licensure requirements. In our program, the LPCC path is the CMHC Specialization or Emphasis. The LMFT is the MFCC specialization. Often, professionals holding all these licenses work may work in similar settings, may have private practices doing mental health counseling, and may work with similar types of programs. There are differences in the focus and perspective of these different fields. For example, MFCC (or LMFT) focuses on familial-relational-societal systems, CMHC is aligned with a biopsychosocial model of health and behavioral health, social work tends to focus on societal systems and clinical psychology tends to focus on theoretical psychological training for clinical settings. Again, be sure to research the specific programs you are considering.

Is it possible to get the PPS Credential if I don’t have School as my Specialization?

If you are interested in receiving a PPS credential, you would want to apply to the School Counseling specialization or request School Counseling as an emphasis. The combination of School Counseling and College Counseling requires a minimum of three years of internship (two at two different levels [e.g., middle and high school]) and College Counseling requires one year in a college setting (for an emphasis in College Counseling. A specialization in College Counseling requires two years in a college setting)

With a Master’s degree in counseling am I qualified to teach?

You may be qualified to teach within higher education (community college or university) but to teach in K-12, you must pursue a teaching credential. School counselors may have the opportunity to teach some advisory classes but this is a small part of their job, if at all.

With an LMFT or LPCC from SFSU would I be able to practice out of state? If not, what is the path for being able to do so?

Generally, no. You will need to contact each State to confirm your licensure eligibility (every state is different). The requirements for these licenses in California are more demanding than most other states, you should look at the state you’re interested in practicing and the requirements for becoming licensed in that state.


Internship Q & A

How do I find a traineeship placement?

We provide students with the lists of internship sites that are preapproved by our program (we have agreements with over 200 sites). Students apply to the sites (we recommend applying to at least 5 sites) much like a job search. We offer a traineeship fair for continuing students in January or February and another one for incoming students during the new student orientation. Once admitted to the program, students have access to the list of approved internships.

Will the internship be accommodating to our personal school schedules and commutes? 

We encourage sites to be flexible regarding class schedules as much as possible. At times, there are required events at the site (e.g., staff meetings) that are scheduled on specific days and times. When applying to a site, it is important to ask if there are required days and times.

What types of internships are available? Are there internships sites that provide opportunities to work with specific types of clients (e.g., LGBTQ, children, undocumented students, etc.)? 

Internships are designed to provide students with opportunities to apply their learning relevant to their specialization. Thus, internships are in the types of settings where counselors related to their specialization are working. For example, mental health focused specialization students (e.g., CMHC, MFT and Gerontological Counseling) would be in mental health settings or in a mental health unit within a larger setting. College Counseling internships are counseling (e.g, academic counseling, student retention counseling, etc.) in higher education settings. School counseling internships are in k-12 settings. Career counseling may be in a range of settings doing career and vocational counseling (e.g., school, college, mental health, etc.)

Can I use my job as an internship? 

One’s employment typically does not qualify as an internship site for several different reasons. First, the internship is an opportunity to engage in counseling at a master’s level. By already holding employment in a position, one presumably already holds the qualification and experience to do the job, thus serving as an intern would provide little increase in knowledge or expertise. Second, one’s role as an employee is to serve a function needed by the organization whereas, one’s role as an intern is to learn and have opportunities to gain additional skill and knowledge. If admitted to the program, it is important to talk with your advisor if you have questions about this.

When does practicum/internship start?

Most internships begin the first week of the semester, some a week or two earlier, some slightly later.

Do I receive units for the practicum/internship course and separate units for the internship?

All students who have committed to an internship must be enrolled in practicum/internship courses. In the first semester, this is two 3-unit courses and for each semester after the internship course is a 3 unit course. Internship courses meet weekly at a specific time and day and include course content as well as individual coaching from the internship instructor. The course focuses on developing counseling skills, group supervision, and special topics related to the practice of counseling. Internship courses are typically specialization specific although some are mixed sections. In addition, all interns will meet weekly with their onsite supervisor at their internship. The course instructor also serves as the liaison to the internship site and acts as a resource for both the student and site supervisor.

How have internships been affected by COVID-19?

Internship sites have moved to virtual environment with telehealth and other distance counseling options. For Fall 2021, this will likely be influenced by the Department of Public Health directives in the counties where the internship sites are located.