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MA in Counseling Admissions

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March 5 Application Deadline for April, 2023 Spring Start Apply on PSYCAS

The MA in Counseling program admits students on a rolling basis - for the spring term, which starts in April, and the fall term, which starts in September.

  • Both starts offer an ONLINE delivery option. 
  • Fall start offers students an in-person delivery option and the opportunity to complete the program in either 9 or 11 quarters.

Admission Requirements

  • Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally-accredited institution, or the international equivalent. For applicants to the MA in Counseling Online program, you must be located in a state in which we are authorized to provide online education. 
  • While no prerequisites are required to apply, we strongly recommend applicants to have related volunteer or work experience in the mental health field.
  • GRE scores are not required for admission to PAU master's degree programs. GRE scores will not be considered in the review of applications, even if students provide them.
General Requirements for All Grad Programs Start your PSYCAS Application

Application Deadlines

The deadlines listed below are final deadlines, but applicants are encouraged to apply early for early consideration.

Although applications will be accepted until the posted deadlines, space in the program may fill up before then. Applicants are encouraged to apply early to ensure space is still available.

Spring Start: April 2023

Application Opens: September 8, 2022
March 5, 2023: Regular Deadline

Apply on PsyCAS
Fall Start: September 2023

Application Opens: September 8, 2022
July 30, 2023: Regular Deadline

Apply on PsyCAS

Applicants are encouraged to review the information below carefully, and to plan plenty of time to complete the application process.

How to Apply

Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit applications well in advance of deadlines. Allow plenty of time for transcripts and letters of recommendation to arrive at Palo Alto University. Applications submitted closer to the deadline frequently cannot be reviewed because supporting documents are not received in a timely manner.

Online ApplicationToggle Accordion

Applicants must complete the online application for the MA in Counseling in PSYCAS. The application for Spring 2023 and Fall 2023 will be available starting September 8, 2022. If you plan to apply for the online program, before applying, please make sure you are located in a state in which we are authorized to provide online education. 

Application FeeToggle Accordion

A nonrefundable application fee must be paid to complete the application. In PSYCAS, the first application fee is $80, and subsequent application fees for additional programs are $40 each. PSYCAS offers a fee waiver opportunity for students who qualify.


Official TranscriptsToggle Accordion

Transcripts from undergraduate and graduate institutions attended must be sent directly from the institution, even if a degree was not awarded. Official transcripts should be mailed or electronically delivered by the issuing institution directly to the PSYCAS Transcript Processing Center. Instructions for submitting transcripts can be found on the PSYCAS website.

After enrolling in the program, conditionally admitted students must submit final official transcripts directly to the Office of Admission as soon as possible. Failure to submit final official transcripts by the first day of classes will result in a registration hold. Any student who does not submit final transcripts by the end of the first quarter will be dropped from their courses.

International Applicants

If you attended an institution outside of the US, PAU requires that your transcript be evaluated and, if applicable, translated. You may select any vendor that is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). Please visit for a complete list of members. Your course-by-course evaluation should be sent directly to PSYCAS. More information on submitting foreign coursework to PSYCAS can be found within the application and via the Applicant Help Center.

Palo Alto University has partnered with the following agencies to provide applicants with convenient ordering sites and direct delivery of evaluations to the Office of Admission. If choosing one of these agencies, applicants are encouraged to use the links below. (*Discount available via link.)

Resume or Curriculum VitaeToggle Accordion

The resume or CV should list professional and academic experience, education, awards, publications, etc.


Letters of RecommendationToggle Accordion

Letters of recommendation from three academic or professional references are required. Personal references, such as family, friends, therapists or informal mentors, will not be accepted. If you have questions about whether a recommender is acceptable, please reach out to your admissions counselor.

Letters are requested and submitted through the PSYCAS system. Applicants will electronically submit the names and email addresses of their recommenders who will receive a request to complete the recommendation form. Three letters are required.


Statement of PurposeToggle Accordion

The purpose of the personal statement is to provide a sample of the applicant’s ability to write in an academic and professional manner, as well as to learn about any qualifications or life events that were not captured in the application.

The statement should be no longer than two (2) 1.5-line-spaced pages in 12 point font with 1-inch margins.
The statement should address the following questions:
  • What does being a professional counselor mean to you?
  • Why have you chosen to pursue a career in professional counseling?
  • How have your previous school, work, or training experiences prepared you to pursue graduate studies in counseling?
  • What personal characteristics and strengths will contribute to your being an effective counselor?


TOEFL or IELTSToggle Accordion

For international applicants remaining in their home country and applying to the online format, and those whose undergraduate studies were in a language other than English, the TOEFL or IELTS exam is required. Scores can be submitted through PSYCAS. For international students who earned their bachelor's degree in the U.S. or other English-speaking countries, these exams are not required.

How do I submit my transcripts?Toggle Accordion

After adding a college or university to your application, click the "Order" button under your school’s name. Select Option 1 to order an electronic transcript or Option 2 to submit a copy via mail. All transcripts should be sent directly to PSYCAS electronically or to the following address:

PSYCAS Transcript Processing Center
P.O. Box 9138
Watertown, MA 02471
Additional Information about Transcripts
  • Classes taken during high school do not need to be entered. However, if you attended a college or university both in high school and in college, those courses will appear on that school’s transcript and will be reflected in the GPA calculation on that transcript.
  • PsyCAS requires transcripts from all colleges and universities attended post-high school graduation. This is the case even if transfer credit appears on a more recent transcript.
  • All students must complete manual entry of their courses into PsyCAS in addition to sending transcripts. This can take time and is tedious! Please plan ahead. This is required so that we can fairly calculate GPAs for students who attend different schools with different grading scales.
  • List all institutions on your application even if the coursework completed there was transferred to another institution.
  • Report each institution only once, regardless of the number of degrees earned or gaps in the dates of attendance.
    Send official transcripts directly to PSYCAS for each institution.

Quick Application Checklist

  • Online Application via PsyCAS
  • Application Fee
  • Official Transcripts
  • Resume or CV
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Statement of Purpose

Once Your Application is Complete


Applications are reviewed and admissions interviews are scheduled as soon as all application materials are received. 

After applications are received, applicants who satisfy admission requirements are selected for group interviews with faculty and student interviewers via video Zoom. 

Applicants are typically notified of their admission decision within a few weeks of their interview. 

Acceptance & Enrollment

Students accepted into the MA in Counseling program receive an official acceptance letter by e-mail. To enroll in the program, students who have been accepted must submit an enrollment agreement after receiving their acceptance letter to secure their place.

Financial Aid

For students who wish to secure financial aid, it is important to begin that process as soon as possible by completing the FAFSA. Once the FAFSA is complete, the PAU Financial Aid office will send the student a PAU financial aid application.

Start Your FAFSA Today

MA in Counseling Application Deep Dive

Learn more about the step-by-step application process in the recorded webinar with Office of Admissions staff.

MA in Counseling FAQ's

Are there any required prerequisite courses? Toggle Accordion

No. The MA in Counseling does not require prerequisite courses.

What should I include in my statement of purpose? Toggle Accordion


  • Maximum of 2 pages
  • 1.5 line-spaced
  • 12-point font
  • 1-inch margins
  • The paper should address the following questions:
  • What does being a professional counselor mean to you?
  • Why have you chosen to pursue a career in professional counseling?
  • How have your previous school, work, or training experiences prepared you to pursue graduate studies in counseling?
  • What personal characteristics or strengths will contribute to your being an effective counselor?

What is the GPA requirement?Toggle Accordion

We recommend a 3.0 cumulative GPA. However, we do a comprehensive review of all your application materials.

What is the transfer policy? Toggle Accordion

Admitted students can request to transfer up to 9 semester units or 13.5 quarter units of prior graduate work. Previous coursework cannot be more than 5 years old and must be completed with a grade of “B” or better. Transfer coursework is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and students must submit a comprehensive syllabus for each requested transfer course. A Palo Alto University faculty member then reviews the documentation and either accepts or rejects the course for transfer credit. Students have access to the transfer unit request form after they confirm their enrollment in the program.

Not all courses are eligible for transfer credit – only those listed below. Students should also be aware that in order to receive transfer credit, the previous course must be at least as many units as the PAU equivalent. For semester-based programs, courses to be reviewed for transfer must be 3 units, and for quarter-based programs, courses to be reviewed for transfer must be 4.5 units to be considered.

  • CLIN601: Multicultural Counseling Theories and Techniques (4.5 units)

  • CLIN604: Addiction Counseling (4.5 units)

  • CLIN610: Legal & Ethical Foundations (4.5 units)

  • CLIN618: Family Systems Theory (MCFC) (4.5 units)

  • CLIN619: Couples Counseling (MCFC) (4.5 units)

  • CLIN634: Human Sexuality (4.5 units)

  • CLIN651: Community Mental Health (4.5 units)

  • CLIN680: Psychopharmacology (4.5 units)

  • COUN600: Counseling Theory (4.5 units)

  • COUN603: Appraisal & Assessment in Counseling (4.5 units)

  • COUN612: Life Span Development (4.5 units)

  • COUN634: Diagnosis (4.5 units)

  • COUN641: Research & Program Evaluation (4.5 units)

  • COUN661: Career Development Theories and Techniques (4.5 units)

  • Approved Counseling Elective (CMHC) (4.5 units)

Do I have to choose a cohort when I submit my application?Toggle Accordion

No. If admitted to the program, students will let us know their preferred cohort via their Enrollment Agreement form. The Counseling Department will try to match students to their preferred cohort; however, cohort assignments are based on space availability and are not guaranteed.

Entering Academic HistoryToggle Accordion

Report all institutions attended regardless of their relevance to the programs you are applying to. Failure to report an institution may cause your application to be undelivered. This can significantly delay the processing of your application. Report all institutions attended, including but not limited to:

  • Courses taken in high school for college or university credit
  • Summer courses
  • Community college courses
  • US military academies (note that this does not include courses on SMART or JST transcripts)
  • Post-baccalaureate, graduate, and doctoral work
  • Study abroad, Canadian, and foreign work, etc. 

How do I submit transcripts for study abroad programs?Toggle Accordion

How you enter transcripts for study abroad programs will vary given the nature of the courses and whether you took them from your home institution or another institution. Please read the instructions from PsyCAS carefully to determine how to enter these courses.

More about Study Abroad Coursework

When will my application be reviewed?Toggle Accordion

We will review your application when it is complete (including all transcripts and 3 complete evaluations) and verified by PSYCAS. To check the status of your recommendations and evaluations, navigate to Supporting Information, then Evaluations.

Can I complete this program online from anywhere?Toggle Accordion

Please review our list of unauthorized states. If you are located in an unauthorized state, we will not be able to consider your application for admission. If you live outside of the US, you may apply, but please check your country’s counseling licensure information to determine if this program meets your professional needs.

PAU State Authorizations

Which area of emphasis should I choose? Toggle Accordion

Fortunately, students do not select an area of emphasis until the second quarter of the program.

You can learn more about each area of emphasis by visiting the:

Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Marriage, Family, Child Counseling pages.

I haven’t been to school in several years, and I have not worked full time for many years. Who can I ask to write my letters of recommendation? Toggle Accordion

Three letters of recommendation are required from professional and/or academic references. Professional references may include managers from part-time employment, or volunteer coordinators if you have volunteer experience. If you have no work, school, or volunteer experience, we recommend volunteering with a local organization to gain experience. You may reach out to your Admissions Counselor if you have concerns about your references.

Am I guaranteed a spot with the cohort that I select on my application?Toggle Accordion

You will confirm your final cohort preference if you’re admitted and commit to attending PAU. Cohorts are assigned based on space available and not guaranteed. Students receive their cohort assignments and class schedules approximately one month before classes. Requests to change cohorts must be evaluated by the department at that time and changes are not guaranteed.

What are you looking for in the statement of purpose?Toggle Accordion

The most important piece of advice is to respond to the questions asked in the prompt and to adhere to length and style requirements. Beyond that, the statement of purpose is the primary way for the Admissions Committee to hear your voice. There is no need to rehash your resume – take the opportunity to talk about your passions and interests specific to counseling.

You are welcome to address personal circumstances or hardship in your application if it helps frame your interest in the field. Please remember, however, that your statement of purpose is not a diary entry or a counseling session. Oversharing can raise concerns about boundary issues and personal judgment. If you address a past hardship, we encourage you to provide analysis and self-reflection of the situation, rather than just a description of what happened. If the situation is too fresh, and you feel you cannot distance yourself enough to provide analysis yet, it may be best to choose another topic for your statement of purpose.

Do I have to complete the “Experiences” section of the application?Toggle Accordion

The following sections are optional:

  • Experiences
  • Achievements
  • Licenses and Certifications
  • Fellowships

While it is not required that you also enter work experience, volunteer experience, etc into PsyCAS, it can help helpful to at least enter the highlights of your experience in this section so admissions committee members can see it at a glance. Feel free to include unpaid or internship experiences if they are related to your interest in counseling.

Can I transfer units to PAU from previous graduate programs?Toggle Accordion

Students can request to transfer up to 9 semester-units or 13.5 quarter-units of prior graduate work after they are admitted into the program. Prior coursework cannot be more than five years old. Transfer coursework is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Students must submit a course description and supporting documentation (e.g. a comprehensive syllabus) for each transfer course. A Palo Alto University faculty member then reviews the documentation and either accepts or rejects the course for transfer credit. Transfer credit requests must be made by the posted deadlines and will not be accepted after the first day of classes.

International Students

International students are eligible to apply for the online Masters in Counseling program if they intend to remain in their home country while enrolled in the program.

International students currently living in the U.S. in F-1 status, and students who would need to receive an F-1 visa in order to study in the United States, are not eligible to apply for PAU Masters in Counseling on-campus format.

Where to Send Application Documents

Most documents can be submitted electronically via the application process in PSYCAS. Transcripts and test scores should be sent directly to PSYCAS. Instructions can be found via the PSYCAS Applicant Help Center. Paper transcripts can be mailed to the following address:

PSYCAS Transcript Processing Center
P.O. Box 9138
Watertown, MA 02471

After enrolling in the program, conditionally admitted students must submit final official transcripts directly to the Office of Admission as soon as possible. Failure to submit final official transcripts by the first day of classes will result in a registration hold. Any student who does not submit final transcripts by the end of the first quarter will be dropped from their courses.

PsyCAS Transcript Instructions

Contact Us

Application Questions

Contact the Office of Admission at 800-818-6136 or

Financial Aid Questions

Contact a Financial Aid counselor,

Questions About Academics, Locations and Formats

Email or call one of the Master's Program Contacts.

MA Application Summary 2021-22
MA Spring Cohort Total Applicants 87
Admit Rate 73.1%
Final Cohort Size 48

MA Fall Cohort Total Applicants 254
Admit Rate 85.3%
Final Cohort Size 120

Demographic Summary: Spring 2021 and Fall 2022 Deposited MA in Counseling Students

Self-Reported Race

Hispanic 8.72%
American Indian N/A
Asian 20.13%
Black N/A
Pacific Islander N/A
White 48.99%
Two or More Races 18.12%
No Response 4.03%

Gender Identity

Male 12.08%
Female 84.56%
Gender Non-Conforming 2.01%
Transgender .67%
Decline to State .67%


Average Cumulative Undergraduate GPA 3.36

Other Demographics

Average Age at Application 31 (Range: 20-60)
US Citizenship 91.95%
First Generation 34.23%
Native Languages
Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Telugu


On-Demand Video: MA in Counseling Open House
Office of Admissions and Outreach

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