SOAR Graduate Program Student Handbook 1. Getting Started

1.1 Program Overview

Counselor Education offers a Master of Education degree in School Counseling, accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).


School Counselors: Supporters Of Academic Rigor (SOAR)  is cutting-edge with regard to the knowledge and practice that represents the field of school counseling. The program has a strong partnership between the University of North Florida and the Duval County Public Schools with outreach efforts to St. Johns, Clay, Putnam, and Nassau counties, and the Florida community with the expected outcome of preparing counselors who will practice as advocates, leaders, career/academic advisors, and counselors creating the conditions necessary for academic achievement for all children.


1.2 History

In October 1998 the Counseling Education Program at UNF was selected as one of six universities for The Transforming School Counseling Initiative from DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest (funding of $515,000). The initiative provided support to transform the school counseling preparation program. Well over a decade now, many components of the program have been adopted by other universities. In December 2011, The Education Trust named the UNF School Counseling Program a stand out program and an example of excellence in establishing "educational equity and academic success for every pre-K - 12 student".  

1.3 Mission

The SOAR School Counseling Program at the University of North Florida prepares counselors who have developed strong basic counseling, relational, and reflective skills; who demonstrate sufficient multicultural content knowledge, skills, and practices; who practice from a sound foundation of theoretical and research-based knowledge; who hold and maintain a strong counselor identity; and who possess and exhibit the personal and professional dispositions necessary to work effectively as school counselors.

1.4 Vision

This program reflects the COEHS vision of preparing and supporting educators who seek to be competent and contributing professionals for diverse learning communities. Professional preparation in School Counseling emphasizes the development of candidates who will model pedagogical effectiveness and engage in active leadership roles within schools and community organizations with regard to school counseling.

1.5 Philosophy

The School Counseling Program is philosophically aligned with the mission of the College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) and the Duval County Public Schools, the K-12 school district we predominately serve. This competency-based school counseling program prepares professional school counselors to deliver comprehensive programs that promote success for all students in the areas of academic, career, and personal/social development. 


Further, the program prepares school counselors who are systemic change agents, advocates for educational equity and social justice, and leaders in diverse schools and communities, with emphasis on schools in urban communities. Through the systematic development, implementation, and assessment of powerful learning experiences; the program facilitates students' development as culturally competent leaders in educational reform and social justice initiatives within their schools and local communities. The SOAR program faculty works collectively with community members, youth, and other educators in order to promote the interconnectedness of teaching, scholarship, service and professional practice within community contexts.

1.6 Objectives

The SOAR School Counseling program:

  1. recruits, selects, and retains qualified graduate students with attention given to the inclusion of candidates from culturally diverse and underrepresented populations;
  2. prepares school counselors who will serve as advocates, educational leaders, team members, and consultants who will maximize opportunities for every student to achieve academically and develop as active citizens;
  3. prepares our own faculty, students, our education and community to be highly skilled and culturally competent practitioners who can best support and promote  equity and justice in our multicultural and pluralistic society;
  4. works collectively and collaboratively with diverse youth, other educators, and families in order to facilitate individual and community development;
  5. develops and promotes the highest quality teaching and learning experiences for our students, our community and education partners, and ourselves by continuously assessing our teaching and learning curricula, practices, and processes; and,
  6. models community and professional identity through involvement and leadership in community organizations and initiatives; local, state, and national professional organizations; and through presentations at state, regional, and national levels.

1.7 Characteristics of the Program

  • A cohort model
  • A 48-credit Master of Education degree in Counselor Education (depending on the individual student's educational background, 3-6 hours of pre-requisite courses may be required)
  • Eligibility for school counselor certification in Florida
  • Skill building in counseling leadership, collaboration, and data-driven decision making
  • Field experiences integrated throughout the coursework for a total of 700 clock hours
  • Focus on urban school experiences
  • Focus on knowledge and understanding for innovative practices in school counseling
  • Use of technology applications in school counseling to support students' growth and development
  • Use of data driven comprehensive programs that promote success for all students in the areas of academic, career, and personal/social development
  • Focus on equity and access opportunities for all students
  • Designed for the working student; an evening and weekend program with approximately 3 daytime obligations per semester (summer term may require more daytime obligations)

1.8 Affirming, Accepting, and Respecting Diversity


Every course in the School Counseling Program addresses the role of social and cultural diversity in school counseling. Students learn about the characteristics, concerns, and needs of diverse groups such as cultural minorities, people with low socioeconomic status, and people with disabilities. Students explore their own attitudes and biases toward various populations and develop strategies to overcome those biases. Students acquire skills in order to provide individual, group, and classroom guidance lessons to diverse populations.


Candidates are required to commit to the self-examination of their own acceptance and celebration of diverse populations.  Effectiveness in communicating and working with students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and community members is dependent on the student's understanding of cultural and

ethnic values, beliefs, and customs.  Faculty believes that candidates' understanding and sensitivity to diversity, both within and across cultural and ethnic groups, is simply a necessity, and the program fosters opportunities for growth. Throughout the program, candidates are expected to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of their own and others' cultural and ethnic beliefs, values, and mores.

School counseling candidates must be able to genuinely affirm and provide unconditional positive regard for each and every student in their field work and future in-service work.  One of the most fundamental precepts of the school counseling profession and the SOAR preparation program is that counselors convey the core conditions of empathy, unconditional positive regard, and nonjudgmental acceptance of students. Accepting and affirming all students as worthy of respect is necessary even if you cannot accept or affirm the behavior of the student.  The basis of trust and acceptance that allows students to feel safe in seeking the help of the school counselor is often jarred when school counselors have to refer a student to another counselor because the counselor's biases got in the way. Referral is not tool to be used so that school counselors can avoid segments of their population but is reserved for very rare cases.  Candidates must be willing to honestly examine their biases and to recognize if they are better suited to a counseling profession in which they are able to pick and choose their clients such as mental health counselors working with adults representing a particular narrow segment of the population.  School counselors are assigned hundreds of student/clients by alphabet, grade level, wing of the building, etc.  Because school counselors do not choose their clients, candidates who hold biases that have the potential to harm must seek another profession or sincerely work to overcome their biases.  Faculty member(s) will help willing students with a plan to help the candidate soften biases.  Candidates who do not want to work on their biases must recognize the ethical responsibility of the faculty to make sure we graduate candidates who can support and affirm all students.   


The gap in achievement between minority/low SES students and their non-minority/more affluent peers is a root sign of racial, cultural, and educational inequities that result in discrimination, economic disparity, and social stratification.  Candidates are selected for admission and groomed during the program to develop a penchant for social justice to see injustice and inequity where it occurs and work with determination to eradicate it. 



1.9 Technology


In every course in the school counseling program, students learn to apply current and emerging technologies so that they may learn how to use them to assist students, families, and educators to promote informed academic, career, and personal/social choices. Students use one or more types of multi-media technology (i.e. word processing, PowerPoint, Internet) to complete assignments.



1.10 Accreditations


The College and University: COEHS is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). The University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. (SACS).


The Program: SOAR is aligned with the Florida Educator Accomplished Practices, the standards of the Council for Accreditation in Counseling and Related Educational Programs standards (CACREP), and National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).


The School Counseling Program is a Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) Approved Initial Certification program that leads to certification in Guidance and Counseling (Grades PK-12). For additional details visit FLDOE


Why are these accreditations important to a student?

   Being a FLDOE approved program means that upon graduation you are eligible for Certification in Guidance and Counseling (Grades PK-12).


   "CACREP Accreditation provides recognition that the content and quality of the program has been evaluated and meets standards set by the profession.  The student, as a consumer, can be assured that appropriate knowledge and skill areas are included and that the program is stable, professionally and financially" (CACREP, 2009).

For further information about CACREP



1.11 Admission Process


The University of North Florida Graduate Catalog for this current academic year provides general information pertaining to all graduate students, including minimum admission requirements and financial aid information.



The School Counseling Program is organized according to a cohort model. Students are admitted to the program for either the Summer B or Fall semester. Admission to the SOAR Program is a two-step process, both of which have to be completed. Please check the website of this program for specific application and submission dates.


Step 1. Make application for a referral for admission to the University of North Florida Graduate School.                   

Referral for admission indicates that the student meets the admission criteria set by the University.  A referral does not guarantee admission to the SOAR Program.


Step 2. Make application for admission to the SOAR Program.                                                                 

Admission to the SOAR Program is dependent on a referral for admission to the University of North Florida Graduate School.




University Requirements for Referral


Needed: A baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or its equivalent from a foreign institution with a GPA of 3.0 or higher in all work attempted in the last 60 credit hours of upper level undergraduate study.


Exception: An applicant who does not meet the stated criteria for admission to the school counseling program may request review of his/her application by submitting a letter detailing the reasons that an exception to the admission policy should be granted. This letter should be submitted to the School Counseling Program Director prior to the closing date for receipt of applications. The letter will become part of the application and be reviewed during the student selection process. Only GPA criteria is considered for an exception.


SOAR Program Requirements


  1. Official transcripts from all attended institutions. Submit with your University application.
  2. Test Scores: Scores from either the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the General Knowledge tests (GK). Submit with your University application.

    For the GRE
    Prior to July 1, 2011:    minimum composite score of 1000 for both verbal and quantitative
    After July 1, 2011:         minimum composite score of 297 for both verbal and quantitative

    For the GK
    :  Applicants may submit scores of "pass" for each of the four sub-tests of the General Knowledge test in lieu of the GRE. The FLDOE contracts with Pearson and it is a Pearson Test for Florida. Students around the country may go to any Pearson testing site and take the GK test. The link to register for the GK test is the same as for the other parts of the FTCE (Florida Teacher Certification Exams)

    If applicants have not previously taken the GRE or the GK, it is suggested that applicants take the GK as it is required that this exam be passed by the conclusion of the first fall semester in the program.

    Candidates seeking admission to a state approved educator preparation programs must demonstrate mastery of general knowledge for admission to the program by providing passing scores of the GK, CLAST, NTE or GRE exams, or submit a copy of a valid State of Florida Department of Education Professional Educator's Certification. There is no "exception" or replacement in lieu of the test mastery.
  3. Letter of intent. Submit with your University application.
  4. Three letters of recommendations. Submit with your University application.
     For applicants who are currently or have past experience in a school, we request one letter of recommendation be completed by the school administrator. If employed, we request a letter from a supervisor. Family and friends are not acceptable references.
  5. A completed Admissions Portfolio. Submit to the SOAR Program office.
  6. Interview with members of the interviewing team and a two-three minute speech. The SOAR Program Coordinator schedules the interview date and time.


Admissions Portfolio- Interview - Speech


Applicants must submit an admissions portfolio which contains a signed statement of understanding, a school experience contract, and written reactions to journal articles and school scenarios.


The portfolio is due BEFORE the interview date and the interview dates are posted on the SOAR website . Applicants who are interested in interviewing on dates other than the posted dates may have accommodations made with the permission of the Program Director.  Portfolio materials submitted become the property of the SOAR program.  Please be certain to keep copies of all your work.


Interview and Speech

Applicants who meet the qualifications for admissions to the University and the SOAR Program are invited to attend an on-campus interview with Counselor Education faculty and practicing school counselors. In addition to an individual interview, each applicant will deliver a brief public speech (two to three minutes) on an educational topic (the topic recently has focused on  the achievement gap in education in America).Directions for the speech and data are described on the website.


The Interviewing Team is comprised of faculty and administrators and school counselors from Duval County Public Schools. The purpose of the interview is to provide applicants with additional information about the program, -ensure the program will meet applicants' needs, assess applicants' personal suitability to provide school counseling, assess the relevance of applicants' professional goals and objectives to the program and faculty, and to assess the applicants' ability in the following areas: advocate, leader, career/academic advisor, and counselor creating the conditions necessary for academic achievement for all children. Recommendations of applicants are then forwarded to the Program Faculty for a final decision for admittance to the program.

Application for a Second Master's Degree

An individual who possesses a master's degree and wishes to obtain a second master's in school counseling must apply to the program and complete all prerequisites. Applicants possessing a master's degree need to submit passing scores on the General Knowledge Test or GRE score of a composite score of 1000 (verbal and quantitative prior to 1/1/2011) or 297 (verbal and quantitative after 1/1/2011).

Exceptions Policy 

An applicant who does not meet the stated criteria for admission pertaining to the required GPA may request review of his/her application by submitting a letter detailing the reasons that an exception to the admission policy should be granted. Exceptions are only granted for GPAs below 3.0 and are limited in the number granted, therefore are competitive. This letter should be submitted to the School Counseling Program Director prior to the closing date for receipt of applications.  The letter will become part of the application and be reviewed during the selection process. Please note that this exceptions policy does not apply to the test score requirement from the State.

Decision Process 

Students should be aware that admission into the SOAR Program is competitive. Students meeting minimum requirements may be denied admission based on such factors as program capacity or academic discretion. Likewise, students may be considered for admission as an exception if stated admissions criteria are not met and a letter of review is submitted prior to the interview/speech. No applicant's materials will be reviewed for admission as a regular student until the applicant's file is complete. Incomplete or late applications cannot be considered for admission.


The Program Faculty reviews the recommendations from the Interview Committee to determine academic potential for rigorous course work and a penchant for social justice. All elements of the application process (prior academic performances, related work, school, and/or volunteer experiences, writing skills, interview, and speech) are considered in the final determination of acceptance to the program.

Usually within a week of the interview, applications are notified of the status of acceptance. Graduate admissions decision letters are delivered electronically to students through Self Service.


Admission decision is conveyed via an admissions letter "published" through your MyWings account.

 How it works

a)      log into you MyWings account - STUDENT SERVICES


Transfer Courses 

Six semester hours of approved credits can be transferred from another institution.  An appeal for an additional approved 9 credits can be made to the University in special circumstances. Applicants are required to discuss any transfer courses with the program director who will determine which courses may be applicable.

Post-baccalaureate Students 

Students in this category have already earned a bachelor's degree at a regionally accredited institution and desire to complete additional college coursework. UNF refers to post-baccalaureate students as those not admitted to a graduate program. At minimum, students are required to submit an application and materials prior to the first day of classes for the term in which they would like to enroll to the Graduate School.

  • Admission application
  • $30 application fee
  • Official transcripts from each post-secondary institution attended, including military and dual enrollment transcripts
  • Official transcripts from any credit-earning mechanism (Credit-earning mechanisms include, but are not limited to IB, AP, AICE, CLEP, or DANTES.)


Post-baccalaureate: Graduate Pre-requisites status is reserved for students working on graduate school prerequisites or department approved courses necessary for admission into the school counseling graduate program. Students in this status are required to interview with program faculty prior to being given permission to take program courses. Students in this status can earn up to 6 credit hours.  Students in this status are not eligible for financial aid. Post-baccalaureate students are not guaranteed admission to the program and must apply to the graduate school and the SOAR program.  Refer to the Admissions Process on page 9.

Equal Opportunity  

The University of North Florida encourages applications from qualified persons and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran's status, disability, age, marital status, or gender. The president has delegated responsibility for the implementation of the University's equal opportunity and non-discrimination policies and affirmative action program to the director, Office of Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP). For more information, contact the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs at