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UC San Diego's College Counseling Certificate - The Ultimate Guide

If you’re an independent education consultant (IEC or counselor henceforth), you need to regularly seek professional development to ensure you remain up-to-date on the latest counseling techniques and maintain your credibility. A great way to do this is to complete a college counseling certificate course — such programs cover fundamental topics like creating college lists, test preparation, finding financial aid, and career counseling, to name a few.

One such program is UC San Diego’s College Counseling Specialized Certificate. In this blog, we will review what the program consists of, how much it costs, the important dates, eligibility, who should apply, the pros and cons, and give our review!

What is the UC San Diego College Counseling Certificate all about?

The program, offered by the UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies, focuses on guiding students through the college application process and giving you, a counselor, the tools to help them transition from high school to college. It is open to everyone but aimed at novice counselors who want a more holistic understanding of college counseling and more experienced professionals who wish to deepen their knowledge of a particular specialization. Practicing counselors teach the program, and it is 100% online.

What does the program curriculum include?

The program has two required courses and a compulsory practicum that you must complete to obtain the certificate. 

The required courses are:

  1. Principles of College Counseling: The topics covered in this course include the fundamental training required to be adept in the college selection process, how to set up an independent practice, and the interpersonal skills required when working with students and their families during a crucial transition period.

  2. College Counseling Strategies: This course focuses on program development and creating knowledge resources that students can use. Here, you will learn about the various components of the college application process, including early decisions, test preparation and options, recommendation letters, and how to network with college admission representatives. 

After completing the two courses listed above, you can opt for the College Counseling Practicum. Here, you will work on a project and put the skills you have gained to use. The practicum includes participating in online discussions and independent research for your project. You will need to have sound knowledge of developments in the educational sector that can impact your work as a college counselor.

You must obtain a grade of C or above to receive the certificate. Once done, you can opt for an elective course, depending on your specialization. The electives cover topics like implementing a school counseling program, navigating the U.S. college application process as an international student, running an independent consulting practice, guiding students through college essay writing, career counseling, counseling students with learning disabilities, and the ethics of college admission counseling. 

What are the important dates?

The program is completely online and has no fixed start and end date. Each course is offered multiple times throughout the year and you can choose when to begin. Roughly, the program takes between six and nine months to complete. You must finish it within five years of beginning the program.

How much does the program cost?

Completing the required courses to obtain the certificate costs $1,505. Additionally, you have to pay a $95 application fee, which is non-refundable. The price of each elective course differs, ranging from $390 to $675.

If you are a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), you get a 10% discount when opting for elective courses.

Who can apply for the program?

The UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies offers its College Counseling Certificate program to all professionals. While newer and more experienced counselors would gain the most from the program, individuals from any background are welcome to apply.

To apply, you need to submit the following documents:

  • A completed online application form

  • Official transcripts proving you have obtained a Bachelor’s degree (or higher)

  • A statement of intent demonstrating your interest in participating in the program

The admissions committee will inform you of a decision within four weeks of application submission.

Is the program prestigious?

The program is moderately prestigious. While anyone with a Bachelor’s degree can apply for the program, seats are limited and you must wait for an admission decision before enrolling. In contrast, other college counseling certificate courses, like those offered by UC Berkeley, have open enrollment, i.e. anyone can apply and there is no admission decision. Additionally, you need to obtain a minimum grade of C to pass.

What’s more, completing the UC San Diego program with six electives meets the “professional experience” requirement when seeking membership in the IECA, which can open exciting professional opportunities for you! 

Wondering if this is the right program for you? Here are five reasons why you should apply:

1. You gain a deeper understanding of counseling and can study further based on your specialization

The UC San Diego program is open to everyone, from professionals looking to make a career change to new and more experienced counselors. The curriculum covers the fundamentals of college counseling and gives you the tools to advise students effectively. You can even opt for electives that cover topics ranging from counseling international students, college essay writing, and setting up a counseling business if you’re looking to learn more.

2. You can complete the program at your own pace

The program is 100% remote and each course is held multiple times during the year, so you can even enroll in the program while working. Coursework takes between six and nine months to complete and the only condition is that you finish it within five years of the start date.

3. You don’t need a background in counseling to apply for the program

The program does not have restrictive eligibility criteria. You only need a Bachelor’s degree to apply. While the program is tailored toward existing counselors, professionals looking for a career change would also benefit greatly from it.

4. You do not have to pay too much for the program

At roughly $1,500, the program is relatively affordable, though costs can increase significantly if you opt for electives. For comparison, the college counseling certificate program offered by UCLA costs over $5,500!

5. You can use the program to gain membership into professional organizations

Many organizations for counselors need you to prove that you have the requisite educational background and professional experience. Completing the UC San Diego program (with electives) fulfills the “professional experience” requirement and makes you eligible for associate membership with the IECA, which is among the most prestigious organizations for counselors! 

Our review — should you apply for the UC San Diego College Counseling Certificate program?

The program is a great option if you are a counselor looking to learn more about your profession and gain a deeper understanding of one or more specializations. The program is fully online and you can complete it at your convenience, and it is relatively affordable. What’s more, you can opt for electives to satisfy the requirements to become an associate member at the IECA!

If you’d like to recommend a rigorous research program open to high schoolers, you may want to consider the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here. You can also reach out to us at to know more, or to have a chat about possible collaborations!

Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!

Kieran Lobo is a freelance writer from India, who currently teaches English in Spain.

Image Source: UC San Diego logo



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