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College of Education and Allied Professions

School Psychology

Psychology Student working with a child in the clinic

 

The School Psychology Graduate Program at Western Carolina University is proud to be recognized as an approved program by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).  The program has a long history of providing strong educational experiences leading to graduates performing at high levels in the field of school psychology. 

Important Program Information:

  • 71-semester hour (three-year) program including practicum, internship and research requirements
  • Program centered on the standards set by the NASP Practice Model. 
  • Program guided by the National Association of School Psychologists Nondiscrimination Policy
  • Degree earned is the Specialist in School Psychology (SSP) and a Master’s (MA) degree in General Psychology with a concentration in school psychology is earned upon completion of 50 credit hours on the way to the SSP degree.
  • Students who have completed credit hours for the MA degree will be eligible to apply for entry into the WCU Psychology department's Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in Health Service Psychology (combined clinical/school) degree program. Students gaining entry into the PsyD program will complete a further 3 years of coursework including additional practicum and internship experiences in fulfillment of the PsyD degree.  
  • SSP Graduates are eligible for Level II Licensure at the state level and National Certification as a School Psychologist after completing program requirements including passing the Praxis II exam. 

The WCU Graduate School provides more information about the School Psychology graduate program and how to get information from and apply to the WCU Graduate School.

Deadline for application to the program is February 1st

The School Psychology Application Committee accepts applications from students with a variety of different undergraduate degrees including psychology and education. The Committee looks for applicants who show strong potential for success in the program both academically and behaviorally. While GRE scores and undergraduate GPA are both very important, they are not the only criteria considered. An applicant's personal statement stating interest in the program as well as letters of reference are also important aspects of the application. Approximately twenty of the top applicants are invited to interview with the Committee and from that group, approximately 8 to 10 are invited to enroll in the program. The deadline to apply is February 1st.

Students are selected for admittance to the program based on a review of all application data available including:

  • GRE scores
  • Undergraduate GPA
  • Letters of Reference (at least three)
  • Personal Statement
  • Faculty Interviews

All students accepted into the program must have:

  • GPA of at least 3.0 for the last 30 hours of coursework
  • For GRE tests completed prior to August 1, 2011 combined Verbal and Quantitativescores are preferred to be 1000 or higher.  For GRE tests completed after August 1, 2011 combined Verbal and Quantitative scores are preferred to be 300 or higher (students with lower combined scores are accepted on a provisional basis if other evidence of potential for high level academic performance is evident)
  • Personal and professional traits consistent with WCU School Psychology program standards as evidenced by the applicant’s Letters of Reference, Personal Statement, and Faculty Interviews.

School Psychology Course Schedule

Fall 1st Year

PSY 651 - Advanced Research Methods and Statistics I

PSY 661 - Psychological Assessment I

PSY 673 - Professional Issues

PSY 674 - Advanced Child Psychopathology

Introduction to Research Seminar

Spring 1st Year

PSY 622 - Academic Interventions & Settings

PSY 623 - School-Based Consultation

PSY 652 - Advanced Research Methods and Statistics II

PSY 664 - Psychological Assessment II

PSY 675 - Cognitive Behavioral Interventions I

Fall 2nd Year

PSY 624 - Advanced Child and Adolescent Development

PSY 665 - Psychological Assessment III

PSY 676 - Cognitive Behavioral Interventions II

PSY 686 - Practicum in Psychology I (Clinic or School-Based)

PSY 699 - Thesis (for students choosing thesis option)

Spring 2nd Year

PSY 663 - Assessment and Intervention with Preschool Children

PSY 686 - Practicum in Psychology II (Clinic or School-Based)

PSY 695 - Advanced Professional Issues

PSY 699 - Thesis (for students choosing thesis option)

Fall 3rd Year

PSY 683 - Internship in Psychology

PSY 680 - Applied Research Project (for students choosing research project option)

Spring 3rd Year

PSY 684 - Internship in Psychology

PSY 680 - Research Project (for students choosing research project option)

The School Psychology Graduate Program Handbook provides more detailed information about program requirements including practicum/internship experiences and research opportunities.

School Psychology Faculty

Dr. Lori Unruh - Program Director 
Courses Taught: Professional Issues, Academic Interventions and Settings, Advanced Professional Issues, Practicum Supervision, Internship Supervision

Research/Professional Interests: Factors related to student learning including academic instruction/interventions and classroom management/discipline; support to teachers especially beginning teachers; and social justice issues related to education including minority disproportionality in special education, the impact of poverty on children, etc.

Dr. Candace Boan-Lenzo
 
Courses Taught: Advanced Child Psychopathology, Psychological Assessment II, Psychological Assessment III, Advanced Child and Adolescent Development, Practicum Supervision

Research/Professional Interests: Educational reform; empirically validated practices and interventions in educational settings; job burnout in school psychology; and asexuality.

Dr. Mickey Randolph
Courses Taught: Family Systems, School Based Consultation.

Research/Professional Interests: Cultural literacy; tattoos – perceptions or others
and behavioral impacts; gender issues; asexuality; Job burnout in school psychology.

Dr. Ethan Schilling
Courses Taught: Assessment and Intervention with Preschool Children, School-Based Consultation, Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions II, Practicum Supervision

Research/Professional Interests: Pediatric school psychology; the school functioning of students with chronic health difficulties; advocacy and policy-related issues relevant to the schooling of students with chronic health problems; issues related to the recruitment and retention of school psychologists including job burnout in the field.

FAQ

What is a Specialist in School Psychology degree (SSP)?

The SSP degree clearly reflects the fact that the requirements for graduation from the School Psychology Program at WCU are more intensive than would be required for a Masters degree. The program consists of 71 credit hours and requires 3 years of course work including practicum and internship experiences. While a Masters (MA) degree is earned on the way to the SSP, the SSP is the terminal degree in the field allowing for practice as a school psychologist.

How is the WCU School Psychology Graduate Program accredited?

The WCU School Psychology Graduate Program is accredited by CAEP and by the NC Department of Public Instruction. In addition, the program has received Full Approval by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) through the year 2026.

How difficult is it to get into the program?

The School Psychology Application Committee accepts applications from students with a variety of different undergraduate degrees including psychology and education. The Committee looks for applicants who show strong potential for success in the program both academically and behaviorally. While GRE scores and undergraduate GPA are both very important, they are not the only criteria considered. An applicant's personal statement stating interest in the program as well as letters of reference are also important aspects of the application. New cohorts of students enter the program in the Fall semester each year. The deadline to apply is February 1st.

What financial assistance is available for students?

The Psychology Department is very aggressive at seeking out Graduate Assistantships for students entering our graduate programs. As a result, for the last 5 years at least, 100% of the graduate students who were eligible through full acceptance into the program have been provided with an Assistantship. Every year, the Graduate school also offers a limited number of in-state and out-of-state tuition waivers that are distributed based on GRE and undergraduate GPA scores.  In the past few years, most of the out-of-state graduate students in the psychology department have received some sort of tuition waiver. Our students are also typically very competitive for scholarship funds available through the WCU Graduate School.

What unique experiences can the students in this program expect?

Students in the WCU School Psychology Program are given many opportunities for diverse community experiences. This includes involvement with school systems in the region including four Charter Schools. The public schools in this region provide a unique picture of rural Appalachian communities but also reflect changes related to the increase in Hispanic populations within these communities. In addition, the Cherokee Indian Reservation is located close by and there is one school system that provides a more inner city perspective.  Our students also complete service learning activities as part of their courses taken while enrolled in the program.

What are the research requirements?

All students accepted into this program are expected to complete either a Thesis project (pdf) or Research project as part of their graduation requirements. The research project is a more applied school-based project whereas the thesis project is typically more theoretical and experimental in nature.  Students are encouraged to choose projects that are consistent with the types of research conducted by School Psychologists in the field. See the School Psychology Graduate Program Handbook for further guidance in choosing between these two research requirement options. A high degree of support from psychology faculty is provided in the completion of these projects.

What Practicum experiences can a student expect?

Two different Practicum experiences are provided for each student during their second year in the program.  Each student spends one semester working two days a week in one of the local schools under the supervision of a school psychologist. In that setting, students complete psychological assessments, counseling projects, and intervention case studies. The other semester is spent working in the McKee Assessment and Psychological Services Clinic in the department. Here, students are supervised by University faculty and provide comprehensive assessments for children referred by various community agencies, parents, and four Charter Schools.

What are the Internship expectations?

Students spend their third year in the program working full time under the supervision of a school psychologist. They are allowed to work anywhere in the United States as long as the school system or other setting chosen can meet the internship requirements established by the program. The students engage in activities similar to those required for the practicum but at a higher level of expectation. University supervision is provided virtually through various means and there is no requirement for face-to-face, on-campus supervision during the internship year.

How are School Psychology Graduate students provided with feedback?

Each student who enters the WCU School Psychology Graduate Program will gain acess to the program Blackboard community. This system allows students to maintain a portfolio of required activities as well as yearly goals and reflections. The assessment process was developed to not only provide the program with student performance data but also to provide the student with consistent ongoing feedback to assist them in evaluating and improving their own skills and professional progress as a developing school psychologist.

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