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School Psychology

Psychology Student working with a child in the clinic

 

Program Overview

Location: Cullowhee

App Deadline: Feb. 1

Pre-Requisites: GRE, 3.0 UG GPA

Time to Complete: 71 Hours, 36 Months

Graduates Have 100% Employment Rate

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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. 

Virtual Open House

Saturday, November 20, 2021: 10-11am

Join us at one of our upcoming virtual Graduate School Open House events on Zoom! You'll have the opportunity to learn more about Western Carolina University,  understand the Graduate School application process, and meet key program representatives.

Register Today

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 WCU Specialist in School Psychology (SSP) Program Admissions Committee accepts applications from prospective candidates from a variety of different academic backgrounds including psychology and education. The Committee looks for applicants who show strong potential for success in the program both academically and professionally and with good potential as future school psychologists. The committee reviews applications holistically and considers each required piece of the application as equally important in making admissions decisions. Our admissions process begins with the identification of top applicants to invite for virtual interviews with the SSP program faculty. Following those interviews, offers are made for acceptance into the program and those accepted are invited to participate in an optional open house on campus before making their decision to enroll. Candidates have until April 15th to make this decision. Our goal is to enroll 8-10 individuals in each new cohort of students beginning in the Fall semester every school year.  The deadline to apply is February 1st with online interviews occurring in early March. 

 

The following information is required for each application:

  • WCU Graduate School Application: https://gradadmissions.wcu.edu/apply/ (The Graduate School is waiving all application fees for the Fall 2022 Admissions Cycle)
  • Transcripts from all previous colleges/universities attended  
  • Three (3) Letters of Reference required with at least one from an academic source who can speak to academic ability
  • Personal Statement addressing interests in school psychology, interests in the WCU SSP program, and relevant previous experiences 
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)/Resume
  • For the Fall 2022 admissions cycle, the GRE General Test is optional for applicants with a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. Although not required, applicants can choose to submit GRE scores if it is thought this would be helpful to the admissions committee in reviewing the application. Those with an undergraduate GPA below 3.0 are required to submit GRE General Test scores as part of the application.

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

Fall 2nd Year

PSY 624 - Advanced Child and Adolescent Development

PSY 665 - Psychological Assessment III

PSY 685 - School-Based Mental and Behavioral Health

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

PSY 699 - Thesis (for students choosing thesis option and planning to apply to the PsyD Program)

Spring 2nd Year

PSY 663 - Assessment and Intervention with Preschool Children

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

PSY 695 - Advanced Professional Issues

PSY 699 - Thesis (for students choosing thesis option and planning to apply to the PsyD Program)

Fall 3rd Year

PSY 683 - Internship in Psychology

PSY 680 - Applied Research Project or PSY 699 - Thesis

Spring 3rd Year

PSY 684 - Internship in Psychology

PSY 680 - Applied Research Project or PSY 699 - Thesis

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

School Psychology Faculty

Dr. Ethan Schilling - Program Director
Courses Taught: Assessment and Intervention with Preschool Children, School-Based Consultation, School-Based Mental and Behavioral Health, Practicum Supervision, Internship 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 the incidence of job burnout in the field.

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

FAQ

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.

The WCU School Psychology Graduate Program is accredited by NCATE 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 research 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.

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 evaluations for children referred by various community agencies, parents, four Charter Schools, and our lab school at WCU, the Catamount School.

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 their 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.

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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