Student Awards

ACA Foundation 2017 Graduate Student Essay Competitions

Welcome to the ACA Foundation 2017 Graduate Student Essay Competition information site and online submission form. This program is available to ACA student members and administered by the ACA Foundation. Since its inception, the foundation has been a strong supporter of graduate students in counseling. From scholarship awards for attendance at the ACA Annual Conference and Expo to underwriting the Graduate Student/New Professional Center and special education events at the conference, the ACA Foundation has taken an active role in helping counseling students become more involved in this exciting and demanding profession.

The 2017 ACA Foundation Graduate Student Essay Competitions, including the Future School Counselors Essay Competition (sponsored by the Roland and Dorothy Ross Trust) and the Tomorrow's Counselor Essay Competition will operate according to the following calendar:

  • The online link for submitting essays electronically will go active on October 3, 2016.
  • All essays must be received by January 4, 2017, at 11:59pm EST.
  • Award recipients will be announced on January 27, 2017.
  • Essay competition winners will be recognized at the ACA Conference & Expo in March, 2017

Essay Competitions

Two competitions for counseling graduate students ACA members are being held:

  1. Tomorrow's Counselor Essay Competition - Sponsored by the ACA Foundation
  2. ACA Future School Counselors Essay Competition - Supported by the Roland and Dorothy Ross Trust

Essay Prizes

Grand Prizes:  Each of the above competitions offers a Grand Prize of:

  • $500 Grant
  • Complimentary registration for the ACA 2017 Annual Conference
  • Publication of the essay in Counseling Today

Runners up Awards:  Each competition also provides 5 runners-up awards of:

  • $250 Grant
  • Complimentary registration for the ACA 2017 Annual Conference

Honorable Mention Awards:  Each competition also provides 10 honorable mention awards of:

  • Complimentary registration for the ACA 2017 Annual Conference

Competition Rules

You must be a current ACA student member. (If not currently a member and you wish to join now, please click on the Join/Renew Now! button located above. 

Those submitting essays may enter only one of the two competitions. You must be a currently enrolled student (fall semester/term 2016), taking one or more graduate level courses at an accredited college or university. For the ACA Future School Counselors Essay Competition, you must certify that you are working toward a career as a professional school counselor at the elementary, middle or high school level.

Essays are to be (3,200 characters) 500 words or less in length, addressing the theme below, and you must submit that essay via the online essay submission site (emailed or mailed submissions will not be accepted). You may not enter either competition if you have won a Grand Prize award in a past essay competition. 

The decisions of the judges are final. All entrants, by the act of entering, grant the American Counseling Association and the ACA Foundation the right to publish their essay as part of the post-competition publicity in the ACA’s Counseling Today monthly magazine and on the ACA and ACA Foundation websites. There can be no substitution of prizes and no cash returned on any portion of the unused prizes. Entries must be received no later than January 4, 2017 at 11:59 pm, EST. Entries received after this time will not be considered.

 Required Essay

Student members wishing to participate in either essay competition must address the following theme:

Educating New Federal Leaders about Counseling

A new administration will be moving into place in Washington in January. The 2017 ACA Graduate Student Essay Competitions call upon essayists to advocate for professional counseling in any new and/or expanded federal policies advanced by the incoming administration.

Develop an essay that informs these incoming leaders about the counseling needs of clients across the life span and the manner in which professional counselors respond to those needs. Then identify and build a case for new or expanded federal programs and policies that would strengthen existing counseling services. Essayists submitting for the Ross Trust Future School Counselor Essay Competition should focus their essays on counseling programs in K-12 educational settings.


All entries will be checked to verify ACA membership and to make certain that essay competition rules regarding length, deadlines, etc. have been met. They will then be read by a team of experienced counselors and evaluated with respect to how effectively the essay addresses the subject and offers provocative insights into the profession of counseling and its future. Judges will want to see ideas well explained and supported, but will also be evaluating how effectively the essayist presented his/her view and how interesting that position will be seen by the counseling community and the public at large.

Judging will be completed by late January so that winners can be notified in time to make plans to attend the ACA Annual Conference, March 16-19, 2017 in San Francisco, CA.

Ready to enter? Complete the information requested on the entry form and submit to ACA by January 4, 2017 at 11:59 pm, EST.

Questions? Email them to:


ACA Foundation 2016 Graduate Student Essay Competitions

2016 Graduate Student Essay Competitions Winners Announced!

2016 Corey/Ivey Competition Grand Prize Winning Essay - Kelly King (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)

2016 Corey/Ivey Grand Prize Winning Essay - Rachel Mickelsen (University of Texas at San Antonio)

2016 Ross Trust Grand Prize Winning Essay - Robin Lane (University of Texas at Austin)

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Latest News

ACA Names Representatives to CDC Project

by Amber McLaughlin | Feb 27, 2014
Five expert members will contribute to the Safe and Supportive Schools Project, which will work with 19 state education agencies to promote the establishment of safe and supportive school environments for all students and staff as an approach to preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections for adolescents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of the 19 million new sexually transmitted diseases reported each year occur in young people, ages 15-24. In 2010, young people, ages 13-24, accounted for 21 percent of all new HIV infections in the U.S.

This alarming trend clearly indicates that a change is needed in the standard national approach to addressing human sexuality. As part of its mission to enhance the quality of life in society and promote respect for human dignity and diversity, ACA supports a proactive approach to youth health and wellbeing. That’s why we have partnered with the American Psychological Association (APA) to implement the Safe and Supportive Schools Project (SSSP). 

Funded by the CDC for a five-year period, SSSP will work with 19 state education agencies to promote the establishment of safe and supportive school environments for all students and staff as an approach to preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections for adolescents.

ACA has selected five expert members who will review resources and provide implementation guidance for interventions that school counselors, school nurses, school psychologists, and school social workers can use in their districts.

Our representatives to the Safe and Supportive Schools Project are:

Vanessa Cantu, a school counselor at Besteiro Middle School in Brownsville, Texas.  Brownsville is currently the poorest city in the U.S. Consequently; Ms. Cantu works with many homeless students, as well as frequent drug users and students who are practicing unsafe sex.

Rick Gunsallus, PhD., who provides counseling services for schools in Broward County, Florida.  The county in which je works has the second highest number of new AIDS cases per capita in the U.S.  Dr. Gunsallus counsels homeless students, ESL students, and GLBTQ students.

Brian Law, a school counselor at Valdosta high School in Valdosta, Georgia. Mr. Law’s school has a 40% migrant population. He also has experience working in a Title I school.

Patrick Ryan Mullen, a doctoral student in Counselor Education. His dissertation is focusing on school counseling. Mr. Ryan has served as chair of the School Counseling department at Journeys Academy, an alternative and Title I school in Sanford, Florida.

Amanda Rumsey, a school counselor at McLendon elementary School in Decatur, Georgia. Ms. Rumsey enrolled in the doctoral counselor education program at Georgia State University. She has developed school-wide interventions for at-risk students.

"We are proud to play a role in this progressive initiative,” said Dr. Cirecie West-Olatunji, President of ACA.  “Facilitating empowerment for youth to make better decisions early in life, rather than solely focusing on problems after they manifest down the road, is and always will be one of the underlying values of our profession.”

For additional information about the project, please contact David Kaplan at