ACA Blog

Jessica Diaz
Aug 06, 2009

Submitted a conference proposal lately? A few tips for students! (Part 2)

So a few weeks ago I focused my blog on tips for increasing the likelihood of having your conference proposals accepted. This week I wanted to add a few more tips to the mix and offer some food for thought.
First let’s review:
1.Proof read, proof read, proof read. You are being graded!
2.Follow the directions.
3.Choose your topic area wisely.

4. Poster, short session or long session?
What many people don’t realize is that the type of proposal you submit does make a difference. If you are a student and want to get your foot in the door to present at a national conference, submit a poster proposal. Conferences usually have more poster slots to fill than they get proposals so most, if not all, usually get accepted. This is not to say that they accept anything. You are still given a grade and the panel still reviews each proposal to ensure they have a high quality exhibition of posters, but your chances are higher. As for the short session proposal, this is the hardest category. If you are submitting for the short session (usually 60 minutes), you have to make sure that yours will stand out because chances are you are one of many for only a few slots. The longer session (usually 90 minutes) have a little less competition but you need to make sure you have a topic that can fill the entire slot. Remember, for students, just presenting at a national conference is a big deal and looks great on your CV, no matter if it is a poster or a full session. The added bonus is that most departments will help fund your trip to the conference if you are presenting! So submit those proposals.

5. Big names or no names?
Maybe you are working with a big name in the counseling profession on a research project or chapter and you are interested in presenting those findings at a conference. The big question is, do I increase my chances of getting accepted if I ask that big name to present with me? The answer is yes and no? Most conferences have a limit on the number of sessions any one presenter can have, including those big names. So if your professor is submitting 6 proposals (to which only one is with you) and all are worthy of being accepted, they may only accept two of them. And yours may not be one of them. While having a big name on your proposal may help to get it noticed, it is not a guarantee. My best advice is to try one on your own based on your research together, or even better, ask to work on a solo project and make your proposal the best it can be.

6. Know your profession?
Conference panels want research and sessions to be on topics that are relevant to the field. Despite a great score on a proposal that pushes yours to the top of the list, if it is on a topic that has been presented to death or was “so last conference” they might pass yours over for a proposal that is in the “here and now.” This is where staying up to date is so important. Read your Counseling Today and any professional journal you can get your hands on. Counseling Today is great because the issues come out on the press fast, much faster than journals that can be a year (or more) in the works. The topics covered in Counseling Today are about things that are happening right now.

I hope these tips are helpful. I have been to a lot of conferences and although I love going to the big sessions of those big name counselors, nothing is more rewarding than attending a session (poster or presentation) of students. Students have a passion for what they present and it really shows.


Jessica Diaz is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, a third-year doctoral student, and was a student representative on ACA’s Governing Council.

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