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The purpose of the American Counseling Association’s Graduate Student Ethics Competition is to educate the members of the association regarding ethical issues, one of the responsibilities of the ACA Ethics Committee. The competition serves as an opportunity to engage master's and doctoral students in critically analyzing a potential ethical scenario and creating an appropriate ethical decision-making plan to respond to the ethical dilemma.

Competition Structure and Rules

The members of the ethics committee create two mock ethical scenarios, one for master's students and one for doctoral students, addressing a current ethical issue facing the profession of counseling.
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  1. Each counselor education program is allowed to have one team of master's-level students and one team of doctoral-level students enter the competition.
  2. Only one team of masters students may apply from each counselor education program, even if the counselor education program has more than one specialty area.
  3. Only one team of doctoral students may apply from each counselor education program.
  4. Master's and doctoral student teams will be judged separately. Teams must not be mixed level.
  5. Counselor education programs with separate and distinct campuses may have a master's-level team representing each campus. (Separate and distinct campuses are considered to be those that have stand-alone programs, not a single counselor education program that has multiple satellite campuses. For example, these campuses would have one dedicated representative in an accreditation process, representing multiple satellite campuses.) 


  1. Each team must have a faculty member who will serve as an administrative contact person for the counselor education program.
  2. The faculty member must be an ACA member in good standing.
  3. The role of the faculty contact person is to be a representative of the team's counseling education program only. Faculty members should not act as consultants in this competition.
  4. The faculty member's email address must be their own, not that of a student.


  1. Teams are limited to having either a minimum of 3 students, or a maximum of 4 students.
  2. Each team member must be currently enrolled (in good standing) in a master's or doctoral-level program in counselor education and must be enrolled for a minimum of three credits during the term when the competition will take place.
  3. Each team member must be an ACA member in good standing. Team members may submit membership applications online when they submit their competition registration form.

*** Please note that simply registering on the web site to generate an ID number does not constitute membership. For more information about membership, contact or call 800-347-6647.***


  1. Incomplete registrations will not be accepted. All students and the faculty member must provide membership numbers at the time of registration.


  1. Teams should use the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics and information from relevant counseling literature for their essay.
  2. The use of outside sources, URLs, and articles is encouraged, but the graduate student team members may not consult with anyone outside of their 3-to-4 member team, including their faculty contact or other members of their faculty.


Submission instructions will be sent to the identified faculty member. All submissions should be sent in PDF format. Documents submitted should be named for the school and level. For example, a master's team from ACA State University could submit a document named the document itself which school submitted it, then the submission will be invalid.

By submitting an essay, teams agree to allow their names to be posted online, to appear in Counseling Today, and for their responses to be posted online.

Role of the ACA Ethics Committee

In addition to creating one scenario for master's-level teams and one scenario for doctoral-level teams, ACA Ethics Committee members will serve as judges for the competition.

Ethics Committee members may not serve as the faculty contact for teams from their institutions. Furthermore, should an Ethics Committee member be associated with an institution that registers a student team for the competition, that Ethics Committee member will recuse themselves from judging that particular submission.


Prizes recognizing the top three master's teams and top three doctoral teams will be presented to the winners during the awards ceremony. In addition, one master's team and one doctoral team will receive an honorable mention. The names and institutions of the winning master's and doctoral teams will be published in Counseling Today and posted online.

First Place: Each student team member will receive a complimentary registration to the ACA 2018 Conference & Expo in Atlanta, a $100 gift certificate to the ACA Bookstore and a certificate. Each member will also receive a letter of recognition.

Second Place: Each student team member will receive a $75 gift certificate to the ACA Bookstore and a certificate. Each member will also receive a letter of recognition.

Third Place: Each student team member will receive a $50 gift certificate to the ACA Bookstore and a certificate. Each member will also receive a letter of recognition.

Honorable Mention: Each team member will receive a letter of recognition and a certificate.

In addition, all members of winning teams will be invited to attend the ACA 2018 Annual Conference & Expo to receive recognition at the National Awards Ceremony.

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