ACA Graduate Student
Ethics Awards 
Master’s Degree Students

Background and Purpose

The American Counseling Association Graduate Student Ethics Awards for Master's Degree Students recognize exceptional, demonstrable understanding of the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics, the foundation of ethical professional counseling practice.

Deadline: Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, 11:59 PM EST
The members of the ACA Ethics Committee
 The names of the team members and the names of the institutions of the winning teams will be published in the American Counseling Association publication Counseling Today and posted online. All of the members of the winning teams are invited to attend the ACA Annual Conference & Expo to receive recognition.

First Place Award:
Each student team member will receive a $100 honorarium and a certificate of recognition.
Each student team member will receive a free registration to the ACA Conference & Expo.  Travel and lodging expenses are their own responsibility. 
The First Place Award essay will be posted online.

Second Place Award:
Each student team member will receive a $75 honorarium and a certificate of recognition.

Third Place Award:
Each student team member will receive a $50 honorarium and a certificate of recognition.

Honorable Mention Award:
Each student team member will receive a certificate of recognition.

Sponsor: The American Counseling Association Foundation

Eligibility, Rules and Criteria

  • Each student team member must be currently enrolled in good standing in a master's degree program in counseling or counselor education and must be enrolled for a minimum of three credits during the term when the competition will take place.
  • Each student and faculty member on a team must be a member of the American Counseling Association.


  • A counseling or counselor education program may have one team of master’s degree students and one team of doctoral degree students in the competition.
  • Master’s degree and doctoral degree teams will be judged separately. Teams must be made up of students in the same level of a degree program. This is not a mixed-level competition.
  • Counseling or counselor education programs with separate and distinct campuses may have a master's degree team representing each campus. Separate and distinct campuses are considered those that have stand-alone programs.
  • A single counseling or counselor education program that has multiple satellite campuses is not eligible for multiple master’s degree team submissions. (These campuses would have one dedicated representative in an accreditation process, representing the multiple satellite campuses.)


  • Teams are limited to having either a minimum of three students or a maximum of four students.


  • Each team must have a faculty member who will serve as an administrative contact person for the counseling or counselor education program.
  • The role of the faculty contact person is to represent the team’s counseling or counselor education program only.
  • Faculty members should not act as consultants in the awards competition.
  • The faculty member’s email address must be their own, not that of a student.

The team essays will be scored in terms of five rubrics:

  1. Identification of the Dilemma: The team clearly identified the ethical dilemma(s) including conflicting factors, dimensions and variables included in the professional quandary. The dilemma was described in relationship to ethical standards, laws and professional ideas or aspirations.
  2. Proposed Ethical Action: The team proposed action it would take including having: (a) clearly articulated professional interventions; (b) persuasive justification for proposed action and (c) a description of the professionally recognized decision-making model or process used to arrive at decisions.
  3. Use of the ACA Code of Ethics: The team cited appropriate sections of the ACA Code of Ethics (2014) and, if appropriate, other ethical guidelines considered in rendering their arguments. In addition, the team provided a clear rationale regarding selected sections of the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics and any other ethical guidelines cited.
  4. Use of the Proposed Model: The steps of the group's decision-making model were clearly followed and skillfully applied to the case.
  5. Overall: A thorough yet concise paper addressing details of the case and (a) the case study included proper citation of sources throughout the paper and in the reference list; (b) the paper was well organized and written, and information was presented clearly and concisely and (c) the paper cited the appropriate scholarly literature relevant to solving the ethical dilemma.

How to Apply

Awards applicants must register their team and submit an essay addressing this year's essay prompt. View the 2019 Graduate Student Ethics Awards Master's Student Essay Prompt

To register for the awards program:

  • Teams must register to enter the American Counseling Association Graduate Student Ethics Awards program via the Awards submission site. 
  • Each team member must provide their American Counseling Association member number at the time of registration to enter the awards program. Incomplete registrations will not be accepted.
  • Registering on the American Counseling Association web site to generate an ID number does not constitute membership. For information about membership, contact the membership department or call 800-347-6647.

To submit an essay for award consideration:

Application Checklist

  • Be sure that all team members are current ACA members.
  • Obtain all team members' membership ID numbers.
  • Register for the ethics awards program.
  • Submit an essay meeting all award requirements.


**NOTE:  If this is the first time you have submitted a nomination, you must create an account.  The email and password for the awards submission system may or may NOT be the same as your ACA website email and password.  They are different systems, and are not linked.

Submissions must be received by Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, 11:59 PM EST.

Send questions about eligibility criteria or other parts of the application process HERE

Supported and sponsored by the American Counseling Association Foundation.

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