Prevention Science and Practice

Prevention Science and Practice/CAS in Counseling

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the criteria for admission?

We strive to admit a diverse pool of students who have differing perspectives, life experiences, and work experience with children and adolescents.  We use a holistic approach rather than a score based approach.  Applicants should have a demonstrated commitment to work with diverse, high-risk populations of children and youth, strong academic skills, and a willingness to engage in self-reflective learning.  An undergraduate degree is required, preferably in an area related to psychology, sociology, education, human development or public health.  The overwhelming majority of successful applicants have work or volunteer experience with children or adolescents in educational or social service settings.

For other admissions related questions -- GPA, GRE, recommendations etc. -- see Admissions FAQ:

Is a background in psychology a requirement for a PSP M.Ed.?

No. Although many of our students majored in psychology or took at least a few college-level courses in that field, the backgrounds of other students range from natural sciences to other social sciences and the humanities.  Strong academic skills are more important than a specific subject background.  Admitted students with no background in social sciences can take advantage of recommended supplemental readings.

Can I enroll part-time?

As the practicum and research experience is at the center of the program, it is extremely difficult for students to enroll part-time in the M.Ed. program.  We do, however, consider part-time applicants on a case by case basis.  We do not accept part-time applications for the CAS program.  If you believe that it is only possible for you to enroll part-time in the M.Ed. program, please contact the PSP Program Coordinator (, 617.495.4954) to discuss your situation.

I am a college senior.  Should I apply now, or wait until I have more work experience?

We see benefits both for both paths.  Every year we admit highly qualified recent college graduates, as well as those with many years of work experience.  If you have had research, volunteer, or academic experiences with youth and the issues that affect them, you will be able to take advantage of our program right out of college.  Our program can also help you make decisions about future career and/or graduate work options.

I have worked for several years.  Do you encourage mid-career applicants or those wanting to change career directions?

We welcome applicants at all stages of their careers and from many different fields, such as early childhood education, teaching, educational administration, nursing, social work, law, or youth programming.  As PSP students you will learn more about direct counseling work with children and families, explore the development and/or the evaluation of programs for at-risk youth, and acquire the background necessary to work in policy organizations. 

I am also interested in doctoral programs. Do PSP graduates continue on to doctoral programs?  If so, which ones and how many?  Can a PSP degree help me get into a doctoral program?

Our faculty estimate that about 20% of our graduates go on to doctoral programs immediately after earning a master's degree or a CAS, and that about 33% of our graduates go on to doctoral study at some point after completing PSP. Our students have been very successful at gaining admission to doctoral programs at various locations across the country in clinical psychology, developmental psychology, education, and other fields (including law and nursing).

Students interested in programs that have a strong research focus have strengthened their applications by being involved in one of our research courses or by taking various research methodology courses.  Additionally, the opportunity to gain extensive experience in both practice and research is one of the hallmark features of our program.

Is it possible to transfer into the Prevention Science and Practice if I am a current HGSE student?

The PSP program is designed around a yearlong practicum or research experience; therefore we strongly discourage transfers from other HGSE programs.  If you are considering this, please contact the PSP Program Coordinator (, 617.495.4954) as soon as possible.

If I am accepted into the PSP master’s program, am I automatically eligible to pursue the CAS?

No. Eligible students in the PSP master’s program must apply for the CAS by submitting a condensed application either during their master’s degree year or at any point after graduation with the PSP master’s degree. Eligibility requirements include first-year placement in a guidance or adjustment counseling practicum and sufficient completion of licensure requirements.

If I choose the Counseling strand, am I obliged to apply for the CAS?

No. Students in the Counseling strand are not obliged to apply for the CAS.  Rather students have the flexibility of making the M.Ed. their terminal degree, but remain eligible to apply for a CAS if and when they feel professionally ready. 

I have a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Education (or another institution), but it is not in Prevention Science and Practice. Can I still apply for the CAS year?

CAS is designed explicitly as the second year of a two-year licensure-based education and training sequence within the Prevention Science and Practice program.  Therefore, applications will be accepted only from students who have graduated with a PSP master’s degree.  However, if you did graduate with a HGSE degree, please contact us regarding you eligibility. 

Will I be eligible for licensure?

Students who complete the CAS are eligible for an initial Massachusetts licensure in their chosen concentration—School Guidance Counseling or Adjustment/School Social Work.

For specific licensure questions about PSP and Licensure see the PSP Licensure FAQ:

Does the CAS qualify students for the LMHC credential?

While some of the program requirements for the CAS may fulfill the requirements for the LMHC, it is a separate license that requires an individual review by the Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professionals, a Massachusetts state licensing organization.  Some graduates pursue this credential on their own, however PSP is not specifically structured to prepare students for this license. 

I am interested in learning more about a specific issue or population of children or adolescents.  Will I be able to pursue this interest in the PSP program?

Our program is general and integrative.  Rather than emphasizing specialized interventions for specific problems or populations, we focus on counseling and preventive practices that support healthy development in children and youth who face personal and environmental risk.  Drawing on the model of human ecology, students develop skills to understand and support children and adolescents in context of their situations and environments.  However, there are specialized courses offered throughout the Graduate School of Education and Harvard that address specific issues and we encourage students to seek out these courses.

How does the training in the Prevention Science & Practice program differ from a traditional social work or counseling program?

The Prevention Science & Practice program is largely focused in prevention and intervention work, specifically with children and adolescents (ages 0-19).  The coursework in PSP, while meeting specific regulations for adjustment/school social work and school guidance counseling licensure, maintains our commitment to multidisciplinary perspectives, drawing from urban education, developmental and applied psychology, public health, and non-profit program development and evaluation.  With an emphasis on school and community contexts, this program concentrates on the individual and systemic approaches that can be used to promote resiliency among children and adolescents.  Our emphasis on children and adolescents is much more specific and significant than in many social work or master’s level counseling programs.

What is a typical course schedule?

To accommodate the 16 hour (Ed.M) or the 20 hour (CAS) practicum commitment or the 8 hour research commitment, most PSP course requirements and related electives are scheduled for Tuesdays and late afternoons.  Students typically spend 2-3 days on site, depending on the flexibility of their schedule.

How do the practicum and research experiences differ?

The practicum is a service-based training experience that includes direct supervision by a specialist in the relevant area of practice.  Year after year, students tell us that the practicum is the glue that binds their experience together.  For students with substantial prior experience, the practicum provides an opportunity to connect theory and research from coursework to direct experience in the field.  The two-semester practicum courses include Pre-practicum (H-380A and H-381A), Practicum (H-380B and H-381B), and Advanced Practicum (H-390 I and II) involve weekly, three-hour didactic and reflective sessions.  The research experience provides an opportunity for students to participate in an ongoing research project related to PSP.  Sometimes the distinction between practicum and research is vague because some practicum sites are affiliated with research sites, and some research is practice-based.  Note that every year, some students elect to participate in both types of experiences.

Can I use my current job for my practicum or research experience?

We carefully choose, monitor, and evaluate our practicum placements.  All of our placements provide excellent supervision with appropriate credentials for counseling licensure where appropriate and are based in programs or projects where one of our core faculty members has an established, professional, and ongoing relationship.  To maintain this level of quality, we prohibit students from seeking placements on their own.

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Cross Registration

Many HGSE students choose to take courses at other Harvard graduate schools (aka, cross registering), including the Harvard Business School (HBS) and the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). For more information about cross registering at other Harvard schools, please visit the Cross Registration website.

HGSE Course Catalog

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