The purpose of the American Counseling Association Graduate Student Ethics Case Study Competition is to support the ACA Ethics Committee’s charge to help educate members of the association regarding ethical issues. The competition engages graduate counseling students (master’s and doctoral level) in critically analyzing a potential ethical case and creating an appropriate ethical decision-making plan to respond to the ethical situation.

The ACA Ethics Committee will begin accepting registrations for its second annual virtual case study competition for master’s and doctoral level students in counselor education programs beginning Feb. 1. The registration deadline is noon Eastern time on Feb. 15.

Team structure and rules

Members of the Ethics Committee will create two mock ethical scenarios, one for master’s students and one for doctoral students, with each addressing a current ethical issue facing the counseling profession. Teams may be composed of three to four master’s students or three to four doctoral students enrolled in the same counselor education program. Master’s and doctoral student teams will be judged in two separate categories. Each team must also have a faculty member to serve as an administrative contact person for the institution. Other pertinent information regarding team structure and rules:

  1. Each counselor education program will be allowed to enter only one team of master’s level students (i.e., programs may not have two teams of students from different specialty areas) and one team of doctoral level students in the competition.
  2. Each team member must currently be enrolled (in good standing) in a master’s or doctoral level program in counselor education and also be enrolled for the spring 2006 term for a minimum of three credits.
  3. Each team member must be a member of ACA (team members may submit membership applications online when they submit their competition registration forms).
  4. Teams should utilize the 2005 ACA Code of Ethics and information from relevant counseling literature for their case study responses.
  5. Utilization of outside sources, websites, articles, etc., is encouraged for the case study, but graduate student team members may not consult with anyone outside of their case study team, including their faculty contact or other members of their faculty.
  6. By submitting a case study response, teams agree to allow their names to appear online and  in Counseling Today and for their responses to be posted online.

Registration and submissions

Teams must complete an online application by noon Eastern time on Feb. 15. Further information and registration forms will be available after Jan. 27 on ACA’s website at Each team will designate a contact person. After teams have registered, the primary contact person listed for each team will receive further instructions on accessing the appropriate case study and submitting responses to the case study. Team members will be able to access the case scenario on Feb. 24. Completed responses to the case study must be submitted by midnight Eastern time on March 22.

Student teams are to present their responses to the case study in a brief paper (maximum of 15 pages) addressing the details of the case. Teams should clearly identify what they believe the dilemma to be, the proposed action they would take in this case (i.e., what they believe are the most ethical actions) and the justification for their proposed action(s), and provide a description of the model used to arrive at that decision. The decision-making model should be one that has been discussed in the professional literature, and team members are to offer a rationale regarding why they chose to apply that model to the case study.

Teams should cite appropriate literature and must give proper credit to the authors of any decision-making models used to analyze the case. Team members are to cite any sections of the 2005 ACA Code of Ethics (and may include other ethical guidelines) that they considered.

The role played by the ACA Ethics Committee

In addition to creating one case study for master’s level teams and one case study 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 herself or himself from judging that particular project.

Prize awards

Prizes will be awarded to recognize the top two master’s teams and top two doctoral teams. 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. In addition, the winning responses will be posted online.

First place prize: Each team member will receive a $75 gift certificate to the ACA Bookstore and a framed certificate.

Second place prize: Each team member will receive a $25 gift certificate to the ACA Bookstore and a framed certificate.

Honorable mention: Each team member will receive a certificate.


  • The deadline for team registration if Feb. 15 (there is no fee to register).
  • The cases will be available to teams on Feb. 24.
  • The case submission deadline is March 22.
  • The judges’ decisions will be made April 24.

If you have questions about the competition, contact ACA Ethics Committee Co-Chairs Harriet L. Glosoff ( or Samuel Sanabria  ( If you have questions regarding technical aspects of the competition (e.g., problems with registering online), contact ACA Ethics Committee staff liaison Larry Freeman at