Mini Manual 4: Preparing for the On-site Visit
The initial review is completed and the program has been approved for an on-site visit. While the site team is informed by the initial review, the site team visit is a separate review to validate the Self-Study Document and clarify aspects of the program that cannot be evaluated fully through the initial review. The site team members may request additional information documents up to and throughout the visit. This section of the manual provides a general overview of what happens before, during and after the on-site visit.
Before the On-site Visit
1. The Site Visit Planning Documents
When a program is recommended for an on-site visit, CACREP staff will send several site visit scheduling documents for the program to review and complete:
a. List of Potential Team Members. CACREP staff will send a list of potential team chairs and team members. From this list, the program will identify any site visitors who should be excluded from consideration for this visit due to conflicts of interest. Any individuals the program identifies as having potential conflicts of interest should be indicated on the Site Visit Template (See Item “b” below). CACREP staff will remove these individuals from consideration when establishing the site visit team.
CACREP also asks a potential site visitor to identify if he or she has a potential conflict of interest when considering whether to serve on a site visit. If the individual indicates there is a potential conflict of interest, he or she does not serve as a site team member for the visit.
A site visit team consists of a minimum of three members (one team chair and two members) for a full review. The number of site team members may increase depending on the number of specializations being reviewed and the number of sites at which the specializations are offered.
The site visit team members are counselor educators or professional counselors. Site visiting team members: have completed CACREP site visitor training; have degrees in counseling or a closely related field; have experience as counselor educators or professional counselors; identify with the counseling profession through memberships and appropriate licenses and/or certifications; and, engage in activities of the counseling profession and its professional organizations.
b. On-site Visit Template. This document provides the CACREP office with the details needed for scheduling a visit, including potential dates for the visit and a listing of potential team members for which conflicts of interest were identified. The program will need to submit several potential visitation dates. On-site visits run from Sunday evening through midday Wednesday, with the team arriving Sunday afternoon and departing by noon on the following Wednesday. Preferred dates provided must be at least 12 weeks out from when the On-site Visit Template is returned to the CACREP office. When selecting site visit dates, please ensure that key participants are available to meet with the visiting team, including institutional administrators and staff, program faculty members (both core and non-core), the department chair, current students, alumni and site supervisors. The program liaison should contact the offices of the chief administrators to determine their availability and to hold potential visit dates on their calendars. Please be aware of holidays and any dates when the institution is on break. As soon as the CACREP office receives the completed template, staff will begin planning the visit and will let the program know when a team has been arranged.
Please note: To be approved for an on-site visit, the program must have students in the last term of their program at the time the visit occurs. For new doctoral programs, an on-site visit cannot be scheduled until there are students who are likely to be finished within a two-year time frame.
c. Release Form. The release form gives CACREP permission to use a program’s original self-study report in future CACREP training. If a program does not wish its Self-Study Document to be used for training purposes, this should be indicated on the form.
d. On-Site Visit Invoice. The program will be invoiced for the cost of the on-site visit. CACREP charges a flat fee per visitor that covers the visitors travel expenses, lodging, and food. Although CACREP reimburses team members for hotels and travel, the program should select appropriate and convenient accommodations for the team members. The program is also responsible for handling arrangements for any travel that needs to occur on campus (e.g., to internship sites, to and from the airport, etc.). As the program is responsible for arranging accommodations and travel while the team is on-site, please try to control these costs so that CACREP can keep fees to a minimum.
The program has up to 30 days to complete and submit the above documents. Once CACREP receives the completed On-site Visit Template, a CACREP staff member will begin to coordinate the logistics for the on-site visit. The program liaison will receive an email with an attached letter once the on-site team members and dates for the visit have been confirmed. The letter will outline the next steps for preparing for the site visit, including developing the on-site visit agenda with the team chair, arranging hotel accommodation and local transportation for the team.
The program liaison will also be sent an email with the following documents:
- CACREP Liaison Responsibilities
- Team Member Evaluation Form
- Site Visit Letter confirming the date and team members for the on-site visit
2. Important Review Materials. Once a team has been selected, the program is responsible for sending each team member a copy of the original Self-study Report and any addenda that have been developed. The versions of these documents that are sent to the site team members must be the same as the documents submitted to the CACREP office. If an Addendum was not required, but the program chooses to submit one, they must submit two (2) copies in read-only format on disks or USB drives to the CACREP office and prepare additional copies to be sent to all the site team members once selected. The CACREP office should have copies of all documents sent to the site team members and vice versa.
3. Drafting the Agenda. The on-site visit agenda is coordinated in conjunction with the team chair. The team chair and program liaison will discuss possible individuals or groups with whom the team would like to meet (e.g. current students, graduates of the program, departmental/unit faculty, faculty outside the department/unit, administrators [Deans, CEO], and practica and internship site supervisors).
Please note: The program liaison will need to inform those being interviewed of the purpose for the interview.
4. Transportation, Lodging and other Accommodations for Visiting Team. While the cost of lodging is included in the on-site visit fee, CACREP asks programs to please make reservations at appropriate and convenient accommodations (near the campus) for the team members. The site team members will pay upon arrival. The liaison should contact the CACREP office at the time of reservation if payment for lodging needs to be made in advance of the visit.
The site team members make their own transportation arrangements to the institution’s city; however, the program needs to arrange transportation to and from the airport and to off-campus sites during the visit. Most teams will not have cars so this should be taken into account when planning transportation and lodging. Often, program faculty and/or students take on the role of driving team members to sites.
In addition, please provide team members with information on closest airport(s), parking and transportation arrangements, taxi services, and nearby places to eat.
Responsibilities Prior to the Visit
The following is a summary of the responsibilities of the CACREP staff, team chair, team members, and program liaison, prior to the site visit:
The CACREP staff is responsible for
- appointing team members and scheduling the dates of the on-site visit
- informing the program liaison that the team has been selected and that the dates for the on-site visit are set, and sending procedural regulations and evaluation forms
- confirming the dates of the on-site visit with all team members, sending the team copies of pertinent correspondence between the CACREP office and the program/institution (e.g., initial review letter), and providing team with report writing guidelines and evaluation forms
The Program Liaison is responsible for
- transmitting to each team member a copy of the original Self-study Document and any addenda submitted for review
- corresponding with the team chair to coordinate the on-site visit agenda
- arranging transportation for team members to and from the airport and to off-campus sites during the visit
- arranging hotel accommodations close to the campus
- forwarding information to team members regarding transportation and lodging arrangements (e.g., closest airport, airport pick-ups, parking considerations)
- informing interviewees of the purposes of any meeting arranged to occur during the visit (e.g., team member interviews of current site supervisors)
- making available an on-campus workroom for the team’s use during the visit
The Team Chair is responsible for
- communicating with the program liaison before the on-site visit to arrange a tentative agenda for the visit
- discussing with the program liaison possible interviewees with whom the team would like to meet (e.g., current students, graduates of the program, departmental/unit faculty, faculty outside the department/unit, administrators [Dean, CEO], and practica and internship site supervisors)
- assigning duties to each visiting team member, either before arriving on site or during the pre-meeting the evening before the first full day of the on-site visit
- supervising the conduct and adequacy of the on-site visit and chairing organizational meetings throughout the on-site visit
- serving as the primary spokesperson for the visit team
- serving as the spokesperson for the team in conferences with administrative officers of the institution and during the oral exit presentation
The Team Members are responsible for
- making transportation arrangements to the institution’s city
- forwarding their travel schedules in advance to the CACREP staff, the team chair, and the program liaison
- thoroughly reviewing all accreditation materials sent by the institution and the CACREP office and being well prepared for the visit with notes and possible questions
- informing the CACREP office and program if the self-study and informational materials are not received in a timely manner
During the On-site Visit
The typical on-site visit occurs from Sunday through Wednesday, with the team arriving Sunday afternoon and departing by noon on the following Wednesday. The full second and third days of the visit are devoted to completing the team’s self-study validation tasks. To validate the Self-study Document, the visiting team will:
- view program-related facilities
- confer with administrative officers, including officials who can authoritatively discuss the support and plans for the counselor education program
- hold individual and group discussions with program faculty members and other academic staff
- interview current students, alumni, and site supervisors
- visit practicum and internship sites
Please note: If the application includes multiple sites then the activities listed above should occur at each site.
Social engagements during the on-site visit are not permitted for either the team as a whole or individual team members. Evenings should be free for the team to meet and confer with one another. Time should also be allocated each day for the program liaison and/or the program chair to meet with the team chair to make any necessary changes to the visit agenda.
At the conclusion of the site visit, the team chair, accompanied by the team members, will conduct an oral exit presentation. The exit presentation will provide an overview of the team’s impressions of the program’s strengths and weaknesses to appropriate officers of the institution and the program faculty. The program may invite to the meeting any administrators, faculty, and staff they think appropriate. For a more detailed explanation on how a team operates during an on-site visit please refer to the Team Member Manual and Team Chair Manual under the Team Member tab.
Please note: The team chair will not convey the specific recommendations the team will be making to the Board concerning accreditation decisions. The exit presentation is not a discussion session and all attendees should be made aware of this. The team will provide an overview of what will be included in its report and then depart. Team members should not be challenged at any point during the exit presentation. The institution and program will have an opportunity to view and respond to the Team Report in writing prior to an accreditation decision being rendered by the CACREP Board of Directors.
After the On-site Visit
1. Site Team’s Report. Within two weeks following completion of the on-site visit, the team chair will submit a finalized copy of the Site Team’s Report to the CACREP office. The report will represent the consensus of the entire team regarding the strengths and limitations of the specialization(s) under review. For each standard, the report will indicate either “met” or “not met,” and give the reason the team is indicating a standard is “not met”.
The team chair will also submit to the CACREP Board of Directors a separate document with the team’s specific recommendations concerning the program’s accreditation decision for each specialization reviewed. These recommendations (i.e., 2-year, 8-year, denial) will not be shared with the program.
Accreditation recommendations are specialization specific. For example, in a situation where an institution is seeking accreditation for more than one specialization, the institution’s School Counseling specialization could receive a recommendation from the team for an eight-year accreditation, its Clinical Mental Health Counseling specialization could receive a recommendation for a two-year accreditation with minor standard-related deficiencies, and its Addiction Counseling specialization could receive a recommendation for denial of accreditation.
Once the report and recommendation have been received in the CACREP office, staff will process the report and send hard copies of a transmittal letter and the team report to the president/CEO, the dean of the school or college in which the counseling program is housed, the department chair, and the program’s CACREP liaison.
2. Institutional Response to the Site Team’s Report. Upon receipt of the Site Team’s Report, the institution is allowed 30 days in which to respond to the relative accuracy of the Site Team’s Report.
Please note: An Institutional Response is required even when the indication in the Site Team’s Report is that all standards are met.
The Institutional Response to the Site Team’s Report should be clear, explicit, and standard specific. The program may choose to respond to suggestions from the team, but there is no requirement to do so. The following format is recommended for the Institutional Response:
- State the standard that the visiting team has marked as “not met”;
- State the team’s requirements/comments for each standard marked as “not met”; and
- State the institution’s response for each standard marked as “not met,” including additional supporting documentation as warranted.
Mail the two copies of the Institutional Response to the Site Team’s Report on disks or USB drives to the CACREP office. Each copy should be labeled with the institution’s name, date of the report was created and indicated as the Institutional Response.
If the deadline for submitting the Institutional Response falls within a time period that is less than 30 days prior to the next scheduled CACREP Board meeting, CACREP will notify the program liaison and administration of the following options:
- The program can opt to submit the Institutional Response prior to the deadline date to insure that the documents are received at least 30 days prior to the CACREP Board meeting. If this option is chosen, the program will be included on the Board’s agenda to receive a final review and an accreditation decision for each of its specializations, OR
- The program can choose to take the full 30-day response period for developing and submitting its Institutional Response. When this option is chosen, the program will be included on the Board’s agenda for the following meeting. Generally, this meeting is scheduled approximately six months after the most recent meeting.
Once the institution has submitted its response to the Site Team’s Report, CACREP will not accept any further information or documentation prior to the rendering of an accreditation decision unless that information or documentation is specifically requested by the CACREP Board of Directors.
Please note: An institution may withdraw an application for accreditation at any point during the accreditation process before a decision has been rendered. Requests for withdrawal of a program from the accreditation process must be made in writing, be signed by an authorized institutional representative, and be submitted to the CACREP office prior to the Board of Directors rendering an accreditation decision for the program.
In addition to submitting the program’s Institutional Response, please complete the team member feedback forms and return them to the CACREP office within 30 days of the visit’s completion.
Policies Related to the On-site Visit:
- Policies Governing the Pre-Application and Application Review Stages 1.m – Electronic Submission
- Policies Governing Timelines 2.b – On-Site Visit Scheduling
- Policies Governing Timelines 2.c – Submission of Materials Following the Institutional Response
- Policies Governing Timelines 2.d – Materials Due for Board Decisions
- Policies Governing Timelines 2.e – Voluntary Withdrawal of Accreditation Status
- Policies Governing Fees 6.c – On-Site Visit Fees
- Policies Governing Conflicts of Interest 13.b – Team Member Conflict of Interest
FAQs Related to the On-site Visit:
- How many members comprise an On-site Visit Team?
- What if my program has sites that are far apart?
- How do I schedule my on-site visit?
- Can we have an on-site visit in the Summer?
- Who pays for accreditation on-site visits?
- What is a conflict of interest (COI)?
- What does the fee for the on-site visit cover?
- Do we pay for the on-site team’s accommodations?
- Do we send the Self-Study Document to the team or does the CACREP office send it?
- We would like to provide a meal or meals to the team. Will CACREP reimburse us for these expenses?
- Can we provide feedback on the on-site team?