A program that wishes to achieve candidacy status, as the initial step toward accreditation, must:
- Host a one-day ACAOM staff orientation visit (Master’s-level programs only);
- Submit a Letter of Intent with Attachment 1 officially indicating, in writing, the program’s commitment to pursue the candidacy review process;
- Attend an ACAOM Eligibility Workshop (Master’s-level programs only);
- Complete an Eligibility Report for Candidacy;
- Host a candidacy site visit; and
- Submit a Formal Institutional Response (FIR) to the site visit report with other required documentation.
The program develops an Eligibility Report that addresses and documents compliance with ACAOM standards, with particular emphasis placed on compliance with each of the Eligibility Requirements and its progress and action plans for meeting fully the Standards and Criteria for Accreditation. The master’s or doctoral program prepares three copies of its Eligibility Report in paper format, and one electronic copy.
The program submits three electronic copies of its Eligibility Report, along with a non-refundable review fee, to the ACAOM office by October 1 if the program is to be considered for candidacy at a summer Commission meeting or by April 1 for consideration at a winter Commission meeting. The report must be prefaced by a completed Eligibility Report cover sheet. Commission staff reviews the report for completeness and substance to assess whether the program is ready for a site visit.
Before an Eligibility Report can be accepted for processing, it must present a factual and complete compilation of narratives with supporting documentation, where applicable, providing evidence that the program meets each of Eligibility Requirements and its progress and action plans for meeting fully the Standards and Criteria for Accreditation. (The Eligibility Requirements, Standards and Criteria are described and enumerated in the ACAOM Standards and Criteria Handbook.) For master’s level programs, please refer to the document entitled "Guide for Preparing the Eligibility Report (Master's Level Programs)” and for doctoral programs, please refer to the document entitled "Guide for Preparing the Eligibility Report (Doctoral Programs).”
Preparing for Initial Accreditation
During the period of Candidacy, the program submits annual and bi-annual progress reports and submits is annual sustaining candidacy dues, submits its letter of intent to pursue initial accreditation, attends a Self-Study workshop, conducts its Self- Study process, submits a Self-Study Report, hosts an accreditation site visit, and submits a formal institutional response to the site visit report with other required documentation. During this period, the Commission maintains liaison with the Candidate program.
While Commissioners, Commission staff, and Visiting Team members are unable to act as formal consultants to the candidate program, the Commission staff is available to provide technical assistance to programs throughout the accreditation process, including information and advice on the purposes of and how to prepare a Self-Study.
Annual reports are required of all Candidate programs. Part I of the annual report is due from all Candidate programs by October 15. Part II of the annual report must be submitted by April 15 for programs reviewed at the summer Commission meeting or by October 15 for programs reviewed at the winter Commission meeting. These reports must include any changes in the program, any additions of programs offered at the institution, the impact of these changes on other areas of the institution, and other information required in accordance with the annual report form. The current reviewed financial statement of the program, the budget, and required institutional/program statistics must also be provided in the annual report.
The Commission also seeks continuing evidence of compliance with the Eligibility Requirements and progress toward meeting the Standard and Criteria for Accreditation for Candidacy to be maintained, and for this purpose, requires biannual progress reports from Candidate programs on deficiencies identified in prior Commission reviews. Progress reports are due on the date specified in the Commission's action letter and must address all the issues identified therein. Based on its review of progress reports, the Commission reserves the right to require additional reports and interim site visits.
During the candidacy period, the program should focus on implementing its plans for meeting the Standards and Criteria for Accreditation and implementing its Self-Study process according to the guidance provided by the Commission in the ACAOM Self-Study Guide. The term “self-study” is intended to convey the concept that self-study is, in itself, an assessment, examination and evaluation of the institution/program, whether it be a program in a small specialized institution or one in a large departmentalized institution, by the entire educational community - board, faculty, students, administration and staff. The process culminates in the drafting of the findings and recommendations of the self-study for the program's own action. This report of the collected findings, data and other materials is called the “Self- Study Report.” The self-study should not be viewed as a single purpose, one-time event required to achieve initial or renewed accreditation. Rather, the self-study process and the documentation of outcomes are most effective when there is a broad and ongoing institutional and program commitment to assessment.