Developing a Strong Application

Getting Started

The first step is to look at the list of genetic counseling programs available, review their websites, and if you have questions, contact the program directors/staff. Programs should be accredited by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. For a listing of accredited programs, go to http://gceducation.org/Pages/Accredited-Programs.aspx. Because many qualified applicants apply to each program and each program has a limited number of training slots, it is important to apply to several programs. If you are a qualified applicant, this will improve your chances of admission the first time you apply. Only apply to those programs that you would consider attending. Keep an open mind when choosing a program. Look at the websites to see what each has to offer. You may want to consider tuition costs.

Preparing a Competitive Application

On each program’s websites, you will probably find a section that details the program’s admission requirements. These generally include the following:

  • Prerequisite courses:
    • Since genetic counseling students will be taking graduate level coursework in molecular biology and human and medical genetics, it is important that applicants have a strong foundation in the biological sciences. Visit each program’s site for information about their prerequisites.
    • Students also need coursework in psychology (at least one class).
  • Experience shadowing or talking to a genetic counselor: This is not required by all programs, but is very helpful in strengthening a person’s application.
  • Advocacy/volunteer work: In particular, volunteering in a setting where you are helping people cope with an issue or problem (like a social service agency or a crisis intervention organization).
  • GRE scores: Most programs require only the general examination, but check the individual program website for specific information.
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language Applicants whose native language is other than English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
  • Academic transcripts: From all institutions attended, even if you only took one class.
  • Personal essay: An essay describing why you want to be a genetic counselor. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your familiarity with the profession and what is driving you to become a part of it.
  • Letters of recommendation:
    • Make sure that you get these from people who know you well and who you think will write a good letter of recommendation.
    • Seek recommendations from those familiar with your academic abilities, work ethic, and/or interpersonal skills such as a professor, research mentor, advisor, volunteer coordinator, or employer. At least one or two should speak to your academic ability.
    • Personal references (from a friend or neighbor) are less helpful in evaluating your application Applying
  • Make sure all materials are completed fully and submitted by the deadline!
    • For the WSU program, the deadline is January 15th.
    • Give those writing your letters of recommendation ample time to get their letters submitted.
    • Sometimes, graduate school admissions offices are slow, so it can be helpful to get your graduate school application in before the deadline date to ensure that the program has access to this information by their deadline date.
    • Make sure when you order your original transcripts you know how long it will take for them to be sent in to the admissions office and plan accordingly.
    • Make sure the University is listed as a recipient on your GRE scores/ that the scores are sent to the University.
    • Review your application for errors and typos.
    • Have someone read your essay to check for typos and to make sure it says what you intended it to say.
    • Be truthful! If the admissions committee detects inaccuracies in your application, that reduces your chance of admission.
  • There is no rolling admission and decisions regarding interviews are generally made in the middle to late February. Our program participates in a Match program which occurs one day in mid/late April.  See below for additional information.

Interviewing

  • An interview (by invitation only) is a mandatory part of most programs’ admission process. Exceptions to in person interviews may be made for international applicants. Most interviews occur in early March through late April.
  • Dress appropriately (look professional). Do not wear jeans, tennis shoes, or other casual attire. Remember, you are applying for a professional program. Dress the part.
  • Prepare for the interview. The career offices of many universities have interview tips on their websites. Some may even offer classes on interviewing. For an example, visit the Wayne State Career Center’s interviewing information. You can also find tips online like those provided at the following: http://www.petersons.com/graduate-schools/graduate-admission-tips-interview.aspx
  • Don’t be late!
  • Be courteous to everyone you come in contact with that day. You never know who may be evaluating you or who may provide feedback to the admissions committee
  • Come prepared to talk. Admissions committees want to get to know you to determine if you are a good fit for the program.
  • Come prepared with questions. The admissions committee wants to know that you are really evaluating whether this is a good program for you.
  • Come prepared to talk about your strengths. This is your opportunity to show the admissions committee why you should be offered a position in the program.
  • If there are parts of your application that are weaker than others, be prepared to discuss these in a non-defensive way.
  • If the program does not give you information about what the interview process will entail, ask, so that you can be adequately prepared.
  • Write thank you notes to those who interviewed you, especially if you are interested in attending the program. These can be on note cards or by email.
  • Be prepared that no matter how much you like a program on paper, sometimes the in person visit can change your mind. The reverse is true as well. You may actually like some programs that on paper were not as appealing to you.

Genetic Counseling Match Program

  • Starting in 2018, Genetic Counseling programs will participate in a Match program through an organization called NMS.  When you apply for programs, please visit the NMS website at https://natmatch.com/gcadmissions to register for the match, review detailed information about the matching process, and to view a demonstration of how the matching algorithm works.  You must apply to the Match program in order to be eligible for admission. You only have to sign up for the Match program one time regardless of how many programs you apply to.
  • If you interview with at least one program, after all interviews are complete you will rank each program in order preference through the Match service.  If there are programs that you would not consider attending, you will not list (rank) them at all. This information is private. Programs will not know how you ranked them or if you ranked them.
  • Just as you will rank (or not rank) each program with whom you interviewed, each program will also rank (or not rank) in order of preference each applicant they interview.
  • On the designated Match Day (in mid/late April), NMS’s computerized algorithm will match each applicant with their preferred program (and program with their top ranked applicants).
    • For example, say you rank Program A as your top choice and Program B as your second choice. The computer will match you with Program A if that program puts you on their accept list and they haven’t filled all of their spots before they get to your name on their list. If Program A fills all of their spots before they get to your name, then the computer will try to place you in Program B, as your second choice.  If Program B has put you on their accept list and they have a spot open, you would get a position in Program B, and that’s where you would go.
  • You will receive an email notifying you if you matched to a program and, if so, which one.  By participating in the match, you are agreeing to attend the program you matched with. For this reason, it is important that you only rank schools you would be willing and able to attend and make your ranking decisions carefully.
  • There is a possibility that an applicant will not match with any programs. If this happens, the applicant would be notified that s/he did not match. If after the Match you were not placed in a program, there will be an Unmatched Applicant process where all unmatched applicants would be able to connect with any programs that did not fill all of their spots.

 

Contact Information

Genetic Counseling Graduate Program
Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics
Wayne State University School of Medicine
3127 Scott Hall
540 E. Canfield Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201

Administrative Office:
(313) 577-6298
Fax: (313) 577-9137
Email: geneticcounseling@med.wayne.edu