Developing a Strong Application
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 Accreditation Council for 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).
- Insight into the genetic counseling profession: It is very important that an applicant be able to explain why they want to become a genetic counselor and show that they understand what the profession entails. There are many ways to learn about the profession. Shadowing and/or talking to genetic counselors can be very effective ways to gain insight. There are many other ways as well, such as attending genetic counseling program open houses/events, watching podcasts about genetic counseling, watching videos of mock sessions, attending genetic counseling seminars or conferences (many of which may be virtual), and reading about genetic counseling.
- Advocacy/volunteer work: Part of a genetic counselor’s role is to provide psychosocial counseling and support to individuals and families with or at risk of genetic conditions. We believe that it is important for prospective applicants to develop baseline interpersonal communication and psychosocial support skills (e.g., empathy, questioning, problem solving, providing resources) in order to be prepared for graduate level coursework in and clinical application of psychosocial genetic counseling. You can get these experiences through volunteer or paid positions with crisis counseling hotlines (including crisis text hotlines), domestic violence hotlines/shelters, sexual assault hotlines/advocacy, grief and loss support organizations, peer counseling experiences, and resident assistant positions, just to name a few examples. Questions about applicable experiences can be addressed to the program directors.
- GRE scores: Some programs require the Graduate Record Examination general examination and/or subject test. Check individual program websites for specific information. At this time, the Wayne State program does not require the GRE.
- English Proficiency: Individuals whose native language is other than English may be required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or other English proficiency examination.
- 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 your motivations for becoming part of it. It is also a chance to discuss how the experiences you have had (e.g., coursework, advocacy, learning about the profession) have helped you understand the various role of genetic counselors.
- Letters of recommendation: Letters of recommendation give programs insight into factors such as academic ability, work ethic, applicable skills (for example, counseling, teaching, or research skills), and motivations to become a genetic counselor. Some tips for getting strong letters of recommendation include:
- Ask for letters of recommendation from people who know you well and who you think will write a strong letter.
- 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 should speak to your academic ability.
- Personal references (from a friend or neighbor) are generally not helpful in evaluating your suitability for genetic counseling.
- Meeting Deadlines: Make sure all materials are completed fully and submitted by the deadline!
- For the WSU genetic counseling program, the admissions deadline is January 15th.
- Give those writing your letters of recommendation ample time to get their letters submitted.
- Graduate school admissions offices are often processing hundreds of applications for many programs all at once which can result in delays in processing application materials. As such, try to submit your application materials a week or two early 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.
- If required, make sure the schools you are applying to are listed as recipients on your GRE scores. Note: We do not require the GRE at this time.
- 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.
- We do not have rolling admissions which means that all applications received by the deadline are reviewed at the same time regardless of when it was originally submitted. We begin reviewing applications immediately after the admissions deadline to determine who will be offered an admissions interview. Decisions regarding interviews are generally made in the mid-February. Our program participates in a the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match program. As such, all offers of admission are made through the Match on the designated match day (mid-late April). See below for additional information.
- An interview (by invitation only) is a mandatory part of most programs’ admission process. Interviews typically occur in late February through early April. We conduct virtual interviews in an effort to reduce costs associated with traveling to interview sites.
- Preparing for the interview. Preparing for your interview is just as important, if not more important, than the preparation you did in putting together your application. The career centers at 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. Another good resource is available at http://www.petersons.com/graduate-schools/graduate-admission-tips-interview.aspx
- Dressing for your interview. Do not wear jeans, tennis shoes, t-shirts or other casual attire. Remember, you are applying to a professional program. Dress the part. For virtual interviews, dress professionally at least from the waist up (any part that can be viewed by the webcam).
- For in-person interviews: Make sure to arrive at the location 10-15 minutes early just in case you need extra time for parking, finding the meeting room or using the restroom.
- For virtual interviews:
- Make sure your computer is charged and you have a reliable internet connection.
- Limit distractions by finding a quiet interview spot, having a neutral background, and avoiding bad lighting (e.g. glare from a bright window).
- Log in about 5-10 minutes early to ensure you are able to connect to the meeting platform, and check your video and audio settings.
- 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.
- Go into interviews with an open mind to evaluate whether the program is a good fit for you. No matter how much you like a program on paper, sometimes the interview can change your mind. The reverse is true as well. You may actually like some programs that on paper were not originally as appealing to you.
Genetic Counseling Match Program
- Since 2018, all programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC) have been participating in an admission's match program through an organization called National Match Service (NMS). All applicants applying to ACGC-accredited genetic counseling programs must register for the match to be eligible for admission. To register, visit the NMS website at https://natmatch.com/gcadmissions. The website also contains detailed information on how to register for the match, and what the matching process entails. You can also view a demonstration of how the matching algorithm works. You only register once 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 website. If there are programs that you would not consider attending, do not list (rank) them at all. Information on how you ranked programs is private. Programs will not know how you ranked them or if you ranked them.
- Just as you choose whether to rank a program and your ranking order, each program decides whether to rank an interviewed candidate and its ranking order.
- 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 ranks you 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 ranked you 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 with which you matched. 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 they did not match. If there are some programs that did not fill all their spots, there is an Unmatched Applicant process where all unmatched applicants would be able to connect with any programs that have openings.
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
Fax: (313) 577-9137