What do I need?
So you're interested in applying to a graduate program in genetic counseling. Congratulations!
The first step in preparing to apply for grad school is to figure out what prerequisites are required for entry. It's a good idea to check and see if you're on the right track or if you need to pick up a couple things before submitting an application.
This page will provide you with some general guidelines on the prerequisites, but remember that every school is going to have slightly different requirements, so it is important to look at each program's website individually.
Click here to check out the 34 accredited genetic counseling programs in North America. There will be a link to each program's website for more detailed info on their requirements.
Some common prerequisites that most schools look for on a transcript include:
- Basic Chemistry
- Mendelian Genetics
- Molecular Genetics or Cell Biology
Typically, a school will require one or two semesters of coursework for each prerequisite.
Certain schools may require a course in Embryology. If this is not offered at your undergraduate institution, the genetic counseling program at the University of Cincinnati offers an online course in Embryology that is very comprehensive. Click here to learn more!
An important part of the application is one's GPA and GRE scores (if applicable). The NSGC website states that successful applicants generally have a GPA of 3.0 and those who score in the 60-70th percentile on the GRE are considered competitive. Keep in mind, this is only one part of the application process, and programs are looking for well-balanced applicants. If you have any concerns about something in your transcript, it may be helpful to speak with administrators at programs you are considering applying to. If you've faced extenuating circumstances that have impacted your grades, it is a good idea to mention it in your personal statement.
If you are looking to write the GRE, click here!
For students where English is a second language, a TOEFL test score may be required.
Advocacy experience is incredibly valuable and is required by many programs. It helps to display your interpersonal and communication skills and shows you can comfortably work with people on an individual level. This can be completed in a variety of ways including:
- Planned Parenthood
- Crisis phone line operator
- Peer Counseling
- Rape Relief Center
- Working in a domestic violence/homeless shelter
- Working with individuals with intellectual or physical disabilities
- Working in respite or hospice care
These places can have lengthy orientation and training processes so it is important to reach out as early as possible.
SHADOWING A GENETIC COUNSELOR
Programs want to know if you've had the chance to meet with a genetic counselor (GC). Having this opportunity is incredibly important as it can really help you figure out if this profession is a right fit for you! Strive to observe a genetic counseling session, as this is a great experience, (and what genetic counseling programs look for), though it may not always be a possibility in your area.
Some co-operative education programs offer internships at genetic counseling clinics. This is a great way to be involved in the day-to-day operations of a clinic and gain exposure to what a potential future would look. While it is a worthwhile experience, it is not always easily available.
At the very least, you could be contacting a GC and asking to meet with them or speak over the phone, to chat and ask questions about the profession. This will show the programs that you are passionate about the profession and have the initiative to search out someone to talk to.
If you're able to spend a lot of time with a GC and have built a strong relationship with them, asking them for a letter of recommendation can be incredibly invaluable to your application.
To find a genetic counselor in your area, click here!
If you are unable to gain experience shadowing a genetic counseling session, there are videos available as examples of genetic counseling sessions in action. These videos are the Master Genetic Counselor Series and can be found here!