Jade C. here. Checking-in after checking-out after graduation. Olivia and I began this blog with the intention of being student-focused. This became problematic after we were no longer students – Have we become the Van Wilders of a graduate student blog? For shame.
Luckily, there is value-added in providing perspective After Graduation.
So what happened After Graduation? – I have been employed by a pediatric specialty clinic in Florida for the past 2 years. Here are some thoughts…
Boards. – I opted to take boards 1 year after graduation. Naturally, there are pros and cons to this. The pros include indulging in a study-mental-vacation after (seemingly) a lifetime in school. Further, you have time to hone and ingrain some textbook skills in the real world. But, with regard to cons, the struggle is real. Learning proficiency at a new job and studying after work is not fun. It’s awful. It’s downright awful. I thought. Plus, you really drag out the pain of getting to the end of the road (if the end of the road has a sign that reads MS CGC). Thus, my advice – bite the bullet and take boards sooner rather than later, while the student mentality is still hot.
Difficulties. – I encountered a number of unanticipated difficulties right out of the gates. For one, I wanted to physically fight the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) every. single. day. We were enemies. Why wouldn’t it route my messages? Where did my documentation go? Why do I have so many open telephone encounters? At this point, I am more collaborative with the EMR, though I use it as my grandparents use the internet (very cautiously and at surface-level). And, a second difficulty – insurance authorization. Specifically, insurance authorization in the state of Florida without a state laboratory. It’s been a tough path to hoe – telling patients that a test exists, and we would recommend it, but there is no way to pay for it. So……
Excellencies. – Well, let’s be honest – earning a paycheck and weekends off is nice. But, on a higher level, it has been rewarding to see myself grow. I can mentally compare earlier counseling skills with later counseling skills, and understand the growth. I also start to recognize patterns in medicine: differential diagnoses, recommended tests, and the right questions to ask have become more apparent. Ordering the right tests has become easier (bar insurance authorizations). And, providing care over time has been powerfully rewarding (the babies are now walking and talking!).
At this time last year, I was an eager candidate checking my email daily for any new interview invitations and updates on my visits. I was organizing my trips while simultaneously attempting to keep up with my school work and find willing individuals to substitute the classes I was teaching. It was stressful and terrifying and wonderful all at the same time.
When I began my program, my expectation for these two years was simply to get a degree in genetic counseling. Now being a quarter of the way to my goal, I realize that being a part of this program is so much more than just grabbing a degree and moving on. We are immersed in the world of genetics and pushed every day to try something new. In just one semester I have observed and participated in a wide range of sessions across multiple clinics. I have learned more in the classroom about genetic disorders and counseling that I knew possible. I have attended conferences and lectures by some of the leading individuals in the field of genetics. I have gotten to know a new city and I have met some wonderful people along the way.
With the realization that interview time is a few weeks away, I am especially excited for the next wave of students to join our program. I encourage all of the current applicants that are planning their interview visits to take advantage of the current students as a resource. Reach out to us with your questions and help us to get to know you. We are happy to do whatever we can to take some of the stress and anxiety off of your big day just as the previous students did for us.
I wish you all good luck during this exciting time!!
I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday season and is ready to take on the new year. I’m sure those of you applying to GC graduate programs this year had applications on your mind, as many them are due shortly before or after the holidays. Here at Maps & Genes, we are welcoming a few new contributors. We have a mix of current GC students and GCs who have recently graduated and are on the job! Here are some short introductions:
Carla is a second year genetic counseling student at the UT Houston Genetic Counseling program. She obtained her bachelors from the University of Texas at Arlington and is originally from Dallas, TX. Carla is a first generation college student and is passionate about helping other first generation students navigate the undergradudate experience. She loves musical theater, poetry, yoga and running.
Dena is a second year student at UC Irvine in Southern California. She is originally from Libertyville, IL, and received her BS in Integrative Biology at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Dena has her own blog where she creates comic strips about genetic counseling at DenaDNA.com. She also has a background in acting and filmmaking and hopes to produce a genetics TV show one day. She has a sister with a rare genetic disorder (Ring 18) which lead her to the field. Her professional interests include Chromosome 18 abnormalities, Jewish genetic disorders. sibling studies, autism, rare disease, and science communication.
Hannah is currently a first year Genetic Counseling student. She received her BS in Biology from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio and her MS in Biology from the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky. Her professional interests include education and research in genetics.
Jade is a laboratory genetic counselor in southern California. She graduated with an MS in Genetic Counseling from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT in 2012. Prior to attending graduate school, Jade graduated with a BS in Animal Behavior from Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX. She is now a laboratory reporting genetic counselor at Ambry Genetics in southern California. She loves talking about the career of genetic counseling and spreading the word about this awesome career!
Olivia is a cancer and prenatal genetic counselor on Long Island, NY. She graduated from the Human Genetics Program at Sarah Lawrence College in 2013. Olivia was one of the founding contributors to the Maps & Genes blog and has since rejoined the blogging world after obtaining the GC right-of-passage: board certification. Her professional interests include mentoring, educational outreach, international genetic counseling, hereditary cancer syndromes, and the application of new technology within the field of genetics.
Sarah is a clinical genetic counselor working at Parkview Health in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She divides her time between prenatal, cancer, and cardiovascular genetic counseling. She obtained her bachelors from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana and her Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from the University of South Carolina. Her passion is inspiring others to pursue a career as a GC!
Like my fine fellow-bloggers… D-Day was such a pivotal time in my life. It was the most important big decision I had to make for ME thus far. Just keep in mind that:
1. No matter what program…. you get to the same final product, or degree. You will be a trained genetic counselor, even if there are an array of methodologies to get you there.
2. You really could try just about anything//live just about anywhere for two years. Do what is best for you. What will make you the happiest?
For some… it is smooth sailing.
For me, D-Day was VERY much on the turbulent side. I was wait listed for 3…. yes 3… days at 4 programs awaiting my fate. Lots of phone calls and WAITING. ((with little sleep)) Eventually, I was accepted to the number one program on my list. But only after some tears and a LOT of pizza, cookies, and disney movies with my friends. Regardless of the outcome, you will survive!
Do not give up on your dream. Try not to stress– that does not get you anywhere but sick to your stomach– and I know the feeling. Try to think which program would be lucky enough to have you in it. Do not loose that confidence in yourself or that cool, processional vibe. You got this.
Like my fellow bloggers — I agree that it is of utmost importance to have some sort of idea which programs you want and to have them ranked when the day rolls around. Which program is the best fit for you personally? Follow you instincts–or when in doubt, a pros and cons list.
And remember– if you do not get in the first time interviewing– it does not mean you should not be a GC. I know of a few amazing counselors who got into a program the second year they applied. You would never know it now. One of my own amazing classmates who was accepted the second time around– is now deciding between several different, excellent job offers. Persistence pays off. You gain experience and maturity with time. One student I met even said she was told it was unusual to get in on the first round. While I would not go so far as to say that it is completely unusual, this is a competitive field! But most of all– Try to stay positive! ,
If things do not go ideally, set up a plan.
1. Talk with directors of the programs you applied to, in order to see what you can do better for the future/make yourself a better applicant
2. Gain experience is various GC specialty areas
3. Work with children who have special needs and their families, since these are ultimately the people you will serve as a genetic counselor. Gain a better understanding of how you can help in the future. (therapy, intervention centers, etc.)
4. Research, hopefully something related to development or genetics
5. Apply again as a strong candidate with fresh experiences and new skills > show GROWTH.
Are you in your last semester of undergraduate classes? Working hard for the money? Doing whatever you can to pass the time until decision day? You are not alone. You are all waiting to hear back from your respective schools that you have interviewed at. Whether you interview at one or twenty-one programs, a tough decision still rests in your hands: which program will be so lucky as to have you for the next two years?
The four of us have been in your position. We are here to shed some light on things that helped us find our perfect Genetic Counseling program match.
But let me emphasize this point…THIS IS ALL ABOUT YOU. While it is true that a program has to extend you an offer to join them, you also have a powerful choice to either accept or respectfully decline that offer. How are you going to make such a decision?!
As you will quickly learn in your future Genetic Counseling career, each individual is different. What you are looking for in a program can be completely different from what another interviewee is looking for.
My advice would be to identify what is important to you, and evaluate the schools you interviewed with based on this “checklist”. Items on the checklist are like SNP variants (slight changes in the DNA between individuals), so what I’ve listed here may not be identical to what you’ve had in mind. Which is OK, because I’m not you, and you aren’t me!
Are you looking to be in a specific geographic area? Some interviewees applied to a group of schools in a specific region, while others applied all across the country. Were you comfortable with the surrounding area, and could you see yourself living there for the next two years of your life?
Is money/financial aid an issue for you? If not, teach me your ways. If so, you also have a few things to consider: tuition – are you in-state? Can you get in-state? Are there employment options for you?
What type of exposures will you get in your training? Where are the rotations? Do you have the opportunities to engage in outside activities that will strengthen this clinical experience?
You are currently the greatest decider of your future, and you were the only one who interviewed with the program directors and faculty. As Austin mentioned it before, listen to your gut instincts! If you had a great experience with a program, remember why that was! Again you want to be as happy as possible with your two year training experience. You will become a great Genetic Counselor no matter where you go!
To touch on a less optimistic subject…there are some individuals who do not get an offer anywhere. I like to think of rejection of a Genetic Counseling program as temporary. If you did not get an offer and know that Genetic Counseling is what you want to do, DO NOT give up. Speak with the program directors and ask them for advice as to how you could strengthen your application to become a sure candidate for future admission cycles. As Anna and Austin have said, you have the ability to overcome rejection, and that ability is perseverance. Reapplying shows more of your character than I can express, so do not be ashamed and continue to work for what you want.
We hope you aren’t stressing out too much, and can’t wait for another group of passionate Genetic Counselors to come around!
Best of luck!