With less than one month before strutting off to our first day of graduate school (think: new backpacks and fresh haircuts), it’s time to reflect on the last year and a half’s work input. And not to step on the toes of future posts, this will just be a simple overview of that all-consuming application process.
So without any sugar coating: applying to genetic counseling school is a part-time job. This may be analogous to other graduate programs as well, but I’m expressly referencing my own experience with genetic counseling applications. Unlike, for instance, medical school applications, GC applications are highly individualized; there is no GC portal where you put your essay in, upload your test scores and press click, faithful that all your concisely organized information is effortlessly disseminated to programs of your choice. Rather, you pick your programs of interest – saving websites and printing out instructions – and then study up to understand each one’s specific application instructions.
Some can be mailed in, some require online submission, some are internet/mail hybrids; some require 4 letters of recommendation, some 3; some require specific answers to essay questions, some just general answers; some ask for 2 copies of all your transcripts;, and some just seem vague and may require you to call the program and ask what exactly it is that they need from you.
And maybe this isn’t a bad thing, it’s just something nice to know before diving in – devote time (lots of it) to this process. I actually believe that all this base organization work actually is a good thing; it discourages you from applying to every program in your path. Think and plan, then apply.
So treat the process like a job; I literally scheduled “application time” into my calendar. Every Saturday morning, I grabbed my coffee and saddled up for some one-on-one application sessions (feel free to wear a business suit and check your blackberry if you really want to take this seriously). Save yourself from a late December panic attack, and get yourself on track early in the fall: do create to-do lists and spreadsheets; do use meticulous oversight; do keep all the telephone numbers of your programs handy, you never know when you’ll have a quick question.
And, of course, remember that the pay-off is huge. You can’t downplay the excitement in the spring: hearing back and waiting excitedly for interviews, the chance to visit new cities and meet new people, the “realness” of having your hard work pay off, and the chance to get an inside look at programs. Your nerves may not be settled – as you still have to actually ace interviews and get in – but you will be glad you put the work in to get to this point.
And in retrospect, as I sit here enjoying my last bit of summer free time – sunglasses on (check), magazine in hand (check) – all that devotion a year ago doesn’t seem half-bad. So when you’re ready to get your own application process rolling, push yourself to give it your all to the myriad of papers, phone calls, resume tightening, and rec letter gathering. Don’t slack off just because you may have finished the actual “undergraduate work”. Put some sort of motivational quote or picture next to your computer and, as I’m fond of saying, keep your eyes on the prize!