Author Archives: mracobaldo

D-Day…Be Vain ((by Melissa))

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?

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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!

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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?

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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? 

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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!

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Getting Into A GC Program: A Follow Up ((By Melissa))

Maps & Genes received a personal email from a prospective GC applicant in response to the latest post of “Getting Into A GC Program:  10 Things TO DO!” by Sarah.  The prospective student was currently an undergraduate in her sophomore year.  Her main question was “how hard is it to get into a GC program?” with her concerns centered around GPA/GRE weighting and shadowing/gaining experience related to an acceptance rate that did not seem too favorable.  Another concern she addressed was where to find a site that ranked the genetic counseling programs.  As she is definitely not the only one to have these questions, we wanted to make our response available for all to read.

First, I’d like to start off by thanking you so much for your interest in the blog… you are our target audience!  It’s even better to hear your thoughts and questions that come to mind as you are considering genetic counseling.
In terms of your main question of “how hard is it to get into a program?”…it seems as though you have been doing great research on programs.  It sounds as though genetic counseling is something you are strongly considering, and I would encourage you to continue in this pursuit.  Although we cannot give you exact answers or know exactly what programs will be looking for during admissions, we can give you advice on how to best prepare yourself to be a good candidate!  Our latest blog post talks about it in detail, but I wanted to address your comments and tailor the advice specifically to your concerns!
I think that the fact that you are just a sophomore gives you a great advantage and a jump start on getting involved.  It is true that the GPA and GRE averages are not ridiculous, but they are competitive enough to let the program know that you are capable of performing well academically.  With the vast number of applications received, it seems as though these concrete values are factored into the “weeding out” process.  What is refreshing to see and what sort of embodies the role of a future genetic counselor would be involvement in extracurriculars related to the field while still maintaining a good academic standing.
The reason I use the word “extracurriculars” is because there are students in genetic counseling programs who never got the opportunity to shadow a genetic counselor prior to applying.  The importance of this aspect just lies within the fact that you know what it means to be a genetic counselor and what it entails.  One of the only guarantees I can tell you is that during the interview process you will have to answer the question “why do you want to be a genetic counselor?”. Should you choose to pursue volunteering at a crisis center or somewhere else, you can take the opportunity to demonstrate how you will use your experiences and apply them in the genetic counseling session.
Lastly, there is no site that ranks genetic counseling programs.  All programs are excellent training and education opportunities for future genetic counselors, and the programs differ more so on geographic location and character than X being better than Y.  When choosing where to apply, it is a very personal decision and you should determine what factors are the most important to you, whether it be staying close to home, finances, curriculum focus, etc.
Sorry for the length, but I hope this gave you some of the answers you were looking for!  Again, you are young in your undergrad and it is great to see that genetic counseling is an interest of yours, so please do not be discouraged by this “low” acceptance rate…just make some contacts to get involved and keep up your grades!  Please let us know if you have any more questions!
And thanks for reading 🙂
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To the next two years…and BEYOND! ((by melissa))

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After almost completing the first week of my official Genetic Counseling education, I can’t stop myself from thinking about all the accomplishments to be had in the next two years of life.   This may be nerd status, but, regardless of all the readings, presentations, exams, quizzes, (insert more school-related “to-do” items), the overwhelming feelings I am experiencing are from pure excitement.  (If everything goes according to plan) I will become a Genetic Counselor in two years.  My pursuit of the profession is HOT.

Which also brings me to the question of…”why am I in pursuit of this profession?”  We recently had a class discussion of, likely, the most difficult question we have been asked…”What is a Genetic Counselor?” (or any other version of the sort.)  Most of us want to respond with…”well, do you have a few minutes?”  To us, a brief description does not serve enough justice for something we are all striving to become.

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Since Genetic Counseling is a multi-faceted profession, I believe there are different aspects that attracted each of us.  Personally, I am attracted to the magical blend of psychosocial support and transfer of medical knowledge, or more essentially communicating and delivering important information without neglecting that the receiving end of this information is a human and has a perception of feelings.  With this, it is difficult to refer to the role of the counselor in terms of one stoic job.  Each individual is unique and quite literally the only version of themselves (as evidenced at the DNA level!) and their feelings and reactions are far from being predicted.  In counseling sessions of two seemingly identical cases, the counselor role can range from support system to fact deliverer.

It is this vast role of a Genetic Counselor that adds to the difficulty of producing a sufficient answer to what we are.  I advise that if you were to Google this question, please delve deeper than just the surface display of responses given (I’m sorry, “web defintion”, but we are much more than “guidance for prospective parents on the likelihood of genetic disorders in their future children” – we tackle pediatrics and adult specialties as well!)   Although I’m partial to NSGC, or National Society of Genetic Counselors, their website provides an excellent description of the profession and beyond here.  Take time and check out the rest of the website, as well, because there are more great things to observe (like press releases under the “Media” tab – nerd status again!)

Are you in pursuit of a Genetic Counseling degree or considering the profession?  What is it that has caught your interest?  We love hearing about other individuals’ passions, no matter what they are (even if they aren’t centered around Genetic Counseling!)

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