The second stage of the genetic counseling graduate school application process is the interviews. Programs invite selected to visit the campus and interview with the faculty. Remember: this is an interview for the program as much as it is for the applicant. In a new program rolling out in March 2018, applicants and programs will rank each other and then be matched, much like the system used for medical students to match to residency programs.
Interview invitations are typically sent between late January and mid-March, with interviews scheduled until mid-April when the 'rank order' list is due. Applicants are then notified on a Universal Notification Day in late-April, this year it's April 27th, 2018 at noon ET!
To help applicants prepare for their interviews we asked the genetic counseling community what advice they had for applicants. We also asked what factors genetic counselors considered when choosing a program, which students can utilize when ultimately ranking their own schools.
What Questions Counselors Remember From Their Interviews...
I was asked to describe any GC session I had observed including all of the features I could remember of a syndrome discussed. Great way to check if applicant really paid attention during shadowing experience.— Anna Victorine, CGC (@AnnaVtheGC) February 16, 2018
I was asked if I’d felt neglected growing up as the sib of a child with special medical needs. (My sister has CF.)— Miranda Hallquist (@MiraHallquist) February 17, 2018
The best surprising-in-a-good-way was asking why I had studied Russian (took a lot of courses in undergrad; Russian prof wrote one of my recs). Got to talk about my passion for language and love of Russian lit 😊— Leslie Ordal (@GenCounsNews) February 17, 2018
Think about what unique experiences make you stand out and mention it. I was probably one of only a few applicants with a theatre background and I discussed how it helped me learn professionalism, memorization, how to work under stress, and public speaking skills!— Anna Victorine, CGC (@AnnaVtheGC) February 17, 2018
Biggest piece of advice for students going through the application process is to be patient and kind with yourself, it can be a stressful, frustrating year and you're doing your best!— Kennedy Borle (@kennedyborle) February 18, 2018
I didn’t have traditional advocacy exp w/ a crisis center or hotline, so I worked to explain in my cover letter & interviews how being a peer mentor for other non-trad students at @UWM fit the bill. (being an SA/RA tends not to count, & that’s what people thought it was)— Amy Donahue (@ultimatelibrarn) February 18, 2018
Breath and be yourself! It is really your time to shine, so think about what you really want to leave a program with and how each program can help you get there! I fell in love with the city and the program itself because I wanted #publichealth as part of my education #GCchat— Natasha Berman (@nkrberman) February 18, 2018
Be yourself, tell your story, show your heart, and ask a lot of questions. This is a place you might be spending the next 2 years of your life and it's the gateway to your career. Does the program excite you and make you feel supported? Does the community embrace the program?— Maija Rannikko (@_mai_ran) February 19, 2018
Research THAT graduate program, and the primary faculty, ahead of time. Come up with 5 specific questions that apply only to that graduate program. Write thank you emails that are non-generic, and bring up points that are specific to your interview. #gcchat @dcBonadies https://t.co/UZ0CvrHlQo— Ellen T. Matloff (@MyGeneCounsel) February 22, 2018
Go into an interview with 5 things you want that program to know about YOU. Similar to prepping for a media interview, you will find a way to bring to conversation back to those 5 things so that your conversations are meaningful and you are memorable #gcchat #interviewing— Danielle Bonadies (@dcBonadies) February 23, 2018
What Clunkers Counselors Remember From Their Interviews....
I just remember a very strong, very negative reaction when I mentioned the movie GATTACA. So maybe leave that out of any commentary!— Andrea Forman (@Andrea_FoxGC) February 16, 2018
Not something that should have been asked, but one interviewer asked me if I had an eating disorder. Apparently she wanted to see how I responded to conflict/uncomfortable questions.— Rachel Webster (@racheldeyarmond) February 16, 2018
Why were you working a Blockbuster instead of in a lab? 🙄(I was the STORE MANAGER)— Tara Jo (@TJSchmidlen) February 16, 2018
If my husband would come with me to a new city. (Oh, and I hadn’t specified the gender of my spouse)— Leslie Ordal (@GenCounsNews) February 17, 2018
A male GC graduate I know was asked at a job interview, by a male MD, why he didn't want to go on to med school. Somehow my student suspected that same question was not asked of the female applicants. 🙄— Andrea Forman (@Andrea_FoxGC) February 17, 2018
I was asked by a male MD why I didn’t apply to med school. My answer? “Because I want to be a genetic counselor, not a doctor.”— Matt Tschirgi, LCGC (@Matt_Tschirgi) February 25, 2018
The interviewer pulled this @TIME magazine cover out of a drawer and then asked "What do you think about this?" Before I could answer, he oddly put the magazine back into the drawer as if he wasn't supposed to show it to me. I still have no 🤬 clue what that was about. #GCChat pic.twitter.com/JZPJFuXfZ8— Mitchell Dillon LCGC (@mdillonCGC) February 25, 2018
Why Gentic Counselors Chose Their Schools..
I chose @slc_gc_grads because of the bigger class size and location. Advice to applicants would be to do your research, smile a lot, follow your heart, don't compare yourself to other applicants, and remember everything will work out the way its supposed to! #gcchat— Anna Kolbuszewska (@GeneQueeen) February 15, 2018
I chose Indiana University’s program based on its high patient volume for students, emphasis on the specialties that interested me most, and program director who made me feel comfortable.— Anna Victorine, CGC (@AnnaVtheGC) February 17, 2018
I choose Wisconsin not only b/c of location (which is an important consideration), but because it felt like the best fit in everything from the director to rotations to public transit around campus (I don’t have a car) to financial aid.— Amy Donahue (@ultimatelibrarn) February 18, 2018
I chose @cwru Genetic Counseling program bc it was home (although I only applied to programs close to home or in a city where I had family/support system), but I liked how summer & 2nd year we were in clinic full time, and that we rotated through 4 different health systems— Rebekah Moore MS LGC (@GeneticsRebekah) February 18, 2018
"Because I was in my mid-30s with a family, it was all about cost. That being said, I know I got a very high-quality education. I said yes to a scholarship...but it ended up being so much more than that."
~Matt Tschirgi, MS, LCGC, Medical Science Liaison at Progenity, Inc.
"Geography was most important to me, so I only applied to Wayne State, U of M, and U of T (Toronto). Only interviewed at two and only got one offer, so the choice was obvious— but happily, it was also my first choice (WSU)!"
~Melissa A. Hicks, MS, CGC, Certified Genetic Counselor at DMC University Laboratories
"I'm a Canadian and spots at schools in Canada are few and competition is worse than medical school, so I wrote the GRE and applied to US-based schools. I chose ones with informative, up to date websites, larger class sizes, and a history of accepting Canadians and international students in the previous 2-3 years. I also narrowed down by location, wanting to stay relatively close to Toronto, where my family was and where I lived before school. I ended up at the program through Northwestern in Chicago and really enjoyed it. It was my first round of applications outside Canada - the first round was thrown together since I learned of the program at Christmas the year prior and only sent to UBC and UofT, more as a learning experience than with any real hope of getting in. I only had the one offer, but I would have attended any of the programs I interviewed at. I'm not sure how I would have ranked them if I had to indicate that ahead of time (well, other than Toronto first due to location and cost)."
~Erica Pai, MS, LCGC, CCGC, Genetic Counselor at CooperGenomics
"I had no idea that it was common to apply to multiple schools, so I only applied to two because they were geographically closest. I was only accepted to one so it made the decision easy! Like Melissa, I was lucky that my only offer was from my top pick. Now, I encourage applicants to learn what makes each program unique and decide whether that fits with their goals and interests. For example, if they have a particular interest in lab counseling, be sure to apply to places that have lab rotations."
~Rachel Mills, Genetic Counselor Consult at PWNHealth and Associate Researcher at Duke University Medical Center
"I chose my school because it was well-established, I loved the faculty I met, and I got the sense that I would be job ready by graduation. On the flip-side, I turned down an acceptance from another school even though they offered a generous scholarship. It was because the current students said a lot of negative things about the program during their interviews."
~Kara Bui, Genetic Counselor at Greenville Hospital System Cancer Institute and Caris Life Sciences
Are you earlier in the application process? Check our previous blog, Applying to Genetic Counseling Programs where over 15 genetic counselors including program directors share their words of wisdom on how to gain genetic counseling experience and piece together a strong application.
Regardless of your application status, we suggest reading our Trailblazing Genetic Counselors blog series to learn about the leaders in our field. Also, check out our Genetic Counseling Twitter list of over 500 professionals in the field who are also active on Twitter.