In addition to a strong GPA and specific pre-requisite courses, GC programs also look at exam scores, letters of recommendation, and experiences. Typically, programs want well-rounded applicants, so it is critical that you do not neglect these areas of the application.
Most genetic counseling programs require that applicants take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The GRE consists of three sections: Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing. Although you do not need any specific course before taking the exam, you should expect to study for at least a couple of months in advance.
Average combined GRE scores for accepted students tend to be in the range of 305-310 range. Also, a score of 4 or greater on the writing portion is preferred.
Please visit the GRE website for more information, registration dates, and study guides. The Pre-Professional Advising Office has a Resource Library from which you can check-out GRE prep books as well as Study Rooms which can be reserved.
Typically, genetic counseling programs require 3-4 letters of recommendation. Be sure to check if the program you’re applying to has their own specific recommendation form.
Emory University requires 4 letters: 2 academic (at least 1 from the sciences), 1 employer/work study supervisor, 1 supervisor/mentor of genetic/supportive counseling volunteer experience.
Should I waive my right to view my letters of recommendation?
Yes. Letters that can be viewed by the student do not carry the same weight as those kept confidential.
Generally, students are encouraged to shadow a genetic counselor and if possible, a variety of genetic counselors though there is no set hours minimum. To get started, you may use this link to search for genetic counselors in your area to connect with. Gaining observation hours can be tough in this field and in the event that you are unable to obtain hours or are lacking variety in your shadowing experiences, you may watch videos presented by the National Society of Genetic Counselors here to gain insights into the field. Be sure to check your programs’ shadowing and experiences requirements for specific details.
Genetic counseling programs are also looking for students who demonstrate clear evidence of compassion, enjoy working with people and are dedicated to serving their community. Volunteering can be done in a clinical setting such as a hospital or hospice, but it can also be done with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the Humane Society, or any other organization (on-campus or off-campus) that the student is passionate about. Admissions committees appreciate students that show depth of commitment and substantial involvement and leadership in the community.
Along with your transcript and letters of recommendation, many programs will require that you complete a short personal statement or narrative essay. What you write in your statement may change depending on the program you hope to apply to but typically it involves answering the question of why you would like to become a genetic counselor, describing any experience you have had in genetic counseling and/or other healthcare fields, and what you believe would make you a good fit for the specific program you are applying to. Your statement should be around 2-5 pages, double-spaced.
Emory asks that applicants:
1. Explain how you became interested in pursuing the field of genetic counseling as a career.
2. Discuss your previous exposure to the profession of genetic counseling.
3. Describe your past experiences involving advocacy work, supportive counseling, and/or volunteer activities with individuals with disabilities, genetic conditions, health concerns or disadvantaged circumstances.
4. What personal and academic characteristics do you have that will allow you to successfully complete the Emory Genetic Counseling Training Program?
5. How would you describe the nature and scope of the profession of genetic counseling in contemporary healthcare?
6. Which two of the four “Focus Internship” areas are you most interested in and why?