Developing a Strong Application

Getting Started

The first step is to look at the list of genetic counseling programs available, review their websites, and if you have questions, contact the program directors/staff. Programs should be accredited by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. For a listing of accredited programs, go to Because many qualified applicants apply to each program and each program has a limited number of training slots, it is important to apply to several programs. If you are a qualified applicant, this will improve your chances of admission the first time you apply. Only apply to those programs that you would consider attending. Keep an open mind when choosing a program. Look at the websites to see what each has to offer. You may want to consider tuition costs.

Preparing a Competitive Application

On each program’s websites, you will probably find a section that details the program’s admission requirements. These generally include the following:

  • Prerequisite courses:
    • Since genetic counseling students will be taking graduate level coursework in molecular biology and human and medical genetics, it is important that applicants have a strong foundation in the biological sciences. Visit each program’s site for information about their prerequisites.
    • Students also need coursework in psychology (at least one class).
  • Experience shadowing or talking to a genetic counselor: This is not required by all programs, but is very helpful in strengthening a person’s application.
  • Advocacy/volunteer work: In particular, volunteering in a setting where you are helping people cope with an issue or problem (like a social service agency or a crisis intervention organization).
  • GRE scores: Most programs require only the general examination, but check the individual program website for specific information.
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language Applicants whose native language is other than English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
  • Academic transcripts: From all institutions attended, even if you only took one class.
  • Personal essay: An essay describing why you want to be a genetic counselor. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your familiarity with the profession and what is driving you to become a part of it.
  • Letters of recommendation:
    • Make sure that you get these from people who know you well and who you think will write a good letter of recommendation.
    • Seek recommendations from those familiar with your academic abilities, work ethic, and/or interpersonal skills such as a professor, research mentor, advisor, volunteer coordinator, or employer. At least one or two should speak to your academic ability.
    • Personal references (from a friend or neighbor) are less helpful in evaluating your application Applying
  • Make sure all materials are completed fully and submitted by the deadline!
    • For the WSU program, the deadline is January 15th.
    • Give those writing your letters of recommendation ample time to get their letters submitted.
    • Sometimes, graduate school admissions offices are slow, so it can be helpful to get your graduate school application in before the deadline date to ensure that the program has access to this information by their deadline date.
    • Make sure when you order your original transcripts you know how long it will take for them to be sent in to the admissions office and plan accordingly.
    • Make sure the University is listed as a recipient on your GRE scores/ that the scores are sent to the University.
    • Review your application for errors and typos.
    • Have someone read your essay to check for typos and to make sure it says what you intended it to say.
    • Be truthful! If the admissions committee detects inaccuracies in your application, that reduces your chance of admission.
  • There is no rolling admission and decisions regarding interviews are generally made in the middle to late February. Decisions on admission to the program are made on the universal acceptance date for all North American Genetic Counseling Graduate Programs.


  • An interview (by invitation only) is a mandatory part of most programs’ admission process. Exceptions to in person interviews may be made for international applicants. Most interviews occur in early March through late April.
  • Dress appropriately (look professional). Do not wear jeans, tennis shoes, or other casual attire. Remember, you are applying for a professional program. Dress the part.
  • Prepare for the interview. The career offices of many universities have interview tips on their websites. Some may even offer classes on interviewing. For an example, visit the Wayne State Career Center’s interviewing information.
  • Don’t be late!
  • Be courteous to everyone you come in contact with that day. You never know who may be evaluating you or who may provide feedback to the admissions committee
  • Come prepared to talk. Admissions committees want to get to know you to determine if you are a good fit for the program.
  • Come prepared with questions. The admissions committee wants to know that you are really evaluating whether this is a good program for you.
  • Come prepared to talk about your strengths. This is your opportunity to show the admissions committee why you should be offered a position in the program.
  • If there are parts of your application that are weaker than others, be prepared to discuss these in a non-defensive way.
  • If the program does not give you information about what the interview process will entail, ask, so that you can be adequately prepared.
  • Write thank you notes to those who interviewed you, especially if you are interested in attending the program. These can be on note cards or by email.
  • Be prepared that no matter how much you like a program on paper, sometimes the in person visit can change your mind. The reverse is true as well. You may actually like some programs that on paper were not as appealing to you.


  • Because there is a universal acceptance date (usually late April), if you interview in March, there will be a long wait until you here whether you have been accepted in a program. In the meantime, try to decide which program (if you interviewed at more than one) you are most interested in attending. You generally have about 2 days to make a decision once you receive an offer of admission
  • When you are contacted about your admission status, each program will tell you that 1) you were accepted, 2) you are on the wait list, or 3) you were not accepted. If you are waitlisted, this means that the program thinks you are a highly qualified candidate, but you were not one of the tops applicants they chose to make the first offers of admission to. Sometimes, the best students turn out to be those who were waitlisted- so don’t be disheartened if you are not accepted outright. Ask about your position on the waitlist. As any of those who were offered admission decline to accept slots at other programs, people on the waitlist will be made offers of admission.
  • If you are accepted, try to make your decision about whether to accept the offer of admission as soon as you can. People on the waiting list will be anxious to fill the slot and it is hard to make them wait.
  • Once you have made a decision and informed the program, stick to it.


Contact Information

Genetic Counseling Graduate Program
Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics
Wayne State University School of Medicine
3127 Scott Hall
540 E. Canfield Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201

Administrative Office:
(313) 577-6298
Fax: (313) 577-9137