By: Sarah Pass
In previous posts we’ve given you tips on how to prepare for your interview, but you’re probably wondering what the day is actually going to be like. While I can’t tell you exactly how your day is going to go (because there are too many variables) but I can try to give you an idea of things I’ve learned through the many interviews I’ve been through at Emory and other places. I know interview days can be scary. The days are long and most people are nervous. It’s difficult to try to make sure you say everything you want to in a short period of time while simultaneously asking as many questions as possible. These interviews are a time for the program to get to know you better and for you to make sure that the program is the right feel for you. The day usually starts with an information session of some nature. This is a great time to learn specifics about the program and a great place to take notes on things you like, want to know more about and anything that makes the program unique. Notes like these will help you down the line as you’re trying to figure out which programs you like the best and are the best fit for what you want out of grad school. I was personally playing the ‘I’m just going to wait and hope I get into 1 program’ game. However, when I got into multiple schools I was very glad to have these notes. Throughout the day you’ll have one-on-one interviews with people who are integral in the program. I was honestly terrified of these. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to answer the questions they wanted and be thrown out for consideration into the program because I said one wrong word. But really, these one-on-one interactions are more like conversations and if you approach them that way they will go much more smoothly. I was always terrified of asking “stupid questions” to these very important and well known names in the genetic counseling world. But, as everyone says, there are no stupid questions, just unasked ones. I remember asking what I thought was a really silly question in one of my interviews and being devastated that I wouldn’t be accepted into my top school because of it. However, here I sit today, as part of a great GC program. Again, they really just want to get to know more about you and make sure that you really are passionate about becoming a genetic counselor. I also suggest having a lot of questions prepared for the interview. At the end of each meeting, they’re going to ask if you have any questions and I always felt awful when I said I didn’t have anymore questions. You’ll go through more questions that you think you will, so it always helps to have way more questions than you’ll think you’ll be able to get through. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification of something that was previously discussed. They know you’re getting a lot of information in a short time, and you’re not going to be able to remember everything. At Emory and at some other schools, there will be a group interview. The whole point is to see how you interact with other people. Part of how well the program runs is how well the students interact with each other. There is usually a small number of people in each class and how the personalities fit together is really important. While I sometimes felt pitted against my fellow interviewees, at Emory, I felt like this session was much calmer. I felt like it was more of a a chance to meet more of the faculty that I would be working with if I came to Emory. It was also an opportunity to show I could discuss my opinion about genetics news and trivia (at the time Myriad losing it’s BRCA 1/2 patent was still fresh). Throughout the day you’ll also have a change to meet with many of the students. Don’t be shy to ask them questions. We love to talk about the program and answer any questions we can. We love Emory and we like to share what we do. From the other GC students that I’ve talked to, they love to talk about their schools as well. Basically, we’re here to give you the student perspective of the program. I would also recommend going to the dinners the night before the interview. I know not all schools have them and depending on travel you may not be able to participate, but these are a great way to ask questions and get to know the students with no pressure. I wasn’t always able to go to them because of my flights, but all the dinners I went to were great experiences. They were a lot of fun and took my mind off of the impending interview. This is also a great time to see where the students live if the dinner is at one of their apartments. Hopefully something in this helps make your interviews go more smoothly or takes some of the pressure off. I know these day are long and often grueling. But remember, this is your chance to interview the program as well so take advantage of as much as you can while you’re in the area and at the school.