By: Amanda Hodgkins
It’s coming. Next week. The day when you will know if you will be attending graduate school for genetic counseling this year. It’s both exciting and nerve wrecking. I was where you are exactly one year ago, and I can tell you it was probably one of the most stressful times in my life up to that point. I wish I could tell you that you will get in to the program you want to, or that you will get into a program at all. Unfortunately, there are so many wonderful candidates applying to be a part of a genetic counseling program, and not enough spots to accommodate them all. What I can say is that if you interviewed at a program, you are qualified. They would not have interviewed you if they did not think you would be a good candidate for their program. A lot of different factors go into how a program decides to pick their classes and it’s possible that they just didn’t have a spot to offer you right now. This does not mean that you shouldn’t pursue genetic counseling. This does not mean that you won’t be an excellent genetic counselor some day. Some of the best genetic counselors (and current students) I know have had to re-apply.
That being said, I thought I’d go through a little bit of advice for D-Day.
If you haven’t made your pros and cons list yet, try to think through all of the schools you interviewed at and make a list of what you enjoyed, what you think might be challenging, and your gut feelings about the program. If you interviewed at multiple programs and anticipate receiving multiple acceptances, this will be an especially helpful tool in your decision making process. You are going to be spending two years in a program. It is important to make sure that you love the program, the people, and the place. Grad school is a stressful environment made even more difficult if you don’t like the people or the place where you’re located. I know when I’m going through a stressful time here at Emory’s program, I always feel comfortable talking about it with my Focus Mentor, Emily, or my advisor, Cecelia. And I always know I can go to one of the second years for advice. I love living in Atlanta; from the food (of which I probably eat too much) to the entertainment, I know there is always something I can do to get away from the stress. I have some questions you can ask yourself before D-Day, and the answers that I gave a year ago when I was thinking through this process on the Frequently Asked Questions Page.
I would suggest highly that you take next Monday to Wednesday off, if at all possible. Those three days will be intense and filled with difficult decisions. So if you can take them off, I suggest that you try. I took those three days off and I’m very glad that I did. So that when you get the call, you will have time to take it in, think through everything and celebrate or plan what to do next.
Plan for what you would do for different scenarios.
Say your #1 school wait-lists you, but your #2 gives you an acceptance. How long are you willing to wait to hear back from #1?
*It is important to keep in mind that there are people who have been wait-listed where you’ve been accepted.*
*It’s ok to hold an acceptance, but don’t hold more than one and try not to wait until 4:45 pm on Wednesday!*
What if you’re wait-listed?
It’s ok if you’re wait-listed. It doesn’t mean that the program doesn’t want you or that you aren’t right for their program. It just means that if they could accept 12 people, you’d be there. But as it is, they can only accept 10. I was wait-listed. Cecelia was amazing keeping me up to date with where I was on the wait-list. She called me at around 11 am on Monday to let me know I was on the wait-list. It was hard to hear because I wanted to be at Emory. But I really appreciated her calling. It felt more personal. I knew by the end of the day where I was on the wait-list and how many spots were still open. I would encourage you to find out what the program prefers. Some programs prefer students not to contact them about the wait-list. (I’m pretty sure Cecelia would welcome you to call and ask.)
What if I don’t get in?
If you don’t get in, it’s going to be ok. Sarah P. and Megan will both tell you that they didn’t get in the first time they applied, as did some second years. So it may be difficult, but if you love genetic counseling, if you know you want to be a genetic counselor, then keep pursuing it. Keep pushing forward. It’s ok to take the time for yourself if you don’t get in. It’s ok to be upset with that and wonder what you’re going to do for the next year. After D-day, feel free to ask the program directors what things they would recommend you do and start taking the steps to do them. Maybe they really loved you, but they just didn’t have enough spots. If that is the case, then ask for suggestions about what could make you stand out more next year. Volunteer, shadow, and get experiences that are applicable to genetic counseling. Then re-apply with these new experiences. One nice thing is that you’ll be going into your interviews having already been through the process. During the interviews, talk about what you did to grow and why you’re a better candidate now.
Like I said, the hope is that you will get into a graduate program. I know there’s nothing I can say that will make you any less nervous come Monday. But after these three days, hopefully you will be a part of a program and one step closer to becoming the genetic counselor you’re meant to be!
And if you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to be a part of Emory’s class of 2017, congratulations! We’re so excited to meet you!!