Decision Day

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.

Before 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!!

April Showers Bring May Flowers

By: Jamie Paysour

Spring is my absolute favorite time of the year. It’s a time when everything begins to awaken, the weather is no longer deplorable, and wearing floral patterns is once more acceptable. It’s also that time of the year known as “Crunch Time”. My 1st year classmates and I are winding down what has been a very rigorous spring semester filled with intense coursework, extensive clinical rotations, and in-depth internship activities. Although we have learned a lot of valuable lessons, we are also excited to see a new season of weather and opportunities that accompany the end of this semester.

The beginning of spring and transition into the summer will usher in a lot of exciting changes for all of us in the GC program at Emory. Our beloved 2nd year students are wrapping up their final affairs as students, accepting job offers, and preparing to begin a new chapter as genetic counselors. It’s hard to believe that we will be in that same position just one short year from now. For all of us 1st year students, we are more than ecstatic about the opportunities we get to be a part of this coming summer. Each of us will be full time interns for 6 weeks at our respective clinical rotation sites where we can really delve into improving and practicing our counseling skills in diverse clinical settings. Some of us are attending clinics out-of-state, some are staying in the Atlanta area, and a few are pursuing supplemental lab internship experiences with the Mayo Clinic and the Moffitt Cancer Center. Along with these clinical encounters, we will also be participating in each of our focus internships for 4 full weeks during the summer, doing a variety of internship and capstone project activities.

I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are all extremely excited to catch a short break from our courses and dive head first into our rotations. This will give us a glimpse of what our careers as genetic counselors will be like and what we can expect to experience in one short year from now.

We are in a season for new beginnings and that applies to nature and school, alike. This spring has not only awakened the flower buds, insects, and annoying pollen, but has also awakened a new excitement for our chosen career paths.

Have a wonderful spring!