Lean In: A Reflection on Telemedicine

By: Kia Hutchins, Class of 2021

In early Spring 2020, I was sitting in Lauren Lichten’s office discussing my preferences for rotations throughout the rest of my training. Lauren is our assistant program director and coordinates all of our clinical rotations. When she asked me which specialty rotations I was interested in I listed a few areas of interest such as pediatric oncology and IVF, but didn’t have enough to fill out all five specialty slots we are allotted throughout our training. Lauren asked if I might be interested in rotating with JScreen, an Atlanta-based nonprofit geared towards promoting carrier screening in the Jewish population, to get some experience utilizing telemedicine. My immediate response was that I was absolutely not interested in telemedicine.

Cut to roughly seven months and a global pandemic later. I spent my late spring and summer rotations entirely online. While it was one of the most challenging things I have ever done, I have grown in ways I never could have anticipated.

When COVID-19 hit the US in March of 2020, no one knew what to expect. No one was prepared for genetic counseling graduate school to suddenly be online; no one knew how rotations were going to work. All we knew was that we would figure it out somehow. My cohort had just finished our first round of rotations, and we had been excitedly awaiting meeting our supervisors in our new placements after spring break. Everything happening virtually was not ideal for anyone, but I was particularly anxious to see patients online considering my special distaste for phone and video calls.

Over the summer I had the privilege to be the first Emory student to rotate with Integrated Genetics (IG) Cancer genetic counselors, a clinic that is always telemedicine-based. I was able to work with supervisors in three different states and see diverse patients from all across the country. I also improved my psychosocial counseling skills by paying much closer attention to the patients’ nonverbal responses, because it is more difficult to read patients over video. It was a really fantastic experience working with genetic counselors that typically use telemedicine and getting their feedback on the differences, pros, and cons of the medium. After I rotated with IG, I rotated with JScreen. Like IG, JScreen always utilizes telemedicine. My supervisor, Melanie Hardy, gave me fantastic feedback and advice on how best to build rapport with patients over video and phone, and built my confidence with her positive reflections on my counseling. More surprising than the skills I built was that I truly enjoyed telemedicine. I’m a homebody, and as much as I enjoy in-person clinic, the ability to work in the peace of my own home was a nice change of pace. As of Fall 2020, I am back in person for clinic at the Emory Perinatal Center. It was an abrupt transition to working online, and an equally abrupt transition coming back in person. Working over telemedicine during my training has made me a much better and more resilient genetic counselor, and now I get to build my skills in person again (with appropriate precautions).

All this to say: sometimes your training pushes you so far out of your comfort zone you don’t know what to do. Lean into the discomfort and trust the process – you never know what you might discover about yourself or the ways you will grow. While right now I still believe I want to start my career in an in-person clinic, my experiences with telemedicine have given me a confidence in my skills I never would have gained if I hadn’t been forced into virtual rotations by COVID-19. Maybe one day I will decide to work from home, and the unique circumstances of my training will have given me a unique set of experiences and skills I would not have otherwise had!

Kia Hutchins

Class of 2021

Online Interviews for Genetic Counseling Training Programs

By: Srika Amin

In light of the rules and regulations implemented as a result of COVID-19 at Emory University for the coming week at least interviews have shifted online.

Hey! My name is Srika and I am a first-year student from India! I had to give all my interviews online last year during the process, even though I did not get to see the campuses and visit the program at all the schools I interviewed at – it all worked out! You are not at any disadvantage if you’re interviewing online. In this post I just wanted to highlight some tips for interviewing online and about the interview and program in general.

Internet Connection and Zoom:

When I was interviewing I made sure that I had a stable internet connection and had my phone hotspot on as backup in case my WiFi failed me. The program will mail you a Zoom link for the interview, I would recommend clicking on the link they provide you to see if it works and Zoom may require you to install additional plug-ins (if you don’t already have them). Zoom allows you to check your microphone sound and checks that you are able to hear before you join the meeting room. I tried to make sure that I would not have any interruptions during the interview as well and kept a glass of water by my side before I sat down for the interview. I also opened the link 15 minutes before the actual time of the interview – so that in case there was any issues with the link I could contact the program in time.

About the interview:

I was nervous before the interview but the program leadership and faculty were very warm and welcoming, so don’t stress! I had a bunch of questions prepared to ask about the program, rotations, the focus internship and Emory in general. . There are group and individual interviews along with a writing exercise, which are not there to test your knowledge on genetics in any way. The purpose of the interviews is to get to know you and your experiences so don’t worry cause you’re the expert on you. Even though it sounds cliché – just be yourself, you made it to the interviews for a reason :).

Here are a few student perspectives on interviews from the blog.

About the program:

The program consists of classes, clinic and the focus internship. The amount of time spent in clinic increases gradually each semester. To mention a few things we find very valuable: we start observations in the second half of the first semester and that we have an innumerable specialty clinics to choose from. The focus internship is also a unique, well-structured platform for us to conduct our capstone project work. You can read the FAQ’s and the program website for more information on the program structure.

Hope everyone is safe and keeping well! Just be yourself and enjoy the interview process!

If you have any other questions regrading the program and interview, do not hesitate to reach out to me: srika [dot] amin [at] emory [dot] edu , or the program.

Remember to Keep Listening

By: Kelly Teed, Class of 2014

The man with the springer spaniel

Once you’re in the groove of working, the patients the mountains of paper work and phone calls to make can start to blur together. But luckily genetic counseling is a job where that one person will snap you out of the blur.

A man had called to reschedule an appointment that he had made for his wife, and then when I called a few days before the rescheduled appointment to remind him about it he said they perhaps might not be able to make it after all. Then he called me again and we went back and forth about if he should come to get some information if his wife doesn’t feel well. I was a little annoyed by all these phone calls, because I was busy and I was feeling like a newbie pushover.

He arrived at the appointment without his wife (she had a fever) and started out by asking how long I had been doing this- my favorite question besides, “Why do you look so young?” Not a very good start, I thought.

As we made our way through my obligatory questions, I got to know this persistent man a little better. He and his wife had recently retired and moved to Atlanta because of the hub airport and settled in to enjoy what they thought would be their “golden years”. That’s when she got a rare late-stage cancer, and now everything was turned upside down.

He talked about how his wife had once been extremely active and had especially enjoyed horses and their dog. He’d lost over 30 pounds since his wife got sick, which he said was partially because he was now the only one walking their energetic springer spaniel. His wife, he said, was now primarily a patient.

What really struck me was this loss of the light at the end of the tunnel for this man. Just like so many people, it seemed they had spent their lives working hard, and raising their kids (now scattered across the country). All the while looking forward to living life for themselves and really enjoying each other, when time and money finally allowed for it. Along with him, I felt frustrated that cancer had taken this from them.

And I was also feeling mad, because this man was a good one. He wasn’t just going with his wife to all of her cancer appointments; he was trying to go to the appointments for her. He was taking everything on because she couldn’t. When I told him I thought he was pretty great, he shrugged and said they’d been married for over 40 years and if the shoes were reversed she’d do the same for him.

I don’t know what the moral of all this is, other than that I was shaken up by this dedicated husband who’d gotten a raw deal. And crying a bit after he left was a reminder to keep listening.

A Ship to Sail

By: Hailey Campbell

My favorite book is “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott (judge me if you want, but I love it). A quote from this book also stands to be one of my favorites. It says, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” This quote has held true for every season of my life, and none truer than navigating life in grad school.

As you may have read in the previous blog posts, adjusting to grad life and learning how to be flexible around all of its frustratingly wonderful and wonderfully frustrating demands can be difficult (especially difficult if you’re stubborn and stuck in your ways like I am). When I started school, I knew that the schoolwork would be hard, and the material would be complex. I was prepared for that. What I was not prepared for was the amount of personal growth that grad school also required of me. In more ways than one, graduate school and the people that have become part of this season of my life have encouraged self-reflection and growth right alongside my classwork and clinical experiences.

Yes, the schoolwork has been difficult, time consuming, and so worthwhile. My clinic experiences have ranged from mildly interesting to profoundly impactful. My classmates have played many different roles in my life including study buddy, co-adventurer, ear-lender, counselor, and friend. My professors and supervisors have set high expectations for me and pushed me to be the best I can be. Through all of this, I have realized that grad school, especially genetic counseling school, is not just about academic learning and professional development. For me, as well as for my classmates, it has been about learning more about ourselves, defining just what kind of genetic counselor we all want to be, and discovering what impact we want to leave on patients, colleagues, and the field of genetics once we venture on to begin our careers.

I will gladly admit that for the two months after I committed to Emory and before school actually started, I would get overwhelmingly nervous just thinking about what the next two years would bring. This feeling was not because I did not want to go to school, but because I wanted it so badly and had for so long. I would get anxious thinking about it because I worked to get to this moment for 6 years and my dream was finally tangible. At this time, I thought that the limits of my dream were confined within the title of “genetic counselor” and it’s cookie-cutter definition. What I have come to learn over the past 18 months is that my dream is so much more defined, and it has significantly broadened. I now recognize that I want to be a genetic counselor in a pediatric or prenatal setting. I want to use the skills I have acquired through my training to teach others about genetic counseling and foster an interest in genetics among other medical professionals. I also want to guide future genetic counselors to discover how they want their title as “genetic counselor” to be defined.

As I approach my last semester of grad school and dream new dreams for the future of my career, I take confidence in knowing that I am more prepared for my first job as a genetic counselor than I was for graduate school. I know that being a genetic counselor is a profession that encourages constant self-growth. It is one that allows you to progress your interests and dreams as rapidly as the field of genetics is progressing. I also recognize that this chapter in my life is one that will stay with me for the entirety of my career. Of course, the training that I received is what allows me to be a qualified genetic counselor. However, I believe the experiences and the revelations that I have encounted here will have a much greater impact on my career.

For anyone preparing for interviews, considering genetic counseling school, or even just wanting to learn more about it, I believe it is important to keep an open mind. It is necessary to realize that the title of “genetic counselor” holds much more than one definition. Each genetic counselor has the opportunity to mold that definition to encompass each one of his/her dreams and goals. Regardless of how your interest in genetic counseling began, what expectations you have for your future career, or even how scary the prospect of grad school (and post-grad life) may seem, make sure you enjoy the journey. You are in good company and after all, we are all just learning how to sail our ships.

My Experience at Huntington’s Camp

By: Caitlin Austin

This biological string of nucleotides is something we universally share. In my fourteen months as a genetic counseling student, the majority of my efforts have revolved around that string of nucleotides, so I have had a lot of time to think about it.

If you really take a second to pause and consider how much of your life is determined by those A’s and T’s, the G’s and C’s, I bet you will be taken aback by how something so small can be of such consequence.

These were the thoughts running through my head as we pulled into Camp Friendship for my weekend at Huntington’s camp. I was slightly nervous as we started to unload the bus and organize the luggage. We had discussed Huntington’s in class plenty of times. We’d reviewed how the repetition of three nucleotides, cytosine-adenine-guanine, could lead to this progressive neurodegenerative disorder if the expansion was large enough. We had discussed the severe symptoms and the adult onset.

But we had never talked with a person affected by Huntington’s. We had never seen the chorea, their jerky involuntary movements, in person. I didn’t know what to expect or how I would feel.

The campers ranged in age from their 40’s to their 70’s. Some were already experiencing the chorea, while others only had subtle symptoms. These were the things I noticed right away. But after spending only a few hours with the campers, their symptoms faded from my mind as they shared moments from their lives, their experiences.

We spent the weekend doing crafts, playing games, and eating our meals “family style”. These activities brought us together. I was surprised by how many things other than Huntington’s I thought about that weekend. Each camper had a story to tell, and Huntington’s was only one piece of their journey.

I think what I enjoyed most was watching how the campers interacted with each other. They were supportive and kind and there was a natural camaraderie among them. Several of the returning campers remarked that this was one of their favorite weekends of the year. The act of simply being together was powerful.

I think the experience reminded me that our actions do not need extravagance to make a lasting impact. As genetic counselors, we are often with patients in times of great stress and uncertainty in their lives. While we cannot give them the answer of what to do, we can sit with them while they decide. While we cannot cure the disease their child has been diagnosed with, we can support them as they learn to cope. The power of simply being fully present should not be overlooked.

I left Camp Friendship feeling gratitude for the opportunity to spend time with all of the campers. Although nearly every aspect of their lives had been altered by their Huntington’s diagnosis, they did not let that diagnosis define them. Our string of nucleotides may be an important piece of who we are. But it is just that, only one piece.

Focus Internship

By: Amanda Hodgkins

What is a Focus Internship?

We get this question a lot. One of the reasons I love Emory’s program are the significant research opportunities. The Focus Internship (FI) involves four main areas.

1. The first is working as an intern with your focus mentor. For some this will mean seeing patients on a regular basis, others don’t see any patients. Basically, we work with our mentors on other research-related activities for approximately 4-8 hours a week during the fall and spring semesters and a four week full-time internship in the summer between our first and second year. This can mean anything from working on other research projects, entering research data, working on a registry, seeing research patients, etc.

2. The second is your capstone project. This is the most significant portion of the FI. During the summer of our first year, anywhere from 15-30 mentors from all different areas will come and present their project or areas of interest in order to create a project with them. You will work with them and a 3-person capstone committee on a project that will eventually produce data that will feed into the third part, a publishable manuscript.

3. As I described, the third part is producing a manuscript rather than a thesis. The manuscript is mandatory, the publishable part is strongly recommended. Our first two classes have all pursued publishing and have even presented their research at various meetings (like NSGC).

4. The fourth part is a mock grant. We work on and develop an idea that can be related to our FI. We’re “given” $150,000 per year for three years and over the period of Spring and Summer of our first year we create a thorough mock grant proposal. The purpose of this part of the FI is the experience of doing research, coming up with an idea, and pursuing financial backing for your idea. However, some mentors may even like your mock grant idea so much that they want to pursue it in real life.

I love my Focus Internship. I think it is a very unique opportunity to get thorough experience in research that I will be able to use in the future.

Additional tips from the focus panel that we had last week:

· Research the mentors, see what kind of work they do and what previous papers they have been on.

· Ask mentors you interview with if they have any recommended papers or resources that support their project.

· Ask mentors what they are looking for in a mentee and what additional activities they can offer you.

· Is seeing patients as a part of your rotation important to you? Make sure you ask if your potential mentor has any opportunities for you to see patients.

· Are you the kind of person who needs regular meetings with your mentor, or can you take an idea and run with it, so to speak, without a significant amount of input from your mentor? Make sure you get a sense for what your potential mentor prefers. A lot of times, they will say this upfront, but in case they don’t, make sure to ask.

· The most important part is picking a mentor that you can work well with. Even if your interest in the project is not as significant up front, if you get along well with your mentor, that will make for a much more pleasant focus internship.

· Prepare a list of what you bring to the table. Similar to your interview for the program, make sure you can say how certain experiences would help you on a project or how it would benefit the project’s team. If you don’t have any experiences, just make sure you have a reason for why you are interested in that specific project.

· Keep an open mind while people are presenting their projects. Interview for projects that you may know nothing about, you never know where that may lead and you may develop a passion for an area you may have not heard about before coming here.

If you ever have any questions, please feel free to ask any of us! -Amanda Hodgkins Class of 2016

Advice for Your First Week

By: The Class of 2016

Hello Class of 2017! We are so excited that you will be joining us in Atlanta in less than a week (!!!). The first week is a mini introduction to pretty much everything about the program and what it’s going to be like. It may seem overwhelming at first, but you will adjust and soon enough it will be fall! To help you get through your first week, we wrote down some general advice for you :). Remember that your second year mentors are always here for you if you have any questions or anything at all!

Don’t worry about all the things you have to do. Yes, you will have a lot of things to do, and it may seem overwhelming at times. Do your very best and at the end of the day you can be proud of yourself for that. Everything on the to do list might not get done, but as long as you did your best, that is all that matters. -Amanda

When things get tough and you start to question why you’re here in the first place (this will most likely happen at some point) just remember at least one thing that drove you to choose this path and have faith that your best efforts and your passion will help you along the way. One quote that I frequently remember has always helped me at times when I’ve doubted myself or my abilities, “To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” Hopefully it will also help some of you and know that you can always confide in a second year or fellow classmate for support! – Jamie

Don’t compare yourself to others or overthink criticism that you might receive. Remember that we were all chosen to come to this program because we were the best of the best and we all come with different strengths and weaknesses. Continue to remind yourself of what your strengths are, that we are all here to learn, and nobody is perfect the first time. You will be amazed by how much you accomplish in very little time. – Ellie Grad school can feel incredibly overwhelming at times. However, it is always important to remember that you are not alone! Your classmates are dealing with the same things that you are dealing with. So, be there for each other as a resource, as a support system, and as a friend! I know that sounds mushy, but I never would have made it through the first year if I didn’t have all of my amazing classmates! -Megan

My advice would be to ask as many questions as you can. We (second years) are a great resource. We’ve learned through experience and mistakes what works and what doesn’t and we’re extremely happy to share it with you guys. The same goes for all the teachers you’ll have. If you have a questions, no matter how small or silly you think it is, ask it. You never know what you might learn. – Sarah P. My advice is to enjoy yourselves during the graduate school experience. You will be completely immersed in your education for the next two years, with little time for much else, but if you just accept that up front, you will be able to truly enjoy challenging yourselves to grow as a professional. You will put in many hours of hard work, but the reward will be great. I am just on the cusp of believing that I can actually do this whole genetic counseling thing and that is a truly gratifying feeling. -Caitlin My advice is to start preparing to see patients. As you are learning, think of how this may be applicable in the future. Some assignments may seem less applicable in the patient setting, but may be vital in the research setting. Keep the slides/notes/etc from lectures to help you in your rotations. Keep/print out the booklets or pamphlets that you are getting. You may get a chance to use them in the future. Do not be afraid of not knowing or asking questions. You are here to learn and they do not expect you to know everything right away. Asking a question shows you are interested and actively learning. -Dora Finally, allow ample time for Atlanta traffic on your first day. If you are driving, keep in mind that the roads can have pretty heavy traffic going into school. If you are taking the bus, keep in mind the same thing as well as allowing time for stops to pick up other people. I also would advise you to take the bus before the last bus that would get you there on time. I have taken the North Dekalb Mall route pretty regularly, and it runs every 10-15 mins or so. It takes between 20 and 45 minutes to get from the mall to school, depending on traffic. Download the app transloc if you haven’t already, it is a great app to track the bus and is fairly accurate. Have an absolutely wonderful first week. We are so glad you chose Emory and have every confidence that you will succeed. Looking forward to meeting all of you again and getting to know you better! If you have any other questions, feel free to ask your mentor :). ~Class of 2016~

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!

Interviews from a Different Perspective

By: Megan Glassford

This blog entry specifically pertains to the people who have gone through the process of applying and interviewing for genetic counseling programs more than once. I think this is something important to discuss because it really does happen often. So, here is my story!

I knew that I wanted to pursue genetic counseling since I was in a junior in high school, but at the time, I definitely was not aware of how competitive the application process would be. As an undergraduate, I worked towards this goal by majoring in biology, doing research related to genetics education, volunteering for special needs programs, shadowing genetic counselors, etc. By my senior year, I could think of nothing else that I wanted more than to start my journey of becoming a genetic counselor! I completed the long and stressful process of applying and interviewing at three programs and anxiously awaited “D-day.” I was actually still in classes on this day, so I ended up getting called while I was driving to class and during two of my classes. Unfortunately, they all had the same news for me: “wait- listed.”

I do not think I have ever been more nervous in my entire life. My entire future was hanging in the balance for the next two days, while others were making their decisions. This time period was really hard for me, but I just tried to tell myself, “a lot of people get wait-listed,” and, “that one school told me I was really high on the wait-list, so that is a definite possibility.” As that dreadful three day period came to an end, I found out one by one that each of the programs had filled all of their spots. Just as a side note, no one ever told me how to respond to this. I was on the phone about to burst into tears while also trying to maintain professionalism and thinking, “What am I supposed to say? Thank you?”

After a couple of days, I managed to accept the reality that I would NOT be attending graduate school the next year. As one would expect, I was devastated. Eventually, I understood that I just needed to do more to become a better, stronger applicant. So, I set forth on finding a job and volunteer activities that would give me the opportunity to gain experiences that would better prepare me to become a genetic counseling student. For me, these things consisted of working with and teaching students with autism and volunteering on a crisis hotline for domestic violence, both of which I did not have time to do as an undergrad.

While applying for the second time, I applied to more schools and hoped that this, plus my new experiences, would push me to the top! I was less nervous for this round of interviews because I knew what the interviews would be like; including schedules, what questions they might ask, what questions I would ask, etc. So, I think having interviewed at programs the year before was a definite advantage for me in this sense. I also had a lot more to talk about that I could directly relate to genetic counseling!

Even though all of my interviews went really well, I am not going to lie, I was very hesitant to feel any kind of assurance. Fortunately, I was able to be home for this round of “D-day.” The first call I got was from Emory University—an acceptance, not wait-listed! They really wanted me! I was the one who actually had a decision to make. The rest of the day, and the next two days, were kind of a blur, but in a good way! Now, as my first year is coming to a close, I am thankful that I had that extra time to prepare for life as a genetic counseling student.

The moral of the story is that you should not be discouraged if you end up interviewing more than once for genetic counseling programs. In all of my interviews, the directors said, “You would not be here for an interview if you weren’t qualified.” It is important to remember that the programs are small, and they just don’t have enough spots to accept every person who is qualified. Some of the most amazing counselors I know are people who interviewed more than once. I hope this eases your mind if you are in a similar situation. On the other hand, if you are interviewing for the first time, please do not let my story discourage you. There are several people in my class who got in the first time they interviewed.

I wish you the best of luck during your interviews! You are all going to do great!