What to look for in a Genetic Counseling Program (PART TWO)

A few posts ago, I made a checklist titled “What to look for in a Genetic Counseling Program”, in the hopes that I’d help a few lost souls apply to graduate school. However, I was preaching without a choir and I now realize that I am the most lost soul there is! 

Having plans to take a gap year next year, applications have NOT been a priority, and in the wise words of actress Juno Temple, “You can’t really help people until you’ve helped yourself first”. So today, I am putting my money where my mouth is and I’m using my own checklist to decide my favorite Genetic Counseling Programs. 


Even when applying to my undergraduate university, location was one of my greatest motivators. Having much younger twin brothers, I knew I wanted to stay close to home and am so lucky to have the University of Wisconsin just a short 20 minute drive away.

However, my brothers have grown, and so have I. I’m ready to move away from Wisconsin and hope to find a grad school somewhere new and exciting. I’d love to live in a big city but there are other factors that I need to be aware of –– Will I feel safe as a woman moving to this new city? Will I be able to afford living in this city?

For today’s purposes, I’m going to assume that by saving money during my gap year, I can afford my dream city and dream apartment (with lots of locks and roommates)! Following those guidelines, I was able to narrow down my choices to 29 schools. Though that’s still a lot of schools, I know that there are other factors I’ll need to think about in the future, and I don’t want to narrow down my list too soon. 

Cost of Tuition and Living

Unfortunately, the cost of tuition will make or break my ability to apply to a school. However, this is where my gap year comes into play. By taking a gap year, I will have time to save money to better afford my dream school. Though I still won’t be able to afford the most expensive private school in the country, I hope that my year off will allow me to at least go out-of-state and to a larger city-campus.

I am a spreadsheet queen, so I organized my top 29 schools by cost and color-coded them green, yellow, or red based on their affordability. While I don’t plan to make any further decisions based on these costs, I know that if I feel indifferent about a school later on in my process I can look back on those colors to more easily make a decision about a program. 

Vibe Check (NEW)

I recently spoke with a current genetic counseling student about her application process, and she mentioned that she too felt very lost for a long time. She narrowed down her favorite programs based on location and cost as well, but then she told me about her next step –– the vibe check. 

This amazing woman went to the website of every genetic counseling program in the country and used the quality, look, and feel of the website to determine the character, credibility, and integrity of the program. Using the same thought process, I was able to narrow down my top 29 schools to top 25. Who knew so many awesome schools would pass the vibe check!

Program Focus

Another less-famous detail to keep in mind is if your favorite graduate school program has a specific focus. While all schools introduce most specialties of genetic counseling (prenatal, cancer, etc.), some programs offer dual curriculums or specialize in different areas of the field. 

Determining a program’s focus, however, can be an incredibly large feat. It can take hours of research, many open-houses, and late nights debating your existence to even come up with a list of your Top 10 schools based on their curriculum focus. While I know I can’t apply to all 25 of my current top schools, I don’t have enough information to narrow them down just yet. 

Next time I’ll share my curriculum preferences and speciality interests, and I’ll hopefully find a few schools to match! See you in PART THREE!

TOP 25 (in alphabetical order)

Boise State University
Columbia U
Emory Univerity School of Med
Johns Hopkins U/National Human Genome Research Inst.
Keck Graduate Institute
Long Island U – CW Post
MGH Institute of Health Professions
Mt. Sinai School of Med
Northwestern Med School
Rutgers U
Thomas Jefferson U
U of Colorado – Denver
U of Maryland School of Med
U of Michigan
U of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
U of Pittsburgh
U of SC
U of Texas Grad School of Biomed at Houston
University of California – Los Angeles
University of Minnesota
University of Pennsylvania
University of Utah
University of Washington
Vanderbilt University

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