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What things did you consider when putting together your application?

What things did you consider when choosing which genetic counselling programs to apply to?

What tips did you find helpful for interview day?

As a current MSc student, what is one thing you were surprised to learn about the genetic counselling profession?

As a current MSc student, what is one thing you’ve found helpful in preparing for doing an MSc in genetic counselling while preparing to get into the program?

What have you found most challenging about being a genetic counselling student?

What have you found most rewarding during your time as a genetic counselling student?

What were you up to before starting your MSc in genetic counselling, and how did you find your transition into your MSc in genetic counselling?

Do you need to speak French to get into McGill?

 

NB: Please refer to the website of your genetic counselling program of interest for information about required or recommended courses, grades, or experiences. 

Are there any further questions that you would like to be addressed here? We invite you to contact us at cagcoffice@cagc-accg.ca with the subject line “Student FAQ”. Please be mindful that responses to inquiries submitted might be slow.

 

 

What things did you consider when putting together your application?

McGill - Ideally, I wanted to stay close to home, but I recognized that applying to multiple programs would increase my chances of getting accepted into a program. I knew that I wanted to work in Canada eventually, so I focused on Canadian programs. I did, however, apply to one school in the United States (which did not require writing the GRE at the time). At the application phase I didn’t compare the programs too much in terms of program size, tuition, program structure, availability of specialty clinics, etc. I figured that I would learn more about the programs while interviewing and could compare them in more detail if I ended up being offered a spot at more than one school.

UdeM - First of all, I’m French-Canadian so I had a slight preference for University of Montreal’s program. I was also tempted to try applying to Marseille because I had lived in France before and it would have been a fun experience. McGill was also an option for me because I knew it was a great program and I wasn’t far from home. I really didn’t have any trouble deciding where to apply; it was a really easy process for me. I ended up applying only at UdeM and the second time was the charm.

UBC - My ultimate goal was to become a genetic counsellor, so I was open to going almost anywhere that helped me achieve this. When considering where I should apply I decided that since it was my first year I would only apply to the Canadian schools. Since the application process has a fee and preferably I would stay in Canada if I had the option to, applying at only the Canadian schools for my first time seemed like the reasonable choice. If I hadn’t been accepted on my first application round I would have written my GRE and applied at schools in the US as well as re-apply at the Canadian schools. My choice in US schools would probably be ones that are closer to home, however finances would also be a factor in my consideration of schools. 

 

What things did you consider when choosing which genetic counselling programs to apply to?

McGill - When describing my experiences, I made sure to highlight a diverse range of skills and attributes that I felt were relevant to genetic counselling. After completing the first draft of my statement of purpose, I asked a few close friends/relatives to read it to see if my passion and determination came across the way I had intended (and also to catch any spelling/grammatical errors of course!). 

UdeM - When I was putting my application together I wanted to show them how motivated I was. I was dreaming of that program for so long, I made sure they could see my motivation through every single document I had to provide. I also made sure that the evaluators could see how I always worked toward the genetic counselling program and how all my previous experiences helped me be a better candidate for the program. Since I was enrolled part-time in UdeM’s microprogram (genetic counselling based courses), I also wanted to make sure my application would stand out from other microprogram students. A few friends who had gone through a similar application also helped me proofreading and improving my personal statement.

UBC - When putting together my application I wanted to make sure that mine was unique. My ultimate goal was to stand out in my application. Since the directors who would read my applications had no idea who I was I wanted to make sure my application was strong in showing my strengths and personality. I had friends, family and various mentors read over my personal statements and give me constructive feedback, which helped in strengthening my application. 

 

What tips did you find helpful for interview day?

McGill - “Be yourself.” It’s a cliché but it worked for me. Don’t get too caught up trying to think about what they want to hear, or what the ‘right’ answer is. The interviewers want to get to know you, see how you think and how you interact with others. Bonus tip: I recently had a job interview and while I was waiting for it to start I listened to a pre-interview guided meditation (available on YouTube). My pre-interview jitters quickly dissipated and I went in feeling relaxed and confident.  

UdeM - “Be yourself” and “ask questions”. Personally, I always liked interviews. It’s the best part of an application because you get to met the evaluators and let them see what you told them in your application. They do want to get to know you and even with all the stress it might bring, I think it’s possible to enjoy it if you let your personality show. Also, I always try to prepare a few questions in advance because I don’t want to think about them only after the interview. I think that asking questions shows motivation but also that we are proactive. Usually, you have time for questions at the end of the interview so you are less tense because you know all the big questions are over and it’s another way to interact with the evaluators in a more relaxed way.

UBC - In preparation for my interview two pieces of advice stood out: “prepare but do not over-prepare” and “emphasize uniqueness.” The first piece of advice meant that it is beneficial to prepare in advance of an interview but not so much so as to come across as “scripted” in your interview. I brainstormed questions I anticipated I might be asked as well as reviewed common interview questions. I read some interesting journal articles and a general book about “acing” an interview. The second piece of advice meant that I should emphasize my personal experiences that are unique to me and shaped my as the person that wants to be a genetic counsellor. 

 

As a current MSc student, what is one thing you were surprised to learn about the genetic counselling profession?

McGill - Although I had volunteered in genetic counselling clinics before, I never fully appreciated the amount of paperwork (ex. test requisitions, chart notes) that genetic counsellors do.

UdeM - I had worked in a genetics clinic before but I am always amazed by the variety of cases genetic counsellors see. The field of genetics is always dynamic, so there is no way you will get bored being a genetic counsellor.

UBC - I was most surprised about the wide range of job opportunities of a genetic counsellor. I had previously volunteered in a genetics clinic and only saw genetic counsellors in the role as a clinical GC. Throughout my training I have been introduced to a wide range of roles that genetic counsellors fill and succeed in including, but not limited to, laboratory GCs and policy development. 

 

As a current MSc student, what is one thing you’ve found helpful in preparing for doing an MSc in genetic counselling while preparing to get into the program?

McGill - The most helpful thing for me was volunteering in a genetic counselling clinic. I developed a better understanding of how genetic counselling sessions are structured, different ways that information can be presented to patients (ex. diagrams, analogies, etc.) various psychosocial issues (ex. patient guilt, anxiety, etc.) and ethical concepts (ex. informed consent, genetic testing in children, etc.). 

UdeM - What helped me the most was working alongside a geneticist. I learned how to draw pedigrees and what information the referring physician needed to know. Practice is the key so too much is never a bad thing.

UBC - The most helpful thing for me was being a volunteer at the genetics clinic. I learned basic skills that helped me from day one of being in the program. As a volunteer I was responsible for drawing pedigrees from family history questionnaires and completing laboratory send outs for genetic testing. This allowed me to explore through patient charts and learn more about various conditions. I also had a good understanding of the standardized pedigree guidelines and had lots of practice drawing them.

 

What have you found most challenging about being a genetic counselling student?

McGill - It can be challenging figuring out how to balance classes, clinical rotations, our independent studies project, having a social life, etc. An agenda is an absolute necessity!

UdeM - Balancing your life is a huge challenge. It’s impossible to be perfect in every aspect of your life, but it’s possible to choose a few things that matter to you and to stick to it. Constant adaptation is important, but so is listening to your feelings.

UBC - It’s an adjustment to balance all of the tasks that we have. We start clinical rotations from day one so right away you need to learn how to balance your clinical cases and your course work as well as extra-curricular activities and self-care. The program is very dynamic so I find myself constantly adjusting.

 

What have you found most rewarding during your time as a genetic counselling student?

McGill - The most rewarding thing for me has been the feeling that I’ve found my calling. It’s cheesy, but it’s true! I can’t see myself doing anything else.

UdeM - Knowing that the career of my dream is at my reach. After all the hard work, it’s not just a dream anymore, it’s real.

UBC - What I have found most rewarding is finally being in the program that will lead me to a career of my dreams. School has become more motivating than before because I am training for my future profession.

 

What were you up to before starting your MSc in genetic counselling, and how did you find your transition into your MSc in genetic counselling?

McGill - I finished my BSc in Molecular Biology & Genetics in 2014. Subsequently, I worked on improving my genetic counselling program application. I volunteered in a gastrointestinal cancer clinic and an autism research clinic for one year. The experience I gained during this time really helped to ensure a smooth transition to the MSc in genetic counselling program.

UdeM - I did a BSc in Microbiology at University of Sherbrooke (UdeS) and then I was involved in graduate research in health science, also at UdeS. To have worked in research before helped me understand the amount of work that was needed in a master and, I think, made the transition easier than if I had just finished my BSc.

UBC - Before starting my MSc in genetic counselling I had previously completed a Bachelor of Science in biology at the University of Calgary. After I graduated from my undergrad I decided to take a year off to gain experience in order to apply to the MSc in genetic counselling. During this year off I worked as a research assistant and research coordinator in various studies including a genetics study. I also volunteered at a distress centre and a genetics clinic as well as took a couple online courses to strengthen my application. My transition from my gap year to my MSc was difficult because it went from working full-time to being in school full-time and having no income besides student loans. Even in my undergrad I had time to work part-time but that is not a reasonable option in my MSc. The most difficult transition however was transitioning from living in my hometown (Calgary), to moving away from my friends and family to a new city. Luckily my classmates are a very supportive group and have made the transition easier.

 

Do you need to speak French to get into McGill?

McGill - Speaking French is not mandatory, however, many genetic counselling sessions are done in French. Here is my experience with French at McGill: I was in French Immersion throughout most of elementary and high school but before starting at McGill my French was very rusty and I was not very confident. I hired a French tutor over the summer to help refresh my memory and build my confidence. At  McGill, my supervisors were so supportive and really encouraged me to keep practicing. I can now do full counselling sessions in French. I’d say that roughly ⅓ to ½ of my sessions are in French.

 

 

Disclosures: The thoughts and opinions expressed are our own and do not represent the post-secondary institutions or teaching hospitals that we attend. The opinions expressed have no direct influence on program selection decisions, nor does it guarantee admission into a genetic counselling program. For fairness, we will not answer specific questions about the application or interview process.

Other Resources
http://www.nsgc.org/p/us/in
https://mapsandgenes.wordpress.com/

 

 

Contributors

Pamela Adjei, CAGC Student Representative 2017, McGill University, Genetic Counselling Trainee 2016-2018

I am excited to be able to connect prospective genetic counselling students with current students and recent graduates. We hope that you have found this page helpful!

 

 

Stephanie Chieffo, University of British Columbia, Genetic Counselling Trainee 2016-2018

Genetics has interested me since I was first introduced to it. While fascinated by the science behind genetic mutations and inheritance, I was also interested in how genetic disorders affect individuals and their families not only physically but also psychologically. This led to me pursuing a career in genetic counselling. I first became hooked on genetics when my dad taught me inheritance using his hands and fingers - a technique I use today in my sessions with patients. 

 

 

Marjorie Bezeau, University of Montreal, Genetic Counselling Trainee 2016-2018

It’s my love for teaching and my desire to help that led me to study genetic counselling. This, paired with my passion for genetics, made the perfect job I could ever dream of. I love the variability of cases that we can see but I can’t hide that I have a slight preference for adults specialty. 

 

 

Breanne Dale, McGill University, Genetic Counselling Trainee 2015-2017

I feel so fortunate to be part of the genetic counselling community. It’s everything I dreamed of and more. I look forward to growing as a genetic counsellor and giving back to the community.