An applicant must successfully complete requirements of both the UW-Madison Graduate School and the Master of Genetic Counselor Studies program (MGCS) to be considered a qualified applicant.
Most applicants have a balanced set of experiences, clear communication skills and strong letters of recommendations as well as high academic achievement. Strong applicants demonstrate an insightful process toward their career development and a high level of maturity.
COVID-19 and changes to admissions requirements
The Master of Genetic Counselor Studies leadership appreciate how difficult the current public health crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic is for potential applicants to our program. As such, under the guidance of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, be assured that our staff and admissions committee members understand the issues applicants are facing and will continue to adjust our assessment of applications and applicants as needed. We are all affected by the pandemic and you can be assured your experiences will be evaluated in light of this new reality. Our primary concern is the safety of all applicants.
The MGCS Program has already enacted numerous changes for the fall 2021 application cycle related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We recognize that COVID-19 has disrupted academic plans across the country and that applicants are facing unprecedented challenges. Many colleges have gone solely with pass/fail grading. Therefore, our program will accept pass/fail grades for spring 2020 through spring 2021 semesters with no disadvantage to the applicant.
Due to COVID-19, the GRE is not required and will not be accepted for the fall 2022 admission cycle. If you took the GRE already, please do not include your scores in your application.
After review of applications, candidates selected for an interview will be notified via email by mid-February 2022. Interviews will occur in March 2022. At this time, we have not decided if interviews will occur in person or virtually.
Other COVID-19 application consideration
While we are not changing other program admission requirements, space will be provided on the MGCS application form for applicants to discuss how COVID-19 affected their planned experiences for this year. This will allow us to continue our thorough and holistic review of applications.
Applicants must have a bachelor's degree. Although a specific major is not required, most applicants have a degree in a biological science (e.g. biology, genetics, biochemistry).
The average GPA of admitted students is 3.5. In following the Graduate School’s requirements for admission, a minimum undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours (approximately two years of work) or a master's degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 is required. If a student has an undergraduate GPA less than 3.0, coursework completed after graduation demonstrating a higher GPA will be considered.
An applicant must complete courses in statistics, biochemistry, and advanced genetics. An appropriate biochemistry course generally requires prerequisites that include at least one semester of chemistry and organic chemistry. An example of an appropriate biochemistry course at UW-Madison would include Biochem 501 – Introduction to Biochemistry. Advanced genetic courses are typically designed for life science majors (e.g. biology, genetics, or molecular and cell biology majors). The courses at UW that would be comparable include: Genetics 467 and Genetic 468. Generally, having only one introductory genetics course intended for non-science majors is not sufficient. We encourage students to take as many relevant genetics and biology courses as possible to strengthen their application. All required courses should be taken prior to applying as it is difficult to evaluate courses “in progress” at the time of application.
Since many colleges have gone solely with pass/fail grading, the MGCS program will accept pass/fail grades for spring 2020 through spring 2021 semesters with no disadvantage to the applicant.
Due to COVID-19, the GRE is not required and will not be accepted for the admission cycle for fall 2021. If you took the GRE already, please do not include your scores for the fall 2021 cycle. We will re-evaluate this previous requirement in future application cycles; prospective applicants should check back to the MGCS website for the most up to date GRE requirement in future cycles.
Test of English as a foreign language (TOEFL)
As per the requirements of the Graduate School, "Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide an English proficiency test score." Given that the profession of genetic counseling is highly dependent on excellent communication skills, applicants must have a high degree of fluency in verbal and written communication. Strong candidates have TOEFL scores approaching 110 (iBT). TOEFL scores less than 100 (iBT) will not be considered for admission.
Genetic counselor observation/exposure
Observation of a genetic counselor(s) is a good method to learn more about the profession. This process is to help one identify if the field of genetic counseling is a good fit with one's personal and career goals. Recognizing that in person clinical experience is not always possible especially given current concerns due to COVID-19, several other options are reasonable. Simulated genetic counseling sessions are available on the National Society of Genetic Counselors website as well as virtual webinars and conferences addressing genetic counseling topics. Interviewing genetic counselors from a wide range of specialties and participation in online classes dedicated to learning more about the profession are valuable. Consider learning more about genetic conditions and the impact on the person and family through literature and support organizations. Please list such experience in your resume/CV.
Advocacy or counseling experience
Given the nature of this profession, having experience in advocacy or counseling is of significant value. Such experience helps one appreciate and develop interpersonal communication skills, have a better understanding of the patient or person's experience, and to have a better understanding of the healthcare system or other public service system. Applicants typically have experiences from many different settings including: Planned Parenthood, domestic abuse shelters, crisis hotlines, peer counseling, homeless shelters, hospice care, or working with individuals with physical disabilities or intellectual impairment.
Letters of recommendation
Three letters of recommendation are required that demonstrate one’s academic, professional and advocacy strengths.
As noted on the National Society of Genetic Counselors website, applicants often engage in various types of experiences outside of the typical classroom. Experiences should aid in their decision to pursue a career in genetic counseling. Most applicants have held various types of jobs, completed research or laboratory work, or volunteered with various organizations such as Special Olympics.