How to Apply
Applicants to the Genetic Counseling program are required to have one year (two semesters) each of biology, chemistry and behavioral science (e.g., psychology, sociology, religion) and one semester each of genetics, biochemistry and statistics. Experiences that focus on interpersonal dynamics are encouraged but not required. The GRE exam is required for admission. We receive an average of 60 to 80 applications annually. The average GPA for admitted students is 3.3 to 3.5 and the GRE scores of admitted students are usually greater than 150 Quantitative and 156 Verbal.
The master’s degree program in genetic counseling requires four full-time semesters of study and summer clinical work (21 months) for students entering with a B.S. or B.A. degree. Work-study positions may be available to help students finance their education. Other funding opportunities may be available, including supported leadership training in neurodevelopmental disabilities (LEND).
Students working toward the M.S. degree in Genetic Counseling have an integrated and progressively complex classroom and supervised clinical experience designed to support development of the genetic counseling practice-based skills set forth by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. Clinical exposure and experience begins in the first semester of training. Balancing of the student and professional roles is a lifelong process in the changing field of human genetics and genetic counseling. Students will be contributing members to the clinical genetics team of counselors, physicians, basic scientists and support staff.
Surveys of our graduates’ employers show a high level of satisfaction with our graduates knowledge and practice-based skills in genetics. Two endowed funds, the Lang Kucera Fund and the Lorna Phelps Fund for Excellence in Genetic Counseling and Education are dedicated to supporting the genetic counseling training program and genetic counseling trainees.
Applications are accepted for enrollment in the fall semester only. All applicants to our program must apply through the VCU Office of Admissions by following this link. To apply for the MS in Genetic Counseling training program, in the “Intended Program of Study” screen, select the appropriate term of entry, then “Masters” as your intended level of study and then “Genetic Counseling-MS” as your planned course of study.
A completed application contains the on-line application, a personal statement, Curriculum vitae or resume, official transcripts, general GRE scores (VCU code 5570), and three letters of recommendation. International applicants must also submit TOEFL or IELTS scores (VCU code 5570). In addition, international applicants must arrange to have their academic credentials evaluated by a service that is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) and must include the evaluation of their credentials in the application for graduate training. WES, ECE, and AACRAO are some of the acceptable NACES-approved providers.
Your letters of recommendation should comment on your suitability for graduate training, your work ethic and interpersonal communication skills and on other relevant experience. Your personal statement should describe in any order (i) why you are interested in the M.S. in Genetic Counseling (ii) any research interests or experience you have had, (iii) any career plans that you have, and (vi) any other information that will help us evaluate you as a prospective Genetic Counseling trainee. Additionally, if you are supported by a governmental or other scholarship, please provide a copy of the financial guarantee or award letter. Please email Rachel Gannaway MS, CGC, the director of the MS in Genetic Counseling program, when you have submitted your application.
Applications for M.S. training are evaluated by a committee within the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics. Applicants to the M.S. in Genetic Counseling program are strongly encouraged to complete their applications (i.e. all forms, letters, transcripts, etc. received) by January 15 or earlier if possible. Applications completed after January 15 will typically not be considered.
After completing the online application, documents such as official transcripts or resumes that cannot be submitted electronically should be sent to the following address:
Virginia Commonwealth University
Office of Admissions
Richmond, Virginia 23284-3051
How to Apply FAQs
Do you require a specific undergraduate major? No. We do not require a specific undergraduate major as long as an applicant has completed the required prerequisite courses.
What are your GRE requirements? We require the GRE (general tests only) and these must have been taken within five years of the application deadline.
How high are the GPA and GRE scores of applicants that are admitted to your program? We require a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. We do not have a set “cut-off” for GRE scores: the Admissions Committee will evaluate your GRE scores in the context of your entire application. The Association of Genetic Counseling Program Directors compiles national data about the average GPA and GRE scores of students admitted to accredited programs. Students admitted to our program typically meet or exceed these standards.
What is the application deadline? The application deadline for admission to our program is January 15. We only admit students in the fall. So, if you are applying for Fall 2015, your application is due January 15, 2015.
What is the GRE test code? The VCU School GRE code is 5570.
My undergraduate GPA is less than the required 3.0. Can I still be considered for admission to your program? In cases where an applicant is otherwise well-qualified, we may be able to waive this requirement. In this situation, we encourage applicants to demonstrate their academic abilities by completing additional relevant upper level undergraduate or graduate level courses.
Do you require genetic counseling internship/shadowing experience or crisis counseling/advocacy experiences? While these are not required for admission to our program, they are strongly encouraged.
Do I need to include in my Resume or CV? While these are not required for admission to our program, they are strongly encouraged.
What should be included in my personal statement? Please submit a two-page essay (double spaced, 12 point font). You may consider discussing the following: describing how your academic and other experiences led to your interest in genetic counseling; comment on your personal characteristics that will contribute to your success as a genetic counselor; from your perspective, what are the current and future challenges for the genetic counseling profession. However, these are only suggestions. Your statement should be unique to you and demonstrate your passion for the field.
What happens after I submit my application? When your application is submitted, an Admissions Specialist in the Graduate School will review your file, to make sure that all information required by the Graduate School has been submitted. When your application is complete, the M.S. Genetic Counseling Program will be notified. It often takes a few weeks from the time you submit your application online for the program to be notified that your application is complete. You may contact the graduate school admissions office directly to inquire about the status of your application materials at (804) 828-6916.
When will I know if I am invited to interview? The Admissions Committee typically meets in early to mid-January to make these decisions. You will be notified by email following this meeting. Most interview invitations are made by the end of February.
When do the interviews take place? We typically schedule our interviews on Wednesdays in March and early April. Details about the available dates are sent with your invitation to interview. If you are invited to interview, you should respond as soon as you can to ensure that you will be able to be interviewed on your preferred date.
What happens when I come to interview at VCU? Interviews are conducted on five dates on Wednesdays in March and early April. The interview includes a presentation by the Program Director, individual interviews with all members of the Admissions Committee, attendance at our weekly clinical conference and an opportunity to meet informally with other applicants and current students during lunch.
Does VCU provide any help with the costs for traveling to Richmond to interview? We are not able to provide any reimbursement for your travel costs. However, typically, several of our current students are willing to provide you with housing during your stay. When you confirm your interview you should let us know if you would like to stay with a current student. Our current students also organize informal social gatherings for applicants in the evenings. This may be a pot-luck supper (students provide the meal), pizza party or other such gathering. You will receive information about this once you confirm your interview.
When will I know if I am offered admission to the program? All accredited programs offer admission on the same date which is established by the Association of Genetic Counseling Program Directors (AGCPD). Applicants are made aware of this date and provided with AGCPD Guidelines for Admissions during their interview.
Biochemistry is only offered in the spring at my university. If I take this course in my final semester, do I still qualify for admission to your program? Yes. We allow for prerequisite courses to be “in progress” during the semester in which your application is being reviewed. For example, if you apply for Fall 2015 admission, it is fine if you are enrolled in one of the prerequisite courses during your Spring 2015 semester. You must receive a “B” or better in the course.
Will courses taken at other institutions (i.e. community colleges) or online course meet the prerequisite course requirements? Yes, as long as the course is taken at an accredited institution and otherwise meets the requirements.
Are there other courses that you recommend an applicant complete? The Admissions Committee reviews your entire transcript. The most competitive applicants are those who have done well in a challenging curriculum, which includes relevant coursework in Biology (i.e. Anatomy and Physiology), Genetics, Chemistry, Counseling/Psychology, Health Sciences and Ethics.