The COVID19 pandemic has changed the process of preparing to apply to graduate school for many. We are aware that extenuating circumstances outside of your control may impact your ability to best demonstrate preparation for graduate learning. For instance, you may have planned to raise your GPA this past spring in advance of applying this fall, but only had the option for pass/fail grading. You may have had a counseling experience scheduled for the summer which was cancelled. Perhaps you intended to improve your GRE scores this fall but are now not able to do so.
We encourage you to do the best you can to meet the prerequisites outlined below, keeping in mind that you will have the opportunity to explain any aspect of your application that you believe warrants further description. It is our intent and commitment to partner with applicants to ensure that our interpretation of their individual circumstances is reasonable and well-informed. We understand the tremendous stress that many of you feel during this unprecedented time. As we look at our current students and colleagues, we could not be more proud to be part of the the health care workforce. Keep up the strong work as you study to be part of this community going forward.
Minimum Degree Requirements
- Baccalaureate (Bachelor's) degree
- At least three full academic years at a regionally accredited college in the US or Canada (or a graduate degree from a regionally accredited institution in the US or Canada)
- Must be completed prior to enrollment into the program
Minimum Course Requirements
- One year biology
- One year chemistry
- One semester biochemistry
- One semester genetics (human or molecular)
- One semester psychology
- One semester writing-intensive course
- One semester statistics (must include probability, business and economic statistics do not typically fulfill this requirement)
- Three additional courses covering a broad range of humanities/social science subjects that most institutions require as partial fulfillment of the baccalaureate degree. Courses may include but are not limited to: anthropology, communications, english, history, law, political science, economics, government, psychology, sociology, classics, literature, philosophy, religion, and art history.
Our admission committee looks for applicants who have received As and Bs (more As than Bs) but recognizes such grades are not possible under all circumstances. A final grade lower than C- in any required course is regarded by the committee as an unsatisfactory completion of our requirements. For consideration into the program, these required courses must be retaken or have acceptable substitutes with higher grades. Applicants may apply to the program if they lack one or two of the above prerequisites, but completion of those courses is a requirement for enrollment. All prerequisites must be taken for credit.
- High school advanced placement (AP) credit: AP credit cannot be used as a substitute for prerequisite coursework, you still must have completed college-level courses to fulfill the above requirements. For example, if you received AP credit for general biology, any other biological science course, such as microbiology, could be used toward the biology prerequisite.
- Online courses: online courses taken from a regionally accredited institution in the US or Canada are not evaluated differently in the admission process than those taken in person.
- Grading: due to the COVID19 pandemic, courses graded as pass/fail (P/F) in the spring and summer of 2020 can be used to fulfill prerequisites. Courses taken in the fall of 2020 and beyond should be taken for a letter grade if this is an option at your institution. All prerequisite courses completed prior to the spring of 2020 must have been taken for a letter grade.
Graduate Record Examination (GRE) - OPTIONAL
Scores from the GRE General test are an optional component of the application, they are not required for admission consideration. Applicants might consider submitting GRE scores if they feel it will strengthen their overall application. If any of the following situations apply, applicants are strongly encouraged to submit GRE scores that are no more than five years old:
- The genetics, biochemistry, and/or psychology prerequisites were taken as Pass/Fail
- More than three prerequisite courses were taken as Pass/Fail
- Applicants who feel that their GPA and other preparation do not accurately reflect their academic readiness for graduate-level coursework
Our ETS program code for score submission is 4516.
English Language Proficiency Testing
Required for applicants for whom English is not their first language, unless baccalaureate studies were completed in English at a regionally accredited institution in the US or Canada. We accept both the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). TOEFL minimum score of 600 on the paper-based test or 100 on the internet-based test or a 7.5 for the IELTS is required. Scores must be no more than two years old. Our TOEFL code for score submission is C460.
Work and Volunteer Experience
A current résumé provides the admission committee with a better sense of who you are as an individual. We look at what you have done and how you have incorporated those experiences and grown as a result. Not all students have had the opportunity to test their motivation by working in the fields of medicine or genetics. The admission committee recognizes that some students may lack experience in these fields but at the same time may exhibit and possess other attributes demonstrating their skills, persistence, interest, and qualifications.
Counseling Skill-Building Experience
Previous experience interacting with clients around emotionally-charged topics is important preparation for graduate level learning and helps to ensure that the profession of genetic counseling is right for you.
A minimum of 40 hours of interactive client experience is required, and these hours may be completed at one organization or a combination of practice environments. This experience can be obtained through either volunteer or paid work. Some examples include:
- Crisis counseling or COVID19 hotlines/textlines
- COVID19 contact tracing
- Work with children or adults with disabilities
- Domestic abuse shelters/organizations
- Hospice, elder care, long-term health facilities
- Community health (e.g., Planned Parenthood)
- Resident assistants, peer health mentoring
- Youth mentoring, life coaching
In light of social distancing, we recognize that acquisition of this experience may be interrupted or postponed. In these instances, you are encouraged to describe hours already completed, those planned, and efforts made to supplement these hours in other ways.
Exposure to the Profession of Genetic Counseling
Some examples include shadowing or interviewing genetic counselors, working as a genetic counseling assistant, engaging with online/remote learning modules about genetic counseling, or attending genetic counseling interest events/workshops in person or virtually. Please be sure these experiences are listed in your résumé. For events offered through Columbia, visit here.
Letters of Recommendation
We require three letters of recommendation. If you have received your undergraduate degree in the past five years, at least one letter must be from a faculty member at that institution (i.e., professor, research mentor). If you are not a recent student, letters from mentors, advisors, or supervisors who can speak directly to your commitment, interest in genetic counseling, capacity for human service work, and/or work ethic will be accepted. Keep in mind that letters from people who do not know you personally will not be given serious consideration.
A personal interview is required when an applicant is found to be competitive for admission consideration. Interviews are arranged by invitation after all materials have been reviewed.