? ? ? ? ? Frequently Asked Questions ? ? ? ? ?

COVID-19 Banner indicating policy changes

COVID-19 QUESTIONS AND UPDATES

We have chosen to keep the GRE as an optional part of the application. We do not require GREs, but will review them if an applicant believes the scores will be beneficial.

Yes, courses taken in the spring 2020 semester and graded as pass/fail can be used to fulfill prerequisite requirements.   A letter grade is required for prerequisite courses completed prior to that time.  Courses taken in the summer and fall of 2020 and later should be taken for a letter grade if that is an option at your institution.

We understand that it will be difficult this year to get shadowing experience. Other options include informational interviews with genetic counselors to ask questions and learn about different kinds of counseling and different clinical settings. The “Find a counselor” feature on the NSGC website (nsgc.org) will note whether a counselor is willing to talk with prospective students. NSGC also has information about becoming a counselor and about the profession, including videos, articles, professional status surveys and more.  The Master Counselor Video Series, which features expert genetic counselors in sessions for cancer, prenatal and pediatric genetics is available at that site.   YouTube has a large number of videos by genetic counselors and about genetic counseling. Finally, if possible, becoming involved in an advocacy organization related to genetic disease may give you the chance to interact with patients and their families. 

We realize that many people had shadowing or volunteering plans for this year cancelled due to COVID restrictions. We recommend taking advantage of some of the available opportunities described above, and reflecting on how they have influenced how you see yourself in the genetic counseling profession. Reading memoirs from people who are themselves affected with a genetic condition, or who have an affected family member, can provide insight into the lived experience.

GENERAL PROGRAM QUESTIONS

The program is full time for 21 months, beginning in August/September with a break in the summer between the first and second years.  Students who matriculate in August of 2021, for example, will graduate in May of 2023.

Yes. Students are in class or clinic four days per week, with one day open for thesis research or part-time jobs.  Enrollment in a full-time program means UPMSGC students are eligible for federal financial aid.

Yes.  Each student develops and conducts a thesis research project with the support of two thesis advisors, one who is a member of the program leadership and one who is an expert in the field of study, often a genetic counselor or Penn faculty member, as well as a thesis review committee. The projects are initiated in the first or second semester of the first year and written up as a thesis by the end of the second year. Many of these projects are subsequently submitted for publication and/or presentation at national meetings.

As soon as applicants are matched with the program, they are paired with a second year buddy who serves as a mentor during their transition to the program and a guide for their first year.  In addition, each UPenn genetic counseling student is matched with a practicing genetic counselor at Penn or CHOP who mentors them throughout their time in the program and their transition to professional life.

Most of our clinical rotations are located within Penn Medicine, its affiliates (Pennsylvania Hospital, Lancaster General, Penn Medicine Radnor, Chester County Hospital), and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.  With more than 85 full time genetic counselors working here, there is a wide range of clinical rotations available. Our website includes information on clinical sites and supervisors we work with.  In addition we have longstanding relationships with other hospitals and specialty clinics in southeastern PA (Fox Chase Cancer Center, Temple University), northern DE (Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital of Children), and southern NJ (MD Anderson at Cooper University Hospital) and work with companies such as Integrated Genetics, Progenity, Genome Medical, and CooperGenomics to give students a broad exposure to systems of delivering health care.

There are three internships during the first year and four in the second year.  They run on a standard schedule, with the exception of the summer rotation.  All students are guaranteed 7 internships, including a summer rotation in Philadelphia. In some cases, students have requested a rotation in another location in the summer. We can often help students make these arrangements, but they cannot be guaranteed as availability at outside sites may be limited.

You do not need a car to attend the program.  There is excellent public transportation in the city of Philadelphia and the surrounding communities.  There are some clinical sites outside of the Penn and CHOP systems that are not easily accessible by public transportation.

APPLICATION QUESTIONS

Yes, we participate in the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match through the National Matching Services (NMS).  All applicants must first register for the Match with NMS before applying to the program. Please visit the NMS Website for detailed information and to register.

Applications are due on January 5, 2022, for the incoming class enrolling in Fall 2022.

We hosted a virtual Open House in August and participated in the Virtual Genetic Counseling Career Fair in September.  We have a number of programs planned for the fall, including a Meet the Current Students Night in October.  Details will be posted on the Prospective Students Events page of our website.

You can also watch the recording of our November 2019 Open House, which is on our website at https://www.med.upenn.edu/geneticcounseling/admissions-overview.html.  That will answer many questions about the program and the admissions process.

 

The University of Pennsylvania’s GRE code is 2900

Application forms are completed online through this link:  Apply to UPenn Genetic Counseling

All materials, with the exception of official transcripts and GRE scores, can be uploaded through the site.

A non-refundable $75 fee is required when submitting your application.

Applicants with the affiliations listed below are exempt from the non-refundable application fee. 

  1. McNair Scholars
  2. Fulbright Scholars
  3. University of Pennsylvania employees
  4. Veterans
  5. Applicants who have received or are eligible for a fee waiver from the AGCPD for the NMS Match.  (For information about applying for the NMS fee waiver go to https://natmatch.com/gcadmissions/applicants/register.html)

For more information about our fee waiver policy, click here.

Please email msgcinquiries@pennmedicine.upenn.edu with “Fee Waiver Request” in the subject line and documentation of your affiliation before paying the $75 application fee.  The UPenn MSGC program is unable to refund any fees paid.

QUALIFICATIONS

Yes, applications will be reviewed from applicants who have not yet completed all of the prerequisite courses, with the understanding that accepted students must complete these courses before the end of the spring semester.  When listing your prerequisites in the application, you will find a section for information on any outstanding courses, including when and where you plan to complete them.

Yes, we will accept AP courses from high school as prerequisites as long as they are listed on your college transcript.  

We accept online courses taken for credit at accredited colleges and universities.  You must provide a transcript listing the course and the grade you received as part of your application.  As for all prerequisite courses, you must earn a "C" or better for it to count as one of the required courses.  To determine whether a college or university is regionally or nationally accredited, check their current accreditation status on the U.S. Department of Education's online database (USDE).

The average undergraduate GPA of our matriculated students is 3.4,  We look for GRE scores greater than the 50th percentile on both the quantitative and verbal sections, and at least a 4.0 on the analytical section. The admissions committee considers multiple factors when selecting the incoming class, so applicants who do not meet a minimum requirement in one area are still welcome to apply.

We have chosen to keep the GRE as an optional part of the application. We do not require GREs, but will review them if an applicant believes the scores will be beneficial.

Three personal letters of recommendation are required for admissions, including at least one from a college professor or someone who can comment on your academic abilities, and one from a practicing genetic counselor or comparable health professional.  You should request letters from individuals who know you well enough to comment on your work habits, academic abilities, interest in genetic counseling and potential as a graduate student.

The admissions committee would like to see that applicants have observed some genetic counseling sessions or interned/worked in a genetics clinic or laboratory prior to applying to the program. However, due to many constraints, these opportunities are not available to all applicants. In lieu of genetic counseling observations, work in other health-related fields will be considered. Experience with some form of crisis counseling and volunteering with disease-specific and other advocacy organizations is also highly recommended.

The program does admit international students. International applicants should visit the Penn Office of International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) website for detailed information on admission requirements and application procedures. 

Official results from the TOEFL or IELTS are required for all students for whom English is a second language, except for non-native speakers of English who hold degrees or diplomas from post-secondary institutions in English-speaking countries (e.g. the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand).

A course-by-course evaluation by WES ICAP of all international transcripts is required. 

INTERVIEWS

Invitations for interviews are emailed in late February and early March with a list of available interview dates.  For 2022 we plan to offer both in-person and virtual interviews.

Interviews are scheduled throughout March and early April. Applicants selected to interview will receive an email in late February asking them to contact the Genetic Counseling Program to schedule an interview.  For 2022, all interviews will be conducted virtually due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19.

ACCEPTANCE TO THE PROGRAM

Email notification of admission is made to applicants of all programs by the National Matching Service on the universal acceptance date in late spring. The date, usually the last week in April, is approved by the Association of Genetic Counseling Program Directors (AGCPD). Programs are notified at the same time and receive lists of their incoming classes from NMS. 

Immediately thereafter, the program will send a letter of intent to each incoming student, and candidates are expected to reply by the date indicated in their notification.  The Match is binding for all parties.

This can vary from year to year.  We typically interview about one third of the applicants to our program.  Many of our applicants are highly qualified and apply to more than one program.   Of those we interviewed and ranked in 2020, 75% were accepted to an MSGC program.

COSTS / FINANCES

The University of Pennsylvania bills on a per course/credit basis. The program includes 14 total CUs, 8 in the first year and 6 in the second.  Students are billed for half the annual cost prior to the fall semester, and again prior to the spring semester. See the Tuition, Costs and Financial Aid page for specifics and current tuition rates.  The University has also provided calculations for other living expenses at UPenn Master's Programs Tuition & Cost of Living Estimates.

No.  All students enrolled in our courses are charged the same rate.

Many students do work part-time, typically eight hours per week, during the program, often as laboratory or department assistants at our clinical sites.

We provide two $5,000/per year scholarships each year through the match. There are two additional scholarship opportunities for second year Penn MSGC students:  the Marie Barr Award (with a $2,000 stipend) and the LEND fellowship (the stipend can vary slightly from year to year but is typically about $1,000 per month during the second year).  Interested students apply in the spring of their first year. Other scholarship and funding opportunities may be available to matriculated students.

If you have other questions about admissions, please contact us at msgcinquiries@pennmedicine.upenn.edu.