Frequently Asked Questions
- About Genetic Counseling
- About Sarah Lawrence's Program
- Program Questions
- Course Questions
- Application Questions
- Interviewing at Sarah Lawrence
- General Information
About Genetic Counseling
What is Genetic Counseling as A Profession?
As defined by the National Society of Genetic Counselors, genetic counseling is the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological, and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. This process integrates:
- Interpretation of family and medical histories to assess the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence.
- Education about inheritance, testing, management, prevention, resources and research.
- Counseling to promote informed choices and adaptation to the risk or condition.
What type of person makes a good genetic counselor?
Genetic counselors are at the intersection of science and society, and they must be passionate about working with genes and people, ongoing changes in science, and their often complicated emotional, ethical and psychological interactions.
What type of skills do you need?
Students drawn to the program have often done research or lab work in genetics or molecular biology and realize they’re missing the human component: seeing patients. Genetic counselors develop three strong skills: an in-depth understanding of human genetics, an ability to translate the science into language that a variety of audiences can understand, and an appreciation of the implications of the genetic science on individuals’ lives. Counselors must educate not only patients, but also doctors, health professionals, and the public.
Where do genetic counselors work?
Genetic Counselors are found in social service agencies, corporations, and hospitals. They apply their skills to research, biotechnology, public policy, public health, and education. Today’s genetic counselors work with a range of disorders and populations – in addition to helping families affected by rare genetic disorders, genetic counselors are involved with common complex disorders such as cardiovascular disease, psychiatric disease, dementias, and diabetes. Genetic counselors work in a variety of hospital settings including prenatal, adolescent, and adult populations, and with populations in rural and urban areas; with all socioeconomic classes. The opportunities for professional growth are growing.
Where can I get more information on genetic counseling as a profession?
The American Board of Genetic Counseling discusses the profession in general terms and lists the accredited genetic counseling training programs. The National Society of Genetic Counselors provides additional information about the field as well as a function that allows you to look up a genetic counselor in your community.
About Sarah Lawrence's Program
How long has Sarah Lawrence’s program been in existence?
Founded in 1969, Sarah Lawrence’s Human Genetics program was the nation’s first. It remains the largest of its kind and continues to be at the forefront of genetic counseling. Our program has generated more than half the country’s genetic counselors; about half the directors of all other genetic counseling master’s degree programs; and many of the presidents of the National Society of Genetic Counselors; as well as many innovators in the field.
What makes Sarah Lawrence’s Human Genetics program unique?
The program enjoys a world-wide reputation for excellence and attracts a rich mix of students from around the world. In addition to its founding role in the field, the program’s size and diversity offer each student a unique experience. One of the most clinically-based programs, Sarah Lawrence students graduate with 1,000 fieldwork hours in urban, prenatal, pediatric, and adult practice settings, eligible for board certification. The program is affiliated with 50 centers for clinical placement in New York City, Westchester County, Connecticut, and New Jersey. The ethnically and socio-economically diverse region has the greatest concentration of genetics centers in the world. The program’s affiliation with Leadership Education in Neurodevelopment and Related Disabilities (LEND) offers selected students a one-year-fellowship and advanced training in caring for special needs children. The “Speakers in Medical Genetics” lecture series brings a distinguished speaker to campus each week for a three-hour presentation. Finally, applicants quickly learn about Sarah Lawrence’s strong sense of camaraderie and warmth, which begins during the application process as program administrators, instructors, and students take a great deal of time getting to know applicants and encouraging their interest in the field of genetic counseling.
Is it possible to contact present students?
Yes, typically by e-mail. If you are interested, please let us know so we can make the arrangements.
What are the tuition costs?
See the Student Accounts page for a basic outline of tuition and costs. Specific details will be discussed in the interview sessions.
What kind of financial aid is available and how do I apply?
Applicants receive a booklet on financial aid options, which are also discussed in the interviews. If you need more information, please contact: Emanuel Lomax, Director of Graduate Admissions, or Roberta Daskin, Associate Director of Financial Aid.
What additional fees can I expect to incur at Sarah Lawrence?
Additional expenses depend on individual circumstances. In general:
Parking on campus is $100/semester. Books are either recommended or required per instructor preference, and students spend $500/semester on average (remember that these books will be the basis of your career; they need not be purchased at the bookstore). Rotation travel costs vary greatly depending on mode of transportation and distance traveled (~ $100 - $800/rotation). National Society for Genetic Counseling (NSGC) membership is strongly encouraged and is ~$150/year. You are required to attend the annual conference, but you will be reimbursed for the conference fee. However, hotel, transportation to and from the conference, and meals are your own expense.
Is financial aid available for international students and can they be employed?
Yes and yes. Financial aid is given in equal amounts to all students in need, regardless of nationality. For details on the process, please contact Nick Salinas as soon as possible. To determine the amount of financial aid you qualify for when you are accepted, you need to apply for aid when applying to the program. By immigration laws, international students can only be employed on campus or in their field of study.
Whom should I contact if I have more questions about your program?
You can contact Emanuel Lomax, Director of Graduate Admissions, at (914) 395-2371 for questions or more information.
Can I visit Sarah Lawrence College and the Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics?
Yes. Please contact Emanuel Lomax, Director of Graduate Admissions, at (914) 395-2371 for information on visiting.
How much time is spent in classes?
Three days each week in the first year, then two days each week in the second year.
What is the class schedule like?
The days you spend in class are full time in a big way. Be prepared to eat in class, sometimes breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
How are courses graded?
Students are given evaluations by some of their instructors; other classes are evaluated by pass/fail or grades.
How much time is spent in clinical placements?
One day per week in the first year: a total of 200 hours. For the second year, it is two days per week, or a total of 480 hours. During the summer rotation, 320 hours are required, which is five days per week for eight weeks or four days per week for ten weeks.
How do clinical rotations work?
Out of the seven rotations that each student attends, there is a concerted effort to ensure that all students have a diverse set of experiences. The students’ input is requested in the second year of the program.
How do summer rotations work?
The student can choose an external site where they would like to work. Going abroad is acceptable, as is staying in the New York area. The process is much like applying for a job, including providing a resume and interviewing for the position.
How does the thesis process work?
A series of workshops in the spring semester of the first year allow students to talk through ideas. Each student should ideally have a topic at the end of the second semester of the first year. The thesis topic is chosen by the student and approved by supervisors. The thesis faculty encourages creativity is the selection of the project and expects that it will add to the body of knowledge in the genetic counseling field. The approximate length of the written thesis is 25 pages. Theses are due in March of the second year. Students present their thesis work at a poster session in May of the second year; further, each student has the opportunity to make a short oral presentation about their project to faculty and supervisors.
What is LEND, anyway?
Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND).
The purpose of the LEND training program is to improve the health of infants, children, and adolescents with disabilities. This is accomplished by preparing trainees from diverse professional disciplines to assume leadership roles in their respective fields and by insuring high levels of interdisciplinary clinical competence. Interested students apply at the end of the first year, and attend one day a week in the second year of the program.
What is the application process?
Our application process occurs once a year and is now online. To begin an application, please visit our online application portal. You will need to open an account, but once created, you can return to your application and make changes any time before the application deadline. Within this system you will complete your application, indicate references for us to contact, and upload supporting documents. If you are having difficulty uploading a document or need to send it by mail or fax please contact our Graduate Studies Office at 914-395-2371. Please note that your application will not be considered complete and will not be reviewed until all of the necessary documentation is received. For more information on the application process, please see the How to Apply page.
A nonrefundable application fee of $60 must be submitted; upon completion of the application, online payment will become available. Payments may also be made by check or money order to Sarah Lawrence College, and submitted via mail. An official transcript from each undergraduate and graduate institution you have attended is required prior to enrollment in the graduate program.
What is the application process timeline?
Applications and all supporting documents are due January 1 for enrollment in the fall of that same calendar year. When all of your materials are received and processed, the Graduate Studies Office will notify you. If an application is incomplete, a letter will be sent to you by early February. Applicants who are selected for an interview will be contacted through phone, or e-mail in February or March to schedule a program interview for March or April. All genetic counseling programs in North America, including Sarah Lawrence College, release final admissions decisions on the same date, called Universal Notification Day. This typically occurs in late April, but the exact date changes year to year.
If I applied to the program in the past, but was not accepted, how do I reapply?
First, we highly encourage you to contact us for feedback about ways in which you can improve your application before reapplying.
If you applied during the 2014-2015 cycle, you can login to your online application portal using the same email address. If your email address has changed please contact Graduate Studies at 914-395-2371 so your profile can be updated. After you create a new application, some fields and supporting documents will pre-populate. These represent data we think is less likely to change year-to-year, although you are encouraged to update any information necessary. We require a new personal statement, new CV, and updated letters of recommendations. You will also be required to submit a new application fee.
If you previously applied before 2014, you will need to create an account in our online application portal and complete the application online. Please contact Graduate Studies if previous supporting documentation (such as transcripts) have not changed so they can transfer them to your online application.
Do you require the GRE?
As of the 2015-2016 cycle, GRE scores will be required. The code to submit your GRE scores to Sarah Lawrence is 2810.
How many applicants are interviewed and accepted each year?
The Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics is the largest genetic counseling program in North America. We typically accept between 25-30 students but the exact number may change year to year. Likewise, the number of applications, number of interviews, and number of individuals on the wait list also change year to year. On average we tend to interview approximately 50% of our applicants.
What is the average GPA for accepted students?
The average GPA is 3.3. However, an acceptance to our program is dependent on the strength of the application, references, GPA, exposure to the field, crisis counseling experience, and language skills. Keep in mind this is a competitive process.
Can I enroll in the program on a part-time basis?
The program is intended to be completed on a 21-month full time basis. However, we will consider requests for part-time status on a case-by-case basis. The request for part-time status must be submitted to the Program Director in writing prior to the Universal Notification Day.
Do you accept international students and how does immigration work?
Yes, we do. For immigration questions, please contact Alba Coronel, DSO, Graduate Studies Office.
Are there additional documents for international students?
Yes. Students not educated in an English-speaking country need to submit their TOEFL scores, an English translation of their transcript, and a conversion of their grades to GPA.
What are the prerequisites?
Please see our Admissions Page for a list of prerequisites
How do I know if a course I have taken fulfills one of the prerequisite courses?
This is a very common question but unfortunately it is difficult for us to assess courses based on title or syllabus. As such, if you have questions about any of the courses you have taken, we highly recommend you speak with that professor or your faculty advisor to see if he/she feels the course will prepare you for graduate level work in that area.
Does it matter where I take prerequisite courses?
No. However, these courses need to be at least an undergraduate level and from an accredited school. Online courses are acceptable.
Can I submit an application if I do not have all the requirements complete?
All of the prerequisites are required before beginning the program. They are not required by the application deadline. However, the more complete the application, the more information we have to evaluate your candidacy. It is not uncommon for applicants to have 1 prerequisite course pending. If you have two or more prerequisites pending please contact us to let us know when they will be completed.
I have not been able to shadow. What should I do?
We recommend trying to arrange shadowing in various genetic counseling specialties, as it provides exposure and insight into the field. If you live in the area of a genetic counseling training program, they may have suggestions of genetic counselors that can take prospective students. However, we recognize shadowing is not always possible due to geographic region, HIPAA, and other factors. If you are not able to shadow we recommend gaining exposure in other ways. These can include, but are not limited to, informational interviews with genetic counselors in different specialties, attending genetics grand rounds at a local hospital, and researching the field through websites such as www.nsgc.org.
Do I need to have worked on a crisis hotline?
No. While working on a crisis hotline is great preparation for genetic counseling, it is not the only way to obtain counseling/advocacy experience. The setting and your role within the setting both contribute to gaining interpersonal and counseling skills. For example if you volunteer with Planned Parenthood, a role in which you take histories or provide support to patients would better prepare you than a role answering phones. Other options include hospice work, working with families affected by disability, or being a patient liaison. In addition to gaining counseling experience, working one-on-one with individuals dealing with a medical situation or other difficultly provides applicants with important insight and exposure to working in a helping profession such as genetic counseling.
Interviewing at Sarah Lawrence College
How are applicants notified to come in for an interview?
We notify applicants through mail, phone, or e-mail. Therefore, providing current address, phone number, and e-mail are an essential part of the application process.
What should I expect during the interview process?
If you are invited for an interview, we will email you the directions and details of what to expect for that day. We interview multiple candidates on the same day. During your visit at SLC you can expect to learn about the program, have 2-3 interviews with members of our Admissions Committee, have lunch with current students, learn about logistics such as housing and financial aid, take a tour of the campus, and ask any questions you may have. Lunch is provided for all applicants, and a morning or afternoon snack will also be provided accordingly. All meals will include vegetarian options. If you have further dietary restrictions please bring food accordingly. We do have a refrigerator and microwave available to you.
What should I wear to the interview?
Dress should be professional, but a suit is not required. We want you to be comfortable during your visit so recommend layers as rooms can range greatly in temperature. If you plan to take a tour of the campus we highly recommend bringing comfortable shoes.
What if I cannot come to Sarah Lawrence for an interview?
We feel an in-person interview is the best way for our Admissions Committee to assess the suitability of a candidate. Likewise, we feel visiting our campus and meeting with our program faculty and students is the best way for students to assess if a program will meet their educational needs and goals. If, however, traveling to New York for an in-person interview presents a hardship, we will consider Skype interviews on a case-by-case basis.
How far away is the College from the airports?
- Westchester Airport in White Plains is 20-30 minutes, but it’s small and service is limited.
- LaGuardia is 30 minutes driving and 1-2 hours by public transportation.
- JFK is one hour driving.
- Newark is in New Jersey, but is approximately one hour driving and may be faster depending on where you choose to live.
How do I get from the airport to the College?
Cab or car service is the easiest. Public transportation is available to New York City, and trains from Grand Central Terminal go to Bronxville.
Is there graduate housing?
No, unless you are an international student.
If not, how can I find a place to live?
SLC has a very good housing Web board and housing coordinator that you will be given access to in the summer. You can also use Craigslist.org or the local papers.
How do I get around?
A car is helpful but not necessary. There is a train to NYC that stops in many places around the school. There are also buses that run through campus to the train station and mall, etc.
How far is the College from NYC?
30 minutes to Grand Central by train (Metro North), or up to an hour by subway (the less expensive option).
Is there College transportation, i.e. bus service?
There is a free nightly shuttle van that meets every train that comes in and goes to the city after 5 p.m.
What is the campus social life like for graduate students?
The Graduate Student Senate (GSS) holds monthly meetings that are informative and party-like. You will find out more about the GSS during orientation. There is also the daily campus e-mail that details all the campus happenings. Basically, the social life is what you choose to make of it, and options abound.