Brooke Nightingale, MS. Alumni of OSU-GCGP
So, you’ve been offered an interview for graduate school? All of your dreams are one step closer, but the final step…the most terrifying. There is a lot of pressure riding on this interview, but honestly, relax and take a deep breath. First, realize you’ve been offered an interview because you are qualified. At this point, give yourself a big high five, hug, or a tub of ice cream. You deserve it. This should give you the confidence to shrug off the low GRE scores or your C in physics. Go shopping, pick out a great outfit (look good, feel good) and read my 7 tips for acing this interview.
Tip #1: Now that you have stopped obsessing over what makes your application bad, let’s focus on what makes it shine. Everyone has amazing grades, shadowing experience and advocacy experience, so what else makes you great? Pick something. It could be the reason why you are so passionate about becoming a GC, it could be your experience volunteering in a third world country, it could be a personality trait, or it could literally be your shadowing experience. But pick something that is somewhat unique, and make sure you express why it sets you apart from others. (Bonus tip: ask your friends/family how they would describe you, you may have amazing qualities that you aren’t aware of!)
Tip #2: Really think about why you want to be a genetic counselor. What about this job appeals to you? This is the hottest question in the interview game. Have a thoughtful answer for it and try to make it a tad more unique than “I want to help others” or “med school wasn’t for me”. In addition, look up some of the qualities GC’s possess, and think about what qualities you share. What qualities do you have that will make you a rock star GC? And really, google some sample interview questions and think about how you might respond to them - maybe even practice saying them out loud in front of a friend. This will help with day-of nerves.
Tip #3: Find your weakness. They will ask you what it is. Sit down with an honest parent, sibling, or frenemy and ask them what they think you need to overcome, or for something that you could work to improve. When you present a weakness, tell the admissions committee how you are actively working to overcome it. Do not say, “I’m always late”, and then show up late to the interview. The weaknesses question is scary because it’s an interview and you want to be perfect. But in reality, no program wants a robot. Use this question as an opportunity to show your personality quirks. When addressing your weaknesses or your low GRE scores or grades, find a way to spin it positively. Maybe you got a C, but you worked day and night for that C, and that shows your work ethic/determination.
Tip #4: Every aspect of the interview is the interview. The minute you walk through the doors, people are judging and evaluating you. The meet n greet or lunch with current students? Oh yeah, they report back everything you say to their program director. Don’t discuss your personal life with these students like you’ve known them for years. Be yourself and be personable, but also remain professional. Your interaction with the program, whether it is via email or in person is saved. What you post and present online is also fair game. (I’m an excellent online stalker and can probably find you, so make sure your grandmother would approve of your profiles and communications).
Tip #5: Make sure you get across how excited you are about this interview. If you are passionate, show it. Programs want people who genuinely want to be there and be a GC. If you drove 3 hours every Monday to shadow the most local GC to your hometown, STRESS THAT. If you spent 3 extra years after college completing the pre-requisites instead of living your life, STRESS THAT. Find something that shows you are determined and driven, and express it. Make sure the admissions committee is 110% confident that you want to be there and that you will be a GC even if it takes you 4 years to be accepted to a program.
Tip #6: You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Now you’re rolling your eyes at me like, “I don’t even care, as long as one program accepts me!” I know. I’ve been there. But, you want to end up somewhere you feel comfortable and somewhere that will make you the best GC you can be. Ask questions. Ask why the admissions committee loves their program. Ask where they see areas for growth. And then WRITE THESE DOWN. On your notes app, in a journal, on your airplane coffee napkin, whatever. But force yourself to write down one thing you liked or disliked about each program you interview at. Even if it is just a smiley face. You’ll be thanking yourself when it comes time to rank programs.
Tip #7: Lastly and above all BE YOURSELF. You’re probably great, so “just do you”. If you don’t fit in, you don’t want to be there anyways. Its 2 years of a lot of stress and hard work, you want to be surrounded by people you can laugh with, study with, and feel supported by. Every program is different, find the perfect place for you!