Pre-Genetic Counseling program

Help patients understand their genetic health.

The study of genetics is the study of our DNA — the hereditary material in every cell of our body that provides instructions for how we grow, develop and function. Genetic counselors uses tests to study DNA and communicate the results to patients and their providers. If you enjoy hard science, are team-oriented, detail-oriented and enjoy helping others, this may be the right field for you.

Pre-Genetic Counseling is NOT a major at UW-La Crosse. It is a statement of your intention to apply to genetic counseling programs. You will still need to select a major to complete your undergraduate degree. The most common majors for applicants are biology and psychology, but other majors are acceptable as well.

What is genetic counseling?

Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals who specialize in medical genetics and counseling. They work to evaluate and understand individual and family risk of inheriting a variety of conditions by studying the patient's genes through DNA testing. For example, they may work with families who are expecting children and adults who may have a risk of developing certain diseases such as cancer.

Genetic Counseling programs have highly competitive admissions, on par with medical schools. Average GPA of matriculants tends to be in the 3.5-3.6 range. See the GC National Match Statistics webpage for more detailed info. Visit the Pre-Genetic Counseling toolkit to learn more about becoming a genetic counselor.

UWL Alumnus Abbie Bronson (Biology, 2014), now at Boise State University's Genetic Counseling Program, created this video to help you get to know the profession:

Coursework

Make your intention to pursue a career in Genetic Counseling official by adding it as an "intended pre-professional track".

Declaring a Pre-Genetic Counseling track will help you determine common requirements for programs. However, program requirements vary at other institutions. When selecting coursework, it is important to consult the websites of the programs to which you plan to apply.


Many professional schools do not accept prerequisite courses that have been taken online or at non-U.S. institutions; AP, IB, AICE, and community college credit policies vary by school/program

To request a Pre-Genetic Counseling advisor, reach out to your college's dean's office:

 

Biology
  • General Biology (BIO 105) 
  • Organismal Biology (BIO 203) or Anatomy and Physiology (BIO 312/313) 
  • Genetics (BIO 306) 
  • Advanced Genetics courses recommended (e.g. Cell Biology (BIO 315), Human Molecular Genetics (BIO 466), Molecular Biology (BIO 435) 
Chemistry/Biochemistry
  • General Chemistry I & II (CHM 103 & CHM 104) 
  • Fundamental Organic Chemistry (CHM 300) or Organic Chemistry Theory I & II (CHM 303 & CHM 304); plus laboratory (CHM 302 or CHM 305)
  • Fundamental Biochemistry (CHM 325) or Biochemistry I & II (CHM 417 & CHM 418) 
Math & Statistics
  • College Algebra (MTH 150) needed for CHM 103
  • Elementary Statistics (STAT 145) or Mathematical Models in Biology (MTH 265) 
Social Sciences
  • General Psychology (PSY 100) 
Additional requirements

(highly recommended; sometimes required) 

  • Abnormal Psychology (PSY 204) 
  • Lifespan Psychology (PSY 212) 
  • Empathic Listening (PSY 347)  
  • Counseling & Personality Traits (PSY 404)
  • Developmental Biology (BIO 408/508)  

Grow through experience

Shadow or observe a genetic counselor

Job shadowing is highly recommended and will help you further understand the field and profession. 

Explore Wisconsin Genetic Counselor's Association opportunities

The Wisconsin Genetic Counselor's Association has a pre-health student page providing a lot of opportunities to learn and get involved. 

Gain advocacy experience

Students are encouraged to volunteer as a counselor or working with people who have a genetic condition/disability. Some examples may include crisis and bereavement counseling.  

Find research and lab experience

In addition to taking rigorous lab coursework, seek out opportunities to participate in undergraduate research. 

Prepare to apply

Selecting programs

To search programs, the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling is a good place to start. The National Matching Services (NMS) website offers a list of programs that participate in the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match process. Always consult the individual programs' websites for the most accurate and up to date info. 

Testing

Most programs will require the GRE examFor more information about standardized testing, visit UWL's resource on preparing for tests. Be sure to check each programs individual requirement for testing.

How to apply

Students will likely complete a program specific application, as well as complete the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match process (the Match).  

  • Through the Match, students are matched with programs by an algorithm created by the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match process (the Match) through National Matching Services Inc (NMS). This was a process put into place by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC).  The Match and algorithm will take both applicants and programs’ preferences.  
  • If students are applying to an NMS participating program, they must register for the Match and must also apply to programs independently of the Match. 
    • If applying to a non-NMS participating program, students will want to follow the individual programs application requirements.  
Timeline

Program timelines vary, but it is recommended that you register for the Match by mid-December (date may vary each year). Be sure to check the deadlines for the Match, as well as for each individual program you are considering, ensuring you know the exact deadlines.  

Interviews

Expect to interview with the school's faculty and clinical/community partners. 

Need more help?

See Apply with confidence for more information on personal statements, letters of recommendation, interviewing, and more.