Frequently Asked Questions
- About Genetic Counseling
- About Sarah Lawrence's Program
- Program Questions
- Course Questions
- Application Questions
- 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: Susan Guma, dean of Graduate Studies, 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?
Can I visit Sarah Lawrence College and the Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics?
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?
The application can be mailed to you, or you can download the application from the Sarah Lawrence College Web site.
The application, fee, and supporting documents must be mailed to: Sarah Lawrence College, Graduate Program in Human Genetics, 1 Mead Way, Bronxville, NY 10708.
What is the application process timeline?
Application with all supporting documents are due January 15th. Qualified applicants are required to have a program interview. Interviewing typically takes place during the months of February and March. Final decisions are made in keeping with the Universal Notification Date, which is typically the first Friday in May.
When can I expect to hear a decision about my application?
You will be notified when the complete application and supporting documentation is received and processed. The applications are then reviewed and interviews are scheduled from the beginning of February to mid-March. If an application is incomplete, a letter will be sent to the applicant by early February.
Is it possible to send supporting documents separately?
Yes, however, we do need to know when you intend to send in the remaining documents. Transcripts from an undergraduate institution must be in a sealed envelope. Letters of recommendation must be in a sealed envelope with the signature across the flap. Everything should be sent to the attention of the Graduate Program in Human Genetics.
Note that your application is not reviewed until all documents are received, thus sending all at once is better! Also, be aware of the time it takes for the mail to process, especially for those applications from outside the U.S.
Can I submit an application if I do not have all the requirements complete?
Yes, however, it is important that you let us know when you intend to complete the requirements and send us the final transcripts.
If I applied to the program in the past, but was not accepted, how do I reapply?
You should contact us, in writing, stating that you wish to reactivate your application to the program and what, if any, changes to make. We require a new essay indicating what you have done since the last application, specifically any new accomplishments that make your application stronger, and accompanying documentation. We generally keep applications on file for three years; however, we strongly recommend submitting at least one new reference letter – preferably from someone who can speak to what you have been doing for a year to become a better candidate.
What is the GRE code for SLC?
2810. Please note: SLC does not require GRE scores.
How many applicants are accepted each year?
We can accept a maximum of 25 students per year. These students are generally taken from a pool of 120 applicants, of which about 65 will be invited for an interview, and approximately 35 will be accepted or waitlisted.
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.
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?
Once you are invited for an interview, we will mail you the directions and details of what to expect for that day. We structure our interviews with an informal group session followed by two formal interviews. The group session includes: snacks, an overview of the significant aspects of the program, a chance to meet other applicants, and a question and answer session .
What should I wear to the interview?
Dress how you would for the job. Business casual is appropriate attire. You don’t get points for a suit; however, you might get points for funky Keds!
Can I enroll in the program on a part-time basis?
Yes. Many successful graduates have completed enrollment by attending the Human Genetics program on a part-time basis for three years instead of two.
What are some reasons that students decide to go part time?
Some students work, or have families to attend to. The program directors must approve any plan for part-time study.
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.
Do you accept international students and how does immigration work?
Yes, we do. For immigration questions, please contact Shirley Be, Director of International Student Advising.
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.
Can I submit my application electronically?
Not yet, but we are in the process of making the application available online.
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.