Friday, August 18, 2017

Reapplication: A Worthy Challenge

     There is a distressing feeling that accompanies finding out you have not been accepted to any genetic counseling programs. For months, you have agonized over every letter of your personal statement, typed and retyped answers to application questions, entered the basic details of your life on form after form, and paid fees in hopes of receiving an interview. This does not even account for the hours of shadowing, volunteering, working, studying, and soul searching that go into preparing for the application process.
Remember, Hercules may have suffered some defeats, but
he still persisted, and so can you!
     Then, as days stretch into weeks after hitting that scary “submit” button, you begin to receive messages from programs either telling you, “thanks, but no thanks,” or, “please, do come join us for an interview.” The interview process itself is its own Herculean labor. At the end of each one your jaw is sore from smiling, your mouth is dry from conversation, and your eyes are heavy from lack of sleep. Sometimes you leave feeling completely satisfied with your performance. Sometimes you nitpick the way you answered that last question when you were starting to feel tired.
     The next part is the long wait for Match Day. Some days you feel confident that you will be telling your family members all about class and clinic in a few short months. Other days you think that the chances of getting in are a million to one. The mind games seem worse when you need to re-explain that when you say you will find out April 25, you mean you will find out April 25, not next week, not tomorrow, not today. And yes, that is plenty of time to find an apartment. You are not the first to do it, nor will you be the last.
     After all of this work, to find out you did not make the cut feels devastating. But is it all for naught?
     The short answer is no. The long answer is a little more involved.
     Reapplying to a program that did not accept you the previous year does not “look bad.” If anything, it shows that you are willing to pause, reflect, and improve upon yourself, all qualities vital to a good genetic counselor. There are many students who do not make it in on the first try. From my experience, the unintentional gap year was a positive one, and getting accepted the second time
The path to success may not always be clear, so sometimes
we must forge our own way.
around made it all the sweeter.
     Before you begin reapplication, set aside time to feel sad. Spending months on a project that does not come to fruition is tough, and it is okay to acknowledge that.
     The next step on your journey is answering this question: Is genetic counseling right for me? Think about what you have learned throughout the application process and whether you can pursue it again. If your answer is yes, reach out to programs for pointers on how to improve your application. The most helpful question I was asked during this time is, “What is your plan for the next year?” Program directors like hearing your ideas because it shows you take initiative and that you care about the profession.
     Then, of course, you need to execute your plan. For everyone, this will look a little different, but here are some general pointers:
  1. Learn everything you can about genetic counseling. One way to do this is shadow more. Reading is also very helpful. Some personal favorites are The DNA Exchange and Genome Magazine – both online, both free. NSGC has some great, free webinars too! The Journal of Genetic Counseling and Genetics in Medicine are both great resources that can be accessed through many university libraries. Many states also have genetic counseling associations with annual conferences you can attend, which is definitely something to include on your resume.
  2. Update your personal statement to reflect changes you made since the previous cycle. You want to showcase the hard work you have put in for any programs viewing your application again. Make sure those writing your letters of recommendation receive an update on your additional accomplishments as well should some of them be the same people.
  3. Practice interview questions. Being able to answer questions about your strengths, weaknesses, times you encountered conflict, etc., should become second nature. Having some stock answers you can build upon will help you with confidence on interview day.
  4. Be open to new experiences. While learning a new skill or taking a trip may seem completely unrelated to the application process, everything builds upon who you are as a person. You never know what you may be able to relate back to genetic counseling, and it is more material to work with during interviews.
  5. Be confident. Failing to get in once does not mean you are any less capable of becoming a genetic counselor. It simply means that you were not as well prepared as someone else. Remember: you can – and will – take steps to remedy that.
     To be honest, reapplying is hard. It is a sense of déjà vu that you are simultaneously more and less comfortable with. I came to deeply appreciate the reapplication process. Ultimately, it was a time for me to improve upon not just my application, but myself. And ultimately, the experiences I had during my unintentional gap year will make me a more capable genetic counselor. So, I challenge those of you reapplying to rise to the occasion and make this your best year yet. Good luck!

--Meg Hager, Class of 2018

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.