VCU Medical Center

Department of Human and Molecular Genetics

How to Apply

Admission Criteria

Applicants to the Genetic Counseling program are required to have six credit hours each of biology, chemistry and behavioral science (e.g., psychology, sociology, religion, anthropology) and three credit hours each of genetics, biochemistry and statistics. Please Note: AP credits from high school do not count towards our program prerequisites.  Experiences that focus on interpersonal dynamics are encouraged but not required. The average GPA for admitted students is 3.3 to 3.5. 

Overview of Degree Requirements

The master’s degree program in genetic counseling typically requires four full-time semesters of study and summer clinical work (21 months). Students working toward the M.S. degree in Genetic Counseling have an integrated and progressively complex classroom and supervised clinical experience designed to support development of the genetic counseling practice-based skills set forth by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling. Clinical exposure and experience begin in the first semester of training.

Financial Support

Work-study positions may be available to help students finance their education. Other funding opportunities may be available, including supported leadership training in neurodevelopmental disabilities (LEND).  The M.S. Genetic Counseling program has traditionally been able to offer a small stipend for educational use. The amount of this stipend varies and is dependent upon state budgeting.

Diversity Scholarship

The MS in Genetic Counseling program at VCU is committed to promoting all aspects of diversity.  Each year, a scholarship is awarded to a qualified applicant who identifies as underrepresented in the field of genetic counseling.  This scholarship provides either 1) the equivalent of in-state tuition to a student who is not a resident of Virginia for the two years of their academic career at VCU or 2) 50% reduction of in-state tuition to a student who is a resident of Virginia for the two academic years of their academic career at VCU.  This cycle, the scholarship is open to those who identify as Black, LatinX, Native American, and Pacific Islander.  Students can self-identify in a variety of ways, including the program application and/or email correspondence with Program leadership.  Students who qualify for the diversity scholarship can use both tracks when ranking VCU via the National Matching Service.

Application Process

Applications are accepted for enrollment in the fall semester only. All applicants to our program must apply through the VCU Office of Admissions by following this link.  To apply for the MS in Genetic Counseling training program, in the “Intended Program of Study” screen, select the appropriate term of entry, then “Masters” as your intended level of study, and then “Genetic Counseling-MS” as your planned course of study.

A completed application contains the on-line application, a personal statement, Curriculum Vitae or resume, official transcripts*, and three letters of recommendation. International applicants must also submit TOEFL or IELTS scores (VCU code 5570). In addition, international applicants must arrange to have their academic credentials evaluated by a service that is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) and must include the evaluation of their credentials in the application for graduate training. WES, ECE, and AACRAO are some of the acceptable NACES-approved providers. Additionally, if you are supported by a governmental or other scholarship, please provide a copy of the financial guarantee or award letter.  We have created an easy to use Application Checklist to help guide you through all the necessary steps to take while applying to the VCU Genetic Counseling Program. Please see the link below for the check list.

application checklist

Your letters of recommendation should comment on your suitability for graduate training, your work ethic and interpersonal communication skills, as well as other relevant experience. Your personal statement should convey why you are interested in genetic counseling and any other information that will help us evaluate you as a prospective Genetic Counseling trainee. Your personal statement is your chance to distinguish yourself from others by discussion of your experiences and by demonstrating originality. 

Applications for M.S. Genetic Counseling training are evaluated by a committee within the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics. Applicants to the M.S. in Genetic Counseling program are strongly encouraged to complete their applications (i.e. all forms, letters, transcripts, etc. received) by January 1 or earlier if possible. Applications completed after January 1 will typically not be considered.

After completing the online application, documents such as official transcripts or resumes that cannot be submitted electronically should be sent to the following address:

Virginia Commonwealth University
Office of Admissions
Box 843051
Richmond, Virginia 23284-3051

*unofficial transcripts will be accepted ahead of official transcripts

How to Apply FAQs

Do you require a specific undergraduate major? No. We do not require a specific undergraduate major as long as an applicant has completed the required prerequisite courses.

What are your GRE requirements? For the 2022 application cycle, application review will not consider GRE scores.

What is the application deadline? The application deadline for admission to our program is January 1. We only admit students in the fall. Your application is due by January 1 of that year.

How much does it cost to apply? A nonrefundable $70 application fee is required with each graduate program application. You will be asked to submit your payment at the end of your online application.  For more information, please visit VCU's Admissions Office.

What is the GRE test code? For the 2022 application cycle, application review will not consider GRE scores.

My undergraduate GPA is less than the required 3.0. Can I still be considered for admission to your program? In cases where an applicant is otherwise well-qualified, we may be able to waive this requirement. In this situation, we encourage applicants to demonstrate their academic abilities by completing additional relevant upper level undergraduate or graduate level courses.

Do you require genetic counseling internship/shadowing experience or crisis counseling/advocacy experiences? While these are not required for admission to our program, they are strongly encouraged.

Do I need to include my resumé or CV? Yes. A resumé or CV must be uploaded with the online application.

What information should be included in my personal statement?  Please submit an essay limited to two pages (single spaced, 12 point font). There are no specific instructions for the content of the personal statement. Your statement should be unique to you and demonstrate your passion for the field. You may consider discussing the following: 1) how your academic and other experiences influenced your interest in genetic counseling; 2) personal characteristics that will contribute to your success as a genetic counselor; 3) any genetic counseling-related research interests and/or experience; 4) current and future challenges for the genetic counseling profession you hope to address; and 5) additional information you feel is relevant for your application.

What happens after I submit my application? When your application is submitted, an Admissions Specialist in the Graduate School will review your file, to make sure that all information required by the Graduate School has been submitted. When your application is complete, the M.S. Genetic Counseling Program will be able to view your application. It often takes a few weeks from the time you submit your application online for the program to be able to view your application materials. You may contact the graduate school admissions office directly to inquire about the status of your application materials at (804) 828-6916 or gradmail@vcu.edu.

When will I know if I am invited to interview? The Admissions Committee typically meets in mid-January to make these decisions. You will be notified by email following this meeting. Most interview invitations are made by the end of February.

Will I be notified if I am not invited to interview?  Yes. All applicants receive notification regarding their interview status. Most interview decisions are made by the end of February and subsequent notifications are sent via regular postal mail. Additionally, a notice will be posted to the website when all interviews have been filled.

When do the interviews take place? We typically schedule our interviews on weekdays in March and early April. Details about the available dates are sent with your invitation to interview. If you are invited to interview, you should respond as soon as you can to ensure that you will be able to be interviewed on your preferred date.

What happens when I interview with VCU? The interview includes a programmatic overview by program leadership and individual interviews with members of the Admissions Committee and other faculty. Interviewees will have a chance to interact informally with other applicants and current students throughout the day.  Interviewees will also have the opportunity to either observe a class with current students or observe a clinical conference.

Does VCU provide any help with the costs for traveling to Richmond to interview? If interviews are held in-person, we are not able to provide any reimbursement for your travel costs. However, typically, several of our current students are willing to provide you with housing during your stay. When you confirm your interview, you should let us know if you would like to stay with a current student. Our current students also organize informal social gatherings for applicants in the evenings. This may be a pot-luck supper (students provide the meal), pizza party or other such gathering. You will receive information about this once you confirm your interview. Note that, because of COVID-19 restrictions, interviews and related orientation activities for the 2021 cycle likely will be held virtually (e.g., Zoom).

When will I know if I am offered admission to the program? All accredited programs offer admission on the same date, which is established by the Association of Genetic Counseling Program Directors (AGCPD). The universal match date varies by year but historically is near the end of April   Applicants are made aware of NMS match deadlines and the universal match date and provided with AGCPD Guidelines for Admissions during their interview.

How do I apply for the match? All applicants who wish to interview with a genetic counseling program must be registered for the genetic counseling match, through National Matching Services (NMS).  To register for the match, please follow this link. NMS opens for enrollment in August or September of each year. GIVEN THE SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF APPLICANTS FOR THE 2021 MATCH, NMS RECOMMENDS THAT STUDENTS REGISTER BY 12/15/2020 WHEN POSSIBLE, ALTHOUGH REGISTRATION AFTER THIS DATE IS STILL POSSIBLE.

Biochemistry is only offered in the spring at my university. If I take this course in my final semester, do I still qualify for admission to your program? Most likely, yes. We allow for a prerequisite course (preferably no more than one course) to be “in progress” during the semester in which your application is being reviewed. For example, if you apply for Fall 2021 admission, it is fine if you are enrolled in one of the prerequisite courses during your Spring 2021 semester. You must pass the prerequisite course, and the typical requirement for an overall GPA of 3.0 still holds.

Will courses taken at other institutions (i.e. community colleges) or online course meet the prerequisite course requirements? Yes, as long as the course is taken at an accredited institution and otherwise meets the requirements.  High school AP credits do not meet prerequisite standards.

Are there other courses that you recommend an applicant complete? The Admissions Committee reviews your entire transcript. The most competitive applicants are those who have done well in a challenging curriculum, which includes relevant coursework in Biology (e.g., Anatomy and Physiology), Genetics, Chemistry, Counseling/Psychology, Health Sciences and Ethics.

Student Life in Richmond FAQs

Where do most students live in Richmond?  Richmond offers several unique neighborhoods to call home. In recent years, many students have lived in the Shockoe Bottom neighborhood--perhaps, the neighborhood closest in location to the VCU Health System campus. A direct campus shuttle runs from a commuter parking lot in Shockoe Bottom to the VCU Health System campus and the walk is short, both of which may be convenient for busy students. However, there are several other Richmond neighborhoods (i.e. the Fan, the Museum District, Church Hill, Carytown, Jackson Ward, Manchester, etc.) that still allow for convenient travel to and from the VCU campuses.

What is parking like at VCU?  VCU offers several parking lots for commuters. Many students and faculty members park in “A Lot,” as a campus shuttle runs directly to Sanger Hall and the VCU Health System campus. However, there are several other parking options and many of these other options also offer shuttle services to the VCU campuses. Additional information about parking options and rates can be found on the VCU Parking & Transportation website.

Can I have a job while enrolled in the program?  The answer to this question likely depends on each individual, how they manage their time and balance tasks, and any job position they are accepting. An individual’s training in this program is full-time. Students are enrolled full-time in coursework in their first and second years. Additionally, students start clinical observations in their first semester and begin counseling patients in their second semester. Therefore, a significant amount of a trainee’s time is occupied with program requirements. Some students have managed to hold part-time positions that are flexible with scheduling. Additionally, there may be options for work-study positions within the program and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Is a car required as part of enrollment in the program?  No, a car is not a requirement for admission to the program. However, access to reliable transportation is recommended. The program works to accommodate students’ needs when scheduling rotation sites based on their access to transportation.

What are the options for public transportation in Richmond?  The city bus line is called the GRTC Transit System. Information about the company and their rates, schedules, and routes can be found by accessing the GRTC Transit System website. Currently, construction for the GRTC Pulse, a rapid transit bus system, is underway. Other options for transportation include Uber and Lyft, various bus companies, Amtrak, and the Richmond International Airport.

What are some fun things to do in Richmond?  Richmond is perfectly located in Central Virginia--with convenient access to the mountains in western Virginia, the beach in eastern Virginia, and Washington DC. Richmond is an ideal location to call home if you are a “foodie” or have an interest in the craft brewery/cidery scene. The James River provides an abundance of outdoor activities, and as the capital of the state, Richmond provides ample opportunities for individuals interested in history.

For more information about life in Richmond, you may wish to access the following websites:

Visit Richmond, VA

Richmond Magazine

All About Richmond

Richmond Times Dispatch

Style Weekly

The City of Richmond

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