With about a month until Match Day, interview season is starting to wind down, and we turn our attention to ranking.
In this blog post and the next, I’m going to cover, first, reflecting on interviews and programs to decide their rank, and second, how the Match algorithm works and what Match Day is like.
This cycle I interviewed with three programs. All of them would involve me living in the southeast, all of them made me feel welcome at the interview, all of them get me to my goal of being a genetic counselor. So now the ball’s in my court for a minute. I get to decide what matters to me and how I want to rank my programs. I want to share some of the factors that applicants consider or should consider when creating a rank order list. There are countless considerations you could include, but here’s a few that matter to me.
All programs get you to the same degree and the same career, so to me the price tag to get there is a big consideration. Albeit, not the only consideration! Before ranking schools, make sure you understand the cost including fees, cost of living, work-study opportunities, scholarship tracks, LEND stipend potential, and potential housing situations. Post-grad debt can be a big deal and affect how comfortably you live for years after graduation. So, it’s definitely a big consideration, at least for me.
All of the programs award you the same degree, with slight variations in phrasing. Coursework will be mostly the same. All programs also must provide their students exposure through rotations to the big three GC specialties– prenatal, pediatrics, and cancer. Beyond that though, there’s a lot of flexibility in what special clinical opportunities a program can offer, and what specialties they can emphasize.
If we look at OU, their program is housed in the OU Children’s Hospital, offering plentiful opportunities to see lots of pediatric cases. That is great for someone who is thinking about peds as their specialty or desiring hearty peds experience. But if someone is vying to get some experience in adult ophthalmology, they might be a better fit at a program that offers that. UAMS is offers tons of telemed experience, which could be right for some interested in rural med or employing telemed in their practice. And with Bay Path, I could pretty much arrange whatever rotations I want.
When ranking, it’s a good idea to look over rotation sites to see what programs offer the exposure you’re most interested in. All of them have to fill your log book with the basics, but most programs offer something unique that may end up shaping your career. Rotations have a huge impact on the types of cases you see and what career path your ultimately take, so they’re a major consideration in ranking programs.
Board Pass Rate
Need a numerical way to compare programs? Check out their website / ask faculty about board pass rate! But a lot of programs are too new to have this info, which makes numerical comparisons difficult, which leads us toooooo……
This is my personal favorite reason for choosing ranks. The ever-mysterious good vibes.
I don’t have to explain this one haha. If you felt welcome and at home at a place, that’s a good sign. If the students and faculty were cold to you, seemed unhappy to be there, or you just didn’t feel right there, bad sign. Groovy. But really, it’s super important to feel you could get along and mesh with the students and faculty. You’ll be in close contact with them for 2 years. You’ll all shape and inspire each other, and you want to feel excited about that prospect.
Every program is going to cover some basics– Intro to GC, Psychosocial Skills, Prenatal Diagnosis, Cancer Genetics, Embryology, etc. As I’ve looked through programs though, I’ve seen unique coursework like Death & Grief, Medical Spanish, Phlebotomy (yes, really!), Research Methods, Cultural and Community Relations, and more. Some programs even allow a little room for elective coursework. Even though the degrees are all the same in the end, if a program offers a learning experience tailored to your interests, that’s an important consideration. Coursework is up there with faculty relations and clinical rotations, as far as things that shape your career path.
The big question– will it snow? If yes, do not rank the school!! Just kidding, all of my choices are going to involve snow or ice. Sadly, if a program is in a place that doesn’t snow, it often gets a bunch more applications anyway, so it can be hard to get an interview.
But truly, location determines a lot as far as your experience in the program. There’s programs in big cities and programs in Nebraska and South Dakota. Living in a big city can provide opportunities to see a more diverse patient population, sometimes work in more specialized clinics, enjoy a greater variety of recreational activities, and generally live in a more compact environment where you can use public transit to get around. A smaller town, on the other hand, reduces cost of living, provide exposure to rural medicine, and can have a more relaxed feel. I enjoy smaller cities and having that extra breathing room, and luckily I’m getting that experience at any of my programs.
Other lesser-known considerations
So this post hasn’t exactly provided any mind-blowing information yet. We’re all smart people who know to pick a program that provides the overall experience we want. If after all this though, you’re still going back and forth on how to rank a set of programs, here’s a rapid-fire list of considerations.
- Accessibility to your favorite hobbies and activities
- In a place you’d rather live long-term (lots of people settle down where they went to grad school!)
- Cheaper flights between home and school
- Class size closer to your preference (do you prefer 2 other students in your cohort like at Manitoba, or 25 other people in your cohort like at Sarah Lawrence?)
- Cost and ease of parking at the university
- Availability of campus resources like counseling, fitness center, food locations, career center, grad student clubs & associations
- Availability of sports, arts, and other fun things to take part in
- Go back to your gut feeling
Well, here are just a few considerations when making a rank order list. These programs are all amazing and work hard to provide a high-quality education that leads into your dream career. You can’t go wrong. Stick with your gut and what’s important to you, and get excited for Match Day!