Why is volunteering important part of preparing for a genetic counseling program?
Genetic counseling programs require incoming students to have had volunteer or shadowing experience before they apply. Many programs require both. By volunteering, you get an idea of the field and help others, while also growing as a person and learning valuable skills.
I want to get volunteer experience, but how to I find opportunities?
- Talk to your school’s academic adviser. They may know about organizations looking for student volunteers, or can direct you to activities that you might not think of at first.
- Check with offices of community service and/or student activities. These organizations will be able to guide you to any websites or databases that advertise volunteer opportunities for students.
- In college join campus clubs. Pre-med clubs and/or service clubs are one of the best ways to hear about openings for volunteers. These clubs can also help you to meet friends who share your interests.
- Reach out into the community. Contacting hospitals, clinics, labs, research facilities, charities, foundations, or other organizations can be very productive. Many times, an organization's website may advertise volunteer positions too. If you hear of a place that interests you, look into it further to see if you can get involved in some way
Where should I volunteer?
The choices may seem endless, so here is a list to get you started. These are places that either many genetic counseling students choose to volunteer at before their training, or places that genetic counseling schools suggest.
- Working for a volunteer distress or suicide hotline*
- Being a peer support counselor at your school
- Supporting and visiting patients with terminal illness in hospice care
- Working with children or adults with disabilities or special needs
- Organizations for people with disabilities or genetic conditions
- Therapy and support groups
*Volunteering as a listener for a distress or suicide hot line is the type of volunteer experience most commonly suggested or required by North American genetic counseling programs.