Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Genetic Counseling

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Claire N. Singletary

Committee Member

Meagan Choates

Committee Member

Carla McGruder

Committee Member

Debra Murray

Committee Member

Theresa Wittman

Committee Member

Sara Wofford


The field of genetic counseling has historically lacked diversity. Recent research has begun to explore how visible diversity may present barriers to a genetic counseling applicant becoming competitive, but has not yet characterized potential barriers with invisible diversities, such as being a first-generation college student, or a part of the LBGTQ+ community. Therefore, this study aimed to address this gap among those with invisible diversities, as well as explore their academic capital (AC), a theoretical framework used to identify factors that make students more likely to succeed in post-secondary work including supportive networks, trustworthy information, family uplift, college knowledge, overcoming barriers, concerns about cost, familial expectations, and navigation of systems. Genetic counseling applicants for the 2021 and 2022 admissions match cycles were recruited via a multipronged, snowball method and surveyed via Qualtrics (IRB# HSC-MS-21-0477). Responses were analyzed using IBM SPSS [statistical software Version:]. Results indicated that individuals who are LGBTQ+ had significantly lower overall AC scores by 6.322 points (p<0.001), particularly in the subcategories of navigation of systems (1.520, p=0.029), supportive networks (1.138, p=0.004), and trustworthy information (0.941, p=0.015). Applicants who identified as being from an NIH disadvantaged background were more likely to have concerns about cost (p<0.001), and lower scores for college knowledge (1.578, p<0.001). Individuals who identify as having a low socioeconomic status had greater concerns about cost (2.485, p=0.013). Lower AC subcategory scores were found for first-generation college students for college knowledge (2.539, p<0.001), and for applicants who spoke English as a second language for supportive networks (1.296, p=0.015) and for college knowledge (1.907, p <0.001). The results show concerns about cost of the application process were prevalent across groups, and that applicants with mentors had significantly higher AC scores (p=0.042). Therefore, the field should implement interventions to assist applicants with invisible diversity to address mentorship, trustworthy information, and costs.


invisible diversities, academic capital, underrepresentation, diversity, genetic counseling, career pipeline, underrepresented minorities, genetics, medical field



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