So, you want to study public health, eh? Tips for applying to an MPH program

Public health is a great field with many rewarding career opportunities and many fantastic educational programs in Canada. As a result, the MPH programs in Canada are highly competitive with admission success rates of <10% at some Canadian schools. For that reason, it is important to put together the best possible application. Many qualified applicants apply for a relatively small number of seats in these programs. This blog post will give my opinion on a few components of the application process, based on my experience as a MPH admission committee member. Please note these are just my suggestions and should not replace any of the specific guidelines or instructions that are provided by each school.

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Let’s start off with your resume.

This is the main opportunity for you to highlight your experience and skills. Depending on the program you are applying to, they may ask for either a resume or a Curriculum Vitae (CV). The CV is a standard document frequently used by academics, including university professors and PhD students. Whether you are asked to provide a resume or a CV, it is important to include a description of any previous public health or research experience, and a detailed list of all your awards, presentations, and publications. When listing publications and presentations make sure to follow a standard referencing format that includes all author names (include your own name and list all authors in the same order as they appear in the publication), the title, and journal name or the name of the conference that you presented at. Similarly when it comes to describing your previous work or volunteer experiences, be specific! Include specific details about who you worked for, including the department name, and what you accomplished. It is often best to use standard subheadings and a traditional template for your resume or CV.

Next up is your statement of interest.

In addition to learning about your interests, this document is often also considered by reviewers as a sample of your writing so make sure it is well organized and easy to read. I suggest that you start by drafting an outline and have some structure to your statement of interest. It will need to be tailored to address the requirements for each program, but a general structure might be a four paragraph format that describes: This is me; This is what I’ve done; This is what I want to do; This is how I’m going to do it. Sometimes it’s nice to provide some personal details about why you are interested in public health but avoid TMI or any personal health details about others. As an applicant to an MPH program you likely have a wide range of interests and all sorts of possible plans; however, for your application it is generally a good idea to focus on and describe in detail just a few of your interests and future goals. Again, wherever possible be specific! Your interests and future plans will likely evolve over your time in an MPH program, but when it comes to assessing your application, reviewers usually want to read a specific plan of what you might do.

Now it comes down to your transcripts and references.

The most important part here is to request them early. Incomplete applications that are missing these components are often discarded without review. Ask your referees early – at least a few weeks before the deadline and send friendly reminders to make sure all letters are submitted on time. Choose referees who know you and can comment on why you would be a good candidate for an MPH program. Be prepared to give your referees any supporting documents that they could use to write the best possible letters for you – including a copy of your CV, statement of interest, transcripts, and the program requirements. Do not include any additional materials in your application that were not requested.

Lastly, plan ahead and do your research!

It takes time to prepare a strong application so create a realistic timeline and schedule time in advance. Make sure that you meet the program requirements before applying and ensure that you double check all application details on each program’s website. Try to avoid asking questions of the program staff or faculty when the answers are available online. This should go without saying, but be aware of the tone of all of your communications and interactions with program staff and faculty and try to keep it positive. Remember that these are the people that you are hoping to work with for the next few years and you will need their help and support throughout your MPH – treat them how you would like to be treated. Finally, take time to carefully review and proofread your application. Reviewers often read a large number of applications in a relatively short time frame and applications that are easy to read and clearly address the admission requirements are greatly appreciated.

Good luck!


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