15 Tips to Get into Top MPH Programs

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you a healthcare worker with a strong desire to make communities aware of issues that impact their health and safety? Is preventative care a top priority for you? Maybe you have considered a career in public health but wonder, “Can someone tell me how to get into a top MPH program?” If that sounds like you, you have found the right article.

As you read further, you will find information about MPH programs, including things admissions faculty look for in candidates, 15 tips to get into top MPH programs, and answers to some frequently asked questions about top MPH programs. The information you find in this article will help you as you begin your journey to earn a Master of Public Health degree.

How Hard is It to Get Into Top MPH Programs?

Admission to top MPH programs can be competitive. However, because of an increased awareness of issues related to public health, like the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools are looking at ways to create more opportunities for admission."


5 Main Things Top MPH Programs Look for in Potential Applicants

If getting into a top MPH program is important to you, there are some things you can do to make yourself a favorable candidate. Many admissions boards for MPH programs now use a holistic approach to the admission process, considering an applicant's background and experience. Below are the main characteristics MPH admission boards are looking for in potential students.

1. Applicable experience:

While the type and amount of experience you need may vary between institutions, relevant academic or professional experience is something admission faculty look for when deciding to offer admission to top MPH programs. Typically, post-baccalaureate experience is needed in a health-related field.

2. A powerful personal statement:

To get into a top MPH program, you will need to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the degree and connect it to your background and career goals. Admission boards want to know what led you to choose public health as a field and how you plan to use the degree to take the initiative in a leadership role.

3. A good GPA:

While a 3.0 GPA is usually enough to enter an MPH program, the top programs look for applicants with a score of 3.3 or better. A higher GPA helps you stand out in the competitive admissions process and demonstrates your dedication to your studies. Since many programs have adopted a holistic approach to reviewing applications, if you have a lower GPA and have an explanation of why your grade point average is not above the minimum required, you could still apply and receive conditional acceptance.

4. Non-academic public health knowledge and experience:

Volunteer work, internships, and other work experiences that broaden your knowledge of public health are highly regarded by admission boards. This type of experience shows your interest in the field outside the classroom. Additionally, it provides another source for requesting professional letters of recommendation.

5. Strong quantitative skills:

Have you passed the GRE, GMAT, MCAT, or LSAT? If so, you are lucky, as top MPH programs want a strong demonstration of quantitative skills. Even if the school does not require standardized test scores, if you took the exams and scored well, submitting your results could give you a competitive edge and increase your chance of getting into a top MPH program.

How to Get Into Top MPH Programs?

(The following 15 tips will help you in your pursuit of getting into one of the top MPH programs in the nation.)

TIP #1: Write a compelling personal statement

One of the admission criteria when applying to get into a top MPH program is to prepare a personal statement. Make your statement compelling and individualized to your history, career goals, and public health interests. Explain why you chose a career in public health and why you feel their school is the right place to earn your degree. Finally, mention what you bring to the table as a student, such as public health experiences or research opportunities.

TIP #2: Get involved with volunteer experiences or internships

Experience in community outreach and engagement initiatives and volunteering at clinics or hospitals will give you insight into the health concerns and needs of the local community. Working with non-profit organizations such as the American Red Cross or Peace Corps will give you experience in public health advocacy and policy.

As a public health worker, your concern for communities does not stop at home but extends globally. If you speak another language, consider volunteering in countries in need, especially post-conflict zones. A country's population suffers various health complications after a major conflict, which means you can learn to address needs and predict trends in public and assist with organizing initiatives.

TIP #3: Highlight your unique skillset

On your journey as a healthcare worker, you have undoubtedly amassed a set of skills unique to the path you have taken. Getting into a top MPH program will require a little self-evaluation and highlighting what you will bring to the table.

Consider and highlight skills you learned in school, working, or volunteering. Take some time to analyze your strengths and weaknesses and find an MPH program that compliments and can enhance your experience and skills. Look into the projects the program is currently working on and include any skills and knowledge you have that would be helpful to their research.

TIP #4: Begin the application process as early as possible

The earlier you start preparing your application, the better. Procrastinating can lead to rushing and leaving out vital information or required supplemental documentation to help you get into the MPH program. Also, the earlier the application is sent in, the sooner admissions faculty can review it and determine your eligibility. As the due date draws closer, more applications will begin to flood in, meaning your application will be part of a larger pool.

TIP #5: Check the admission prerequisites in advance

Admission into a top MPH program will come with a set of prerequisites that you must meet. Once you choose a school or have a list of programs, you are ready to compare, find out what prerequisites you need. Verifying required prerequisites will allow you time to complete missing classes, making you a more viable candidate.

TIP #6: Take a relevant mathematics course

Consider brushing up on your math skills. Because MPH degree holders conduct a hefty amount of research, statistics and calculus courses are required. For example, epidemiologists predict how diseases spread using mathematical modeling, which requires a solid understanding of calculus. Even if your official transcripts show that you previously passed these courses with a grade of C or higher, if it has been five or more years, it would be beneficial for the admissions board to see that you have recently taken a college-level math course. It demonstrates your commitment to continuing your education and will gain points with the Board.

TIP #7: Draft a resilience statement

While personal statements to get into top MPH programs are typically mandatory, resilience statements are usually optional. However, it is a good idea to include a resilience statement to demonstrate how you overcome obstacles and deal with failure. Demonstrating an ability to come back from a challenging situation and apply what you have learned from it is a characteristic public health workers need.

TIP #8: Learn another language

Public health workers are committed to assisting their communities and local populations. Within that population are people from all walks of life. For some, English is not their native language. Language barriers make it difficult for people to seek and receive proper health care. If you speak more than one language, you can provide effective assistance to a population that may otherwise be underserved. Learning a second language is an excellent way to increase your chance of getting into top MPH programs.

TIP #9: Check the types of statistical programs the school uses and get prepared

Students in MPH programs often need a statistical software package, especially if following a concentration in biostatistics or epidemiology. The laptop or computer you use during online learning should be capable of installing the required package for your courses. While the packages are typically provided by the university free of charge, the computer's operating system must handle the download and installation without any technical roadblocks.

Research this information before signing up for a program and find a way to mention it in your interview. Remember, anything you do to be proactive and prepare for the program shows your dedication to earning the degree, increases your favorability with the admissions committee, and betters your chance of getting into top MPH programs.

TIP #10: Choose a concentration that speaks to you

When you enroll in an MPH program, you may choose to specialize. Choosing a concentration you are passionate about and being able to explain why you chose it is a great way to demonstrate your understanding of an MPH program and your dedication to earning the degree. This is something admissions faculty look for in candidates and can help you get into a top MPH program. You could choose from specialties such as Biostatistics & Epidemiology, Global Health, Health Services & Policy, and Geo Health.

TIP #11: Speak with current students or alumni

If you are serious about getting into top MPH programs, consider talking to graduates or students currently enrolled in the program. Current students and alumni can offer great insight into what admission faculty look for in candidates. Many programs have online portals where you can communicate with students or alums. LinkedIn is another resource you can use to comb through the school's page and find students who can share their admissions experience with you and give tips on what to include in the application.

TIP #12: Get organized and follow-through

One of the most frustrating things that can happen when applying to an MPH program is missing a deadline and waiting until the next enrollment period to apply or having your application placed on hold or scrapped because you forgot to include a crucial piece of information. Creating a checklist with a definitive timeline is the best way to overcome this potential problem. Be sure to schedule due dates ahead of the program's deadlines to stay ahead of the curve.

You need exceptional organizational skills to keep track of all the correspondence you receive from the school. Creating a new email address strictly dedicated to the admissions process will help keep information straight. You do not want important school notices lost with all the other emails you receive daily. You can also send requests for letters of recommendation, financial aid information, and other program inquiries directly from this email address. That way, all your communications regarding admissions are kept in one central location.

The Schools of Public Health Application Service, or SOPHAS, is a centralized application service for MPH programs. SOPHAS streamlines the application process by allowing you to apply to more than one school by submitting the necessary documentation once. The program verifies your information before transmitting it to the MPH programs of your choice. SOPHAS saves time and can help ensure our application gets to each school you choose.

TIP #13: Familiarize yourself with current health services policies

Although you will receive plenty of training in this area as it involves the legalities of public health, familiarizing yourself with this information is essential prior to enrollment. Familiarizing yourself with current health services policies gives you insight into policy trends so you can assess where improvements are needed. Incorporating what you learn in your personal statement could give you an edge in the application process, as it shows admissions faculty your interest in independent learning.

TIP #14: Make sure your application is complete and error-free

It is imperative to submit a complete, error-free application if you genuinely want to get into a top MPH program. Make a checklist and verify you have all supplemental documents in order. Consider having a friend or family member proofread any essays or statements you prepare. Also, you can use editing software to check for grammar and punctuation errors. Your application is the first thing admission faculty use to learn about you. So, make it count!

TIP #15: Take leadership courses

As a student of an MPH program, your leadership skills will be developed since you will become a healthcare leader in your community. Therefore, getting into a top MPH program will be easier if you take leadership courses before applying. No matter your concentration, you will need the basic components of strong leadership, which include communication, understanding your team, understanding yourself, being diplomatic, and seeking and receiving feedback. These traits are not just beneficial when interacting with coworkers and the population you will serve, but you can implement them in all aspects of your life and relationships.

Bonus! 5 Must Avoid Common Mistakes That Might Ruin Your Chances of Getting Into Top MPH Programs

The competition for getting into top MPH programs is already tough enough without getting in your own way. Here is a list of MPH applicants' most common mistakes that could hinder your chance of admission.

MISTAKE #1: Trying to Impress the Admissions Committee with “Who You Know”

It may be tempting to name-drop a well-known or admired researcher who visited the site you volunteered at over the summer. You may even consider exaggerating your experiences to boost your application or use slang to seem cool. Please do not do it. Instead, please focus on the work you have done and how it makes you a viable candidate for the program. Any disingenuous attempts to impress the admission boards could backfire and keep you from getting into top MPH programs.

MISTAKE #2: Getting letters of recommendation from friends instead of unbiased professionals

Of course, your friends love you, think you are great, and believe you should get into the MPH program. However, your letters of recommendation should come from professionals who have supervised you in a work and volunteer setting or taught you in a post-secondary setting and can speak to your abilities and potential for success in the MPH program.

MISTAKE #3: Generalized personal statement

Often the personal statements submitted by students for the admissions process are too general. To gain admission into a top MPH program, you need to be detailed about what you want out of the program and how you will apply it once you graduate. That means including examples from past experiences and articulating the specifics of your future goals. It is not enough to say you have always wanted to help the public. Make your statement genuinely personal.

MISTAKE #4: Not providing a professionally drafted resume

Another admission criterion for top MPH programs is submitting a professional resume. Often, applicants fail to recognize the importance of drafting a professional resume and highlighting all pertinent education, work, and volunteer experiences. You do not have to oversell yourself, but do not sell yourself short, either.

MISTAKE #5: Missing the SOPHAS deadline

Although it is not listed as number one, this is one of the biggest mistakes because it is the easiest one to make. Life can get busy, and if you are not organized, you could forget something as simple as submitting an application. SOPHAS is only open to applicants for a limited time; once it closes, your application cannot be included.

My Final Thoughts

Throughout this article, we addressed the pressing question, "Can someone tell me how to get into a top MPH program?” If you desire a career in public health and want to earn an MPH, follow the 15 tips to get into top MPH programs featured in this article to improve your chances. Remember, if you want to achieve a goal like earning a Master of Public Health degree, the first step is usually the hardest. You can use the information and tips in this article to guide you and go achieve your dream!

Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Our Expert

1. When Is The Application Deadline For Top MPH Programs?

The application deadline for top MPH programs varies from one school to the next. Verify deadlines with each school that interests you to ensure you apply on time.

2. What Are The Admission Requirements For Top MPH Programs?

The basic admission requirements to get into top MPH programs include the following:

· Baccalaureate degree, preferably in a health-related field
· A GPA of 3.0 or higher
· Completion of college-level introductory, general, or human biology
· Completion of college-level algebra, precalculus, or calculus
· Resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
· Statement of purpose and goals
· 2-3 letters of recommendation

3. What Is The Average GPA Of Students Who Get Into Top MPH Programs?

The average GPA of students who get into top MPH programs is 3.0.

4. Can I Get Into A Top MPH Program With A Low GPA?

Having a low GPA may not exclude you from getting into a top MPH program. However, if more qualified candidates apply, it can make admission more competitive.

5. How Important Is Experience When Trying To Get Into A Top MPH Program?

Although paid experience may not be a determining factor for getting into top MPH programs, candidates with paid or volunteer experience in a public health setting are preferred.

6. Can I Get Into A Top MPH Program Without Extracurriculars?

Although some programs say extracurriculars are optional, I suggest getting involved in them if you want to remain competitive and get into a top MPH program.

7. Is There An Interview For Admission Into Top MPH Programs?

Most of the top MPH programs require an interview as part of the admissions process.

8. What Is The Admission Rate For Top MPH Programs?

The admission rate for top MPH programs varies, ranging between 38% and 82%. The average acceptance rate is around 60%.

9. Is There A Waiting List For Top MPH Programs?

Because admission is competitive, many top MPH programs do have waiting lists.

10. Will Applying Early Increase My Chances Of Admission Into Top MPH Programs?

The earlier you apply, the better your chances are of getting into a top MPH program.

Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).