Statement of Purpose

The personal statement/statement of purpose requirements vary by program. Do not underestimate the importance of this statement. It is your opportunity to inform the faculty reviewers of your qualifications, motivation, and potential to make a contribution to the field of public health.

The statement is limited to 600 words for all programs except DrPH, JD/MPH and the nonresidential, part-time Master in Health Care Management for physician and dental executives. Although SOPHAS allows for a higher word count, the statement of purpose and objectives should not exceed 600 words. In your statement, please describe the following:

  •  Academic and/or professional preparation for a career in public health
  •  Your focused interest in the degree program/department or MPH field of study to which you are applying
  •  Career plans upon completion of the program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Note any relevant strengths or weaknesses in your background or in your ability to carry out your professional responsibilities.

Statement for applicants to the DrPH degree program (In your statement, please number the response to each section with the number listed for that section below.) :

  1. Describe in detail your most significant professional experience and explain why it prepares you to pursue advanced professional study in public health. (up to 500 words)
  2. Assess your current leadership abilities and describe what you seek to strengthen through the DrPH degree program. (up to 500 words)
  3. Tell us about a public health problem or challenge that you seek to address upon completion of your DrPH degree. (up to 500 words)

Statement for applicants to the JD/MPH joint degree program:
Although SOPHAS allows for a higher word count, the statement of purpose and objectives should not exceed 750 words. There is no prescribed format for the essay, but it should include information about the following:

  • Your focused interest within the field of public health
  • Previous academic, professional, and/or extracurricular experiences that demonstrate your interest in public health or health-related issues
  • Reasons for wanting to enroll in the joint JD/MPH degree program
  • Career plans upon completion of the joint degree program

The essay should persuasively establish (1) your preparation to undertake this intense course of study, (2) your understanding of the MPH curriculum, and (3) a good fit between the curriculum and your interests and goals.

Statement for applicants to the nonresidential, part-time Master in Health Care Management (MHCM) for physician and dental executives:
Applicants to the MHCM program who have questions about the essay requirement may contact Colin Fleming at 617-432-7075. This statement should not exceed 1,000 words.

  • Briefly describe the organization where you are employed in terms of its purpose, its services and client population, and its scope of operation (state, county, etc., if relevant). Also provide several relevant measures of its size (e.g., annual budget and revenues; number of employees or full-time equivalents; patients or beds; and number of years in existence if less than five years old). If available, attach the most recent organizational chart.
  • Describe your role in the organization, including title/position of groups or individuals to whom you report; current responsibilities; number and type of groups or individuals to whom you report; number and types of individuals you supervise; size of budget(s) you control; and names of principal committees on which you sit.
  • Summarize your career development, describe the broad areas of endeavor in which you have engaged, and distinguish between professional (e.g., teaching, research, clinical practice) and management activities
  • With reference to your present and future responsibilities and development, describe what you are primarily interested in learning as a result of participating in the program. Please note subject areas in which you are well versed and those in which you feel you need improvement.

Advisory Note to All Applicants:
In September 2011, the Harvard Chan School Admissions Office began submitting statements of purpose and objectives to a private contracted service that reviews content for originality. Results from this review may be used to inform decisions made by the admissions committee and the Committee on Admissions and Degrees. Papers submitted to this service are retained by that company and become part of the database of materials used in future searches. No personal identifying information is either submitted nor retained by the service.

Additionally, we recognize that cultural norms differ from country to country. In order for our applicants to be informed of what is expected, we suggest reading the following text, which is included in our Student Handbook in the section on Academic Integrity. While this text refers to work submitted for courses, it applies to the documentation submitted as part of the application process:

“All work submitted to meet course requirements is expected to be a student’s own work. In the preparation of work submitted to meet course requirements, students should always take great care to distinguish their own ideas and knowledge from information derived from sources. Whenever ideas or facts are derived from a student’s reading and research the sources must be indicated. The term ‘sources’ includes not only published primary and secondary material, but also information and opinions gained directly from other people. The responsibility for using the proper forms of citation lies with the individual student. Quotations must be placed within quotation marks, and the source must be credited. All paraphrased material also must be completely acknowledged.”

Lastly, please visit our pages on Citation/Attributions and Academic Writing.