Admissions FAQ

Should I engage a consultant to prepare my application packet?
As part of the attestation process each applicant makes when they sign and submit the application, they confirm that the application is their own. As such, we expect prospective applicants to communicate with our program office and the Harvard Griffin GSAS admissions staff directly without the mediation or participation of any third-party consultants. We also expect applicants to prepare and submit their own application materials. We do not endorse the services of any persons or companies not associated with Harvard and the PhD Program in Biological Sciences in Public Health. Utilizing the services of non-Harvard application advisors/consultants does not improve your chances of being admitted into the program. Applicants should be wary of engaging any third party that guarantees admission to a Harvard program, and applicants should absolutely avoid engaging any consultant who insists upon communicating with Harvard on their behalf. If you have questions beyond what is already covered on our website or would like to speak to a member of our program team, please contact us directly or attend a recruitment event to ask us questions.

What is the deadline for applying to the PhD program?
December 1st of each year
Note: Your application should be complete and submitted entirely by December 1. Late materials will not be considered. We do not have rolling admissions, so there is no advantage to submitting application materials early.

Who is eligible to apply?
To qualify for admission, applicants must demonstrate strong ability for the vigorous pursuit of scientific knowledge. Minimum requirements include a bachelor’s degree, undergraduate preparation in the biological sciences, and wet lab and/or computational research experience.

Can I apply to the program if I am an international student?

Am I required to take the GREs?
No, GRE General Test scores will not be considered when applications are reviewed.

Please note: If you are an international student, you may be required to take the TOEFL exam. Please review the Applicant Checklist Page for more details.

Can IELTS be considered as a substitution of TOFEL in your program?
Yes, our program accepts the IELTS Academic test. For those students planning to submit IELTS scores, please note that we will only accept official IELTS Academic scores submitted electronically by the IELTS test center via the E-Delivery service. Scores from the IELTS General Training module are not accepted. At the time of test-taking, please specify Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences as a score recipient. We do not accept IELTS paper test Report Forms nor do we verify Test Report Forms (TRFs). More information can be found on the Harvard Griffin GSAS Application instruction website.

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is also accepted and is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), Box 899, Princeton, NJ 08541. When requesting official score reports, indicate the receiving institution as Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Code 3451  NOTE: there is no specific department code – you only need to submit the school code.

How do my references provide their statements?
The reference letters must be uploaded by the writer onto the admissions website. There are a few questions they answer as well.

When does the program start?
Early July

If a student is admitted, is there a certain grade he or she must attain in order to get continue in the program?
Yes, we expect all students to maintain grades that are “B” or better. This is also a Graduate School of Arts and Sciences policy.

Are there healthcare benefits offered to those students admitted to your program?
Yes, every graduate student at Harvard receives health insurance.  To learn more about the health care, you can visit the HUHS site.

How interdisciplinary is this program? Is there a lot of collaboration between labs and disciplines or do they mainly stay within their own field?
Almost all labs have collaborations both within the school and outside the school. The environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is very collaborative.  One student remarked “I am working on a project that is part of the Superfund Center grant, so I am working with both laboratory expression data in the Lu lab and with genetic makers in populations that have been collected by the Christiani lab.”

Where do most people live?
This is a personal choice.  Some student live close to campus while others live in Cambridge and take a free Harvard bus shuttle to school/work.  Students remark that “People live in many different parts of the city, but certainly our stipend is enough to give you flexibility on where you want to live.”

I was wondering if it is common to obtain a MPH before applying to this program or if students coming straight out of undergrad are commonly accepted?
The majority of students do not have a MPH prior to applying to this program.  There are some applicants who apply directly from college (and they have internship and research experience while in college) or apply after several years of work experience such as in a lab as a research/lab manager or a tech.  Some students have a master’s degree prior to applying to BPH, some of whom have an MPH and a majority of whom have a master’s in a content related field like biology.

I was reviewing the application requirements and I’d like to confirm that the BPH program falls under the Division of Medical Sciences?
BPH does NOT fall under the Division of Medical Sciences (DMS).  DMS is a completely separate PhD program that is located at the Harvard Medical School.  BPH is the PhD Program in Biological Sciences in Public Health based at the Harvard Chan School.

How do my references provide their letters of recommendation?
The Graduate School requires your recommenders to use the online recommendation process. The reference letters must be uploaded by the writer onto the admissions website. At least one letter should be from a faculty member at the last school you attended as a full-time student unless you have been out of school for more than five years. Substitutions for faculty recommendations may include work associates or others who can comment on your academic potential for graduate work.

How do I send my official transcripts?
Copies of your transcripts may be uploaded as part of your online application through Harvard Griffin GSAS.  Official transcripts are only required upon being admitted into the program.

Is finding a supervisor important for the admission process? 
You do not need to find an advisor prior to applying to the program.  You can learn more about our dissertation advisor process here.