FAQs

We recommend that all prospective applicants THOROUGHLY read all FAQs below. Starting in September we will have live Q&A sessions, come back in the Fall to join us.

Please note: Due to the hundreds of applicant questions that we receive, any questions regarding specific content for an individual application will not receive a response. We recommend that all applicants do their best to provide the exact information requested and submit it as soon as possible. If we require additional information, we will contact you.

The Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Griffin GSAS) Admissions website via the following web link may also help you:

https://gsas.harvard.edu/admissions


What is the deadline for applying to the PhD in Population Health Sciences (PHS)?

The application for admissions for Fall 2025 will open mid-September 2024, and all applications and supporting materials must be received to Harvard Griffin GSAS Admissions by December 1, 2024 by 5 p.m. eastern time. No exceptions.

Can I apply to the program if I am an international student? Are there any special requirements?

Yes, international students can apply to this program with the same application and funding parameters of U.S. students.

Am I required to have a TOEFL or IELTS score if I am a non-native English speaker?

Yes. Our program, like all Griffin GSAS doctoral programs, accepts TOEFL scores and/or IELTS scores if an applicant’s native language is not English and if they do not hold the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree from an institution at which English is the primary language of instruction.

Please view the Griffin GSAS webpage on English Language Proficiency for more detailed information on test score eligibility and timelines.

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) 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.

Can I indicate more than one Field of Study on my application?

Upon starting the application, you will indicate your desired Field of Study as your major area of academic work. At a later point in the application, you will be asked to indicate an interest in another Field of Study, if relevant.

How do my references provide their letters of recommendation?

For all information re: letters of recommendation, please visit the following web link: https://gsas.harvard.edu/admissions/completing-your-application/letters-recommendation

Please note: 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 GRE scores?

For all information re: submitting GRE scores, please visit the following web link: https://gsas.harvard.edu/admissions/completing-your-application/gre

How do I send my official transcripts?

For all information re: submitting official transcripts, please visit the following web link:

https://gsas.harvard.edu/admissions/completing-your-application/transcripts

What kinds of backgrounds do entering students typically have?

The majority of PHS students have a distinguished undergraduate record and excellent performance record in any graduate work undertaken. Although a previous graduate degree is not required, students in any of our Fields of Study have successfully completed coursework in introductory statistics or quantitative methods.

It is preferable that all students entering the program have taken introduction to biostatistics coursework prior to the time of admission. Such background information will be considered upon application review.

In general, applicants must demonstrate strong enthusiasm and ability for rigorous pursuit of scientific knowledge in public health. Preference will be given to applicants who have either some relevant work experience or graduate work in the chosen Field of Study after completion of a bachelor’s degree.

If I have a master’s degree, will that help me get into the program?

Although it is not required for the admission, a master’s degree in public health or a related field may give your application a stronger standing.

What prior coursework, experience, or other qualifications are important?

Typical successful applicants have taken graduate-level coursework related to quantitative methods, introductory statistics, biostatistics, and epidemiology, or have some relevant work experience in the chosen Field of Study.

Do I need to have published a peer-reviewed research article to be accepted into the program?

No. You do not have to have published a peer-reviewed article to be accepted into this program.

Is work experience required for admission?

Work experience is not required to be accepted into the program.

Should I contact PHS Field of Study faculty to discuss my interest in the program? Am I supposed to find my academic adviser before applying for the admission?

You are not required to contact faculty or to find an academic advisor as part of your application to this program. However, if you have questions about faculty members’ current research projects, it is acceptable for prospective students to reach out to faculty directly to ask about research interests and the faculty member’s availability to be a mentor in upcoming years.

We encourage you to review faculty members’ websites and publication listings, and to contact the individual academic administrator for the department affiliated with the Field of Study in which you are interested as they might also have further information about specific faculty.

What are the entering PHS student GRE scores?

GRE – Verbal: 162

GRE-Quantitative: 163

GRE – Analytic: 4.5

Is admission based on an entry test and/or interview or based on academic history?

Applications are reviewed based on academic credentials (coursework), GPA, GRE, TOEFL, prior research and work experience, statement of purpose, recommendations, and a writing sample. No other entry test or interview is required.

Are there any specific Field of Study prerequisites to be accepted into the program?

No. The application requirements are the same for all Fields of Study.

If I apply for the PhD in Population Health this fall, would it also be possible for my application to be considered for the Harvard 65 credit MPH program?

No. The PHS application must go through Griffin GSAS. The application to MPH program must be submitted separately according to the MPH Admissions requirements of Harvard Chan. The PhD application cannot be used for application to any master’s program at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.

May I apply jointly to this program and to another program at Griffin GSAS?

The Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences does not recommend submission of more than one application. However, if you choose to submit multiple applications (up to a limit of three total in your lifetime), the applications may not share any item. Each application must be unique, containing a separate statement of purpose for each program applied to, as well as separate uploads to each application of transcripts, recommendations, and test scores through the Griffin GSAS Admissions portal.

Does the program accept students who are also in medical school or another professional program?

Applications are allowed from students already enrolled in medical school/rotations, but applicants must be aware that PHS is a full-time residency program, which will necessitate negotiate by any student with their prior program. The first two years of the program, especially, must be completed in-person at the University.

The Fields of Study appear similar, if not identical, to those listed for MPH degrees. Are there differences in the courses/content/ emphasis between the Fields of Study for a PhD student versus an MPH student?

There will be some intersection in course requirements. However, students in PHS will be required to take some doctoral-level courses that are only offered for Population Health Sciences students and which are geared towards more rigorous research training.

If I completed a master’s in one area at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and then I want to do a PhD with a different Field of Study, will I be able to waive any courses?

Waivers of the courses completed during a master’s program will be considered individually on a case-by-case basis following admission to the program.

If I’m admitted, can I defer my admission?

Deferrals are handled by Griffin GSAS on a case-by-case basis, and the final decision lies with the program.

The Griffin  Graduate School of Arts and Sciences urges programs not to defer admitted students except under the most unusual circumstances.

Will I have a chance to talk with someone before I decide on to accept an offer of admission?

Certainly. After you receive a letter of acceptance, there will plenty of opportunities for contact with current PHS students and alumni, PHS and Field of Study administration teams, and Harvard faculty.

Can the program be done on a part-time basis?

No. This is a full time residential doctoral program.

If I am admitted, is there a certain grade that I must attain to continue in the program?

Yes. All students are expected to maintain a grade of ‘B’ or better, although, a ‘B+’ average is expected.

Would I be allowed to switch my Field of Study after starting the program?

No. After enrolling in the program, students are not allowed to change their Field of Study.

How much of the coursework is required class time as compared to viewing it online?

Most of the courses currently offered at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Griffin GSAS, and at Harvard University overall are face-to-face courses. Therefore, PHS students are required to be present in class.

How interdisciplinary is this program? Is there substantial collaboration between Fields of Study or do students mainly stay within their own Field of Study?

There are PHS program-wide courses that all students, regardless of Field of Study, are required to take. These courses involve significant interaction among PHS students. In addition, students can do research with faculty affiliated with departments across all five fields, as well as choose faculty members from across the five Fields of Study, other Harvard schools, and other departments to participate on dissertation committees.

The program-wide required courses and credits are described here.

Are program-wide courses taught by faculty from the Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, School of Public Health, or both?

PHS required courses are mostly taught by faculty from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, but all PHS students have the option of taking courses at no extra expense at all thirteen of Harvard’s schools – as well as MIT, Tufts, and Brown Universities.

What is the annual cost of attending your program?

All students (both U.S. and international) receive a multi-year funding package, which includes full tuition, fees, health insurance, and a stipend. The stipend is competitive with the amount offered by most other schools of public health. Applicants are also strongly encouraged to apply for external grants and fellowships, particularly for years three and beyond. Students are also required to complete a 12.5 credit (total) teaching fellowship/research assistant requirement in any Field and at any point of their four years in the program. Any TF/RA work beyond the 12.5 credits can also be paid on top of the stipend rate, according to all work-related laws/requirements.

What are my other funding opportunities?

Are there healthcare benefits offered to admitted PHS students?

Yes. Every graduate student at Harvard receives health insurance. You can learn more about these health care benefits via this weblink: https://hushp.harvard.edu/

As an international student, will I be funded?

Yes. All admitted PHS students who remain in solid academic standing, regardless of country of origin, are guaranteed four years of funding, which includes a monthly stipend, tuition, fees, and health coverage.

What is the difference between the PhD program and the DrPH program?

The PhD in Population Health Sciences offers training that is more geared towards an academic career track, while the DrPH program is more oriented towards public health practice and policy careers.

How many students will be in each cohort?

There are about 40 new PHS students each year across all five Fields of Study.

How will the program create a sense of cohesiveness across a cohort?

All first year PHS students are required to take a year-long methods course that encourages interaction and builds a common methodological and analytical vocabulary across the cohort. Additionally, we offer a regular (every three weeks or so) seminar at which students are expected to attend. Students in different Fields of Study will have many intra-Field opportunities for collaboration with each other as well. We also offer numerous regularly scheduled cohort- and program-wide events and social hours to build camaraderie, (ex. social hours, Red Sox game, canoeing, movies, theatre, etc.)

Are students in this program encouraged to be involved on campus, such as participating in symposiums, seminars, or graduate student organizations?

Our PHS students are definitely encouraged and choose to be involved on campus, engage in interdisciplinary opportunities with mentors and colleagues outside of the PhD program, and participate in a variety of organizations, workshops, conferences, etc.

Can the dissertation-writing phase be done remotely?

Generally, most students remain in residence for the duration of the PhD program. Petitions can be made, however, for special circumstances on a case-by-case basis.