FAQs

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

The application for admissions for Fall 2021 will be available on September 1, 2020 and is due on December 1, 2020.

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. Adequate command of spoken and written English is required for admission. Applicants whose native language is other than English and who do not hold the equivalent of a US Bachelor’s degree from an institution at which English is the language of instruction must submit scores from the Internet based test (IBT) of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The minimum IBT TOEFL score is 100.

Am I required to take the GRE?  Can I substitute another test for the GRE?

The GRE is not required for a Fall 2021 admissions. Though, it is recommended that the applicant take the GRE and submit their scores along with their application. Please review the “Applicant Checklist Page” for more details.

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

Yes, our program like all GSAS doctoral programs, accept TOEFL scores and/or IELTS scores if an applicant’s native language is not English and s/he does not hold the equivalent of a US Bachelor’s degree from an institution at which English is the language of instruction.

Please view the 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?

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 and GRE scores?

Copies of your transcripts may be uploaded as part of your online application through GSAS. Official transcripts are only required upon being admitted into the program.

GRE scores should be sent directly to GSAS. Please review instructions here. Copies of scores should be uploaded as part of the application system as well.

What kinds of backgrounds do entering students typically have?

The PhD Program in Population Health Sciences has been developed as a highly competitive program among doctoral training programs at schools of public health. Moreover, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has consistently ranked among the top schools of public health.

The majority of students will have a distinguished undergraduate record and excellent performance in any graduate work undertaken. Although a previous graduate degree is not required, students in any of the Fields of Study should have successfully completed coursework in introductory statistics or quantitative methods. It is preferable that all students entering the program will have taken introduction to biostatistics coursework prior to the time of admission. Such background information will be taken into account 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 would have taken graduate level course work 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 faculty at the School 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 and 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 contact faculty directly to ask about research interests and the faculty member’s availability to be a mentor in the upcoming years. We encourage you to review faculty members’ websites and publication listings, and also to contact the Academic Administrator for the department affiliated with the Field of Study in which you are interested as they might have further information about specific faculty.

Is there a minimum GRE score for being accepted into the program? What is the minimum GPA required? What is the average GRE score and/or GPA you expect for your entering cohort?

There is no minimum GRE score or GPA formally required to enter the program. The program is competitive and the applicants usually have high scores. Each applicant, however, will be considered on the basis of all his/her credentials, which is not limited to just GRE scores and grades.

Is the admission based on some entry test and/or interview or is done on the basis of the academic history?

Applications are reviewed on the basis of academic credentials, 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 in order to be accepted into the program?

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

If I apply for the PhD program 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 application to MPH program has to be submitted separately according to MPH admission requirements. The PhD application cannot be used for application to any of the Master’s programs at the Chan School of Public Health.

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

The 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.

Does the program accept students who are also in Medical School or another professional program at Harvard?

Acceptance to each school occurs independently. If the student is already at the Medical School they may apply to the PhD program. Applicants should take into consideration, however, that the PhD in PHS is a full time residency program, which would be necessary to negotiate with the Medical School.

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 a MPH student?

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

If I completed a Masters 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 Masters program will be considered individually on a case by case basis.

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

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

The 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 the program administrators, your Field of Study coordinator, and faculty.

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

No, this is a full time residential doctoral program.

If a student gets in, is there a certain grade he or she must attain in order to continue in the program?

Yes, all students are expected to maintain grades that are “B” or better and 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 will not be allowed to change their Field of Study.

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

The majority of the courses currently offered at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health are face-to-face courses. Therefore, 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 program-wide courses that all students, regardless of Field of Study, are required to take. These courses will involve interaction among the 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 departments associated with the Fields of Study to participate on dissertation committees.

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

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

The required courses are mostly taught by faculty from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.

What is the annual cost of attending your program?

All students receive a multi-year funding package, which includes full tuition, fees, health insurance, and a stipend including teaching fellowships and research assistantships. The stipend is competitive with the amount offered by Schools of Public Health. Applicants are also expected to apply for external grants and fellowships, particularly for years three and beyond.

What are my other funding opportunities?

Are there healthcare benefits offered to those students admitted to your program?

Yes, every graduate student at Harvard gets health insurance.  To learn more about health care benefits, click here.

As an international student, will I be funded?

Yes, all admitted students who are in good standing, are guaranteed funding which includes a stipend, as well as tuition and health insurance.

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 will be about 40 new students each year in the program across all Fields of Study.

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

All students in their first year will be required to take a year-long methods course that encourages interaction and builds a common methodological and analytical vocabulary across the cohort.  Additionally, there will be a weekly seminar that students are expected to attend.  Students in different Fields of Study will have many opportunities for collaboration with each other. There will also be cohort-wide events and social hours to build camaraderie.

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

Students in this program are definitely encouraged 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, all students will remain in residence for the duration of the PhD program. Petitions can be made, however, for special circumstances on a case by case basis.

What additional resources are available to me during the application process?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is available for students to keep in mind when creating applications.