Tips for a Successful Application

In the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, we want you to be successful when applying to our graduate programs. The first step to success is to think of your application as a way to help us get to know you. The more authentic you are to yourself in your application, the better.

In Health Behavior and Health Education, we practice a holistic application review process when considering applications for our Master of Public Health program. What that means is that we look at everything you give us, that no one piece of information will either guarantee your acceptance or break your application, and that we understand that there are many different pathways to a successful career in public health.

Below are some tips to help you create an application that will help you stand out:

Writing Your Statement of Purpose: Tell Us Your Story

The best statement of purpose is the one that helps us understand how your life experiences have brought you to public health and to us. Put simply: Tell us your story. Show us what you are passionate about, and why. Here are some specific pieces of advice:

  • Connect your past experiences and career goals to the field of Health Behavior and Health Education.
  • Be concrete about moments or experiences that had particular impact on you.
  • Express specific interest in a topic area within the department, in specific courses you would like to take, and/or in the research of specific faculty.
  • Take time to reflect when writing your statement of purpose. Seek feedback from mentors and peers. 

Highlight Your Strengths, Acknowledge Your Challenges

Be thorough when describing your previous grades, as well as your previous professional and volunteer experiences that may have contributed to your skills. They will all be evaluated as important components of your application.

In the HBHE department, we look at individual courses (both what you took and how well you did) and your trajectory in your academic training (did you finish strong?) more than overall grade point average (GPA). In particular, we focus on your record in courses that are most aligned to your future interests in public health, whether or not that was the focus of your undergraduate training.

However, we also know that not everything always goes to plan. Sometimes, life happens. We understand that life complications, family challenges, or health concerns can strike anyone, at any time. If you experienced difficulties during your academic training or professional life, explain the situation in your reflective essay so we can consider your record within the context of those life experiences. 

There are no specific prerequisites for the HBHE MPH degree, including no specific requirements regarding math or statistics training. However, because biostatistics is an integral part of every MPH degree, please use the quantitative statement to summarize your quantitative coursework and/or work experience. If your quantitative background is weak or out of date, acknowledging that and stating what you are doing to strengthen it will give us more confidence that you will be ready for success at Michigan Public Health. 

Lastly, remember that many different types of experiences are relevant to Health Behavior and Health Education and to the field of public health more generally. Consider telling us about academic experiences, internships, lab experience, professional work, and/or volunteering. If an experience shaped your commitment to public health, we want to know about it.

Seek Recommendation Letters That Speak to Your Abilities

You are required to have three recommendation letters submitted with your application. It’s highly encouraged that you ask for submissions from people who can speak to your professional and academic accomplishments such as previous professors and/or supervisors, rather than friends or relatives. 

When asking people to write your recommendation letters, it’s helpful to provide your resume and personal statement for them to reference. Ask them to be concrete about their interactions with you. You should also plan to give your recommenders time to write and submit your letters, and think about a back-up letter writers in case someone becomes unavailable.