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Current MS- Future PhD: Please advise!


phd-dream
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Hello all,

I need your help if you don't mind.

I was accepted at several schools to study for the MPH degree or the MS degree in health policy. My first question is about funding. I don't know much about it. Do you apply for funding at all schools (fill forms for all financial aid departments) before I confirm my attendance? As I understood, some schools won't get back to me about aid or loans before May and I have to choose a school by mid April. Can you please tell me more about funding? Do you usually get a loan that covers tuition and another one for living expenses?

My second question is about the PhD program. What does it take to be accepted? You would need your MS degree? Does an MPH work or do they prefer the MS because it more research focused? What else? Is work experience required?

Thank you so much in advance for sharing your experience and giving me advice. Your help is deeply appreciated.

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Hello all,

I need your help if you don't mind.

I was accepted at several schools to study for the MPH degree or the MS degree in health policy. My first question is about funding. I don't know much about it. Do you apply for funding at all schools (fill forms for all financial aid departments) before I confirm my attendance? As I understood, some schools won't get back to me about aid or loans before May and I have to choose a school by mid April. Can you please tell me more about funding? Do you usually get a loan that covers tuition and another one for living expenses?

My second question is about the PhD program. What does it take to be accepted? You would need your MS degree? Does an MPH work or do they prefer the MS because it more research focused? What else? Is work experience required?

Thank you so much in advance for sharing your experience and giving me advice. Your help is deeply appreciated.

I am far from an expert, but I am happy to share my thoughts. In reference to funding, fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible especially if you are a US student. Some schools have priority deadlines soon or that have passed for completing the FAFSA. Most schools use the FAFSA for financial aid determination and to disburse federal loans for US students. Some schools also have additional forms to complete, so be sure to review each program's website.

I'll be honest, there is normally not very much funding for public health masters (and sometimes PhDs)! Nevertheless, some funding does exist through merit or other scholarships. Most schools will automatically consider you for scholarships if you applied by their priority deadline. So if you made that deadline, it seems like schools are starting to share scholarship news with students now. Also, some students are able to find research assistantships closer to the time of school starting (once professors know more about their funding and needs). If you want a phd, I suggest trying to get a RA to get research experience and because they often pay/waive your tuition and give you a stipend.

Most phd programs do require a masters or phd, but not all! If you look carefully at each school's website, some say that they will consider strong candidates with only a bachelors (e.g. U minnesota, Johns Hopkins, and I think BU has an accelerated MS to PHD option). These are just examples; other schools may allow it too.

Most of the schools I looked at said they would take a MS or MPH degree so I honestly think you'd be okay no matter which degree you got. However, the MS and MSPH degrees are going to train you and give you the research skills phd programs are looking for. The MS type degrees usually make you to do a masters thesis, which will give you that research experience. You can supplement you basic MPH degree with more analytic/research electives if you go that route. Regardless, I suggest trying to get an RA and any other research experience in health policy/health services research if you want a phd. That is crucial for those programs. The ones that let people in without a masters require those people to have expensive research experience. The ones I've known to go into a phd without a masters had research experience in undergrad and 2+ years of full time research experience after undergrad.

I hope this helps!

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Hello all,

I need your help if you don't mind.

I was accepted at several schools to study for the MPH degree or the MS degree in health policy. My first question is about funding. I don't know much about it. Do you apply for funding at all schools (fill forms for all financial aid departments) before I confirm my attendance? As I understood, some schools won't get back to me about aid or loans before May and I have to choose a school by mid April. Can you please tell me more about funding? Do you usually get a loan that covers tuition and another one for living expenses?

 

Funding: this is more specific to Emory but I applied for FAFSA by the Mar deadline and I don't recall filling out any additional financial app specific to the school. The funding opportunities were pretty similar regardless of your financial situation going in. They no longer offered work study when I entered in 2010 and only had a similar program that was nearly offered to all incoming students. Unfortunately, somehow my FAFSA wasn't sent or processed by some deadline at the school so I wasn't offered that work-study type opportunity until my 2nd year. In their program, the school pays half and the organization you work for pays the other half. It was capped at $12/hr my year, which really meant some pocket money that didn't put a huge dent in my loans. I also was given a small traineeship grant during my 1st yr, 2nd semester and that was the extent of what my program had to offer. Not sure if this is the case for other schools. I, as well as most of my classmates, had to take loans (sub/unsub) to finance the masters. Was it worth it? Not 100% but at least my PhD will be fully funded so I look at the loans as paying for both degrees. In a way, I wish I had applied for PhD progams and taken a chance with that route so I wouldn't have so much loans. But the past is the past now.

 

 

My second question is about the PhD program. What does it take to be accepted? You would need your MS degree? Does an MPH work or do they prefer the MS because it more research focused? What else? Is work experience required?

 

The req for a masters will depend on the institution. Most of the ones I applied to did require a masters but it doesn't matter whether its an MS or MPH. I graduated with a MPH but my experiences were mostly research based. Any experience puts you ahead of other applicants regardless if they are actual job based experiences. During and after undergrad, I conducted lab-based research for ~2 yrs total. During grad school, I was involved in 4 research projects within 2 yrs (my thesis was one of my greatest accomplishments!). By the time I applied, I had worked for ~1.5 yrs post-graduating since I didn't decide to pursue the PhD until a year later. I do know classmates who applied and started their doctorates right after their masters so it's possible even without work experience (DrPHs do require actual work experience though). Publications also help but definitely not required. Contacting professors also helps but also not required (I personally didn't because I wasn't fully committed to the idea of pursuing the PhD until a few months before the apps were due and by that time it seemed a little pointless). Personal contact does help since interviewing gave me the opportunity to get to know some professors and them to know me beyond my app/CV - I've been accepted to both institutes I interviewed with. Experiences are important but more important is how you present them (my essay was pretty decent after multiple drafts). 

Edited by soylatte5
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Funding: this is more specific to Emory but I applied for FAFSA by the Mar deadline and I don't recall filling out any additional financial app specific to the school. The funding opportunities were pretty similar regardless of your financial situation going in. They no longer offered work study when I entered in 2010 and only had a similar program that was nearly offered to all incoming students. Unfortunately, somehow my FAFSA wasn't sent or processed by some deadline at the school so I wasn't offered that work-study type opportunity until my 2nd year. In their program, the school pays half and the organization you work for pays the other half. It was capped at $12/hr my year, which really meant some pocket money that didn't put a huge dent in my loans. I also was given a small traineeship grant during my 1st yr, 2nd semester and that was the extent of what my program had to offer. Not sure if this is the case for other schools. I, as well as most of my classmates, had to take loans (sub/unsub) to finance the masters. Was it worth it? Not 100% but at least my PhD will be fully funded so I look at the loans as paying for both degrees. In a way, I wish I had applied for PhD progams and taken a chance with that route so I wouldn't have so much loans. But the past is the past now.

 

 

 

The req for a masters will depend on the institution. Most of the ones I applied to did require a masters but it doesn't matter whether its an MS or MPH. I graduated with a MPH but my experiences were mostly research based. Any experience puts you ahead of other applicants regardless if they are actual job based experiences. During and after undergrad, I conducted lab-based research for ~2 yrs total. During grad school, I was involved in 4 research projects within 2 yrs (my thesis was one of my greatest accomplishments!). By the time I applied, I had worked for ~1.5 yrs post-graduating since I didn't decide to pursue the PhD until a year later. I do know classmates who applied and started their doctorates right after their masters so it's possible even without work experience (DrPHs do require actual work experience though). Publications also help but definitely not required. Contacting professors also helps but also not required (I personally didn't because I wasn't fully committed to the idea of pursuing the PhD until a few months before the apps were due and by that time it seemed a little pointless). Personal contact does help since interviewing gave me the opportunity to get to know some professors and them to know me beyond my app/CV - I've been accepted to both institutes I interviewed with. Experiences are important but more important is how you present them (my essay was pretty decent after multiple drafts). 

 

 

Hi soylatte5, I'm currently pursuing an MPH in Epi from Emory university. I'm looking to apply for PhD programs this summer/fall. To be honest, the entire process is so alien to me. I know I'm interested in public health policy (esp. in minority health, refugee and immigrant health)  and Any suggestions on how to begin the search for programs that match my interests? Any schools you would recommend based on my interests? Secondly, should I start forming contacts with professors at my universities of interests from now itself? I didn't do that for my MPH but I know people who had established contact with professors and more easily found assitantships/jobs, so maybe that helps... Also, what do PhD programs really look for? How important is your GPA? Publications? Research projects? Thanks in advance! 

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Hi soylatte5, I'm currently pursuing an MPH in Epi from Emory university. I'm looking to apply for PhD programs this summer/fall. To be honest, the entire process is so alien to me. I know I'm interested in public health policy (esp. in minority health, refugee and immigrant health)  and Any suggestions on how to begin the search for programs that match my interests? Any schools you would recommend based on my interests? Secondly, should I start forming contacts with professors at my universities of interests from now itself? I didn't do that for my MPH but I know people who had established contact with professors and more easily found assitantships/jobs, so maybe that helps... Also, what do PhD programs really look for? How important is your GPA? Publications? Research projects? Thanks in advance! 

I'm not familiar with your research area of interest so I don't have any specific suggestions on schools. I suggest making a list of your priorities and go from there. For me, one of my top priorities was resources - which larger and higher ranking schools have. Additional were location and program fit. If you try to fit yourself into a program (faculty, research focus, philosophy), it will show - at least I think it did for me. I was probably rejected from one because I wasn't particularly excited about their program/faculty and it was likely apparent thru my essay that I was trying to fit in with their faculty. 

 

If you've been keen on recognizing authors from papers you've read/referenced, that could be a good starting point. I didn't realize that I had read papers of professors I was interested in working with until after starting my search on faculty. This wasn't a very common occurrence in my situation but I do think it's a good starting point because you will be able to show genuine interest when you make contact with professors and show how you're connected to them. You might also want to ask current professors for suggestions as they are your greatest resource and having their connection to faculty elsewhere might give you an advantage when you actually apply. I suggest starting your search on programs this summer (unless you aren't too busy now) prior to settling on schools to apply to and get a sense of what a department focuses on (application (intervention/evaluation/programmatic-based) vs hard science research (wet lab/epi/methods-based)), their general philosophy about the field, and programs being offered within the department. Some schools will require you to apply to specific programs within their department e.g. within EHS at Harvard there's enviro epi/occup epi/risk assessment/toxicology/etc. I made the mistake of thinking I'd be applying to general EHS and didn't really understand each program within the dept until later in the process. Some schools might even have your specific research interest area as a program in itself, so definitely look out for that. Also browse through all the professors within departments you're interested in (you might fit in more than one) to see if anyone at the school does what you're interested in - this is key whether you decide to contact them or not because you should still include one or two in your essay and it will help you determine whether you should even apply to a school. There are varying opinions about how much of an impact contacting professors prior to applying has on your chance of admission. Not having contacted any professor (literally none) didn’t seem to reduce my chances by much – I was selected for interviews based on merit/essay. However, it would have likely given me an additional edge (esp at the institute I am currently waitlisted at). If you decide to contact them, I suggest a few months ahead to submitting so that they will remember you. Do keep in mind that not all professors are on the admissions committee and might not see your app unless you make it to the next round(s). 

 

There's no definitive answer to "what programs are looking for". My approach to the requirements established by each school was to meet at least the minimum. Things like GPA, GRE score, and years of research experience likely help the committee weed out applicants not meeting the bare minimum reqs., leaving behind those to interview or further discuss with other faculty/staff. So as long as these factors are solid, I wouldn't worry too much about them. Again, publications are a plus but not required. The breadth of research projects will depend on your field and your own motivations. My approach during my masters was to participate in projects I was interested in and pick up various skills from each project (going in from undergrad, I had zero public health experiences except wet lab techniques). Beyond numbers and skill set, the essay component is super important. You’ll likely be as competitive as other candidates but what will set you apart is how you actually present yourself and tell your story. Like mentioned elsewhere, your essay should not be a list of everything you’ve ever done but, rather, focus on certain experiences and your goals for graduate school. 

Edited by soylatte5
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