From the Admissions Desk: MPH Statement of Purpose

For some applicants, the statement of purpose is the most puzzling aspect of the Master of Public Health (MPH) application process. Writing responses to the open-ended questions can be intimidating for those who are more oriented toward numerical or scientific problems. But the MPH statement of purpose also offers applicants a valuable opportunity to distinguish themselves from other qualified applicants. The MPH statement of purpose is an opportunity to tell the story of your life and to explain how graduate school will be a vital chapter in that story.

Writing is a Process

Writing the strongest statement of purpose you can is a process and one that shouldn’t be rushed. While some applicants will dash off their statements the night before the application deadline, a thoughtful and considered statement is much more likely to set you apart from the crowd. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the MPH@GW’s statement of purpose questions several weeks before the deadline and to give yourself time to brainstorm and free-write before drafting your statement. Plan for at least three drafts: at least one to flesh out ideas, at least one to refine them and one for style and copyediting.

How Did You Become Interested in Public Health?

This question offers you two major opportunities: It invites you to tell a memorable personal story about your passion for the field of public health and to share past accomplishments in the field of public health (or related fields) with admission officers. Ideally, your answer will take advantage of both opportunities. Strive to create a narrative that links your curiosity or specific motivation to your educational or professional successes. Avoid clichéd statements like “As long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to help people.” Instead, try to think of more personal or idiosyncratic aspects of your history that might stick out in the minds of admissions officers.

What Contributions Do You Plan to Make In the Field?

This question can be a bit tricky because it asks you to project into the future. Generally, MPH programs are looking for applicants with a strong sense of direction within the field, as well as realistic goals that reflect their educational and professional backgrounds. That doesn’t mean you have to know exactly what you want to do after graduate school. For instance, saying that you aim to reduce the child mortality rate in the developing world expresses ambition and direction in concrete terms. But remember, this is only an admissions essay; it’s expected that your ambitions will continue to develop throughout your life.

How Will the MPH@GW Program Help You to Achieve Your Goals?

Although it’s listed last on the website, this question actually forms a bridge between the two preceding questions. This is your opportunity to explain how graduate school is the natural connection between your previous achievements and unique passion for public health, and your larger ambition to contribute to the field in the future. And while illustrating this vital link between the past and the future, you should also make an effort to highlight the unique features of the MPH@GW program that will fit your situation particularly well. Your statement of purpose shouldn’t just portray you as one of many attractive applicants; make it clear that you are perfect for this program and vice versa.

As you draft and revise your MPH statement of purpose, you may find that it is actually helping you to think more clearly about your reasons for applying to GW and your larger life goals. This is a sign that the writing process is really going well and that your statement of purpose will stand out.

Be sure to continue to write and revise until you’re sure that your statement is the best you can produce. The best writing emerges through a process of reflection, but it also requires craft and care.

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