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HOW TO WRITE A WINNING PUBLIC HEALTH PERSONAL STATEMENT

October 01, 2020
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Public health is one of the most diverse fields in healthcare practice, and the public health industry is expanding and changing at a rapid rate.1 To break into this competitive field, strong qualifications, such as a Master of Public Health (MPH), are essential, and a winning public health personal statement is a critical component of a successful MPH application. However, writing a personal statement for public health graduate school is substantially different from crafting one as a recent graduate or first-time job-seeker.

This post explains the importance of the MPH personal statement, and highlights four elements to consider when crafting a strong, engaging, effective statement as part of your application.

WHY IS A PUBLIC HEALTH PERSONAL STATEMENT IMPORTANT FOR AN MPH?

In public health professions more than in most careers, who you are matters. Because public health focuses on the human side of sickness and well-being, public health professionals interact continuously with individuals, communities, policy makers and educators.2 Your personality is an important factor in determining the professional you will become. Admissions committees, therefore, need to understand you as a person in order to appreciate you as a candidate.

Among your application documents, your personal statement most effectively reveals who you are to an admissions committee. It demonstrates your passion and suitability for the program you are applying to and establishes you as more than the sum of your skills and qualifications.

SHOW, DON’T TELL.

A list of who you are, what you do, and where you see your career going will give the admissions committee a good sense of your suitability for the program to which you are applying. However, if you really want to engage your readers, show them rather than telling them. Human beings are narratively wired; we learn, remember and relate to material better when it is delivered in the form of a story.3 A strong personal statement will be made even stronger if it is structured around a particular narrative.

To incorporate storytelling effectively in your personal statement, think about your strengths as an individual and the episodes in your life that have demonstrated and developed them. Emphasize the strengths that best align with public health professions: interpersonal and communication skills, an analytical and problem-solving mindset, a strong sense of social justice, and cultural competency are all good choices.4 Tell the story of your life and career with your chosen strengths in mind. Show how each new experience has helped you progress toward being the ideal public health candidate.

BE PASSIONATE.

The story you tell must illustrate more than just your relevant skills and experiences; it should highlight your passion for and commitment to public health. Admissions-committee members know that the field of public health is demanding,5 and a good MPH candidate is one who has the drive and dedication to face its many challenges. In your personal statement narrative, explain why public health matters to you.

Public health is a universal concern, and the work of public health professionals touches many aspects of our everyday lives. As you decide on the experiences you’ll include, consider how they demonstrate your personal connection to the public health profession. How have public health leaders inspired you? Where have public health issues affected your life? How have your achievements contributed to improving public health? Where do you hope to see further improvement, and why? By linking the answers to questions such as these with personal narrative, you will demonstrate your passion for the field.

WHY YOU? WHY THIS PROGRAM?

Competition for admission to graduate school is always fierce, and this is especially true when it comes to MPH programs.6 To craft an effective personal statement, therefore, you must show that you are the perfect candidate for the specific school and program to which you’re applying.

Provide details on how your goals, experiences and passions align with the specific MPH program to which you are applying. You may want to comment on the research opportunities embedded within the program, for example, or the research specializations of key faculty members. Show how the unique details of the program align with your unique characteristics as a candidate.

By including specific references to the MPH program, you show that you’ve done your research and invested your time and energy in choosing a program carefully. Your demonstrated desire to be a part of the unique community and culture of your chosen program will make you a significantly more attractive candidate.

TONE MATTERS.

Finally, it is essential that you pay close attention to the grammar, expression and tone of your personal statement. As it is in many careers, writing is a crucial component of effective public health professionalism.7 A successful public health practitioner must speak and write effectively. Producing a well-crafted, accurate, clear, engaging personal statement will demonstrate your competency in this area.

As you compose your personal statement, strive for a tone that is professional and formal. It will help balance the intimacy of the narrative style discussed above, resulting in a personal statement that feels both human and competent.

Check your work carefully for any errors in formatting, grammar or vocabulary, and make sure that you’re using technical terminology appropriately; mistakes in these areas suggest a lack of care and attention to detail that will reflect negatively on you. Ask someone whose writing skills you trust to proofread your personal statement. Even proficient writers can become blind to their own typos, and someone else’s knowledgeable perspective is always helpful, even if only to confirm the strength of your work.

PUT YOUR STRENGTHS AND EXPERIENCE TO THEIR BEST USE.

An MPH is the first step on the path to success in a dynamic, fulfilling career. With your Kent State online Master of Public Health in Health Policy and Management, Social and Behavioral Sciences or Epidemiology, or your Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology, you can make a difference in a field with wide-ranging impact.


1. Retrieved on August 6, 2020 from degreequery.com/top-20-demand-careers-public-health/
2. Retrieved on August 6, 2020 from apha.org/what-is-public-health
3. Retrieved on August 6, 2020 from time.com/5043166/storytelling-evolution/
4. Retrieved on August 6, 2020 from phf.org/programs/corecompetencies/Pages/Core_Competencies_Domains.aspx.
5. Retrieved on August 6, 2020 from mphprogramslist.com/50-great-reasons-to-pursue-a-public-health-career/
6. Retrieved on August 6, 2020 from mphprogramslist.com/mph-admissions-process/
7. Retrieved on August 6, 2020 from nursingcenter.com/journalarticle?Article_ID=682376&Journal_ID=420959&Issue_ID=682375