Frequently Asked Questions

What are the criteria for submitting an application? 

You must submit a completed online application, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, a resume/CV, official GRE or GMAT scores*, and transcripts from any schools attended. Additionally, applicants whose native language is not 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) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS).**

*GRE or GMAT scores are required.  We do, however, realize that the COVID-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters may have significant impacts on applicants’ ability to provide test scores like the GRE.  Our application form includes a place for you provide us information about scores that may be unavailable due to these extenuating circumstances.  

**Please note that GSAS does not accept scores from the TOEFL ITP Plus examination.  Applicants unable to take the TOEFL IBT or IELTS exams due to the COVID-19 pandemic may apply without these scores, and if recommended for admission, their admission will be provisional until they provide scores from one of the accepted tests that demonstrate the required level of English proficiency.

When can I begin to work on the online application? 

The application becomes available in early-mid September through the GSAS website (http://www.gsas.harvard.edu/apply) and the application is due on December 15th at 5 p.m. EST. 

Are the GRE/GMAT scores required?   

All applicants to the PhD program, regardless of their academic or professional background, must submit official scores from the GRE General Exam or GMAT exam. The program prefers GRE scores, but will also accept GMAT scores.  

Is there a minimum GRE or GMAT score to qualify for admission? 

The program does not have a minimum score requirement.  Generally, successful applicants score above the 80th percentiles on these standardized tests.  

What school code should I use to send my official GRE/TOEFL scores to the program? 

For the GRE and TOEFL, please use the code 3451 for the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. 

Do I need a master’s degree in order to apply to the program? 

No, we do not require applicants to have a master’s degree. 

What are the instructions for writing the Statement of Purpose? 

Describe your reasons and motivations for pursuing a PhD in Health Policy at Harvard. What experiences led you to your research ambitions? Concisely state your past work in your intended field of study and in related fields. Briefly indicate your career objectives. Your statement should not exceed 1,000 words. 

I am an international student, am I eligible to apply to the program? 

Yes, international students are eligible to apply to the program.  

Am I required to submit a TOEFL/IELTS score with my application?

Applicants who are non-native English speakers and who received their undergraduate degree from an academic institution where English is not the primary language of instruction must take the TOEFL or IELTS.  No test other than the TOEFL or IELTS will be accepted as proof of English proficiency; a master's degree is not accepted as proof of English proficiency.*

*Please note that GSAS does not accept scores from the TOEFL ITP Plus examination.  Applicants unable to take the TOEFL IBT or IELTS exams due to the COVID-19 pandemic may apply without these scores, and if recommended for admission, their admission will be provisional until they provide scores from one of the accepted tests that demonstrate the required level of English proficiency.

I am applying for a joint MD/PhD in Health Policy degree at Harvard; do I apply to each program separately? 

Those interested in earning an MD/PhD in Health Policy will only apply to HMS/MD-PhD via AMCAS, with all tailored GSAS application components included in the MD-PhD secondary application. Applicants do not need to apply to both programs.  

I am applying for a joint JD/PhD in Health Policy degree at Harvard; do I apply to each program separately? 

Yes, you should apply to each program separately but please note on the GSAS application that you also applied to the JD program. There is a box to select this in the application and/or you may include this in your statement of purpose. For further information on the JD/PhD program please visit: http://law.harvard.edu/academics/degrees/special-programs/jd-phd/jd/phd-program-description.html

What is the size of the applicant pool? How many students will you accept? 

In a typical year, we receive about 200 applications.  In the 2020-2021 application cycle, we received about 400 applications.  We usually admit 13-15 applicants.   

Do you offer financial aid to admitted students? 

Yes, we provide five years of tuition and health insurance to admitted students, along with three years of a stipend to cover living expenses. In the years when a stipend is not provided, students cover living expenses by working as a research assistant, teaching assistant, and/or winning their own fellowships.

Can I reapply to the program? 

Previous applicants to the Graduate School and applicants who did not register must submit a new application. The new application must include all required documents: statement of purpose, resumet/CV, transcripts, test score reports, updated letters of recommendation, and the application fee. 

Note that, according to GSAS policy, an individual may submit no more than three applications to GSAS programs during the course of his or her academic career.    

Is there a visiting day or open house for prospective students? 

No, we do not have a formal visiting day or open house for prospective students.  

Do I need a commitment from a Harvard faculty member to advise me before I apply to the program?  Should I meet with faculty prior to submitting my application?  

No. Faculty advisors are determined after admission to the program. Furthermore, we do not admit students specifically to collaborate on faculty research; collaborations between faculty and students develop during the first two years of study based on mutual areas of interest.  Given the breadth of information provided online about the program, faculty, students, and alumni - and in an effort to create a level playing field for applicants - most faculty will not take individual meetings with prospective students.   Some, however, will provide insight about the program via websites or social media so that everyone receives the same information.  For example, Dr. Laura Hatfield created a page for students interested in our program.  You can read her thoughts here.

What are the backgrounds of students admitted to the program? 

Student backgrounds vary but the typical student has a prior master’s degree and/or relevant work experience. Please see our student profiles for a sense of the students that we admit.  

Do you offer online courses/distance learning? 

No, we do not. 

May I complete the PhD on a part-time basis? 

No. Our program requires all students to be full-time and in residence. 

Are students required to be in residence for the entire duration of the program? 

Students are required to be in residence until they pass their dissertation proposal oral exam, and it is preferred that they remain in residence until completion of the dissertation. The dissertation proposal oral exam is taken in the third or fourth year. 

How long does it take to complete the PhD Program in Health Policy? 

On average, it takes students about five to six years to complete the PhD. 

What types of jobs do your students obtain after completing the PhD? 

Graduates of the PhD Program in Health Policy go on to jobs in a variety of fields. A majority of graduates go on to jobs in academia, though some go into the government, non-profits, think-tanks, and the private sector.  A complete list of graduates of our program and their current positions can be found here.