MPH Application Timeline

Published on: Aug 25, 2023

Public health took center stage globally in 2020, and emphasized the need for a strong public health infrastructure led by adept and knowledgeable people. If you’re interested in solving the most urgent health issues and do not back down from a challenge then pursuing a master’s degree in public health is the path for you. In order to obtain your Master’s degree in public health, you must first apply to the school and program of your choice.

The application process is lengthy and stressful, and the following article will provide an overview of the MPH application process and timeline to aid in this application process.

Overall Takeaway - Planning is Key

The key to applying to public health graduate school programs is planning ahead and staying organized throughout the process. It will take time to complete the entire process, and major deadlines should be worked towards well in advance. The application process will take about 12 months in length, and may be condensed due to various external factors, such as taking standardized tests previously.

Online Applications

Each candidate will apply using a bespoke application on the program website or use an application called SOPHAS, The Schools of Public Health Application Service. The SOPHAS application is a centralized application system, which streamlines the process of applying to public health programs1. Most accredited public health schools and programs utilize SOPHAS as their application portal and are accredited by CEPH, which is the Council on Education for Public Health2. Some public health schools and programs don’t use SOPHAS, and the application process is completed via the school’s website.

Again, you want to do this planning before the application process and potentially allow for more time to gather and submit the application(s).

Making a List, Checking it Twice

Mapping out all program deadlines and criteria before the application process will be critical to navigating this process. While applying to several schools and programs may seem advantageous, being very selective and narrowing this down will make the process more manageable. Consider the setting where you learn best whether it’s in person, online, or both, as many schools offer both options. Narrow down the concentration and area of study (community health, global health, health equity, epidemiology, etc.) you are most interested in. Review the program requirements, and determine what standardized testing is needed for the program1

If the GRE is a requirement, schedule that as early in the application process as possible. This way the option of taking it multiple times will be available. While submitting GRE scores is not required for some programs, you may submit scores to strengthen your application3. Ultimately, that decision would be up to you and based on various facets of your specific application.

A roadmap and timeline of the application process has been outlined below where we work backwards from the application deadline. Again, each school can have different program and application requirements, so planning and clearly understanding the demands of each application is vital to being successful. More time is allotted in the below timeline, so you are efficiently working through the process and not procrastinating until the end.

Early phase:

9-12 months prior to the application deadline, you need to:

  • Clearly compile and list out the deadlines and requirements for all programs of study you are applying to, since each program has various due dates. To do so, review each program’s website, and note each milestone. Consider using an organizing tool like Trello or Google Tasks to set deadline reminders for application deadlines.

  • Review the minimum program requirements, which include any prerequisite courses, supplemental applications, standardized test scores (if necessary), and any foreign assessments. Do you have them and is this program an option for you? Great. Are your test scores or prerequisites below what’s required? You can filter this program out from your search.

  • Reach out to specific professional contacts to discuss their involvement in providing letters of recommendation for this application cycle. 

  • Schedule the GRE well before the application deadlines to allow for multiple attempts to maximize your score, if necessary.

  • If applying internationally, schedule and take the TOEFL to provide the English proficiency test score if applicable to the program.

Middle phase:

3-6 months prior to the application deadline, you need to:

  • Create a SOPHAS account. 

  • Begin filling in sections of the applications.

  • Draft and edit your personal essay.

  • Confirm the people writing your recommendations received the request, and clearly state the deadline for submission.

  • Request your official transcripts. Transcripts are a major part of the application process. The official transcripts must be sent directly from the institution attended and received in full. Completing this within the SOPHAS website will be the most efficient and effective way to complete this task within the application process1.

Last phase:

1-2 months prior to the application deadline, you need to:

  • Complete and submit your application.

  • Monitor and confirm receipt of transcripts and letters of recommendation.

  • Download the application PDF and save it for your records.

Overall, this process can seem rather overwhelming and tedious but with proper planning is completely manageable. This is a major step in one day contributing to the public health workforce, and making the world a healthier and safer place for all. Follow the steps discussed above, and continue reading our other articles regarding a master’s degree in public health to make your dreams a reality.

Do not hesitate to get this process started as soon as you can, because the world needs the best and brightest to solve today’s ever evolving public health issues.  

About the Authors

Written by:

Melisa Gebizlioglu, MPH

Melisa Gebizlioglu, MPH, is an experienced project manager at a nationally ranked Accountable Care Organization. Her current work focuses on seamless integration of electronic health records (EHR) to enhance care quality for patients. She has previously worked in health systems in the Greater Philadelphia area on numerous quality improvement and population health initiatives. She received her Master of Public Health degree from Drexel University. Prior to her work in the population health space, she worked as a certified Exercise Physiologist at fitness and wellness centers, and obtained her certification from the American College of Sports Medicine.

Opinions and information published by the author here on are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer or other organizations for my designated roles.

Melisa Gebizlioglu portrait photograph

Melisa Gebizlioglu, MPH

Education: Drexel Dornsife School of Public Health

Reviewed by:

Katherine Paul, MPH

Katherine Paul, MPH is a senior project manager at a leading medical communications and publications organization. She supports multidisciplinary teams handling large-scale accounts, the deliverables of which improve health outcomes and patient well-being. Ms. Paul holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in Health Promotion from Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health and passed the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) shortly after graduation. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Dickinson College.

Ms. Paul previously worked at a public health non-profit where she managed all aspects of diverse health-related projects, including the implementation of a randomized controlled clinical trial on sexual health for teens with developmental disabilities, as well as the evaluation of a statewide tobacco cessation program with more than 20,000 annual cases. She has developed and delivered posters and presentations at national conferences including the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting. 

Opinions and information published by the author here on are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer or other organizations for my designated roles.

Katherine Paul

Katherine Paul, MPH

Editorial Lead

Education: Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health

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