Everyone should think critically about the decision to go to graduate school. Reasons to continue your education should not be: ‘I’m bored’ ‘I don’t want to apply for jobs’ ‘I’m good at school, why not keep studying’ ‘Might as well just streamline and get school over with.’ If any of those reasons are your primary motivation for applying to graduate school, I would HIGHLY recommend doing some more research about your interests, taking some time to work, or seeking new employment opportunities in a more fulfilling area.
Now, if you’ve thought carefully about why you’d like to be at a school of public health and you’re ready to apply – this blog is for you! Deciding on where you’d like to apply to graduate school can be a very daunting task. Below you will find some tips for narrowing down your choices and applying to the best schools for you.
1. Learning Environment
The first thing you should factor into your decision is who you’d like to learn from on the faculty and student level. RSPH proudly hires world-renowned faculty members who have a wide-array of experiences in the field of public health. I would highly recommend you research the instructors in the departments you are interested in and see if their interests align with your own. Being able to take classes you are passionate about is a must-have in any graduate program. RSPH also has a diverse class of incoming students. Some have worked for years, domestically and abroad, and bring a clear vision of the impact they wish to make in the field. Others come to RSPH straight from undergraduate and bring creative ideas to the classroom. Regardless of your interests, you should consider what you will learn from other students as heavily as you would from the professors. A good fit for a school of public health will be a program that piques your curiosity and offers opportunities for you to grow in and out of the classroom.
2. People/School culture
The next important thing to factor into your decision is how the school and the people who attend it make you feel. Do you enjoy the vibe of the school? Do you feel comfortable on its campus? Do alumni speak highly about their time there? Are there student organizations that you would be excited to get involved with? RSPH cultivates an extremely inclusive environment where students support each other personally, as well as academically. Feeling comfortable at a school is a huge plus in the I should apply category.
3. Surrounding area
The last of the top three reasons for applying to a school of public health is that you feel drawn to the community that the school is in. Don’t forget that although an MPH is only two years – the city you choose to move to is still home! Do some research into the things that people do for fun off-campus. What’s the weather like? Will you need a car? What community organizations do students volunteer with? Atlanta is a very vibrant city with a lot to do. RSPH is also next door to the CDC and a stone throws away from the Carter Center and CARE. Make sure that you’d like living in a city before you decide to apply to a school there.
Most students are paying for graduate school with their own savings. If you fall into this category, don’t discount how much financial stability matters. However, this is one of the last considerations on the list because you should weigh the previous factors more heavily than price. Paying less, but being unhappy with little room for professional growth isn’t worth the investment. With that said, RSPH’s base tuition is affordable. On top of that RSPH takes great pride in making sure that students can afford their education. There are a number of need and merit-based scholarships, in addition to work-study jobs through the REAL program, that make RSPH one of the more affordable schools of public health.
The last thing to consider, and what I attach the least amount of weight to, is the prestige of the institution. Some students like to make final decisions by comparing the ranking of the schools they are considering. I will reiterate, choosing a high-ranking school, but being unhappy with little support isn’t worth it. However, if you do think that prestige will make a difference in your decision – keep in mind that RSPH is a Top 10 School of Public Health and is constantly incorporating student and faculty feedback to make our school as exceptional as possible.
Once you have thought through all these factors, it’s time to narrow down your list. I love making a March Madness style elimination bracket to narrow my lists down to 6, 5, 4 or less. I pair similar schools together (based on the 5 factors above) and have them face off. It’s easier to choose between two at a time and when you look up, your final schools will have selected themselves. For me, RSPH was ultimately the perfect combination of learning environment, people/school culture, surrounding area, money and prestige. I’m extremely happy with my decision and I hope this list will help you to make the perfect decision for what you are looking for!