Studying Public Health

So you want to study public health?

As a capped major at UC Berkeley, the Public Health major requires one extra step before declaring: completing the undergraduate major application. The online application is the gateway into a full course-load of Public Health upper-division classes — a two-year immersion that will broaden your perspective on health systems, challenge you to think critically, and give you the opportunity to engage with new material in the realm of public health. The application includes a series of demographic questions, two essays, and a résumé. You can find the direct application here.

Most importantly, the application is your chance to portray yourself in a genuine manner, reaffirm your passion for public health, hone in on your goals, and start making tangible decisions that will directly affect your future!

Here are the three main tips that helped me through the application process:

Plant the seeds: Why public health?

Whether you’ve been drawn to studying public health since day one at Cal or your interest in the field was just sparked yesterday, brainstorming will likely aid your essay-writing process. Some questions to ask yourself before you dive into the essays include: Who inspires you? What specific topics do you find the most interesting – nutrition, infectious diseases, health policy, etc.? How do these issues relate to your story? When did you become interested in these topics and why do you think they are important? Is there a specific problem or question that you’re interested in solving that drives you to study public health? Then grab a piece of paper and casually jot down any relevant words, themes, ideas, or pictures – get creative! This may seem like a trivial exercise, but an idea you write down could end up sparking a topic.

Minimize stress

Your application process should be a combination of both effort and ease, and starting early is always a great way to combat anxieties about deadlines. Have a look at the essay prompts earlier and keep the topics in the back of your head. You want to produce an authentic response that is reflective of you, your experiences, and your view of public health based on your story. It may be hard to produce a genuine response when you’re cramming an hour before the deadline – so give yourself plenty of time to work on your essays beforehand. That way, when the application period opens, all you have to do is answer the demographic questions and copy and paste in your essays.

Reach out for clarifications

Don’t be afraid to contact public health advisors or your advisor in general with questions via email. It’s also helpful to meet with an advisor in person, especially to go over prerequisites and ensure you’re on the right track. Advisors can also provide great direction in terms of your career path in public health.

Good luck on your applications!