Applying to the SMS PhD

Admissions Requirements

Applicants to our PhD program will apply using SOPHAS.

Keeping in line with our partner GSAS programs, the GRE is required for applicants to the Anthropology and Sociology concentrations. The GRE is not required for History concentration applicants. While a master’s degree is not required for application to the PhD program, the majority of students admitted each year to the PhD program have a master’s degree.

Statement of Purpose Guidelines

All applicants must demonstrate their interest and experience in a Statement of Purpose no longer than 500 words long. PhD applicants must complete a statement of academic purpose that:

  1. Indicates the discipline in which they intend to concentrate (anthropology, history, or sociology)
  2. Articulates the questions they hope to explore at the intersection of their chosen discipline and public health
  3. Discusses how that area of the prospective scholarship will advance knowledge in the discipline and answer critical public health questions
  4. Indicates interest in available NIH grant training program* 
  5. Names the faculty members, both in SMS and in the relevant disciplinary department in Arts and Sciences, with whom they would like to work

*If applicants wish to seek support from the Predoctoral Fellowship in Gender, Sexuality, and Health, they must note their interest in gender and sexuality and briefly outline a prospective area of research for their doctoral dissertation in their statement of academic purpose. Similarly, applicants seeking support from the HIV Training Program in the Criminal Justice System should indicate and discuss this in their personal statement. Unfortunately, international students are not eligible for support from NIH training programs.

International students

All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS scores.

Because the SMS doctoral programs are to a substantial extent supported by NIH T32 grants, and those grants limit eligibility to individuals who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States, the department regrettably has limited funding available to international students. SMS has a long and distinguished history of training doctoral students from around the world, and prospective students are certainly encouraged to apply. We do not accept students who self-fund, but we have accepted students who meet the criteria for admission and who have independently secured external funding. 

Funding Packages

Beginning in the autumn of 2016, the Department of Sociomedical Sciences has offered five years of funding to accepted students in both the PhD and DrPH program. As of the 2020-2021 academic year, students receiving five-year funding packages from SMS receive a 12-month stipend, as well as tuition and fees. These five-year packages in some cases combine funding from existing NIH training programs or endowed scholarships with additional funds provided by the department and/or school. Over the course of their training, students are expected to complete 6-8 rotations, which will include training in research, teaching, and grant-writing. 

Prospective students are encouraged to apply for external funding at the same time as they are applying to the program, and all SMS students are expected to submit applications for external funding. SMS doctoral students have an outstanding record of success with NSF Graduate Research Fellowships and with NIH F31 awards, and the department provides additional support. Unfortunately, NIH training programs are not applicable to international students. 

Application Process 

All applications, including the requested materials and information, will be submitted through the SOPHAS online common application. The Schools of Public Health SOPHAS common application contains a number of questions on public health work experience and public health leadership aspirations. These questions are not weighted heavily in the admissions process for the PhD.

In the review process, we look for applicants who have a demonstrated capacity for academic excellence and the ability to ask innovative and important questions at the juncture of their discipline of choice and public health. We also consider carefully whether prospective students will find faculty mentorship that is a good match for the student’s research interests.

All students must submit an official transcript from each prior institution, a statement of academic purpose, a writing sample (a course paper, term paper, etc.) of not more than 15 pages, a resume or CV, and three letters of evaluation from academic sources

  • Deadline for Fall Admission: December 1
  • Deadline for Spring Admission: No spring admission
  • Official Transcripts: Yes
  • Letters of Evaluation (3): Yes
  • Resume/CV: Yes
  • Statement of Purpose: Yes (maximum 500 words)
  • TOEFL for International Applicants: Yes (minimum required TOEFL IBT score is 100 or 600 paper-based)
  • Writing Sample: Yes (no more than 10-15 pages)
  • GRE General: YES for Anthropology & Sociology concentrations / NO for History concentration applicants.
  • GRE Subject: No


Where can I go if I want to learn more about the doctoral programs?