Tips for a Successful Application

In the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, we want you to be successful when applying to our graduate programs. Think of your application as a way to help us get to know you. Who are you? What do you want to do with this degree? What would you contribute to our school culture? How can we help you be successful? Your application will be reviewed by two faculty members on the Nutritional Sciences Admissions Committee.  Our approach is both holistic and thorough and we truly enjoy learning about you as a future graduate student.

Creating an Application that Will Help You Stand Out

These tips will help you submit the strongest application possible for our programs. 

Writing Your Personal Statement

Writing a great personal statement takes time. We highly encourage you to seek feedback on your drafts from mentors and peers. A strong personal statement:

  • Articulates a clear focus related to pursuing a nutrition degree and intention in applying to the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Michigan Public Health.
  • Demonstrates critical reasoning and sophistication in making linkages between career goals and the expected learning and benefits of graduate education in nutritional sciences.
  • Connects past academic, professional, and personal experiences and training to skills and knowledge that will be acquired through a graduate degree in nutritional sciences.
  • Expresses specific interest in the curricula of the department and/or the research of specific faculty (particularly for MS and PhD students).
  • Has few to no grammatical errors, demonstrates English fluency, and indicates that the applicant has a high capacity to clearly communicate ideas in writing.

Showcasing Your Professional and Volunteer Experiences

The amount and quality of your professional and volunteer experiences will be evaluated as we review your application. Strong candidates generally have worked in a position using nutrition and/or public health skills, whether it be after their undergraduate degree or during summers. Experiences vary but may include AmeriCorps or PeaceCorps service, policy work,  food banks, health departments, school or community gardens, clinical nutrition shadowing, fitness and other non-profit organizations.  A clear dedication to nutrition and public health through volunteer experiences during college or after are highly valued. Brief periods of professional/volunteer experience will be given less consideration as compared to longer experiences.  

Highlighting Your Academic Record

Your previous grades, whether during undergraduate education, a previous master’s degree, or while you took our prerequisite courses outside of a degree program, are an important component of your application. An undergraduate GPA higher than 3.4 is generally considered acceptable for admission. However, GPAs of 3.0-3.4 may also be admissible as long as your grades in math and science courses (biology, chemistry, calculus, etc.) are above 3.0. 

We understand that some students have had challenges during their academic career, such as caring for a sick parent or major financial stressors. If you’ve experienced challenges, let us know in your reflective essay. We want to be able to consider your academic record in the context of those life experiences and we appreciate hearing how students have persevered through tough times. 

Finally, although our required prerequisite courses are all in the natural sciences, we embrace students with diverse backgrounds. In the past we’ve had anthropologists, dancers, English majors, and philosophers enroll. Just make sure your application demonstrates that you can succeed in rigorous natural science courses and use your personal statements to share with us why nutritional sciences is your calling. 

We encourage international applicants to carefully review the additional information provided on our International Applicants page.

Securing Strong Recommendation Letters

You are required to have three recommendation letters submitted with your application. We highly encourage you to ask previous professors and/or supervisors to write these letters. Letters from friends or relatives are discouraged as they are often not able to speak to your academic and professional accomplishments. 

When asking people to write your recommendation letters, it’s helpful to give them your resume and personal statement to review so they know what your passions are and why you are applying to our program. We also recommend that you give people at least a month to write and submit your letters, and think about a back-up letter writer in case someone becomes unavailable. 

Addressing Missing Prerequisite Courses

We prefer that your prerequisites are completed before reviewing your application, however many students are still in the process of completing them in their undergraduate degree or separately through online, community or local colleges and universities. If you are missing one to two prerequisite courses, please state in your application when you plan to take these courses. You can be conditionally admitted to the program and will be notified in your acceptance letter that your courses must be complete prior to beginning your first academic term with a B grade or better.      

If you are missing three prerequisite courses, please state in your application when you plan to take these courses. The Admissions Committee is unable to make a final decision on your application until at least one out of the three prerequisites is complete. You will be contacted by the program coordinator to confirm that a concrete plan is in place to complete the required courses. Once you have a maximum of two missing prerequisite courses, the Admissions Committee can use midterm or final grades for courses in progress to move your application through the process to and may either admit you or conditionally admit you.

If you are missing four or more prerequisite courses, please contact the program coordinator, to discuss if it is feasible for you to complete these courses before the admissions deadline.  

Tips for Prospective PhD Students

Below are some frequently asked questions for those interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences.

What is the first step to applying to the PhD program? 

The most important thing about applying to and enrolling in a PhD program is the fit between you and your mentor/advisor. This will be a lifelong relationship, it’s great to make sure that you have scientific interests in common and complementary expectations regarding communication, engagement, etcetera. As a first step, we strongly suggest that you review our faculty profiles and read more about their research. Then, send an email to faculty who share your research interests, inquire if they are accepting PhD students in the year you plan to apply, and indicate your interest in specific faculty on your application. Doctoral applicants who are admissible and have a potential mentor match are invited to a Research Day in late January. Because a good mentor-mentee relationship is so critical to your success, we do not admit students who do not have a clear faculty mentoring plan.

What are the prerequisites for the PhD program? 

One semester of each: Calculus, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Human Physiology (must be Human Physiology OR Anatomy and Physiology NOT mammalian or animal. The physiology curriculum must include the digestive and endocrine systems.) 

Where should I complete the prerequisites that I am missing? 

Prerequisites can be completed at a university, community college, or an online institution and it must be a regionally accredited institution.  Contact a Nutritional Sciences program coordinator if you have any questions regarding your selected course(s).  

How should I submit the transcript once I have completed a prerequisite?  Where do I send the transcript? 

Send your transcript by email to the Nutritional Sciences program coordinator. You may also mail your transcript to: Attn: Susan Aaronson, Graduate Program Coordinator, School of Public Health, Department of Nutritional Sciences, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.

What is the minimum GPA for admission? 

An undergraduate GPA of at least  3.4 is generally considered acceptable for admission. However, GPAs of 3.0-3.4 are also admissible as long as your grades in math and sciences courses (biology, chemistry, calculus, etc.) are above 3.0.

Do I need to have a degree in Nutrition? 

No! Successful applicants demonstrate a strong interest in science and health, most have an undergraduate or master’s degree in some field of basic or applied science, and, at a minimum, all need to have taken courses in biology, physiology, general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, and calculus. 

Can I complete the registered dietitian (RD) requirements with the PhD? 

Yes, it is possible to complete the RD requirements while pursuing your PhD. The decision will be made jointly with your faculty mentor to determine the timing and funding to complete your Dietetic Internship.

Is the GRE required? 

The School of Public Health will not require GRE test scores from individuals applying to our doctoral-level programs for a Fall 2022 start. Decisions about GRE requirements moving forward will be made for future admissions cycles.  

Do I need to have a master’s degree? 

Although a prior master’s degree is preferred for our PhD students, it is not required. Applicants who have strong prior professional or research experience with only bachelor’s degrees will be considered.

Do I need to have research experience? 

No, but research experience either though paid or volunteer positions, or prior coursework, does strengthen your application. All applicants, regardless of prior experience, should discuss why a research degree is the best next step for your career.

Am I fully funded and what does that mean? 

We make sure that there is a plan to financially support your time in our program when we admit you.  . This means that some very qualified applicants may not be accepted if there is not funding available. We highly encourage applicants to connect with faculty members whose research interests match theirs in order to get a sense of whether funding might be available. Our funding packages are often a combination of various types of funding sources: Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) positions, Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA) positions, training grants, and fellowships. 

Tips for Prospective Master’s Degree Students

Below are some tips and frequently asked questions for those interested in pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) or a Master of Science (MS) in Nutritional Sciences.

Should I get an MS or MPH? 

The bottom line is that the MS is a research degree while the MPH is a practice degree. The MS requires less coursework because students will spend the majority of their time conducting original research with a faculty member. Here are short articles about some of our faculty, students and their interests. The MS applicant may have already participated in undergraduate research or have worked in a research position.  This is helpful however not mandatory. A true desire and passion to engage in a research project at the thesis level makes for a strong candidate. The MPH includes more coursework and applied practice experiences to provide students comprehensive training in public health and nutrition. Both MS and MPH students can complete the coursework required to be eligible to become a Registered Dietitian (RD).

Master of Science Master of Public Health
Primarily research based Primarily course based
Evaluated by thesis committee Evaluated only in course
Goal is obtaining new knowledge Goal is understanding current knowledge
Learn to be a scientist Learn to be a professional
Summer devoted to research Summer devoted to internship

What are the prerequisites for the MPH program?

One semester of each: General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Human Physiology (must be Human Physiology OR Anatomy and Physiology NOT mammalian or animal. The physiology curriculum must include the digestive and endocrine systems.)  

What are the prerequisites for the MS program? 

One semester of each: Calculus, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Human Physiology (must be Human Physiology OR Anatomy and Physiology NOT mammalian or animal. The physiology curriculum must include the digestive and endocrine systems.) 

Where should I complete the prerequisites that I am missing? 

Prerequisites can be completed at a university, community college, or an online institution and it must be a regionally accredited institution. Contact the Nutritional Sciences program coordinator if you have any questions regarding your selected course(s).  

How should I submit the official transcript once I have completed a prerequisite?  Where do I send the transcript? 

Send your official transcript by email to Susan Aaronson or Carole Durgy, Nutritional Sciences program coordinators. You may also mail your transcript to: Attn: Susan Aaronson, Graduate Program Coordinator, School of Public Health, Department of Nutritional Sciences, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. We suggest reaching out to your home institution's registrar's office to learn more about the options available. 

How large is the department?

Although each cohort varies, we typically have between 25 and 35 students enrolled in each MPH cohort, 6-12 students in each MS cohort and a total of 15-20 students pursuing their PhD.

What is the minimum GPA for admission? 

An undergraduate GPA higher than 3.4 is generally considered acceptable for admission. However, GPAs of 3.0-3.4 are also admissible as long as your grades in math and sciences courses (biology, chemistry, calculus, etc.) are above 3.0.

Michigan Public Health practices a holistic review process when making graduate students admission decisions. Faculty reviewers give careful consideration to all materials submitted by a student. We look at grades and key coursework, essays, experience, and letters of recommendation. 

Do most students work while in graduate school? 

A majority of students work a minimum of 10 hours a week during the academic year. It is recommended that during a student’s first semester, they do not work more than 10 hours a week since there is an adjustment period to starting a graduate program. Some students are able to balance 20 hours a week while attending school. 

How do I get involved in research if I am pursuing an MPH degree? 

Many MPH students find research opportunities (paid or volunteer positions) by contacting Nutritional Sciences faculty. Research opportunities across the School of Public Health are readily available throughout the school year and are posted in The Vector newsletter. The Student Employment Office and University Careers website post open positions frequently.

Do most students complete a certificate? 

A small number of Nutritional Sciences students complete a certificate while completing their studies. Learn more about certificate programs offered through the School of Public Health and Rackham Graduate School

The Graduate Certificate Program in Sustainability is a popular certificate with Nutritional Sciences students who are interested in sustainable food systems. Every cohort also has a few students who complete the Physical Activity & Nutrition (PAN) certificate.

If you are interested in pursuing a certificate, we encourage you to connect with your faculty advisor. 

Why choose the University of Michigan for Nutritional Sciences?

Our faculty, staff and students are engaged, passionate and friendly. We make you and your graduate degree journey a priority. Our faculty have diverse backgrounds and research areas and have many niche and fascinating interests including food insecurity, sustainable food systems, maternal and child nutrition, eating disorders, nutrient metabolism, sleep regulation and nutrition epidemiology. Our Dietetics concentration and Dietetic Internship program provide a path for students who wish to become Registered Dietitian (RD) nutritionists. As a member of our Nutritional Sciences community you will be engaged, challenged and fascinated by the opportunities to pursue your passion.

Career Outcomes

Due to the diverse interests of our students, they select a variety of career paths.  View more information about some of their job titles and alumni journeys.

Are there different application systems for MPH, MS and PhD degree programs?

Students applying to the MPH degree will complete their application through the SOPHAS portal. Students applying to the MS or PhD degree will complete their application through the Rackham CollegeNet portal. View more information.

View additional Frequently Asked Questions related to our residential degree programs. 

Contact Us

If you have additional questions please contact Susan Aaronson, Graduate Program Coordinator, or Carole Durgy, Student Services Coordinator.

Ready to Apply?

Start with our Applications & Deadlines to learn about specific degree application deadlines and requirements. International applicants will find additional information on our International Students page.

Questions?

For more information about the admissions process, contact our admissions team at sph-inquiries@umich.edu or 734-763-3860.

If you would like to receive more information about a specific department or program, please connect with us through our prospective student inquiry form.

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