MHA applications are booming on SOPHAS. No surprise, yeah? ALL healthcare fields are booming these days! That’s good news if you want to manage a hospital’s nitty gritty finances or work in Insurance Consulting. Grad schools now offer better programs and residencies than ever. Yet, this also means applications are more competitive than ever…and that’s why you need an MHA statement of purpose that makes you absolutely shine.
Fear not, future health administrator. In this article, we’ll examine the SOPs of two students who achieved insane success in recent admissions cycles. One, Cole, was a domestic US student. The other, Rishi, a self-described “average” international from India. Now, they’re both on their way to rock star careers.
Let’s learn from their amazing examples. First, we’ll review the magical WriteIvy template both students used to write their MHA statement of purpose. Then, we’ll read their essays. Then, you’ll know how to achieve the exact same success in public health.
Cole was a golden boy. With a 3.9 GPA from a top-50 public university, an excellent hospital internship, and a deadly certain goals, he was exactly the kind of students MHA programs look for. Yet, he didn’t consider himself a polished writer, and worried that his first-draft SOP was unfocused.
Rishi was a little different. A recent dental-school graduate from India, he described himself as “the most average student that has probably ever applied.” He did have a graduate certificate in Public Policy, but with his 3.3 GPA, he felt he needed a truly spectacular SOP to give him a chance.
Cole must have set an admissions speed record! Within 9 days of submitting his applications on SOPHAS, he interviewed with 3 of the top-10 MHA programs. Mind-blowingly, his #1 choice offered him admission on the spot, right there on Zoom…with a 75% tuition scholarship!
Rishi too had unbelievable success, but let him tell you the story in his own words:
“Jordan, you’re the man! I got into 2 of the top #5 programs that I applied to. Just got an acceptance from [Top-5 University] yesterday. This is a huge deal for me because I am THE most average student that has probably ever applied. My GPA is a feeble 3.33, I have no awards, no publications, no achievements. I relied on nothing but my statement of purpose and it got me to places I could not have imagined. Big thanks to you once again!”
Both and Cole and Rishi followed the Structure is Magic template, and they did so beautifully. Let’s recap:
- Frame Narrative Intro: Both began with a personal, story-based introduction. For Cole, this was two paragraphs at 20% of his total word count. For Rishi, two long-ish paragraphs, and 33% of his word count. (In my opinion, Rishi should have edited this down to 25% or less.)
- Academic Goals: Super important! Both applicants used their frame narratives to introduce the intellectual questions and humanistic issues that drive their goals. For example:
“How can we prevent entire families from declaring bankruptcy due to healthcare costs? How can hospitals continuously improve the overall health of a community?”
- Why This Program: Both wrote a highly detailed section explaining exactly which courses they want to take, which resources they’ll use, and why the schools are uniquely relevant for them. For Cole, this was two paragraphs and 24% of his word count. For Rishi, two paragraphs at 21%.
- Why I’m Qualified: AFTER they’d fully explained their reasons for applying, ONLY THEN did Cole and Rishi describe their own credentials. For Cole, this section was 2 paragraphs and 25% of word count. For Rishi, it was exactly the same.
HOT TIP: Be like Cole and Rishi. Never put your “autobiography” of credentials at the start of the essay. Smart, super-competitive applicants never do this because it defies all logic of argumentation and annoys the crap out of your reader. It’s like clicking a YouTube video titled “How to get rich in crypto today!”, then having to wait 5 minutes as the speaker reads their CV.
“Shut up already,” you’d say. “Just tell me which dog coins to buy.”
- Career Goals: Both applicants transitioned into their Conclusion with a paragraph explaining their hopeful careers. Rishi kept his short. Cole, however, took the chance to further expound on his larger, overarching, humanistic concerns.
- Frame Narrative Conclusion: In their final paragraphs, both students circled back to the personal topics from their intros. For Cole, this was the story of how he transitioned from Pre-Med to Health Administration. Rishi reminded the reader of the larger healthcare problems in India, and why he wants to help solve them.
Thematic Similarity: Healthcare Disparities
I have to point out how, despite coming from opposite sides of the world, Cole and Rishi both want to solve the same problems.
“My career goal is simple: to attain a leadership position in the administrative side of a hospital or healthcare system where I can be of service to communities who, for whatever reason, are not receiving the exceptional care they need.”
“World Bank data suggests that about 62% of health expenditure in India is out of pocket by patients, the economic consequences of which could be dire for families from lower income brackets…How can we prevent entire families from declaring bankruptcy due to healthcare costs? ”
In essence, both want to address an issue that’s ubiquitous today: healthcare disparities. They want to help everyone gain access to high-quality medical care, no matter their income, caste, race, or geographical location. The only difference between Cole and Rishi? One wants to make an impact in decaying US cities. One wants to help rising cities in India.
Same goals, different locations.
Same noble hearts.
Same fantastic results.
Now, what do you say we read these spectacular essays?
Cole’s MHA Statement of Purpose
My father is an internal medicine physician, and throughout my youth, I had always planned on following in his footsteps. I hoped to become a cardiologist; it seemed both challenging and fascinating. However, after I began my pre-med requirements at Metropolis University, curiously, a single class changed the trajectory of my life. The course was titled “The Science and Business of Cancer Therapies,” and it challenged my beliefs and sense of self in a way no biology or chemistry class ever had. As I delved deep into the study of cancer treatments, pharmaceutical companies, and medical patents, I faced a startling reality: the United States does not offer a singular healthcare system, but rather an array of systems in which certain populations suffer inferior outcomes for reasons as simple as their ZIP Code. Most troubling was the realization that in low-income counties not far from my home, residents face cancer recovery rates 10-20% lower than my own neighbors might.
Issues like these trouble me. Yet, they explain why I changed my major to Community Health with a concentration in Health Planning and Administration, and why I pursued an administrative internship at Kent Hospital in Smallville, KS. They also explain why I am applying to the Master of Health Administration program at Gotham University today. By becoming an administrative leader, I can play a role in improving healthcare access for far more people than I ever could as a doctor.
The MHA program at the Gotham Luther School of Public Health is my top choice for several reasons, with the yearlong residency chief among them. Far more intense than the simulations or short-terms residencies at other programs, this experience of working full-time in a healthcare setting will prove impactful as I begin my career. It is encouraging to see students from the class of 2022 being placed in residencies in locations as widespread as California, New York, and Florida. Yet, as a Midwesterner, it is also empowering to know that I could work in Kansas if this gave me a greater chance to learn and grow. At the same time, the program’s numerous finance courses interest me deeply. Though I have taken multiple undergraduate courses in healthcare finance and data analysis, I recognize the importance of preparing thoroughly for the complex quantitative aspects of a career in service to large, diverse communities. Encapsulating all of these efforts in an accelerated program will surely be challenging, but this gives me confidence that my Gotham education will make me immediately ready to contribute as a healthcare leader upon graduating.
I also look forward to numerous co-curricular opportunities at Gotham, especially those that will allow me to promote accessibility while learning about large-scale health policy applications. The American Mock World Health Organization seems particularly intriguing. Participating in simulations of the World Health Assembly stands out as an opportunity to consider policy from a macroscopic perspective, and I am excited that Gotham is one of the very few schools who participate. For all these reasons, I feel certain that the Luther MHA program is uniquely poised to offer opportunities I could not find anywhere else.
While I believe my academic record, highlighted by my 3.9 major GPA, demonstrates that I will be a strong addition to the MHA program, I think my experience in a hospital setting gives me a unique perspective that other candidates may not have. While interning at Kent Hospital in the summer of 2021, I worked with a wide range of healthcare professionals, including physical therapists, physicians, and hospital administrators. On one particularly impactful project, I was tasked with helping a team interpret three months of patient-survey data and identifying correlations. Which floor the patient stayed on, the problems that occurred most frequently (lack of communication, long discharge process, unprofessional behavior, cleanliness), and the patient’s likelihood of recommending the hospital to family – these all provided clues to improving patient outcomes and hospital efficiency. I am proud that our findings convinced leadership to address numerous concerns, including revamping their discharge process (the most frequent complaint) and creating a policy requiring physicians and nurses to walk into treatment rooms together to address a perceived lack of communication (another recurring grievance).
At Kent, I also helped launch a new policy-and-contract software that the hospital is implementing today. Their goal was to make all documents available digitally and I helped by uploading thousands of policies, vendor and physician contracts, and affiliation, sales, and licensing agreements into a new database. Yet, in the end, I feel strongly that my most important experience was shadowing both administrative and operational leaders. I spent hours, and sometimes weeks, with people in nearly every department, from the CEO’s office to patient safety, physician relations, and sterile processing. Observing their interactions made me realize how much collaboration and teamwork goes into making sure a hospital operates smoothly, and I eagerly await the chance to contribute to such teams on a larger scale.
My career goal is simple: to attain a leadership position in the administrative side of a hospital or healthcare system where I can be of service to communities who, for whatever reason, are not receiving the exceptional care they need. Metropolis, Gotham City, Cincinnati, and Detroit all interest me because 25% or more of their populations live in poverty, almost certainly reflecting unique healthcare needs. I am particularly interested in organizations whose grassroots efforts include opening more free health clinics, hiring more bilingual healthcare workers, hosting educational seminars, and incentivizing physicians and nurses to spend time helping these communities. Thus, organizations such as Stark Health in New Jersey and Shield Health in Illinois are of particular interest to me; the former because of their disease prevention initiatives, and chronic disease-care programs for the uninsured, and the latter for the way they reinvest in community benefit programs for those without the ability to pay. Of course, I realize that I am one person and that the health disparities many communities face are complex beyond reason. Yet, through steady efforts and continued devotion to educating, screening, and treating those who currently face gaps in healthcare access, I am confident that I can build the kind of career that I consider a success.
The first step to accomplishing this goal is to maximize all the resources available in the Gotham MHA program. During my internship at Kent, every leadership-team member held advanced degrees, typically an MHA, with approximately half also holding an MBA. Through my work with these professionals, I saw firsthand (and learned from anecdotes) how invaluable an advanced Healthcare Administration program can be. The majority of these administrators completed their degrees later in their career, indicating that I will face unique challenges as a recent graduate. Yet, I look forward to surmounting these challenges, knowing it will put me at an advantage professionally and provide me with all the more opportunities to make a difference in my career. Even though the Gotham University MHA program will undoubtedly present a great challenge, I know it will prepare me for a lifelong career in healthcare, and in service to my community.
Rishi’s MHA Statement of Purpose
A hallmark moment for any dental student is their first successful treatment — a denture restoring a smile, a restoration alleviating pain, or any procedure returning physiological function of the oral cavity. This is a pious and cathartic experience after three years of trials and tribulations studying dentistry in India. However, this feeling did not last long for me, as I experienced a gradual shift in perspective, a result of my close interactions with patients. My eyes opened to problems outside patient’s oral cavities, a dentist’s most common area of interest. As India and particularly richer cities like Bangalore marched ahead in their growth stories, multiple antithetical experiences in basic healthcare started to deeply plague me. Some of the recurring themes among patients, as evidenced in literature as well, were — affordability of appropriate care, impaired access to healthcare facilities, and distrust in the quality of health systems in place. This has been consistent in the feedback I receive from patients too. More perniciously, an overall unsatisfactory experience with the dental hospital system eventually drove them away, never to return or follow up. However, the holistic picture across the country is much more stark.
World Bank data suggests that about 62% of health expenditure in India is out of pocket by patients, the economic consequences of which could be dire for families from lower income brackets. In addition, existing solutions are only stopgap solutions. For example, private intervention in healthcare is good; but potential market failures and information asymmetry between patients and providers is largely disadvantageous to poorer patients, leading to disastrous consequences. While I noticed these issues long before the pandemic, the second wave of Covid-19, which devastated India, brought them to the forefront. I recall making frantic calls to secure hospital beds not just for my family, but strangers as well. This left a lasting feeling of helplessness that I needed to address. Issues of oxygen supply chain, inefficient resource management in delivering timely healthcare, and feeble policymaking further deteriorated the previously problematic healthcare system. This makes a basic premise for my deep interest in studying healthcare policy and administration.
At Gotham University, I plan to study the complex nature of healthcare administration. Studying at the Health Policy & Management Department will enable me to address the following issues based on aforementioned themes: How can we prevent entire families from declaring bankruptcy due to healthcare costs? How can hospitals continuously improve the overall health of a community? These questions spring to mind as I contemplate the future, and warrant a unique set of skills including but not limited to financial management of health services, developing evolved payment methods, and analytics in healthcare.
I look forward to courses like Database Systems which will allow me to work with relational database systems, build on my elementary understanding of SQL, and help me work with data to make informed decisions. As an international student in a region with very little context of demographic and health trends, I believe Population Health Informatics will also provide an indispensable skill. Factoring appropriate epidemiological data into managerial decision-making – this is something I can take with me back home, given the apparent spatial health disparities. Furthermore, I believe it is of utmost importance for health systems to be cognizant of health trends in the communities they serve.
Thus, beyond the core curriculum, the Value-Driven Insurance Design Institute will allow me to explore pertinent concepts like alternative, value-based payment, which would be pivotal in reducing bankruptcies secondary to healthcare costs. The clinical nuances driving value-based insurance design play to my strengths as a clinician. Furthermore, I believe the Stark Leadership Center will provide valuable insight from industry practitioners, allowing me to build vital relationships, and helping me leverage cutting-edge research into the kind of decision-making that is crucial for fostering innovation. Lastly, I feel enthusiastic about participating in case competitions where I can hone high-level analytical skills while networking with peers from other schools.
I fully realize the extent of the transition I intend to make, from a clinical field of study to that of management and administration. In my mandatory internship year as a dental student, I went beyond my confined role to assist in floor-level administration duties like stock/inventory management, maintaining outpatient registries, and addressing patient complaints. Part of my daily life as a dental student involved devising and revising treatment plans to fit patients’ affordability, helping patients get through their anxiety, and managing their pain effectively.
To cement my understanding, I attempted to write on how the patient inflow at my hospital was affected due to the pandemic and the government policies put in place, taking into account stringency measures such as travel bans, school closures, etc. While the paper still needs work, I used the opportunity to teach myself basic Excel, data visualization, and entry-level data analysis. I then understood the value that regression analysis brings to the table.
With a newfound hunger for knowledge in the healthcare domain, I enrolled in a Graduate Certificate course at The Public Policy Institute of Bangalore, for which I received a scholarship for my keen interest in the field as a dental student. I gained a clearer understanding of the multifaceted nature of healthcare. The highlight of my time at PPIB was learning Bardach’s Eightfold Path to policy analysis during a rigorous workshop, where I worked with a diverse team involving IT professionals and a nuclear medicine physicist. This provided me with a strong framework to approach problem-solving.
I aim to retain a strong focus on the health system in the future, working as a healthcare management consultant to bridge gaps between providers and payers. Gotham University will be instrumental in making me a well-rounded healthcare manager, through its courses designed to cover a range of competencies like financing and strategic operations.
In an extremely heterogeneous society such as India with multidimensional divisions based on — caste, ethnicity, color, and region, a hierarchical structure backboned by the above is a lived experience to me. However, I am deeply privileged compared to most of my country in having the ability to apply to Gotham University. Beyond acknowledging this, it is my single-minded focus to work on healthcare systems to break these hierarchies.
I’m grateful to both Cole and Rishi for allowing me to republish their SOPs. Both worked incredibly hard to craft poignant, profound essays. And both hope you’ll find inspiration in their writing. These guys are true rock stars.
Cole’s essay gives us one of the best “Why This Program” sections I’ve ever seen. It’s so incredibly thorough, and so connected to his goals, that it’s no surprise he was offered a giant scholarship in his Zoom interview. He knows everything about the program, and tells them exactly how it’s going to launch his career.
Rishi shows us that it doesn’t matter if your GPA isn’t perfect. It doesn’t matter if you have no awards, publications, or achievements. Intelligent writing proves, more than anything else, that you’re an intelligent student. If you take the time to write something poignant, you can win.
As you craft your MHA statement of purpose, remember to structure your essay correctly. Use the SOP Starter Kit to shape your outline, then use the timeless lessons of Structure is Magic to polish your story till it shines.
It worked for Cole and Rishi. Both are now students at top-5 MHA programs. Why don’t you join them?
Not sure you can write an SOP that’s perfect for top-schools? I can help!
How will you write your MHA statement of purpose?