Demystifying the UCD MPH application

I found that the most stressful part of applying to University College Dublin’s Master of Public Health program wasn’t waiting for the decision.  It was the application process itself.  

The course website doesn’t have a lot of information about admissions requirements, other than language requirements for those whose first language isn’t English.  So, I figured I might as well start an application anyway, and figure it out from there.

Once you make an account through the UCD application portal (sisweb), the application form itself is pretty straightforward.  There are areas to enter your contact and basic demographic information, employment and educational history, and… oh, wait.  References?  Transcripts upload?  This is where it became a little less clear.

The transcripts, from what I read, could be unofficial copies.  It’s not until you receive an offer that you must send official transcripts.  But, did they have to be scanned copies of the official documents?  I had my official transcript from my graduate career at University of Maryland, Baltimore County so that wasn’t an issue, but I didn’t have one for undergraduate at West Virginia University.  The best thing I had for WVU was a web version of the complete, final transcript I downloaded after graduation in 2008.  I saved it as a pdf and uploaded it along with the scanned copy from UMBC.  I assumed that if they had an issue with the crude WVU copy, they could just ask for another one.

References are usually a bigger deal, at least in the U.S., so I was nervous about the lack of information.  Not only did the website not mention how many you needed and in what caliber (employment/academic), there was no guidance on how to submit them.  I found it hard to believe that I wouldn’t need any at all, so I listed two references; one for my mentor/boss during my graduate research assistantship, and the other for a work colleague at the state health department.

After filling out the application in its entirety and uploading the appropriate documents, I paid the application fee of 50 euro and crossed my fingers.  Once it was submitted, my application status curiously read, “Application Complete.”  An automated email sent upon submission eased my fears a bit more by reiterating that official transcripts are not needed in this stage of the process.  I still felt unsure about the references though, so I emailed the department directly.

What I got was a mix of vague and conflicting information.  The lady who wrote back to me, who appears to be the program administrator, told me in one sentence that I needed an up-to-date CV, certified transcripts, and one academic reference.  Even though I was quite explicit in my questions regarding transcripts and references, I felt even more confused once I got her response that did not address any of them.  I already had received  automated instructions from the university about unofficial transcripts being acceptable, so I was going to take that as law.  However, the reference business continued to be a mystery.  I told my academic reference that I’d need her to type something up that we could mail directly to the university.  In the meantime, I waited.

My old mentor is extremely busy at all times, so I didn’t pester her.  A part of me thought that if they truly needed a reference, they would contact me and let me know.  Maybe it was stupid to assume that, but it ended up working out.  I submitted my application on 12/15/15 then had my offer letter on 1/29/16.  I thought it was a really fast turnaround, especially taking into consideration the time at which I submitted it over the holidays.

I asked both of my references if they ever submitted anything and they told me that they had not.  I don’t know if this is standard practice or if they didn’t require any due to my GPAs (3.4 undergraduate, 3.8 graduate) but this was what I experienced.  Aside from the uncertainty and doubt I felt during the whole process, it was overall a pretty painless undertaking.  No references, essays, test scores, or interviews required.

In summary, when applying to UCD’s MPH program as an international student (this is me speaking as a student from the U.S.), you’ll need to fill out the application form online, upload unofficial transcripts, and list at least one reference.  If you are unsure about the references for your own application, I would get in contact with the department.  I can’t guarantee that you’ll get an answer you’ll like, like in my case, but I wouldn’t want someone taking my word for it, then not getting in based on that.

One last hint for U.S. and Canadian students: I didn’t look into the scholarships available and would have missed out on this one if the North American Rep hadn’t mentioned it when she emailed me about another award I received.  The Global Excellence Graduate Scholarship is open to “all successful applicants to eligible full time, one-year taught Masters programmes who are citizens of and resident in North America.”  The awards range from 50% to 100% tuition remission.  But get your applications in to your program early; the scholarship deadline is usually mid-February and you’ll need an offer before the time of application.

Good luck to all MPH hopefuls who happen upon this post in search for more information.  Feel free to ask questions in the comments, should you need more guidance.  I’m so happy to be past the waiting game and able to start planning for my next big career and continent move!


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