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What Is AU's Three-Year Public Health Scholars Program?

Students stand on the equator in Kenya

The Public Health Scholars Program offers an accelerated and intensive interdisciplinary course of study designed for highly motivated entering freshmen who are passionate about improving health.

When you join the Public Health Scholars Program, you are joining a group of outstanding students who are passionate about making a difference. The rigorous course of study is designed for dedicated students who want to be engaged in numerous experiential-learning opportunities. Our graduates go on to make a positive impact on health locally, nationally, and globally.

  • Study abroad for at least one semester (fall semester of their second year) with a small cohort.
  • Participate in core courses offered exclusively for Public Health Scholars.
  • Receive mentoring on academic and career goals by the program director and faculty mentoring in clinical, research, and/or community settings.
  • Participate in original research and scholarly writing with faculty in areas including epidemiology, global health, health equity, health policy, maternal and child health, nutrition, mental health, and health promotion.
  • Engage with the DC community-and your community abroad-through internships and service-learning activities.
Students stand near statue of Einstein

Scholars spend their first year of study together in a living learning community housed within Letts Hall, living alongside students in other AU three-year scholar programs.

Scholars attend monthly community meetings, along with the faculty director, to discuss public health and listen to guest speakers from the university, the federal government, and non-governmental organizations.

Scholars also participate in community trips around Washington, DC. The live learning community provides a rich environment for academic enrichment and career development.

Students are supported in the living learning community by a program associate (PA). The PA is a Public Health Scholar in his/her third year of study who lives in the same residential hall as the first-year students and acts as a mentor and guide for the experiential learning components of the program. The PA also works with the faculty director to implement the experiential, co-curricular, and service components of the program.

See more about our current scholars and recent alums.

Complete your MS degree in 1-year!

Health Studies students now have the opportunity to complete a combined Bachelor’s/Master’s program in 5 years (4 years for Public Health Scholars).

Students are eligible to apply if they meet the following requirements:

  • Cumulative 3.0 GPA or higher
  • Have earned 75 – 90 academic credits
  • Students are not required to take Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

If accepted into the combined program, graduate regulations permit 500 and 600 level approved courses to be shared between the BA/BS in Public Health or Health Promotion and the MS programs.

  • Health Promotion Management is a 36-credit MS program and permits 12 approved credits to be shared between degrees.
  • Nutrition Education is a 30-credit MS online program and permits 9 approved credits to be shared between degrees.

Students must apply for the Bachelor’s/Master’s option when they have earned between 75 – 90 credits; therefore, early planning is essential!

For more information, email healthstudies@american.edu.

General FAQ

No, students are selected for the 3-year program at the time of admission and can only enter the program in the freshman year.

No, the program is only for entering freshman.

Yes, AP or IB credits can be used to satisfy some AU requirements.

Yes, the program director will work with you to develop a course plan to meet requirements.  

Yes, students who decide that the 3-year program is not for them can transition into a 4-year degree program.

Yes, you will have the same ability as any other public health major to participate in a variety of activities, such as research, clubs and work, while completing your 3-year degree program.

No, you will only be taking certain classes together as a cohort such as Introduction to Public Health in your first semester and Public Health Seminar in your first summer.

The experiential-learning component is incorporated throughout the curriculum. All 3-year public health scholars partake in service-learning as part of the Introduction to Public Health course during the Fall of their first year. In general, you will have an option to choose between several community partners and will volunteer with the organizations for 6 weeks each. All scholars participate in the Community Service-Learning Program (CSLP). CSLP is a community service add-on credit to an existing course where students enhance their educational experience through practice by working with a nonprofit organization.

It depends on your degree track (BA/BS), if you are pursuing the pre-med track and number of AP credits you bring to AU.  There are two summer sessions (6 weeks each); so scholars stay in residence for both, some for one, and some choose to take online courses.

Financial Considerations

The cost of attendance for the 3-year degree program is similar to the cost of a 4-year program, since students will be attending the same number of semesters (8 total). For some students, it is possible for the overall cost to be less because the cost of attendance in the summer is based on credit hours.

Yes, students in the 3-year public health scholars program will still have the opportunity to receive merit awards and scholarships. Eligibility will vary for each award.

Yes, students in a 3-year program can use their AU grant and/or merit awards during the summer. Your scholarship amount for the summer is awarded on a per credit basis that is at equivalent to the amount you would receive in either the fall or spring semester.

Yes, students admitted to the 3-year public health scholars program can use their financial aid and merit awards to cover summer tuition and living expenses, provided you have met the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements and have submitted a Summer Aid Application.

How to Apply

Public Health Scholars posing victoriously

The Public Health Scholars Three-Year Program admits a limited number of students each year. Prospective students interested in joining the program should apply to AU and adhere to all application deadlines and requirements listed at Getting Started with AU Admissions.

In addition to the AU application, applicants must complete the Public Health Scholars Program application (online form).

Learn more about the Public Health Scholars Program by attending American University's Preview Day (typically held in February) and/or the Honors and Scholars Program Showcase (typically held in the October/November).

Current AU students are not eligible to apply for admission into the Public Health Scholars Program, as the program is designed for incoming freshmen.

For any questions, contact:
Melissa Hawkins
Director, Public Health Scholars Program
mhawkins@american.edu
202.885.6252