Frequently Asked Questions

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    Sarah Hulit, S18

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    Why HSSP?

    Launched in 2003, HSSP is an interdisciplinary undergraduate program that draws from three of the major strengths of Brandeis: the life sciences, the social sciences of health, and the health policy of the Heller School. There are few programs like HSSP in the country; the emphasis is studying multiple perspectives on health and healthcare.

    By majoring or minoring in HSSP, you have the opportunity to examine both health and illness as complex biological, behavioral and social, political, and economic phenomena. You can examine health-related issues from an array of perspectives while having the opportunity for a hands-on internship or research experience. One of the core requirements is HSSP 100b - Introduction to Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Population Health, an important perspective rarely offered to undergraduates.

    By undertaking this broad, interdisciplinary study of health, students prepare themselves for a variety of educational and professional opportunities. Graduates of HSSP will go on to careers in the fields of medicine, dentistry, public health, clinical therapy, social work, genetic counseling, biomedical research, law, social policy and public service, among many others.

    HSSP, which draws on a considerable range and depth of expertise in the College of Arts and Sciences and The Heller School for Social Policy & Management, is designed to:

    • Expand students' understanding of the biological, behavioral, social and environmental factors that promote health or cause illness.

    • Introduce students to the political, economic, legal, public health and organizational dimensions of health care systems in the United States and throughout the world.

    • Provide students with hands-on experience in either an internship (in a health care delivery, public health or advocacy organization), a laboratory (studying the biological basis of health, behavior, or disease), or a field-based research project (investigating aspects of health or illness in a social context).

    • Provide students with the opportunity to integrate their academic coursework and supervised fieldwork or laboratory experiences across a number of health-related disciplines through a team-taught, "capstone" seminar.

    You may choose to earn a degree in HSSP as a Bachelor of Arts (BA), a  Bachelor of Science (BS), or as a Minor.

    Is it better to be a BA, a BS, or a minor in HSSP?

    It’s best to choose your course of study based on your interests. Whether you decide to pursue a BA, a BS, or a minor, you must take a series of Core courses and electives.

    • To complete a Bachelor of Arts (BA), you must complete 40 credits (6 Core courses + 4 HSSP electives).

    • To complete a Bachelor of Science (BS), you must complete 70 credits, including the introductory biology sequence (BIOL 14a + BIOL 18a; BIOL 15b + BIOL 18b; and also BIO 16a), 3 HSSP electives + 16 credits worth of “Additional Basic Science” courses)

    • To complete a Minor, you must complete 24 credits (4 Core courses + 2 HSSP electives). 

    Whether one path is ‘better’ depends on your own interests. Each course of study is designed to afford you the opportunity to study a range of courses related to health, including science, society and policy courses.

    When do I have to declare my major?

    The Academic Bulletin states that students must declare a major by the end of sophomore year. It is University policy that “Students who have not declared a major by the end of their sophomore year will have a registration hold placed on their records blocking registration for the fall term of their junior year.” For more, see Brandeis' Requirements to Complete a Major.

    How do I declare (or change) my HSSP Major or Minor?

    When you are ready to declare your HSSP major or minor, review the information on how to declare or change your HSSP major or minor to learn more about meeting with Prof. Sarah Curi, our HSSP Undergraduate Advising Head (UAH).

    Note: You do not need to meet with Prof. Curi to drop your HSSP major or minor. Instead, contact Kathryn Howell.

    Plan ahead. Often it it is better to schedule an appointment at the start of the semester. 

    Must I take HSSP courses in a specific order?

    No, most HSSP courses may be taken in any order that works for your schedule. All majors and minors must complete:

    1. a Core "Science" Course

    2. a Core "Society" Course

    3. a Core "Policy" Course

    4. HSSP 100b - Introduction to Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Population Health which is generally considered a Junior year course

    These courses provide foundational knowledge and skills that can be applied in majors’ Hands-On Experience (HOE) and other electives; and, therefore, it is best to start taking these early in your academic career.

    All majors must also complete two additional Core requirements:

    1. “Capstone” HSSP 110a - Integrative Seminar on Health; taken during your Senior year

    2. Hands-On Experience (HOE); generally, majors complete their HOE in their Junior or Senior year.

    Additionally, majors and minors must complete the elective requirements which vary for the BA, BS, and minor.

    What is the “hands-on experience” requirement?

    "Hands-on experience" or “HOE” refers to the health-related experiential learning experience and is a core requirement for all HSSP majors. For complete details, review the HOE pages.

    Does it matter which course I take to fulfill the Core “Science” requirement?


    As a BA or a minor,  you may choose  BIOL 14a - Genetics & Genomics, BIOL 15b - Cells & Organisms, BIOL 16a - Evolution & Biodiversity, or BIOL 42a - Physiology.

    As a BS, only BIOL 42b - Physiology fulfills the Core “Science” requirement.

    Can I “double count” courses for HSSP?

    No, you can’t double count within the HSSP program (i.e., you cannot use one course to meet two different HSSP degree requirements): e.g., LGLS 114a - American Health Care: Law & Policy can only fulfill either the Core “Policy” Course requirement or a Focal Area C requirement; not both. 

    However, a course may fulfill an HSSP requirement while also fulfilling a requirement towards a degree in another department or program:  e.g., LGLS 114a  - American Health Care: Law & Policy could fulfill both a degree requirement in your HSSP major/minor and towards your Legal Studies minor.

    Where can I a find a list of HSSP Courses?

    Check the Quick Guide (Google Doc) to courses that count for HSSP credit. For the official listing of all available HSSP courses, see the official University Bulletin.

    Is there a minimum grade I need?

    Yes, HSSP requirements may not be taken pass/fail and must be satisfactorily completed with a C-minus or better.

    How many courses taken elsewhere can be counted toward the HSSP major?

    a) 8 Credits max for Majors; 4 Credits max for Minors:  HSSP majors may transfer up to two courses (8 credits) and HSSP minors may transfer up to 1 course (4 credits) taken from outside of Brandeis with “written pre-approval” from UAH (or in the case of any Study Abroad courses, the SAL); you must submit a Petition to Request Substitution for a Requirement to request these credits to count for HSSP requirements. 

    If approved, such substitutions a) are only valid after satisfactory completion of the course and b) won’t be listed in your SAGE audit until the course grade(s) has been received by the Registrar’s Office. 

    If a major takes 2 "outside" science courses along with their corresponding labs.  HSSP would grant credit for a maximum of 8 credits.  HSSP would not accept any excess credits for HSSP.   The student could get regular Brandeis credit.

    b) Generally, only for Electives and/or Additional Basic Science course requirements: With few exceptions, transferred courses may only fulfill HSSP Electives and/or the Additional Basic Science course requirements. For example, students can petition for HSSP credit for a human physiology course, in place of BIOL 42 - Physiology,  that is taken elsewhere (the US or abroad); such petitions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

    c) Types of ‘outside courses’: ‘Outside courses’ include courses taken at other universities/colleges.

    • AP and IB credit: Neither Advanced Placement (AP) nor International Baccalaureate (IB) credit fulfill any HSSP requirement. If you test out of an introductory science course, then take a more advanced course to fulfill that HSSP requirement.

    • Brandeis Summer Courses: Brandeis Summer School courses aren’t ‘outside courses’, however, you must submit a Petition to Request Substitution for a Requirement to request these credits to count for your HSSP requirements.

    • Health-related Justice Brandeis Semester (JBS): Submit an HSSP HOE Substitution Form for a health-related JBS to request these credits to count for your HSSP requirements.  (See Health, Law & Justice.)

    • Transfer Students: If you are a transfer student, then submit a Petition to Request Substitution for a Requirement to request any credits from your other school(s) to count for your HSSP requirements. Transfer students may request that a prior biology course count for their Core “Science” Course. Only very rarely will any requests relating to the other Core HSSP courses be granted.

    d) Deadlines: While HSSP also doesn't have a hard set deadline per se for you to submit such forms, as a practical matter, you should do so as soon as possible (and definitely by/before the beginning of your Senior year) just in case there are any issues.

    e) Online Courses: The HSSP Program will review any online courses as we would any other course. Requests, however, for approval of online courses are rare. Brandeis will not approve any self-paced online courses. Brandeis requires that any online course have fixed term dates and at least some defined course meetings times or interactions. If you have questions about a specific course, contact the Registrar's Office. Before you can request it count towards a major, it needs to be approved by the Registrar’s Office as transfer credit and appear on your record.

    What does it mean to be at Reduced-Rate Status?

    Having Reduced-Rate Status means that a 2nd semester senior BA major has been granted a lower tuition in his/her final semester because he/she has only the “capstone” - HSSP 110 - Integrative Seminar on Health to complete. If you’re a BA major interested in seeking Reduced-Rate Status year:

    1. review the Registrar’s criteria carefully,
      Note: University policy is that students cannot extended their graduation date to pursue a BS degree when they can graduate with a BA.

    2. confirm that your SAGE audit projects completion of all your HSSP Major requirements (except the “capstone” course) by the end of your 7th semester, and

    3. then contact Andrew Marx, Associate Registrar, in the Registrar's Office for an evaluation and to request permission to petition for reduced status.

    I want to change the courses listed in my Sage audit. Can I?

    No, the Registrar does not permit this because of the way their computer system is configured. Many students take more courses than the minimum credits required to complete an HSSP major or minor; however manipulating courses within your degree audit in order to maximize your HSSP GPA is impossible. The sole purpose of the degree audit is to confirm that you have met the minimum requirements of the major/minor. So, for example, the 1st Focal Area A course you successfully complete will automatically and permanently fulfill your 1st Focal Area A requirement.

    How I can do research with a HSSP professor?

    There are two ways you can perform research with HSSP faculty:

    1. Working as a Research Assistant

    2. Developing our own research project.

    See FAQs on performing research with HSSP faculty.

    How can I pursue honors in HSSP?

    Undertaking a Senior Honors Thesis is a unique opportunity for you to develop and hone your intellectual ability to conceptualize, implement, and complete an original health-related field-based research project under the direction of your Thesis advisor. A Thesis facilitates an extended conversation with faculty on a topic of your choosing. 

    To write a Thesis, you must 1) have at least a 3.25 overall GPA or a 3.5 GPA in your HSSP courses, and 2) obtain the HSSP Chair’s approval. To learn about the HSSP GPA requirements for honors. See Thesis Requirements. See the Academic Regulations in the University Bulletin for more information on Degrees with Honors.

    How can I learn more about Premed / Pre-health options?

    While this HSSP program is open to all students regardless of their post-graduation plans, some choose HSSP as a launching point for a career in the health professions, including medicine. HSSP students, for example, can satisfy the prerequisites for medical school. Read more about premed and pre-health options at Brandeis.

    Can I take both HS 104 - American Health Care and LGLS 114a - American Health Care: Law & Policy?

    Yes, many students take both HS 104 - American Health Care and LGLS 114a - American Health Care: Law & Policy. Doing so, you would complete both the Core “Policy” Course requirement and a Focal Area C requirement. Additionally, you can also take LGLS 114aj - American Health Care: Reform as part of the Justice Brandeis Semester (JBS):  Health, Law & Justice to fulfill either the Core “Policy” Course requirement or a Focal Area C requirement.

    Because the focus of each course is different, you may also take all three:

    1. HSSP 104 - American Health Care

    2. LGLS 114a - American Health Care: Law & Policy

    3. LGLS 114aj - American Health Care: Reform.