Emily Roberts

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    Biomedical Engineering

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  1. Basics of Fellowships, Assistantships, Grants, and Stipends

    There may be some exceptions to this rule, but I would say that a fellowship funds an individual while grants fund projects. Institutions that award fellowships to rising PhD students know that they are fairly unlikely to be able to follow through on their proposed research because they don't even have an advisor yet. That said, aside from the prestige of winning an outside fellowship, sometimes it does confer a degree of independence, i.e., you won money so you get to direct your own research a bit. Definitely don't discount the power of prestige when it comes to a well-known external fellowship. Winning outside funding early on can start of a pattern of winning other awards and grants later. Yes, the student/postdoc/PI who wins is excellent, but they also have a real leg up by having been previously judged worthy by another funding agency. My advice is to apply for the NSF GRFP and the NDSEG at a minimum. I recently compiled a list of portable fellowships that pay full stipends that are available to prospective PhD students, which you can sign up here to receive.
  2. Basics of Fellowships, Assistantships, Grants, and Stipends

    You received great answers already from @Eigen and @fuzzylogician but I'll add my own spin on the answer as well. The way that universities and students refer to funding does vary, so once you're attending one university you might have to adjust to their own particular meanings of stipend vs. fellowship vs. scholarship vs. grant. Your stipend is simply your salary - the money that you take home for your living expenses (and that you pay in income tax). At the graduate student level, a fellowship refers to an award that the student won based on merit that funds his stipend or augments his stipend. It could be internal or external. The fellowship might also pay some or all of the student's tuition and fees. In my observation, scholarships are not much in play for graduate students. If you win a fellowship (or scholarship), it usually replaces the funding that you would have received through some other mechanism, i.e., you're not going to receive a full stipend for being a research assistant plus a full stipend for winning a fellowship. Some students are unpleasantly surprised to find that winning an outside award did not affect their own personal bottom line at all because the department simply reduced its support by the equivalent amount. In a few places, if you win a large outside fellowship, your department may pay you a bonus or an even higher stipend than the one specified by the fellowship. Or you might receive a stipend through an assistantship, but receive a small additional internal fellowship on top of the stipend. Assistantships are part-time jobs. A half-time (0.5) assistantship equates to "20 hours/week" of work - and that is what most assistantships are and that will pay a full stipend (set by the department/university). Sometimes a student might be given a 0.25 assistantship, "10 hours/week" of work, for half-pay plus benefits (more or less). A teaching assistantship is for teaching/grading, a research assistantship is for research, and a graduate assistantship is for some other type of job around the university, like administrative work. Research assistantships come in two flavors as well: research that is part of your dissertation and research that is not part of your dissertation. In terms of having maximum time to work on your research, a fellowship or RA-for-your-dissertation is best. If you have a TA, GA, or RA-not-for-your-dissertation, that's 20 hours/week of work that's not directly furthering your goal of finishing your dissertation, so all your dissertation research has to be done in the other 20+ work hours per week. When graduate students talk about grants, generally they are talking about grants that their PI won, and the grant is paying their stipend (RA) and the cost of doing the research. I think there are some grants available for upper-level PhD students, but they also would be funding projects, not individuals (the way a fellowship does). Another variant is a training grant, which is awarded to a department and pays for the training of students in a specific area of research. As @Eigen said, in STEM fields these designations are not something to super concern yourself with. You should receive some kind of assurance that you will be paid a full stipend throughout your PhD (or at least 5 years), whether that is an official guarantee or simply based on a longstanding pattern. Again in STEM fields it's most typical that RA positions allow you to do research toward your own dissertation (of course, your dissertation topic is guided by the PI's projects that have received grant funding). A great point that @fuzzylogician made is that these distinctions can become muddied/confusing on the ground. For example, I was required to TA for two semesters (10 hrs/week), but that was not tied to my pay at all. During one of the semesters I had a fellowship and during one I was an RA. Students on training grants function like RAs but they are paid like they are on fellowship (i.e., non-compensatory pay).
  3. Stipends

    Thanks for linking to our site, @samman1994! The data is all self-reported by PhD students receiving stipends; we didn't want to make the submission form too onerous, so benefits like health insurance premiums aren't their own category. Some people choose to specify that in the comments. If you have ideas for how PhD Stipends could better serve you (like specifically asking about health benefits), please let me know! We are open to updating it. The utility of the site directly correlates with the size of the dataset, so @cowgirlsdontcry if you think your university's data is a bit weak, please enter your stipend and ask your peers to do the same! Thanks!
  4. Need help on the matter of fellowships and awards

    To further help you to understand whether your stipend will be liveable... Check out PhD Stipends (my website), which has grad student-submitted data on stipend levels in various fields and at various universities. The LW Ratio (living wage ratio) will tell you whether the post-fees stipend is more (> 1) or less (< 1) than the local living wage, which is an estimate of basic living expenses (rent, food, transportation, medical, miscellaneous, taxes).
  5. Fall 2016 Acceptances, Interviews, and Rejections Thread

    Thanks for sharing the site and thanks to those of you who entered new data! The database has grown over 10% in just the past few days.
  6. You're definitely noticing the right details, but these various pieces of the financial offers do vary widely by university and department. I don't think that specifically what fees are paid by the university and which aren't is an indicator of financial viability; the bottom line of the total package is better. If you are unsure about how your stipend might change in the future or exactly what fees will be paid, you should talk with the departmental admin assistant or older grad students. They're not going to be able to lay out a fixed schedule for you, but you should at least be able to find out if you were offered a disappearing top-up award.
  7. Georgia Tech ECE Research assistantship

    I searched http://www.phdstipends.com/results%20for%20Georgia%20Tech%20to%20see%20what%20data%20has%20been%20entered%20there.%20Most%20stipends%20provided%20seem%20to%20be%20well%20above%20the%20one%20you%20were%20offered.%20The%20most%20recent%20data%20point%20is%20for%20a%20stipend%20similar%20to%20your%20offer%20details%20that%20it%20is%20really%20not%20enough%20to%20live%20independently%20on.%20If%20I%20were%20you%20I%20would%20try%20negotiating%20since%20GT%20is%20your%20top%20choice%20and%20you%20have%20other, higher offers. As an international student, you won't be able to take out loans or have outside work, which is where a lot of domestic students in your situation would turn (if you were to go there).
  8. Fellowship Taxes?

    Your fellowship income that is 'take-home' for your living expenses - your stipend - will be taxed at the same rate as any other ordinary income (part at 0%, part at 10%, part at 15% for federal, plus your state income tax rate(s)), and if you have scholarship income that exceeds your qualified education expenses you need to add that net to your taxable income as well. For a rough estimate you could probably just use your fellowship stipend, though don't forget about your scholarships at tax time. The best thing to do would be to fill out a 1040-ES, which will guide you through estimating the amount of tax you'll owe and tell you whether you'll have to make quarterly estimated tax payments (if you don't have income taxes withheld by your university).
  9. What Does a Competitive Funding Offer Look Like (STEM PhD)

    This is a great line of thinking to get started on, but I don't think you'll get the info you want from this forum unless you provide more detail. In general, I would say that a competitive funding offer would include a livable stipend after factoring in whatever you have to pay for fees including health insurance (presuming a tuition waiver). Past that, it's a bit hard to generalize. The best thing to do is to compare this offer against your other offers and this offer against the other offers given by this particular program. For more specific information, I recommend that you talk with older students in this program (or other applicants) or even the admin assistant who you've been communicating with through the admission process. Find out if what you have been offered is standard and whether the source for your funding is expected to change in the future from TA to RA, for instance once you join a lab. If you are already committed to a lab, I might wonder a bit about having a fellowship+TA vs. an RA (and then you could just ask the PI what the funding track will be). I'd say being on a training grant (sometimes known as receiving a fellowship) in the first year is pretty typical for programs in which lab rotations are expected. In engineering, yes I would say having to hustle for a TA position every semester throughout grad school (especially if there are not enough TA position to go around) would indicate a non-competitive package, but receiving a stipend for TAing in your first year does not necessarily mean that it will continue that way. A lack of an explicit funding guarantee over a certain number of years is not always a bad sign; it depends on the field. In well-funded fields and top universities (as you described), it may be assumed that the funding will last as long as you need it to. In non-well-funded fields or lower-tier universities, the lack of an explicit guarantee may be a red flag. Again, the best thing to do is talk with older grad students (especially 5th+) to see if any students in the program have been cut off, and also to see if your other offer letters include such a guarantee.
  10. PhD's Assitantship and stipend for life expense

    Often yes, sometimes no. Stipend amounts (and benefits) are determined based on the field, the solvency of the university and the department (and state, for public schools), the prestige of the program, the reason the funding is given (fellowship vs. assistantship), the competitiveness of the candidate, and yes, the local cost of living. If you get enough offers, you'll probably see a loose correlation between the stipend offered and the cost of living, but there may also be exceptions. I remember that my husband's lowest stipend offer came from the school in the highest cost of living city. To get an idea of how much stipends can vary and also what you might expect to be offered in various fields or at various universities, check out the data in PhD Stipends http://www.phdstipends.com/%20(a database I run). Please also enter your own offer letters into the database once you receive them!
  11. Paying Taxes on a Fellowship Stipend?

    There's a difference between income being reportable/taxable on your taxes and whether or not you actually end up paying tax. I'm hoping in your case, Horb, that your school administrators just knew from experience that you earned too little to owe any tax, but they still should have told you that you needed to file a tax return. I'm glad you looked into it yourself and hired a competent professional. I also did my own research on grad student taxes to know how to treat them properly. After I figured it out, I heard story after story of tax professionals treating fellowship income incorrectly (like in )! A lot of them either assume it's not taxable or it's self-employment without doing the proper research. Frankly, I'm sure most of them don't have many grad student clients so this type of income is probably very unfamiliar. My university did offer us the option of tax withholding on non-compensatory (training grant, fellowship) income, but TBH the 1099-MISC you receive when you do that comes with its own issues (being confused with self-employment). The universities seem to have no good option for telling you about your non-compensatory income, so some use a 1099-MISC, some use a 1098-T, some send a courtesy letter, and some give no information.
  12. Paying Taxes on a Fellowship Stipend?

    I second what Eigen said. You need to report your stipend net of qualified fees as income on your taxes, and will be taxed on a portion of it. Fellowship pay is reported in line 7 of the 1040 with "SCH" designated next to it. (See IRS Publication 970 Chapter 1.) If you don't have the option of having taxes withheld from your paycheck, you should look into paying estimated tax. You may not have to in your first semester, but are likely to need to starting next spring if your fellowship and lack of withholding continue through all of 2016. The IRS has a great page with all the info you will need on estimated tax (mostly you will use Form 1040-ES). Basically, you have to project your income and withholding for the whole year and determine if you need to pay estimated tax, and then file quarterly if you do.