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Once funding has been set by the departement, can I apply for extra money ?

Charlie Moon

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Hello everyone.


As an international student I am a little bit confused by the American system.

Let's say a college offered me a TAship with tuition waived and a stipend, can I apply for more grants ? If yes, is there a list somewhere ?


Thank you in advance

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Just note that you will likely have to inform your department about any successful funding you get. Most of the time they will know and support you anyways since they might have to write letters etc. For some schools and funding scenarios, if you have external grants, it does influence how much internal money you get.

For example, at my MSc school (in Canada, but some American schools work the same way), we're funded through a combo of RA, TA and internal fellowships. Winning a really big external award will remove your internal fellowship and reduce your TA by half. Overall, you still end up with more money than not having an external award, but you aren't going to get to increase your stipend by the total amount of this award. For concrete numbers, the base stipend was about $25k, winning an award valued at $15K-$20K raises that to $30k. Winning a $35k award raises it to $40k-$45k, I believe. Note that in Canada, we pay tuition from our stipend (which is about $7k for this school, so subtract that to get the take-home stipend).

At my PhD program in the USA, the department has a set stipend level for every student regardless of their funding source(s). That level is currently $33k. If you win external awards valued at less than $33k, your stipend doesn't change at all---your internal funding gets reduced by the value of the external award. You only get more money if you win an award that covers all of your regular stipend plus extra (e.g. the NSF GRFP is $34k or something like that). During my PhD, I had fellowships valued in the $20k to $25k range and did not see any increase in my stipend. 

That said, even if your stipend doesn't change, there are side benefits to having external funds, as they decrease your cost to the department and advisor and that money could increase your opportunities. For example, it could mean an extra conference or work trip. Or it could mean that a prof who doesn't have funds to fully fund a student can accept you because you are "discounted". But this does mean that I think students should be judicious in choosing which external awards to apply for, based on the benefits they would get out of it. It's worth checking with your new program on the policies of external awards to help you make the decision.

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