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Stressed about dismal thesis funds at admits


Ilikekitties
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So far I’ve been admitted to two (funded) MA programs (anthropology, sociocultural) that are both funded during the academic year by TA-ships and have tuition waived. BUT neither program has great support for summer thesis research. Program A has competitive $2,000 departmental research grants that MA students can apply for and program B doesn’t have any standard departmental funding unless a prof gets a grant that includes funding for a student researcher.

 

$2000 isn’t much from school A. My research expenses wouldn’t be high, but I’d have travel, lodging, and food costs for thesis work.

 

Program B suggested that I apply for either a Fulbright or an NSF, but.... those are hard to get. 

 

Mainly I don’t wanna go into (more) debt just so that I can do a MA thesis. This is stressing me out so much! Money!!! Ugh

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This is a tough decision! Some people (including me) would rather not go to grad school than to go into debt for grad school. If that is a priority for you then I don't think there is anything wrong with that! Maybe apply again for more programs in a future year.

However, choosing to take on some debt for a future opportunity could be a good investment too. Does School A and B offer enough funding so that you won't take on any debt for the school year? If so, and if you are not ready to abandon grad school plans for 2018 yet, then you can consider either school and then only do summer research if you have the funds to do so. Or, if there are ways to greatly reduce your living costs while you do this summer work (e.g. work in the summer to pay the bills and only spend a little time on your thesis).

Or, maybe it would help to chart out exactly how much it would cost you for summer research and what a MA thesis will provide in terms of long term career benefits (e.g. a path to a PhD program? a job?). If the cost is low and worth it, then it might feel less stressful to accept an offer that means more debt? (If you choose this option you can always back out a year from now). 

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6 hours ago, TakeruK said:

This is a tough decision! Some people (including me) would rather not go to grad school than to go into debt for grad school. If that is a priority for you then I don't think there is anything wrong with that! Maybe apply again for more programs in a future year.

However, choosing to take on some debt for a future opportunity could be a good investment too. Does School A and B offer enough funding so that you won't take on any debt for the school year? If so, and if you are not ready to abandon grad school plans for 2018 yet, then you can consider either school and then only do summer research if you have the funds to do so. Or, if there are ways to greatly reduce your living costs while you do this summer work (e.g. work in the summer to pay the bills and only spend a little time on your thesis).

Or, maybe it would help to chart out exactly how much it would cost you for summer research and what a MA thesis will provide in terms of long term career benefits (e.g. a path to a PhD program? a job?). If the cost is low and worth it, then it might feel less stressful to accept an offer that means more debt? (If you choose this option you can always back out a year from now). 

This is my 3rd year applying...don’t really feel like applying again unless it’s for a PhD program.

Both programs are funded for the school year, so I don’t think that I’d need to take out loans for that.

Theses at these programs are mandatory, so I’d have to do summer research if I’d want to graduate.

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Have you tried speaking with current students to see what they've done or a professor of interest? Maybe there are some additional funding options that you haven't been made aware of yet like working as a research assistant to get paid over the summer.

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Have you investigated other potential funding sources? You might be able to obtain other small grants ($500-$1500) through professional associations, on campus entities, etc. This is what I did during my PhD to fund summer research as the department had no summer research funding for grad students (regardless of MA or PhD status). However, to avoid having to hunt down so much money during my MA, I decided to do a more local project so that I could minimize my expenses. I also took on a summer TA position and used the "extra" money to support my research, rather than thinking of it as part of my annual budget. As @TakeruK has noted, sometimes sacrifices must be made and you have to financially invest in yourself to succeed.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I want to second what rising_star said. Most MA programs (especially in anthropology and related fields) don't have that much funding for summer research. A lot don't fund at all! I funded both of my MA theses with grants related to what I wanted to do--for example, arts councils, oral history, folklore and language grants, plus additional grants to pay for transcribing and archiving my interviews. For my first MA, I got hired by a cultural/human rights organization near the community I was working with, which not only helped me financially but also  let me practice applying anthropological solutions to real world issues. At my second program, I found that the Graduate Student Senate had small travel grants available every year that covered all of my summer travel and conference expenses. (By the way, that second MA was supposed to be a fully funded PhD but the department "lost" its funding for cultural anth students halfway through my program...proof that even the best funding offers are not guaranteed).  I guess my point is this: think outside the anthropology department box for funding! 

Finally,  if your goal is to go on to a PhD, you should get used to applying for different grants, awards and fellowships now.  Knowing how to find and apply for funds constitutes an important set of skills that will be valuable to you for the rest of your academic career. As you go forward, I think you'll find that even those programs or offers that are "fully funded" will give you just enough money to live on. It is really important to know how to state and restate the importance of your research for different audiences all the time and to constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities to fund your research or make your life a little easier. 

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