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Reconsidering Applying


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Hello,

When I applied to PhD programs last year, I was unaware that funding packages varied so much from school to school. I found a program (and got into said program) that I thought was a good fit for me, but I'm starting to think that I should have focused less on fit and more on the financial packages each program offers. I opted to not apply to some programs with more robust financial packages because they did not fit as well with my research, even though they were programs where I thought I might have a decent shot and could have made (with a lot of stretching) my topic fit. 

I'm set to begin my program next month, but I am a bit worried about the amount of money I am getting in relation to other programs. It makes me think that I will not be able to create competitive publications. The program offers a 9 month stipend for five years, with years one and five on fellowship. The other years I have to TA or get a fellowship that exempts me. I have summer funding for one summer and about $800 each year to be used on conferences. I also have the typical insurance, fees paid, etc., that come with most packages. 

The two biggest things making me doubt my decision are the amount of TAing I might have to do as well as the lack of summer funding. I learned after applying and accepting that some programs don't require TAing or give summer funding for more than one summer. Some of the programs I opted to not apply to offer these perks. 

I'm satisfied with the department, my future advisors, the stipend amount, and course offerings. The job placement rate at the program I'm set to attend compared to other programs I looked at is about the same. It's the financial perks (or lack thereof) that are making me think that maybe I should not attend. It seems like it would be a more difficult route to attend and possibly switch. Thoughts?

 

Edited by dhg
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The funding you lay out (assuming the stipend/TA pay rate is high enough to live in the area where the school is located) is indeed not the absolute best you could get. But it also is a perfectly reasonable package that will enable you to do the work you need to do. If this school was indeed your best choice on academic grounds, I think you would be wise to stick to it - a couple extra funded summers (which you aren't even guaranteed to get - you don't know where you'll get in if you apply again) and a year less of teaching isn't worth the bridge-burning you'll be doing with people at the school that admitted you. You're being supported adequately. You can apply for additional funding from all sorts of sources to do things like summer research, a year or two of archival work away from your school (and outside the 5 years of funding it gives you), etc, and successful graduate students will generally be finding some outside funding. I think you're blowing relatively small differences out of proportion. It's not like you're going to a school where students receive no stipend (or only a token one) and have to pay tuition or where funding isn't guaranteed after the first year or where stipends aren't high enough to pay for basic necessities.

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Your package is quite standard for a decent, well-funded program.  You're going to a program where you think you can get a lot of intellectual support for your research interests.

Talk to the current graduate students about finding extra money for summers and external fellowships.  They've been there!  They will absolutely share their experiences, applications, etc. with you if you just ask! :)  In fact, that is an EXCELLENT question for a first year to ask to start building collegial relationships.

Also, I beg you, please don't think of your stipend spread over 9 months.  Spread it over 12 months and stick with it.  If you need to live with a roommate instead of your own place to make it work, so be it.  You will thank yourself later that you have money to live on for the summer instead of scrambling to find a part-time job to pay the rent. Too many graduate students make this financial mistake.

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4 hours ago, dhg said:

Thoughts?

Stay the course and go to UC Davis.

Double check on tuition remission for the summer quarter. You may not get stipend checks during the summer but you still may be able to take classes without being responsible for the costs.

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Relative to many other state universities, your package is quite good. My own program does not offer summer funding.

It's not bad to have to try to find external fellowships and the like. Depending upon your field, you can look at FLAS (which may no longer exist) or other field-relevant fellowships. TA-ing also allows you to develop classroom skills which, like it or not, will help carry over to other professional elements.

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I’m in the exact opposite situation you’re in. Great funding, but no placements for my field and young advisor. Would money and time away from ta-ing actually overcome a program’s lack of placements? 

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2 hours ago, Procopius said:

I’m in the exact opposite situation you’re in. Great funding, but no placements for my field and young advisor. Would money and time away from ta-ing actually overcome a program’s lack of placements? 

Choose your dissertation topic very wisely.  Make sure it's not you who will love it to death (you will) but it also excites other people especially tenured professors who review fellowship applications (especially at national level like ACLS, Fulbright, SSRC, etc.).  If you dissertation grabs money from external readers, that shows you have real potential to be a serious scholar.  It's nice to have a full fellowship package (especially from NYU and Princeton) but you can certainly overcome "the lack of placement" with external funding and publications.  Applying for external grants is a skill itself-- another one to put on your CV.

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