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Fantasmapocalypse

To Go or Not to Go? New Public R1 - But No Funding for Incoming Students

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Recently went to a recruitment day for a West Coast PhD Program, and spoke with potential advisors and graduate program director. After speaking with various students and others in the know, it sounds like this program USED to provide 3 years of "funding" in recent years but due to growth and new R1 Status University is now pushing for more admits without more funding.

This is my second round of PhD applications - last year I received over a half dozen rejections and this year I am still waiting on 1+ a related but outside opportunity abroad. I have my MA in a related field but understand I am no competitive enough to get into my original "top" choices (Pitt was amongst those as was UCB Vancouver). Not sure I can wait a third year and the further damage to my CV by not being in a program and pursuing the PhD. I've asked for a deferment in writing (in case I can pursue that outside opportunity for field and language experience) and/or a letter guaranteeing funding for next year. Been told they cannot provide (because #reasons) but they would definitively re-admit if I chose to pursue this other option (and even encouraged it for reasons outlined above).... the program does not have geographical overlap in my region of interest but I think there are relevant theoretical and thematic interests (religion among others) and a very robust department in the areas outside my specializations that will make me well-rounded at the end of the program. But.... no funding. From what I can even tell, they mostly do assistance in the form of reader/assistantships and not straight up stipends. Other program I was waiting for is an area studies program, which I don't think is as good of a choice as Anthropology but of course would be much more in line with my interests. However, it's a UC and in an excrutiatingly expensive part of the state.

So.... to go, or not to go to a public R1 with no funding?

TL;DR: I am old(er), I've been rejected a bunch and this is the second go around. It's a public university and newly R1 that doesn't seem to give full stipends/support like other private schools do. Should I go?

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12 hours ago, Fantasmapocalypse said:

form of reader/assistantships and not straight up stipends

What do you mean by this? Does that mean that they offer you a TA/RA-ship each year? Because that is pretty standard for a PhD program. Unless you have a fellowship, there is no such thing as a straight up stipend, no strings attached. 

But, that being said, it's really up to you. If they aren't offering any funding, then you risk having to take out an exorbitant amount of student loans for the program, which in our field, is not worth it because the pay afterwards isn't great. If you really want to pursue this and you are okay with taking on a financial burden, then go for it! Another thing to consider is fit. You mentioned that there isn't a geographical overlap. Well, is the program willing to support you doing research in that area? If not, are you okay with switching your focus? If they are, are you willing to put in extra legwork to make the connections you need to work in those areas? You can make it work, but it's just a matter of how much extra work you're willing to put in, and if you think that it is worth it. You mentioned that you're older, and for what it's worth, there is a PhD student in my program who is 42! Going for a third round of applications sounds awful and daunting, but if that means that you end up getting accepted to a school with funding, it may be worth considering. If you do decide to go for a third round, I would reach out to the POIs at the schools you were rejected from, and see if any are willing to give you constructive feedback on how to improve your application. 

I hope this helps, and good luck with your decision :) 

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Thank you for the input!

Sorry for my lack of clarity. I meant to say the department does not offer any department-specific fellowships, although there are some competitive campus-wide fellowships and scholarships available.

I am willing to switch my areas of focus, and  think there are some interesting comparative possibilities since there is a strong theoretical and topical focus on identity, religion, migration and the like which I find appealing.

What worries me is if there is no funding now there is likely to be less/none later, right? The biggest push seems to be at the front to capture admits but i was told no one was offered funding and I am inclined to believe my POI who is in the know. 

Also worth considering is the department is more geared to the archaeological and biological and I think part of their growth to R1 is to diversify their PhD candidates and grow into the other two fields.

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Agree with respondent above: there is, generally speaking, no such thing as a NSA funding package. If you are guaranteed RA or TA position every year, that is pretty standard.

If, however, this is a truly unfunded position, I would advise you strongly against taking it. I, like you, was an older applicant on my second go around the PhD application merry go around. I decided, much to my regret, to take an unfunded offer (because #reasons). The truth is, it's not an opportunity. It's exploitation by the university disguised as an opportunity. Rather than pay for actual TAships, which usually come with things like health care (something to look into, by the way), they will get you to adjunct a class or three a semester at about half the rate, without health insurance or other benefits, and convince you to feel "grateful" for the opportunity.

I know how terrible it is to be older and feel like your dream is slipping away from you. But the university is going to keep taking from you--taking time, energy, passion, emotion--on the basis of that dream until you are all used up, then discard you without so much as a non-TT position at the end to help you alleviate the massive financial debt or emotional damage you will accrue. 

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11 hours ago, oroanthro said:

Agree with respondent above: there is, generally speaking, no such thing as a NSA funding package. If you are guaranteed RA or TA position every year, that is pretty standard.

If, however, this is a truly unfunded position, I would advise you strongly against taking it. I, like you, was an older applicant on my second go around the PhD application merry go around. I decided, much to my regret, to take an unfunded offer (because #reasons). The truth is, it's not an opportunity. It's exploitation by the university disguised as an opportunity. Rather than pay for actual TAships, which usually come with things like health care (something to look into, by the way), they will get you to adjunct a class or three a semester at about half the rate, without health insurance or other benefits, and convince you to feel "grateful" for the opportunity.

I know how terrible it is to be older and feel like your dream is slipping away from you. But the university is going to keep taking from you--taking time, energy, passion, emotion--on the basis of that dream until you are all used up, then discard you without so much as a non-TT position at the end to help you alleviate the massive financial debt or emotional damage you will accrue. 

With recent department growth they haven't had the proportionate increase in funding, but they should have an update in the next month or so to see if there are any changes. They've also put me in touch with a local CC/JC that also offers a grant-in-aid for adjuncts... basically you get a 1-for-1 tuition reduction and qualify as an in-state resident for fees (much like a RA or TAship would at this school) that you can use the semester you teach or bank it for the following semester. From what I can tell, this is much like what they would offer in department. Thank you for the input and the unvarnished feedback!

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Sorry if it came off a little harsh. I sometimes wish someone had been super blunt with me regarding the emotional and psychological toll of the unfunded position. I am constantly feeling less worthy of my funded peers--even though I'm getting better grades than a few of them. It's turning me into a mean, bitter person, I think. Please know I am cheering for you and hoping that you get everything you deserve.

Edited by oroanthro

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No, I get it! I would prefer someone say it... even if I will probably be "stupid" and take a leap of faith. I don't know that I can hang on for another year in limbo due to a variety of reasons. My advisors have all said something to the effect of either go for a year and reassess, or make it work the best that I can, or if my non-PhD option opens up do that for a year or however long it lasts and then reapply. If I can do that, I might. But just wait another year, in the current environment, with an area studies MA that is too specialized to teach at one of the largest Community College Systems in California? Well....

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That's what I did too, and for much the same reasoning (older, limbo state, etc)  but still wish somebody had told me about the less obvious pains of unfunded-ness. Now, even though I'm upset, I'm focusing on being the best damn student I can be: always participating, submitting everything on time, engaging my professors outside the class, and working a ton of side gigs or money. That way, if/when I ask for letters of rec and support,  people will give them to me willingly.

So whatever you do, however it makes you feel, just remember-- you are not alone in this situation! Best of luck, again, and my apologies for the unbridled wave of bitterness earlier.

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