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Jezza

PhD without funding_Admit or a polite rejection?

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Hi, need some advice!

I really don't know what to make of my situation right now. Should I be elated or just downright sad? Am I being too sceptical, or just playing it safe?

I received an admit from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley for my PhD (Direct Entry) in Mechanical Engineering. I was given a potential research advisor for both universities and told to contact him regarding my research domain and funding. It was only upon discussing further with the profs did I realise that both the offers were without funding!! I mean, who does a PhD WITHOUT FUNDING!? That too, being an international student from India, there is no way anyone can even consider these offers! Graduate studies in itself, is way too expensive.

Now, upon explaining to the department regarding the current condition, they told me to approach other professors who would have a position available. I'm doing that right now, but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. I have applied to Purdue, UIUC, UTexas Austin and UMichigan as well, but I still haven't received any information yet.

If my plan goes all south, I will be stuck making one of these mentioned things- I either choose to pursue my PhD in one of the universities and decide to search for a potential advisor and funding en-route (Very, Very risky). Or, I request the university to convert my admit to an M.S program (unfunded) and think of a PhD later on (Not sure if possible in the first place). 

Any advice?

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I saw this from CMU's website: "The majority of full-time Ph.D. students accepted through the standard application process receive fellowships that cover full tuition, the technology fee, and a stipend for living expenses for up to five years, as long as sufficient progress is made toward degree completion." (https://www.meche.engineering.cmu.edu/education/graduate-programs/phd-programs.html) Have you asked why you weren't offered funding? Is it because you're an international student? For UC Berkeley that's more expected, since they're a public school, but I thought CMU would be better off with private funding.

Now I'm not in mechanical engineering so I don't know if anything like this exists, but for my own field you could kind of look for better funded PIs by searching on websites of public grant agencies such as the NIH or something. Also, did the "department" sound friendly and helpful? Can you ask for specific recommendations of advisers? Or at least a list of people that they don't recommend? Can you connect to any year 4 or year 5 current student who are more aware of the whole department's financial situation? I'm sorry you're going through this. 

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Posted (edited)

I am in the same situation. Got Ph.D. admit in UC Boulder but I have no funding awarded. Don't know what to do. Waiting for my other college results.

Edited by risingking

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Never do a PhD without funding. While you're waiting for other programs, contact CMU and Berkeley and ask them how other students have typically funded themselves. There are a few programs that do not technically fund their students centrally, but students are funded from year 1 by their PIs. Usually that information is communicated when you're accepted, though, so if you haven't gotten that yet it's still a little iffy.

If most people at CMU are receiving fellowships to cover their costs and you didn't, I'd take that as a bad sign and turn down the program.

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