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NSF tenure/reserve advice as undergrad?


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Hey folks and happy Monday! After unsuccessfully scouring the internet for advice on this topic I figured I'd come ask you lovely folks for help! :)

I was one of the lucky folks who was awarded an NSF GRF as a senior undergrad. I am really stuck on whether to go on reserve or start tenure this fall. For context, nobody else in my program has started out their first year with an NSF (so no words of wisdom to be passed down there), and the grad program where I will matriculate this fall has offered me a financial package that includes a stipend identical down to the dollar of what the NSF will provide. 

It feels like a situation where "reserve vs. tenure" is actually just "six in one, half dozen in the other" but maybe there are folks who have come before me who can point things out that I might not be thinking about/aware of? Does anyone have any guidance on things to think about re: reserve/tenure when starting out with this fellowship?

Thanks everyone!

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Does the stipend from your university have any teaching or research assistantship requirements?  If so, I think your big decision is regarding if you want to work your first year while taking courses or not. Some people prefer to focus just on their classes in the beginning and so they use their NSF at the beginning while they adjust to grad school, while others like to save their NSF for when they are doing fieldwork or writing up their dissertation so they have no teaching or work requirements during that period.  

Another thing to consider is how many years of funding your university provides you and if they are strict on which years they provide you with funding. For example, if they provide you with funding your first 3 years and you are responsible for applying for grants your last two years, but that is a question for your university. 

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Thanks for the reply @primatesrule! My program guarantees five years funding but I've been told that folks often get six (or even seven) with no problem (I know, I found the unicorn!). The only teaching requirement consists of 6 hours of preceptor work that is usually completed in the second year. This seems to be a departmental requirement for graduation and not something I would have to do to retain my stipend.

Given this, it sounds like I really might be in a position where choosing reserve or tenure might not actually make that big of an impact on my grad experience? I know this is such a privileged problem to have but I just want to make sure I'm not missing anything or leaving anything un-thought of. :) 

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Hi @sous, I think you're talking about medical/military deferral. I'm referring to reserve status, where for two of your five years you remain an active fellow but don't receive financial support. Unless your particular institution is telling you to choose tenure status for your first year, I believe fellows have the flexibility to choose their reserve/tenure status years.

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4 minutes ago, EeveeGrey said:

Hi @sous, I think you're talking about medical/military deferral. I'm referring to reserve status, where for two of your five years you remain an active fellow but don't receive financial support. Unless your particular institution is telling you to choose tenure status for your first year, I believe fellows have the flexibility to choose their reserve/tenure status years.

That is correct, unless something changed this year. I went on reserve status the first two years to use other university funding sources.

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