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greenfrogs

PhD funding

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Hi everyone! I'm basically a noob when it comes to this whole process, so forgive me if this is a dumb question. I'm applying for PhDs for the 2020-2021 year, US schools. I'm certainly drawn to the PhD programs for their academic rigor, but the main thing that drove me away from the masters is a lack of funding. I was basically under the impression that the all PhDs are fully funded without having to apply for for anything additional. I'm talking about tuition, not necessarily travel or research costs. Funding you apply for is for these additional costs, or general living costs, as far as I know. I definitely cannot afford to pay for any years of the PhD program out of pocket, so I just wanted to confirm this before diving neck deep into the application process. 

If you're someone who's successfully gone through the process before, I'd love to message with you about your general thoughts as well. Every person in the field I've talked to seems to give different answers to my questions.

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3 minutes ago, greenfrogs said:

I was basically under the impression that the all PhDs are fully funded without having to apply for for anything additional. I'm talking about tuition, not necessarily travel or research costs.

Different programs do different things, but I will say this: academics can only be rigorous if they're funded, and a dumb student with lots of financial support will almost certainly write a better dissertation than a smart student with no support. If a program does not offer a livable stipend, cover tuition, provide affordable health care, and provide access to pots of money for travel and research, it is not worth applying to, never mind attending. 

My process was to identify the professors with whom I wished to work, and then to narrow down the list by excluding programs that offered insufficient resources. Aim for a final list of 4-6.

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I agree.  First step, identify who you'd like to work with and look at different programs.  Then determine what programs do offer funding (preferably 5-year packages). Eliminate the rest.  Entering in my final year of the PhD, I can tell you it's not worth paying a dollar toward what should be a basic funding package (tuition waiver, some fees, living stipend, subsidized health insurance).  There are enough hidden costs as they are and they add up (i.e. your university may give you only $500 for conference travel but flights, public transportation/rideshare, hotel, food, conference fees, etc. might add up to $600...).

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It seems you come from abroad? 

I remember being in the same boat as you, trying to figure out what's what. 

Back in the day, I did what @TMP suggested: identifying professors and programs simultaneously. Many professors disclosed early on that their programs did not offer "good" funding for international students, so they were are no. I also crossed out programs that required teaching in my first year because I didn't want to deal with grad school + new country + second language + teaching. 

In the end, my decision came down to who offered the best net package (not only tuition waiver but also stipend, health insurance, possibility of research funds, etc). 

I must also add, there are a lot of hidden fees for international students. Remember you might need to renew your visa at some point and this costs money and travel. In addition, while health insurance might be good (ours is pretty decent), you will still need to pay out of pocket. So take this into account when comparing funding packages. 

Best of luck!

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I want to add that while many schools don't offer good (or any) funding packages for master's students, there are some that do.

I'm doing my master's now, and it's fully funded with a livable stipend and some funding for research. So if you're not sure about doing a PhD but may want to do a master's first, you could look around and find schools that would offer you funding. I had several offers from master's programs all of which were fully funded. Don't look for these offers at top-20 schools, because they generally only offer funding to PhD students, but check out schools that are lower ranked but support their MA students. 

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On 5/16/2019 at 8:31 PM, AP said:

I also crossed out programs that required teaching in my first year because I didn't want to deal with grad school + new country + second language + teaching. 

I am a US citizen, though I spent a significant amount of time outside the country growing up due to my parents' jobs. Can sympathize with the visa struggle. I'm not opposed to a teaching position, either.

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I would recommend reaching out to the GPC/grad student reps in departments that interest you. Programs may claim to offer "full funding," but how that shakes out varies across the board. Do students get fellowship years, or are they entirely funded via TAships? Being funded by TAships is better than programs that have no funding at all, but it will slow you down and hurt your dissertation if you have to TA all the time. How well do students do on university-wide fellowship competitions and in securing external funding? This stuff isn't guaranteed to every student, obviously, but the departments that emphasize assisting students in securing funding are better than the ones who don't take it seriously. Also, once you have offers in hand, you should negotiate for better funding.

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On 5/14/2019 at 10:44 PM, telkanuru said:

Different programs do different things, but I will say this: academics can only be rigorous if they're funded, and a dumb student with lots of financial support will almost certainly write a better dissertation than a smart student with no support. If a program does not offer a livable stipend, cover tuition, provide affordable health care, and provide access to pots of money for travel and research, it is not worth applying to, never mind attending. 

My process was to identify the professors with whom I wished to work, and then to narrow down the list by excluding programs that offered insufficient resources. Aim for a final list of 4-6.

You always give great advice and are a valuable presence on the forums. Thanks!

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