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Funding is important.. but also mental health? (help!)


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I'm starting to stress out a bunch about my decision cause I just got an additional funding offer from one school and another is being super nice after I asked for an extension on my decision because I had a family emergency but my top program didn't offer much and isn't as responsive. I'm willing to pay more for my top school since it has amazing location (thinking about my mental health here.. the other schools are in SAD prone locations so I'm thinking about the potential therapy costs I could avoid by living somewhere sunny and warm). But also my second choices offer full tuition for the whole program!! But my top choice only covers 20%. My top choice does offer need-based aid later on (but that's not guaranteed) + the option to get in-state tuition after a year + research or TA positions come with tuition fee waivers/insurance/stipend while my other choices only offer an hourly wage for research and they stated that TA-ships are almost impossible to get. What would you do?

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Going just off the info provided (location v. funding), I'd go with the funding and going into the program with a focus on setting your routine in your new town/city in order to build some resiliency, settle in, and hopefully minimize any of the mental health issues you anticipate. Maybe going to the top choice school would make more sense if you/your family has money to blow on that (hey, some people do, but I don't!). Otherwise, I'd totally go for the funding.

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  • 8 months later...

I would also take into consideration that funding yourself through assistantships can significantly slow your progress in your degree and have a negative impact on your mental health, especially if you're in a research-oriented field. I ran into this for the first time last fall; being a TA on top of trying to get my research off the ground and meet my other program requirements during this pandemic almost broke me (I had struggles with my mental health prior to this, but the extra burden in terms of time and energy that being a TA required was almost too much to deal with). The potential for SAD is certainly something worth taking into consideration, but I would also consider whether you might run into mental health issues at your top choice school due to financial stress and potentially having to fund your studies through assistantships that may take up a significant amount of time and energy. From your post, I was a little unclear on whether your second choice schools offered stipends as well as tuition waivers, but if they do, I would give that a lot of weight. For that reason, I would probably give some serious thought to whether you could make your fully funded options work, despite their less than ideal location. Source: current PhD student living in one of the most beautiful towns in sunny California who is seriously struggling with mental health due to funding issues, and is spending a ton of money on therapy as a result.

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