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Two fellowships at the same time


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Can you have more than one fellowship simultaneously? How likely is this to occur, say I apply to 2 or 3 fellowships, will I be rejected from one fellowship because I already have one? I don't want to apply to fellowship that is $12,000 and one that's $18,000, and I end up with $12,000 because I was awarded it first and now cannot receive the $18,000. Having both is not important but if I qualified for both, I would want the higher amount.

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  • 5 months later...

So I'm curious about this issue as well (and have read the linked threads without finding an answer to my specific question) and was wondering if anyone had insight into how this works vis-a-vis the grad school:

I recieved an NSF GRFP and am required tenure for this upcoming academic year. I also recieved a private external fellowship specifically for the 2012-2013 academic year. Neither of these funding sources ban stacking and both are aware of the fact that I have recieved funding from both sources. However, my graduate school has the following statement

"The maximum academic-year stipend amount that a graduate student may receive when any portion of the stipend comes from ----- funds is $38,689. The increase may be from the same funding source as the basic stipend (an "adjustment") or from a different source (a "supplement"). The limit applies to support from any combination of fellowships or assistantships when part of the stipend is paid by ------; this includes awards from external sources that are supplemented by ----- funds. When a department awards summer stipends and fellowships from its own resources, there is no restriction on the amounts"

The stipend amounts I'm recieving from these two external sources totals well in excess of the cap though none of my stipend comes from the university. Do you think this policy would stil apply? I don't want to ask the university specifically since they apply rules ad hoc and asking generally leads to worse outcomes regarding funding. However, if I need to work with my department to have a portion of my funding restructured as a grant so that I don't lose it completely that would be helpful.

Anyways, sort of an idiosyncratic situation but if anyone has advice I would be very appreciative.

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I recieved an NSF GRFP and am required tenure for this upcoming academic year. I also recieved a private external fellowship specifically for the 2012-2013 academic year. Neither of these funding sources ban stacking and both are aware of the fact that I have recieved funding from both sources. However, my graduate school has the following statement

I'd double check this, it may be incorrect. As of 2011, you could not take a NSF GRFP in combination with another major fellowship (more than a few thousand dollars). That was a rule change from 2010, so it seems unlikely that they would switch back the very next year.

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Thanks for your thoughts.

The 2010 rule change affects your ability to take two federal external fellowships at the same time. However, my second fellowship is from a private source. The NSF GFRP Faq says:

"May I also be paid (supplement my Stipend) from a university or private Fellowship?

Supplementation to a Fellowship, even while on Tenure, is unrestricted when there is no associated service (time) required."

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In my experience, IRdreams, assuming that both your fellowships allow you to keep both fellowships (weird sentence!), then what probably happens is that you can probably choose:

a ) Keep both external fellowship and take NO money from the school. This includes money that you don't even see, for example, a tuition waiver.

or

b ) Your stipend will be the max -- $38,689 and you keep any other additional University money like tuition waivers. If both your fellowships total something like $50,000, then your tuition waiver will probably be deducted by $11,311. That is, the excess of your fellowship will end up saving your school money.

Of course, there's no guarantee that your school will behave the same way. But this is consistent with many students I have talked to at many different universities, and also with some similar experiences myself (I've never won two giant fellowships at once though, congrats!). Almost everyone I know chooses B but I do know of one person that chose A because their fellowship covered tuition and stipend!

I originally thought it was unfair that extra money you earn from fellowship can be "taken away" but my school explained the actual cost of having graduate students is MUCH higher than our stipend + tuition cost. Other profs have confirmed that overhead charges are very high. My immigration documents show that it will cost my school over $100k/year to support me and my stipend is a small fraction of that. I ended up with a $20k/yr external fellowship, which is a large fraction of my stipend, so I thought the school should provide a top-up. But this turns out to be a small fraction of the total cost to support me.

Edited by TakeruK
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Thanks for your experiences. Yeah, bit of a weird situation, but I'll take it. Speaking to your experience, I get that we cost more than they pay (though this varies substantially by field...my field has no lab equipment), but it seems like your experience of no top off discourages people from looking for external fellowships. From that perspective, topping off would actually save the university money if you were making a decision between using your guarenteed funding or the fellowship.

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It's understandable that the University doesn't want to provide internal funds to someone who doesn't need it (has external funds). But in Canada, schools tend to provide small top-ups (a few thousand) just to stay competitive/attract the good students. However, talking to a prof here in Canada who has worked in the US system, the overheads here are minimal while overheads in the US are very high. That is, if a prof receives $X dollars from a grant (to for example, pay for a grad student's stipend or RAship), the university takes a very large cut of the grant as overhead. So, this is extra costs just because you are there, not even to pay for equipment etc.

You should think of the money coming from the school as an award too; an award with strings attached (that is, you can only get this award if your other awards total less than X dollars). Since internal funding costs a lot in overhead, it makes sense to prioritize students who need this money more. That is, the guaranteed funding means that you are guaranteed to be receiving $X dollars in funding, but not necessarily from the school's internal funds!

My new school says that they won't top off awards because they have a policy that every student should make the same amount, to discourage competition amongst ourselves. It's probably part "fluff" to make us feel better about not getting a top-up but I sort of agree with this sentiment.

Every school I received an offer from also stipulated that I must disclose any other external awards and that my internal fellowship offer may change because of external awards. That is, the internal funds will be no longer available so you don't really have the option of "taking" that. I suppose if you REALLY want to stick it to the University, you can choose to decline your external awards and you'll get your minimum guaranteed funding in internal funds. This is probably a really bad idea, as it's not the best way to make a first impression. In addition, there are a ton of fringe benefits of having external funding:

a) You probably do cost your advisor less. Money saved for your advisor means potentially more money put aside to spend on you.

B) You still get the prestige of the award on your CV (although you can still get this if you decline the award, I suppose)

c) You might not need to be paid a RAship from your advisor. This probably translates to more research/academic freedom. You also don't have to worry about finding an advisor that has funding for a student -- you can pretty much work with anyone and you don't have to compete with other students who want to work with an advisor that has limited funds.

d) You might also have more freedom to choose your topics if your advisor isn't paying you directly (as much).

e) You might have lower TA requirements (TAing is good I think but too much of it can be distracting)

So, I think everyone in my field would still be motivated to apply for external awards. My current school in Canada do provide top-ups but your internal funds is still reduced. However, everyone is only eligible for internal monies if they have applied to external awards. Internal funding being reduced due to external awards is the norm at many schools.

Personally, I still think it would be nice for a school to provide even a small top-up, just as a symbolic, tangible gesture of saying "thanks for bringing in that extra money". But as long as I receive a stipend enough to live comfortably then I won't really complain!

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Also keep in mind that your NSF fellowship is managed to some degree from within your institution. Your institution will have a coordinator that will be listed as the NSF fellowship grants "PI", essentially.

I know mine would not have allowed me to take the NSF in combination with any other fellowship that came through the school.

I have found that while (in my case) there were no tangible benefits to getting an external fellowship (I had to give up an equal value internal fellowship to take the NSF), the intangible benefits are quite large. The obvious benefits are the prestige, but I also find that I get a lot more latitude in my research as well as more indirect support from my department being externally funded. IE, since they aren't paying for me normally, I've never had any problem getting travel funding, funding for software, or even funding for pet projects that are farther out from our main grant goals and directives.

Either way, fellowships are supposed to ensure that you've got a reasonably comfortable standard of living (not having to worry about money) while freeing you up from other duties so you can focus on your research.

They aren't meant to be "awards" as such, and if you look at it from that perspective there shouldn't necessarily be a financial benefit to you for getting them. The fellowship itself and the academic freedom that often comes along with it is the benefit.

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Interesting views Eigen and TakerUK.

TakerUK: I think I misunderstood originally your situation. I thought you were being paid less for having recieved extrenal funds not an equal amount. This later situation seems like the one universitities would want to avoid as it is a strict disincentive.

Eigen: My university is totally the same and understandably so regarding interal fellowships and funding. NSF strictly replaces what they give you, though you don't loose the years of funding so can tap those monies in the future if need be. For example, the university gives 5 years of guaranteed funding but 6 years is generally required to recieve the degree. In my particular case, both sources of funding are external: one from the government and one from a private source. It is this wierd case which seems to be in a policy limbo which is why I'm trying to figure out the best course of action. I had to declare for the NSF before I found out about the other external reward so now feel a bit stuck.

Both: To the issue of freedom, I think this is YMMV area. Not being in the sciences we completely choose our research topics. Advisers are more of a guide than a boss, and since we do not necessarily benefit their research agenda we are not paid through their funds. Within the social sciences, it is probable that you have TA duties, and fellowships are nice from the perspective that you get out of that. Not TAing gives you additional mobility (for things like field work or being an exchange fellow with another university). However, some places' packages consist entirely of internal fellowships without a service requirement so this affect may not necessarily apply. As to indirect support, I actually find that it is the opposite. Students in the social sciences and humanitites are paid less than the natural sciences on average, so in my case the NSF represented over a 30% raise (which was nice). Therefore, the department views you as being richer than average and so less likely to give you indirect support to spread the love around (which is totally fair). Prestige is of course univerisally sweet.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have a follow-up question to this:

A lot of the government fellowships now have a clause that's something like "you cannot accept multiple federal fellowships." However, I don't think these clauses always mention other restrictions on additional funding.

I'm curious--does anyone know of a grad student who's managed to be simultaneously paid by multiple fellowships (e.g. one industry fellowship from Microsoft/NVIDIA/Facebook.etc, and one government fellowship such as NDSEG/NSF/DOE)?

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I don't personally know of anyone, but the other restriction on most government fellowships is that any other funding cannot request *anything* of you. So industry fellowships that require something of you other than just receiving the money are most likely out from that.

Best person to talk to would probably be the program officer for the government fellowship(s) at your university- mine has been really helpful in sussing out all the details for the NSF.

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