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Here's the position:

Last week, I got accepted to GW for a Ph.D in Math (yay!!!)...however, I'm on their wait list for funding, which means I may or may not get any support from them.

Yesterday, I called CUNY (my top choice) to check the status of my application, since they haven't told me anything yet. The director basically said that I'm on the wait list for admission.

About an hour ago, I got an email from the National Physical Science Consortium saying that I am being sponsored for a graduate fellowship ($20,000 a year, up to 6 years...YAY!!!) The fellowship only sponsors grad students at certain partner schools...lucky for me, both GW and CUNY are on that list.

Now this is where strategy comes in...

I REALLY want to get into CUNY, and I'm thinking that if I let the director know that I won this awesome fellowship, he'll be more inclined to admit me off the wait list. BUT, that might also make them less likely to give me funding from the school (I hear CUNY is notorious for bad funding). And NPSC's award by itself won't be nearly enough for me to survive in NYC. On the other hand, if I don't let the director know, I might not get into CUNY at all, and I'll be forced to go to GW, who might also be stingy with money.

So the question is: do I play my hand and tell CUNY, or wait and see what the dealer gives me? Any advice would be much appreciated!

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Woah! I forgot one important caveat...apparently, NPSC member universities who accept NPSC fellows agree to waive tuition and fees for up to 6 years. So if I let CUNY know, they'd have to decide between accepting me and waiving everything, or just denying me.

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I'm not in your field so take my advice with a grain of salt. In my field if you are waitlisted, the chance that they will offer you generous funding is low anyways. Thus, if I wanted to secure admission, I would definitely tell them recognizing that they are unlikely to top up the award very much if at all. I wouldn't worry to much about the tuition fees issue. The department admits you and with a fellowship you look like a free or cheap researcher and TA...something departments love.

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Congrats jaywalker! I also suggest letting both schools know. I haven't heard of a department offering funding on top of a fellowship that nice anyway (other than TA positions depending on whether your fellowship allows it and whether they as a department require 1 or more semesters as a TA).

If CUNY is notoriously bad about funding, there are probably other students there who have gotten creative with making ends meet. Maybe you can contact them and see what they do to get by and then re-evaluate which school to attend.

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Not to mention that once you get some funding , you're more likely to get additional funding. In that sense, you may have an easier time getting your own funding. :)

Good luck!

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I also agree with telling both schools about this excellent award right away (congrats!). You are right, it will increase your chances in getting off a waitlist for sure.

However, it won't change how likely they will offer you funding. Most of the time, (and this is from experience!), if you do get a funding offer, there is a condition on it like "subject to change if you receive external funding." Almost all of the time, the school will reduce their funding offer if you get an external award, even after you accept and everything. To be clear, you will (almost) never get LESS than what was originally offered, but it seems like US schools don't give a "bonus" for bringing in outside money, so for example, if your funding offer would have been $25k, and you got this $20k/year award, the school will just give you $5k/year.

But there are other non-finanical benefits to having an external fellowship. It will look great on your CV, and it will help you secure other funding and positions in the future. It might mean you do not have to work as a TA at all (although you can probably still do it if you wanted the experience, but it's nice to have the freedom of choice). It also might mean that your advisor will have to spend less money on you, leaving more room in their grant to spend on other things. People have used this leverage to negotiate with their advisor for a "research budget", i.e. X dollars per year set aside for them to buy new equipment, or fund travel to workshops and conferences. Finally, this might allow you to work with someone who you are really interested in, but the prof might not have funding. With your external money, you have a lot more freedom and opportunities. (Although wouldn't it be nice to get a couple extra thousand too? lol)

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Another thing to consider is that with an MS in Math you can certainly do adjuncting. At CUNY you get about $65 an hour for adjuncting (and it's not that hard to get a position either in STEM), most courses are 4 credits, and if you teach at least 6 credits you get paid for an office hour. You can get eligible for health insurance too after a few semester (check out the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) that's the union at CUNY). So if you get 2 courses a semester for fall and spring you're going to make another $17.5K.

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