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Concerned about funding


sweetpearl16

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So I got into my second choice school. This school would be perfect for me. I fit the program really well and there is some one there who's interests line up exactly with my own. I received their funding offer and it was a lot less than I was hoping for and a lot less than other programs in my area tend to offer (by a couple thousand dollars). I really want to go, but the funding is a major concern for me. They nominated me for a fellowship, which would bump up my funding by a lot, but I have no idea what the chances of getting it are. I've gotten into one other school. I don't know the funding package yet, but it does not excite me as much as when I first applied and I'm not sure I want to attend. It is a well established program but the fit isn't as great. I am currently number 3 on the waitlist for my top choice school, but I have no idea what the chances of getting in are. I don't know what to do. The stress is really killing me. Any advice? What do you do when a perfect school offers poor funding. 

Edited by sweetpearl16
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I would wait.  You still have time to hear back about the fellowship.  You still haven't heard about the funding package from the other school you've been accepted to.  Once you have those answers, it may be easier to make your decision.  You can also ask your second choice school if there are other ways to make money (I mean, besides the chance to apply for external funding while you're there), for instance, my school allows you to teach your own classes once you have your masters, and you can earn some extra income that way.  

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Ask the school to put you in touch with current students and ask them how they get by on the stipend they receive. Students tend to be very forthcoming and I think you'll learn a lot from their replies. You could ask where they tend to live, whether or not they can save some money from their stipend, and if they are generally happy with the amount they receive. Also ask if people tend to get a job over the summer or if there are additional funding options that many grad students take advantage of (e.g. additional teaching, as was mentioned). You should do that with every school that has accepted you, and once you have all the decisions and information, you'll be in a better position to make a choice.

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I have a fairly good offer from one school and another school with an ok offer that is recruiting me. It turns out that the second school has discretionary funds to match the offer from the first school. So far, discussing this has not been awkward at all. I suggest being upfront. The worst they can say is no.

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Ask the school to put you in touch with current students and ask them how they get by on the stipend they receive. Students tend to be very forthcoming and I think you'll learn a lot from their replies. You could ask where they tend to live, whether or not they can save some money from their stipend, and if they are generally happy with the amount they receive. Also ask if people tend to get a job over the summer or if there are additional funding options that many grad students take advantage of (e.g. additional teaching, as was mentioned). You should do that with every school that has accepted you, and once you have all the decisions and information, you'll be in a better position to make a choice.

this is what I've been doing, and it's helpful! though so far no one has had anything really bad to say about the funding anywhere, and it's making me wonder if they're just putting up a good front...

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this is what I've been doing, and it's helpful! though so far no one has had anything really bad to say about the funding anywhere, and it's making me wonder if they're just putting up a good front...

 

I guess you can't know for sure but if you're asking in person (e.g. on skype/phone) there is no record of what people actually said and they shouldn't worry. Even over email I can't really see what the concern would be -- when we're talking about concrete things like whether or not the funding suffices to live relatively confortably; it may be different if you're asking about professors, there I might hesitate to say bad things about my professors to someone I've never met -- but I still think for money people will be much more upfront and, again, if you ask questions like the ones I suggested I think you'll get honest answers. You could additionally ask about the cost of living - don't ask people how much they spend but instead what they think is reasonable to spend on rent/groceries/transportation/health/other in their region. If you get a few different opinions and compare that to the funding you'll get, that again is a good indication of how people are doing. You can also look up ads to see what the rent is like in the area to see if what you've been told sounds reasonable. It's hard to imagine people ganging up to give you misinformation to make you come to their school.

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This is NOT "a lot less".

 

Consider doing a comparison of the cost of living in each location to determine the actual, day-to-day value of your funding packages.

 

I have been playing around with that a cost of living calculator. Even with cost of living taken into account, the funding is less than others have to offer. I've been told that living off of the funding is tight but doable. Other than the funding issue, the program is perfect in so many ways. It is probably a better fit for me, I love the way it is structured, and the person I would be working with is probably the best person to work with for my research. 

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Just put it this way, if after tuition you have >20000 you will probably be fine. If it is <20000 it will be very tight - remember though, unless you negotiated a better deal, all of your peers will be making the same amount.

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I just wanted to bump this up because this has continued to be a concern for me and I still haven't decided what to do. I got into the University of South Carolina, although from what I understand the funding at Arizona and South Carolina is fairly similar, and a lot less than 20,000. I guess I am worried that if the fellowship does not go through, I will be stuck trying to pay for rent, a car, food, and clothing on very little money. I am scared of going into debt although I would like to attend the school. Unfortunately I also do not have that much money put away in savings due to just finishing an unfunded terminal MA. A part of me wished I had considered funding more during the application process. Would it ever be acceptable to decline an offer because it is not financially possible to accept?

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Have you figured out roughly what is the total debt you might land up with at the end of the program - make a plan on how you might manage to be comfortable with that kind of debt and how long it might take you to get debt free again. Remember that this program is something that is going to enable you to fulfill what you want to do for the next few decades - try to put yourself in your own future shoes at that point in time - does the debt you are worried about right now seem trivial? If the program is truly as great a fit as you say it is you should try your best to pursue it.

 

What you should ensure is that you have a strong financial plan and the discipline to stick to it - to stay within budget, and ensure your debt does not pile on to more than what you plan for right now. Then continue searching for any further funding opportunities as a bonus.

 

If you however decide that even with your best intentions the debt you will amass is just not viable and that you wish not to accept - I would recommend discussing this issue openly with your POI / faculty contact before you decline (assuming you have not already done so).

 

Best of luck and hope you are able to make it work!

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I just wanted to bump this up because this has continued to be a concern for me and I still haven't decided what to do. I got into the University of South Carolina, although from what I understand the funding at Arizona and South Carolina is fairly similar, and a lot less than 20,000. I guess I am worried that if the fellowship does not go through, I will be stuck trying to pay for rent, a car, food, and clothing on very little money. I am scared of going into debt although I would like to attend the school. Unfortunately I also do not have that much money put away in savings due to just finishing an unfunded terminal MA. A part of me wished I had considered funding more during the application process. Would it ever be acceptable to decline an offer because it is not financially possible to accept?

 

My partner's stipend at a university in North Carolina has fluctuated (TA vs. RA is quite different), but living on 16k in the area was very doable (though he has always had me to pay half of the rent!). I'd say that <15k would be a stretch, but >16 or so would be doable with roommates and some frugality. Keep in mind that 20k in a lower cost of living area can be a lot more money than 30k in a city like Boston or Chicago. 

 

I'm also nervous on the funding front, as one school (in Boston) has offered me a total of 34K in support for the first year. A the other school, I've gotten a lot of "Oh, yes, your expenses will be fully covered." and not a lot of numbers... and the Bay Area is not a cheap place to live! 

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My partner's stipend at a university in North Carolina has fluctuated (TA vs. RA is quite different), but living on 16k in the area was very doable (though he has always had me to pay half of the rent!). I'd say that <15k would be a stretch, but >16 or so would be doable with roommates and some frugality. Keep in mind that 20k in a lower cost of living area can be a lot more money than 30k in a city like Boston or Chicago. 

 

I'm also nervous on the funding front, as one school (in Boston) has offered me a total of 34K in support for the first year. A the other school, I've gotten a lot of "Oh, yes, your expenses will be fully covered." and not a lot of numbers... and the Bay Area is not a cheap place to live! 

 

maybe you already know this but 34k is totally livable in boston!

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