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Uncertain funding = dealbreaker?


humankoko

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My one acceptance this round comes from a school where I have worked with my potential advisor before, and I very much want to attend in the fall. But, I have learned from him and other graduate students there that the funding situation is problematic. They do not guarantee support for five years-- it's year by year, and they are not merit based. They try to be "fair" which means TA positions are used to recruit new students or award funding to people who have not yet had it. My advisor got me a TA position for the first year, but told me not to count on receiving funding for all 4 years. Predictions for the future are cloudy.

This has been a demoralizing year and application season for me, and part of me thinks it would be beneficial for me to go and badass the first year--run the lab, get several projects started, and work like hell. 

But is it madness to start something like this while either a) actively establishing a back up plan of applying to other places in case I lose my funding in year 2; B) having a looming point in the future where I'll lose the funding. 

Any input appreciated, I am second guessing myself at every juncture.

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Try your best, don't go crazy, and have a back up plan just in case. If you try your best you should be fine in the following years. If not, something's wrong with the school/program and they are simply not worth it.

 

You are a person before a PhD student. Don't let anything, especially lack of funding, make you feel less so.

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Try your best but don't try looking beyond the first year since you need to know how things are once you get to work. While funding is important, what matters is that you can make the most of this opportunity without it ruining you personally. If the program is right for you, by all means go for it and embrace the opportunity. Don't let your mind get crushed because of money (though it can be soul-crushing in some instances).

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Seems to me you have two options -- go to the school that accepted you and deal with the uncertainty around funding; or reapply to other programs next year and subject yourself to another application season.

 

I'd vote for the former.  Out of curiosity, are there any off ramps in the program?  (ie, can you exit with a master's at some point along the way?)

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Seems to me you have two options -- go to the school that accepted you and deal with the uncertainty around funding; or reapply to other programs next year and subject yourself to another application season.

 

I'd vote for the former.  Out of curiosity, are there any off ramps in the program?  (ie, can you exit with a master's at some point along the way?)

 

Hey--my roommate went to Hamilton! 

 

As to the off ramps issue, perhaps, but I actually already have a master's degree. 

 

I spoke to my potential advisor today about the funding climate. He said it was a guarantee that I wouldn't get full funding for four years, so there would be at least one year where I would have to take out loans for tuition ($7k/year). Perhaps I have an undue bias against student loans?

 

He is very understanding about my concerns, and shares them as it inhibits their ability to attract top students. I'm only having this dilemma because I have no other offers. I have opportunities where I am now for collaboration with professors at a couple local institutions, who have invited me to work on projects over the next year, which would give me something productive to do and provide an avenue for applying to work with them for Fall 2014. Both options come with ambiguities...

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Well, then it really comes down to whether or not you're ready to start the PhD in the fall or would be ok to endure another tough admission process.  While it doesn't feel great to take out loans for a doctoral degree, $7k/year is very reasonable.  Again, I'd take knowing you may not get funded for one or more years over delaying and reapplying, but that's just me.

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I'm not sure how social psych programs work but in most cases it is agreed that you should be looking for and applying to outside funding as early as possible. I would take the offer and start looking around immediately for grants and fellowships that you can use to ease the burden you may feel.

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