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Funding: To probe or not to probe.


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I posited this question in another thread, but thought it may deserve its own.


Do you think its important to probe your program/POI/PI about funding prior to matriculation?  


Should you ask (say, in an interview or email communique) about whether a PI you'd like to work with has sufficient funding to cover your 5.5 years of graduate school?


Note: I ask this coming from a background in Neuroscience where the norm is 5-6 years in PhD which is fully funded including tuition waiver and stipend.  Furthermore, some programs cover students for 1 year (or more) by their respective department funds until an advisor is chosen, at which point the PI picks up the tab.  Other programs may enroll a student with his/her funding immediately the responsibility of the PI.  




I'm interested in opinions from this and other fields.  

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If funding is a critical element in your decision where to attend (it was in mine) then you need to have all the relevant information. If this information is not provided on the website, you need to ask for it. However, I would probably not bring this up in an interview before I get admitted, just like you don't negotiate your salary during a job interview but only after you have an offer. You already applied so there is no consideration of saving application fees here. Therefore, I would not bring up money in an interview unless they do, and would instead wait to have an offer in hand. That's when you have the most leverage (incidentally, for the duration of your program. You will never have as much power as when they are courting you and you have not yet accepted their offer). I do think it's ok to ask about the overall funding structure of the program and things like travel funding or funding for anything else that you require for your research. Again, not as the first question you bring up, but as a fluid part of a conversation, sure. 


I do think it's fair to ask in an early correspondence stage with a POI when deciding whether to apply to a certain school. Normally people phrase it as "are you taking new students next year," which (they hope) is interpreted as "do you have money for new students next year." If your POI doesn't have money for new students, there is no point in applying. 

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