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Question to PhD students: grants/scholarships during PhD?


virtua
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Guys, I do not know what PhD program consists of, so sorry if my question appears silly.

 

Do you, guys who did/are doing PhD, apply for some grants or scholarships during your PhD, and get it in addition to your TA/RA salary? 

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Guys, I do not know what PhD program consists of, so sorry if my question appears silly.

 

Do you, guys who did/are doing PhD, apply for some grants or scholarships during your PhD, and get it in addition to your TA/RA salary? 

 

What happens for most people with funding is that their tuition is paid for by the department and they receive an additional stipend (salary) in exchange for TA/RA duties.

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I have a fellowship from the Government of Canada to do my PhD in the US. It pays about two-thirds of my stipend. The school pays me the remaining amount so that my stipend is the same as all the other students and they also pay my tuition. I do RA and very minimal TA work for them (probably around 60 hours per year of TAing).

 

Different schools/programs have different policies. In a fully funded PhD program, it is very rare for you to get to keep the full original funding from your offer and keep 100% of all external fellowships. Sometimes programs will "top up" your funding package so that you get a little more than the original offer if you have an extra fellowship. Sometimes, your program will reduce your internal funding by the same amount as your external funding so that you get the same amount as everyone else. Or, there is some hybrid system where if your external pays you more than the department value, then you get to keep the extra money but if they don't cover everything, then the department only pays the difference (what my program does right now--NSF holders have award valued at $32,000, which is more than my department funding level so they get to keep all of that).

 

It's common for most departments to have at least one student that has some kind of external award, so when you get to the point where you are considering different offers, you can talk to the current students to figure out what the department does and also to find out how supportive the department is when you are applying to these external awards.

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I've not started yet, but one program I'm considering actually lets you have both the TA income and the external funding. Most people would instead choose to reduce their TA load, though.

 

Whether it'll get you more money or not, it's a good idea to apply. It will help you in your job search if you can show that you have these awards.

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What I actually want is to get RA salary (actually, I already have it, but I want to keep getting it at original amount)+some additional funding, I don`t know how it is called: fellowship or scholarship or grant? 

And my question is: is that possible? Has anyone ever experienced something like this?

 

I mean, has anyone ever gotten any kind of funding, besides RA/TA salary?

Edited by virtua
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Yes, there are external funding options you can likely apply for, depending on your citizenship status (and even if you are international, there may be some in your home country that you can take to another country). Whether or not you get to keep it on top of an RA or TA depends on your program. I think it usually is in place of a TA/RA, or the department tops it up, as TakeruK described.

 

There are also fellowships and internal scholarships available in many departments. You should look into/ask about that, and whether it tops up an RA/TA or replaces it. You could also ask students at the program you're considering how they make a bit of extra money, if necessary.

 

People get funding besides TA/RA all the time. Internal fellowships are not uncommon, and there's also external funding.

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Yes, it's possible and it can be called a fellowship, a scholarship, or a grant (among other names). I think your best bet to determine what options are available to you is to ask this specifically to the students in the program(s) you're interested in.

 

If you are an international student, the awards you're eligible decreases by a lot. For me, I'm only eligible for the Canadian award I mentioned above and one single NASA grant/fellowship that I just applied for (my Canadian award will run out this year). Both awards will not change my funding directly because both awards are valued at less than my current stipend package. But there are indirect effects, for example, the Canadian award is not taxable by the IRS and the NASA grant will pay my health insurance premiums ($500/year). And there are fringe benefits--having external money looks good on your CV and means your supervisor has more money to spend on other things (for you hopefully). And some awards comes with a travel/research grant (the NASA one would award $3000 in money I can use to travel to conferences).

 

As for your other questions about the department knowing, it is usually a condition of your financial offer from your school that you must disclose all other sources of funding. The other source of funding often also requires you disclose them to your current school. In my example, the Canadian award enforces this by requiring my department sign off on semi-annual report confirming I'm still a student and the NASA award mentioned requires me to apply for it with my supervisor. Sometimes, this requirement is enforced because the granting agency actually pays the school first, which then releases the money to you, instead of paying you directly.

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What I actually want is to get RA salary (actually, I already have it, but I want to keep getting it at original amount)+some additional funding, I don`t know how it is called: fellowship or scholarship or grant? 

And my question is: is that possible? Has anyone ever experienced something like this?

 

I mean, has anyone ever gotten any kind of funding, besides RA/TA salary?

 

As others have pointed out, if you get an external grant / fellowship / scholarship, you have to disclose it to your deparment. You cannot just get your RA salary plus X fellowship and not tell anyone...

If I may say: a few of your questions have revolved around finances, more specifically ways to make more than the stipend offered by your school. In light of this, I encourage you to ask current students at your prospective school whether the stipend is enough to live comfortably; this might alleviate some of your worries.

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But how does a department know if I win an external award?

My funding is actually sent from the third-party through the school's financial aid department. Simply put, if I don't tell the school, there's no way for me to receive the funds.

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^This is the way most external awards function. They won't just give you the money, because you could just take it and not do school. They send it to your university's financial aid department and the university administers it to you however they see fit.

 

I was on two external (and one internal) fellowship in grad school. On the first (internal) fellowship, I was technically employed by the university as a GRA and paid a biweekly salary in exchange for 20 hours a week of research (broadly defined). I could replace the 20 hours a week of research with up to 10 hours of TAing, if I wanted to, but I wouldn't get paid additional money for it.

 

On both of my external fellowships I could TA for additional money, but it was a smaller fixed cost. Like let's say that the institutional stipend was $25,000 and the fellowship was $25,000, that doesn't mean that I could make $50,000. I would take the $25,000 and then make a fixed amount ($3,000) per class I TAed. I suppose I theoretically could've also gotten a paid RA position and got paid whatever that stipend was, but very few professors would hire a student they knew had an external fellowship for a paid RA position. The whole point of the fellowship is to pay you to do research (plus, on federal fellowships, you can't receive salary support from more than one fellowship mechanism at a time. That includes drawing salary from grants).

 

However, I did have graduate assistant positions that were non-teaching, non-research while on my fellowships and collected salary doing those things.

 

Now, some departments "top up" your fellowship. Let's say that your institutional fellowship is $25,000 and you win an external fellowship for $25,000 - some departments/universities will "top up" your fellowship, i.e., they pay you an additional $7,000 so now your stipend is $32,000. A lot of universities do this as an incentive for students to seek external funding.

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Thank you, all, for your replies!

^This is the way most external awards function. They won't just give you the money, because you could just take it and not do school. They send it to your university's financial aid department and the university administers it to you however they see fit.

 

I was on two external (and one internal) fellowship in grad school. On the first (internal) fellowship, I was technically employed by the university as a GRA and paid a biweekly salary in exchange for 20 hours a week of research (broadly defined). I could replace the 20 hours a week of research with up to 10 hours of TAing, if I wanted to, but I wouldn't get paid additional money for it.

 

On both of my external fellowships I could TA for additional money, but it was a smaller fixed cost. Like let's say that the institutional stipend was $25,000 and the fellowship was $25,000, that doesn't mean that I could make $50,000. I would take the $25,000 and then make a fixed amount ($3,000) per class I TAed. I suppose I theoretically could've also gotten a paid RA position and got paid whatever that stipend was, but very few professors would hire a student they knew had an external fellowship for a paid RA position. The whole point of the fellowship is to pay you to do research (plus, on federal fellowships, you can't receive salary support from more than one fellowship mechanism at a time. That includes drawing salary from grants).

 

However, I did have graduate assistant positions that were non-teaching, non-research while on my fellowships and collected salary doing those things.

 

Now, some departments "top up" your fellowship. Let's say that your institutional fellowship is $25,000 and you win an external fellowship for $25,000 - some departments/universities will "top up" your fellowship, i.e., they pay you an additional $7,000 so now your stipend is $32,000. A lot of universities do this as an incentive for students to seek external funding.

 

Sorry, I got a bit confused.

 

1. So how do they determine what amount from an additional fellowship they will add to my initial stipend per year?

2. And so what is the point of winning additional fellowship/scholarship, if it is not added to my initial stipend?

If I have RA salary of 25000$ per year and can win external fellowship of X of 20000$ per year, why do I have to apply for that felloship of X, if university is not going to add it to initial stipend?

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Thank you, all, for your replies!

 

Sorry, I got a bit confused.

 

1. So how do they determine what amount from an additional fellowship they will add to my initial stipend per year?

2. And so what is the point of winning additional fellowship/scholarship, if it is not added to my initial stipend?

If I have RA salary of 25000$ per year and can win external fellowship of X of 20000$ per year, why do I have to apply for that felloship of X, if university is not going to add it to initial stipend?

 

1. It's completely up to the school and the department. Some schools will add $0. Some schools will add 10% of the external fellowship, up to a limit of $X. Some schools does it on a case-by-case basis. Some schools don't add money but reduce your TA load. Some schools do a combination of adding a small amount of money and increasing your TA load. Some schools will award you a "research grant" instead of adding to your stipend (i.e. money you can spend on buying computers or travel to conferences at your discretion etc.)

 

This is something you can negotiate for when you get an offer (at least in my field, you can). You can try to ask for any of the above things if you are coming into a school with an external award.

 

2. Other than money, the point of winning additional fellowships is what I said above -- it is really good for you on your CV. Usually, a history of winning fellowships is a big factor in winning future, later fellowships (postdocs and beyond). You might get a reduced TA load, which means more time for you to do the research you want. And, if you cost less money to your supervisor (i.e. they don't have to pay your full RA salary), this means you might have more freedom. You might be able to work on a side project that also interests you without your supervisor worrying that you are not making enough progress on their project since they are not paying your full cost. Also, in an ideal situation, your supervisor would be happy that you cost less money and would be more willing to spend this saved money on you (e.g. my supervisor can send me to more conferences and bought me a new computer).

 

And finally, some schools require students to apply to all eligible external fellowships in order to be eligible for internal funding sources like RAs and TAs. In academia, applying for grants is a big part of the job. Winning these fellowships has a lot more benefits than just stipend increase and I'd strongly encourage everyone to apply to those that they qualify for, even if they are already fully funded. In theory, schools/departments should provide benefits/top-ups to encourage/incentivize you to apply to external fellowships, but I think it is a mistake for students to refuse to apply for them just because the school won't give them anything. In the end, you are hurting yourself more than anyone else.

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1. It's completely up to the school and the department. Some schools will add $0. Some schools will add 10% of the external fellowship, up to a limit of $X. Some schools does it on a case-by-case basis. Some schools don't add money but reduce your TA load. Some schools do a combination of adding a small amount of money and increasing your TA load. Some schools will award you a "research grant" instead of adding to your stipend (i.e. money you can spend on buying computers or travel to conferences at your discretion etc.)

 

This is something you can negotiate for when you get an offer (at least in my field, you can). You can try to ask for any of the above things if you are coming into a school with an external award.

 

2. Other than money, the point of winning additional fellowships is what I said above -- it is really good for you on your CV. Usually, a history of winning fellowships is a big factor in winning future, later fellowships (postdocs and beyond). You might get a reduced TA load, which means more time for you to do the research you want. And, if you cost less money to your supervisor (i.e. they don't have to pay your full RA salary), this means you might have more freedom. You might be able to work on a side project that also interests you without your supervisor worrying that you are not making enough progress on their project since they are not paying your full cost. Also, in an ideal situation, your supervisor would be happy that you cost less money and would be more willing to spend this saved money on you (e.g. my supervisor can send me to more conferences and bought me a new computer).

 

And finally, some schools require students to apply to all eligible external fellowships in order to be eligible for internal funding sources like RAs and TAs. In academia, applying for grants is a big part of the job. Winning these fellowships has a lot more benefits than just stipend increase and I'd strongly encourage everyone to apply to those that they qualify for, even if they are already fully funded. In theory, schools/departments should provide benefits/top-ups to encourage/incentivize you to apply to external fellowships, but I think it is a mistake for students to refuse to apply for them just because the school won't give them anything. In the end, you are hurting yourself more than anyone else.

 

Thank you very much! Now it is clear for me.

 

By the way, I know my question may sound weird, but does university/department/advisor provide RA with laptop?

Because, normally, in industry, companies, where I worked, provided me with a laptop; I wonder if it is same for academia.

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Thank you very much! Now it is clear for me.

 

By the way, I know my question may sound weird, but does university/department/advisor provide RA with laptop?

Because, normally, in industry, companies, where I worked, provided me with a laptop; I wonder if it is same for academia.

 

It depends. Usually, in my field, which is very computationally intensive, graduate students are provided with a desktop computer to do their work. It's not your computer though, it belongs to the department and/or your advisor. 

 

In some cases, when you get there, your advisor might buy you a new computer to use. Sometimes you use a computer that a previous student has. Or, sometimes the department has a set of computers that all the professors paid for together so that all students can use. It all depends on how much money the advisor has. Usually, if there is money available, new students do get new computers because the useful lifetime of a computer is about 5 years and the length of a degree is the same!

 

Some advisors buy their students laptops instead of desktops. In my field, desktops are preferable because you get way more computing power than a laptop and they last longer. You might get to talk with your advisor about what kind of computer you get (operating system, etc.) and find something that meets your needs, meets the prof's needs and is within the budget. Some groups do have a few communal laptops though so that students and postdocs can sign out a laptop if they need a computer to work on while traveling and they don't want to use their own personal laptop (or don't have one) to do so.

 

And finally, I know that one program at my school provides all new graduate students with $1500 to spend on research related expenses. The most common uses are either buying themselves a laptop to work on, or using that money for conference travel.

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