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AnonymousMonad

How much does the funding package affect your decision?

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I'm waitlisted at two schools, schools A & B—both of which I think would be better fits for me. Facultywise, A would be potentially fantastic for me, and I've been told that the department is very functional and people are very happy there—though, unfortunately I wasn't able to visit A. I've an offer at a really good school (C) in a pretty inexpensive midwestish city, with fantastic funding.  Rankingwise C is a top 10, but I get the sense that the mentorship wouldn't be as good as either of the other two, which are top 30 but not top 15; I take these with a grain of salt. I've visited too and I like the city. If I get an offer from B, I'm likely to take it over C. Not sure about A though. All financial things being equal, I'd probably (??? not clearly though ) choose A.

I got a preview of what A's & B's offers would likely look like if I get an offer off the waitlist today. I'm not yet sure what I'd do if I get an offer from A. It seems like a great fit, but the living stipend is a little over 20% less than C and 33% less than B. That in itself isn't a deal breaker for me, it's that in conjunction with the fact that A is in California which is much much more expensive than the other two.

But I'm wondering if this shouldn't even be a deciding factor for me if I thought that school A would be the better fit—should financial considerations for fully funded programs only be a consideration as a tie breaker? I've no attachments or family to support or significant others to visit. What has been your approach to choosing? Have you tried to turn a blind eye to the finances?

Edited by AnonymousMonad

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For me, the funding package isn't even a tie breaker, because I think if the funding is sufficient for me to live comfortably in an area then it shouldn't affect my decision.  Instead, I'd take prospective mentors, rankings, location, and cohorts to be the important factors for me to make a decision.

I'm also waiting for two programs, which are my first and second choices.  I hope we will have good luck today.

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If the cost of living in the area of C is such that, to have in an affordable rent, you'd have to live a lengthy commute away from your university, I'd take that into consideration. 

But as I see it, the most important element of funding packages isn't so much the amount of the yearly stipend. A negative tie-breaker, for me, would be a package that fares poorly on these two questions: How many hours of teaching (and grading) are part of the stipend? What are the funding possibilities beyond year 5? Though I value teaching, I wouldn't want to teaching and grading at a rate of 10 hours/week, each semester. And I would want to make sure that the department has the means to help students finish up their dissertation by funding them beyond their fifth year, and not solely on the basis of teaching (which keeps you away from writing your dissertation).      

Good luck with your decisions!

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Not in your field, obviously, but funding wasn't the ultimate deciding factor for me. I turned down packages that offered significantly more money (30-40% more) and/or less teaching to work with the person I deemed the best advisor for my project. The offer I did take was sufficient to live on so I wasn't struggling financially by any means. In other words, it all worked out for me. YMMV obviously. But, for me at least, money wasn't the key deciding factor because I was more concerned with the professional development I'd receive in each program.

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1 hour ago, AnonymousMonad said:

I've no attachments or family to support or significant others to visit. What has been your approach to choosing? Have you tried to turn a blind eye to the finances?

Funding is important to me, for two reasons.

First, I'm married and we plan on having kids in the next few years. You might end up in a relationship wherever you land, and security/stability may become more important then. So, that might be a relevant factor now, despite your not being in a position to know your future relationship details (maybe you'll find a nice sugar momma/papa and this will all be moot).

Second, I have student loans to pay off, and paying them off sooner than later is way better given accruing interest. You might not have this to worry about (if by 'no attachments' you include not having loans). If it is a worry for you, it seems like it should only have minimal weight (unless you want to get married and become a baby factory, then you'll never surface from your debt).

The mentorship aspect seems most important, but also the hardest to judge. Why do you think program C wouldn't be great for mentorship?

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20 minutes ago, Ulixes said:

Funding is important to me, for two reasons.

First, I'm married and we plan on having kids in the next few years. You might end up in a relationship wherever you land, and security/stability may become more important then. So, that might be a relevant factor now, despite your not being in a position to know your future relationship details (maybe you'll find a nice sugar momma/papa and this will all be moot).

Second, I have student loans to pay off, and paying them off sooner than later is way better given accruing interest. You might not have this to worry about (if by 'no attachments' you include not having loans). If it is a worry for you, it seems like it should only have minimal weight (unless you want to get married and become a baby factory, then you'll never surface from your debt).

The mentorship aspect seems most important, but also the hardest to judge. Why do you think program C wouldn't be great for mentorship?

Good points! Another friend of mine who is in graduate school drew attention to the bit about student loans. I hadn't thought about that. Yes, I do have some loans and it was pointed out to me that I could pay off those loans at B and perhaps take a good bite out of them at C—whereas that would be impossible at A.

I don't think program C would be bad for mentorship. The profs I'm interested in working with are older and are purportedly a bit out of touch with the job market. They also have big reputations as far as publishing good philosophy (that's probably why the school has higher rankings)—but I've heard no independent praise about how they are as teachers and mentors. Whereas I've heard independent praise about the mentorship of the people I'd be working with at programs A and B, especially A.

I think B will be my top choice, unless A makes a competitive offer rather than the projected one.

It's worth pointing out that I'd be happy to go to any of these places. It's important to bear that in mind on this intense day.

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2 minutes ago, AnonymousMonad said:

It's worth pointing out that I'd be happy to go to any of these places. It's important to bear that in mind on this intense day.

Wise words! Any of the choices will be a good choice.

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Funding and other financial support were important to me, but only to the extent that they would meet my needs. I am also married and we factored our future plans into picking the best school. Ultimately, out of my top 3 choices, we picked the one with the best research and location fit but it was the one with the lowest stipend (after adjusting for cost of living). However, it was enough to live on as long as my spouse found a job (it was tricky because we're Canadians so there were some hoops to jump through).

I'll be honest and say that the first year we were digging into our savings a bit and stress levels were high---would not want to do that again). However, we made the decision for the long term because we knew my spouse would find great work and we've since recouped our savings and even added some to it. During that first year, sometimes we regret not going for the higher financial offer ($8000 more per year but a terrible location and the research fit turned out to be poorer than I had thought). But now, it's clear we made the best decision for both of us! (Luckily, being Canadian, we were able to work during our undergrad and pay our own tuition through part time and summer work).

I would also say that when considering financial support, it's more than just the stipend amount. Consider all the factors that matter to you. For example, although my current school offered the lowest stipend (adjusted for cost of living), they had other great support structures, some of it were also financial ($1200 per year per dependent to cover health insurance, up to $4000 per year for childcare, subsidized housing for families etc.) and some just policies (better than federal minimum pregnancy and parental leave, a culture that supports parents and a life outside of academia, a department that supports both academic and non-academic career paths etc. etc.) I mention these things because it's part of planning for the future but also, the point of having money beyond minimum living is to "buy happiness" (to an extent) and these other factors contribute to your happiness too.

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59 minutes ago, rising_star said:

I suppose it does. How will you decide between B and C?

Rejected from B. Ha!

I've accepted C!

The dilemma clearly turned out not to matter.

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Funding counted for more than I care to admit. I mean, I do have a 1-yr-old daughter, so the money matters. Penn offers very good funding, and it mattered a lot in my decision mainly for reasons to do with my family.

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