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A little gun-shy about asking about funding due to recent bad experience. Any tips/basic info on what to do?


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Backstory: I was accepted to a Masters program a few weeks ago that said funding information would come soon, but didn't give any exact date or close time frame (despite requiring a decision for the program with in 10 days) and also didn't give me any idea whatsoever of how much might be available and how I'd find out. Wanting more information, I emailed the person who had contacted me and told me to respond if I had any questions, and asked when funding decisions might be available. In response I received a (no joke) nine paragraph response with the answer I was seeking in the first sentence then lots of being overly-defensive about the program, telling me that I needed to do this research myself because all other students do it themselves, I needed to seriously consider if this program was right for me because career-switching is hard (I'm not a career switcher . . .), etc. Thankfully I had been accepted to a more preferred program a few hours before receiving this response, so I was able to shrug it off. (Please tell me this attitude was out of the ordinary and not all grad program directors are so quickly put on the defensive when students ask a question?)

"Problem": The school I very much wish to go to stated in the acceptance that "Decisions about financial support are made through a separate process. If selected for such support you will receive an offer directly from the program providing the funding." and said nothing more about funding or when I might hear back. I do not wish to bother anyone at all, because I don't want to make the impression I apparently accidentally made on the other program director, but my decision between this program and a much less desirable (bad fit) but cheaper in-state school will come down to if I am offered a TA position, and TA positions are only offered to 7% of applicants for this program. I'm unsure if I can express this fact without sounding like I'm making demands or asking for some special consideration (all applications are automatically considered for all financial aid) and, put it simply, I don't know how to approach programs about money. I need  the TA-ship to make this doable, and it's the school I've always dreamed of going to. Do I wait and see where the chips fall, or what?

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What type of program are you applying to? Your left side-bar info says MPH in Dietetics but I'm not sure if you are currently in that program or applying to that type of program so I thought I would ask to make sure. 

If you are applying to MPH programs, then I don't have experience with this but the 9 paragraph defensive response does sound very odd. As you said, MPH programs don't fund many of their students so maybe they just copy and paste that to anyone asking for funding? In any case, it's weird!

Anyways for your current situation, this advice assumes that you will only take the top choice program if you are part of the 7% that get a TAship and you would attend the in-state school otherwise. In this case, you don't have to do anything unless it is close to the decision deadline for either your top choice program or the in-state program. I think you should continue to wait. You could to the top choice program saying that you are happy to receive this acceptance and that you hope you are a good candidate to receive funding or something like that.

When it's closer to the deadline to accept either school's offer (maybe when it's 10-14 days away), it's time to email the top choice program and ask them about a funding decision timeline. You can explain that you are very interested in their school but you cannot afford it without a TA-ship so that's why you are asking if they have made TA-ship decisions yet and if not, when would they have the decisions. If they tell you it is still weeks/months before a decision, then you could ask both schools to give you more time to decide. If they won't do this, then you just have to decide whether it's worth doing either program without funding. If only one school gives you an extension, then accept the other school's offer and then renege if you find the other school more desirable after funding decisions have been made (**note: you may lose a deposit if you do this, but I don't think it's a bad thing to renege on an unfunded admissions offer).

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