Jump to content

Fellowship at a fully-funded PhD program


Recommended Posts

I just got a fellowship at one of the schools that wasn't at the top of my current-4-acceptances-2-pending-interviews list. All of these programs are fully funded by the department for the first couple years and then by the PI for the remaining time of the dissertation. This fellowship would cover me almost completely for 3 years, and offers a decent summer stipend. So, it would give me considerable leeway in who I work for, because the PI would be off the hook for funding me for ~2/3 years I would be in his/her lab.

Question: How much do you think this extra money/prestige (I guess it's a competitive award?) should factor in to my decision? There are good faculty at the school who I could work with. I could be happy at this school. But like I said, it wasn't my top choice, and will probably move down with my next two visits.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think it is worth sacrificing your happiness and better fit for a little bit of money and prestige. You will have many chances to apply for an NSF and NRSA when you're in a program, and both of those I think would carry much more prestige and value than a university fellowship. If you were choosing between two places that you loved, but the one you loved a little less gave you the fellowship, that would probably be worth considering. Otherwise, it is better to go where you like more.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think it really matters. The prestige of a departmental award isn't really big enough to influence your decision. The upside is that you take funding pressure off your PI, and you won't have to apply for an NRSA or NSF GRFP -- assuming that it kicks in once you find a thesis lab, and not upon arrival. A three-year fellowship that starts upon admission isn't much of a fellowship when the department is covering the first 1.5-2 years anyway.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Money isn't everything. You have to make a decision about what will be best for you both in graduate school and professionally. Personally, I turned down more money at one school and a fellowship at another to attend my current school. Sometimes, when I look at my bank balance, I have regrets. But, I also know that I'll be way better off six years from now for being here and, to be honest, it has paid off already. Why? Because I have the most well-known person in my subfield as my advisor.

Link to post
Share on other sites

While the fellowship gives you money, its not the end all be all as you can and should go out and secure your own funding. The fellowship would look nice on your cv if it is a competitive one. Find the place that is a best fit and then worry about writing fellowship apps, your PI should be prepared to pay your way the whole way out. That being said, if you want a good postdoc position or a boost getting a job after school wrangling in some funding is pretty important. It can be done, I secured a NRSA which was really difficult and competitive but it can be done. I'm sure the NSF equivalent is just as competitive but just having that on your resume speaks volumes as to your grantsmanship skills.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Question: How much do you think this extra money/prestige (I guess it's a competitive award?) should factor in to my decision? There are good faculty at the school who I could work with. I could be happy at this school. But like I said, it wasn't my top choice, and will probably move down with my next two visits.

Just my personal opinion:

1. extra money: no matter at all unless it could impact my survival.

2. prestige: could matter, but if there's a gap between the schools' reputation, I would choose the one with higher reputation rather than the one offering me a competitive award. The large the gap is, so is the meaningless the prestige.

Hope you get great award from some pending institution which is your best fit, thus you will have no dilemma at all!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Money is a big issue in places where education is not free. For example, a friend of mine got into 2 law schools, both in top ten. One was her dream school, ranked #4 or #5 in the country, another one was slightly lower in rankings and was also her "dream school #2". However, the latter offered her a 1/4 tuition coverage, so she ended up going there. She really likes it, so it all worked out. In your case, however, I think that you should definitely go by fit and school prestige, and not by a university scholarship. Good luck!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Money is a big issue in places where education is not free. For example, a friend of mine got into 2 law schools, both in top ten. One was her dream school, ranked #4 or #5 in the country, another one was slightly lower in rankings and was also her "dream school #2". However, the latter offered her a 1/4 tuition coverage, so she ended up going there. She really likes it, so it all worked out. In your case, however, I think that you should definitely go by fit and school prestige, and not by a university scholarship. Good luck!

Until your friend graduates and finds a job, its impossible to tell whether this was a good decision or not. If taking on more debt for the degree means significantly better career prospects and earning potential, then taking on more debt makes more sense financially. Hopefully she looked at placement stats and salaries for those programs and did some number crunching! But the posters here are likely choosing between programs with full tuition waivers and are comparing stipend at one place vs. bigger stipend/fellowship at another, so its more about standard of living while in school as opposed to how much debt when they graduate. Money is money, but the psychological effects of going deeper into debt are probably worse than having to live a bit more frugally.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Until your friend graduates and finds a job, its impossible to tell whether this was a good decision or not. If taking on more debt for the degree means significantly better career prospects and earning potential, then taking on more debt makes more sense financially. Hopefully she looked at placement stats and salaries for those programs and did some number crunching! But the posters here are likely choosing between programs with full tuition waivers and are comparing stipend at one place vs. bigger stipend/fellowship at another, so its more about standard of living while in school as opposed to how much debt when they graduate. Money is money, but the psychological effects of going deeper into debt are probably worse than having to live a bit more frugally.

You do raise a very good point regarding the job prospects, but I don't think it was the case with my friend. She did her homework on both schools, so I am sure her choice wasn't blinded by the money. But then again, this situation does not apply to the OP's case.

Link to post
Share on other sites

to clarify, this fellowship does NOT increase stipend at this fully-funded PhD program, because it only covers 2/3 of the program costs for 3 years. It does cover 2/3 of 2 years when your PI would be paying for you. Which FYI for people considering this or similar fellowships, is a benefit if you want to work in a smaller/less-funded lab (you cost less than someone without external funding)

I agree that it's not such a big benefit that one should take this offer over a school that is a better match.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.