Hello again! As a follow-up to the previous discussion about funding, I’d like to share some more information for people, such as myself, who are in an alternative financial situation during their graduate school. First and foremost, it’s not the end of the world to be in something other than a fully funded PhD program! There are options out there to avoid acquiring a gazillion dollars of student loan debt while living off of Ramen noodles and Spam for 2-7 years. FYI, don’t mix the two.
Tag Archive for 'financial aid'
Now that it’s April, and seniors everywhere are looking forward to graduation and beyond, the question, “should I go to graduate school or find a job right out of college,” is probably floating around in a lot of minds. The answer, as it is for every important, life-altering decision, is: it depends. Luckily, there’s this neat thing called the Internet, where people can find answers to all of their questions!
Your anxiously awaited graduate school acceptance letter has arrived. Hooray! Assuming that this is the school for you, one of the next steps is to consider the financial implications of choosing this institution. There are huge variations between graduate programs. A “one-size fits all” approach may work when discussing interview tips, but when it comes to funding, it gets seriously complicated! Let’s keep it as simple as possible and just explore what I consider to be the gold standard of graduate education: fully funded Ph.d programs.
Graduate assistantship (GA) is a great way to help deal with the financial stresses of graduate school. Some schools will not only waive tuition — they’ll even pay you to go to school with monthly stipends! Needless to say, getting a GA is something that every prospective grad student should be thinking about.
Here’s an interesting post about one student’s experiences getting graduate assistantship during his first semester in grad school. Although it’s written by an international student, the principles are applicable to all students looking to get financial assistance from their schools. Click the following link to read the article.
From the post:
Find out who’s the person responsible for appointing GAs and get in touch with him/her. Don’t directly show your interest in being appointed, go slow. E.g., if the person is an Advisor, seek help in deciding on the courses, getting to know the department and start showing interest in his work. If it’s a professor, ask him about his works, research interests, etc. In the conversation, get to know him, show your interest in learning new things, and show that you have strong communication skills. In short, tell him you have got whatever he wants in a potential GA and later tell your interest in the position and state how it will corroborate to achieve your goals. A person in the second sem has more chances of getting a GA because he is already there for one sem and people know him. So, by letting the concerned person know you, you are putting yourself to the same level as that of a student in the second sem.
The point that the author is making is that visibility and demonstrated interest are key. You’re going to be competing with other current students who are already known by the professors, so your best bet of getting early assistantship is to reach out and communicate with advisors so that they can get a feel for who you are and why you qualify. It’s already an important part of the research process to bounce around some emails to ask questions about programs anyway.
Man, applications are a lot of work. I figured that it’d be easy to recycle essays for each application, but so far, the essay prompts have been different enough to warrant completely new responses each time. It’s not like I’m saying something totally different — it’s just that the questions are phrased such that each essay doesn’t really focus on exactly the same topics.
This whole process has been more grueling than I expected. Fortunately, the hardest parts are over now. I have two essays from which to draw content for my next essays, and all my recommendations have been sent in, which means no more stressing out about outside forces — probably the biggest relief of all.
At this point, my next biggest concern is probably my financial future. I know I’ll probably have to take out a student loan at some point, but I am clueless as to what that means. I don’t even know my credit score. Additionally, I need to look into scholarships and what kinds of financial assistantships my various schools offer. I’ve also thought about getting a job at school, but some graduate programs place a limit on the number of hours students are allowed to work outside of school in order to ensure that their primary focus is on research — be on the lookout for these kinds of restrictions!
The apocalypse has come and gone, and I am still alive and kicking. I’ll be taking the next several days to recharge, but unfortunately no longer than that. The GRE is only one part of the grad school admissions process. Now comes…well, everything else. Looking ahead, these are the next four big stops that I can see along the road to grad school. So much to think about! I love thinking! I love it!
1. Program Research
Now that I have a (unofficial) GRE score, I have a better idea of where I should/can apply. So far, all I’ve done is make a big list of all the schools that might possibly interest me; now the next step is to whittle away at the list until I get down to a reasonable list of four or five schools. This is by far one of the scariest/exciting-est (not a word) things I’ve ever had to do in my life — I don’t think any other decision will define the rest of my life as much as this one will. No turning back now!