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 'student loans'
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!