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PhD Admissions without funding - need advice

nahid5692001nahid5692001 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
edited August 2012 in Graduate School

Back in January 2012, I got accepted to my #1 choice graduate school for a PhD degree. They invited me to a visit along with many other students. During the visit, I was told that PhD students do not get funding for their first term. Majority of the students that visited with me did not receive funding as well. I believe only 2 proplr did who had a Masters degree. I have a BS degree only.

They stated I can apply for a TA position during Winter 2013 term and thus am unfunded for Fall 2012 term.

When I got admitted, I received a letter from my professor that I wanted to work under which stated:

You may be interested to know that we received 247 applications for graduate studies our field and that we accepted only 17 students.

My parents and I have decided to pay out of pocket/loan as long as needed. I want to believe that I am a part of small group that got accepted and that I will get funding eventually (or maybe last minute).

Just a week ago, I emailed him stating my status and that I will be joining in September. I asked if we could meet to discuss how I can get involved. He stated he would be happy to meet to discuss possible research projects and we negotiate a time to meet.

From my point of view, everything seems to be good. After reading through a lot of threads, I am just worried that I may never receive a TA. I am expecting to pay for the first term but would like a TA/RA position in the following terms. A TA is all I require so I can start doing research without the worry of funding.

What do you guys think? Am I taking the right steps? I am trying to keep constant contact with my professor without being obnoxious. Any help is appreciated.
Post edited by nahid5692001 on

Replies to: PhD Admissions without funding - need advice

  • nahid5692001nahid5692001 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    Can anyone provide some insight?
  • hesdjjimhesdjjim Registered User Posts: 561 Member
    Which school is this? Perhaps there are some alumni/staff from that specific school on this board who are in the know as far as PhD funding is concerned.
  • nahid5692001nahid5692001 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    It is University of Washington.
  • b@r!umb@r!um Registered User Posts: 10,173 Senior Member
    Did you discuss funding with your adviser? He might be able to fund you from research grants until you get a TA position.

    Did you talk to current students when you visited? What did they say about funding? Are TA positions in later terms guaranteed, to be expected ("we can't guarantee you a position in writing, but in the past 5 years every student who wanted a TA job got one") or a long shot?

    I'd be very reluctant to join a PhD program without guaranteed funding. If you do join without funding, do think about what you'll do if you don't get funding as expected in your second term. Will you quit? Take out more loans? At what point will you draw the line?
  • nahid5692001nahid5692001 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    Professor does not have RA funding for me yet. The TA positions are given priority to PhD students, then MS. When I visited, funding was the most frequent questions asked by the 30 or so students that visited.

    The head graduate coordinator said that they don't give funding first term except for RA, and that starting winter term we can apply and will be on a priority list to get a TA. Now I am not sure how much of this is legitimate. All the current students in my group have a TA or RA position.

    I do not think I will quit. I can fund myself for 2 years with loans and personal savings. If I do not get funding after my first year, then I will think that I was not qualified for a PhD. I can finish with a MS.
  • jack63jack63 Registered User Posts: 613 Member
    Sorry if you've already mentioned this. What field? I'm in engineering, and occasionally PhD students go unfunded the first semester, but after that they are almost always funded.

    I actually accepted into my PhD program unfunded. I ended up getting funded the Wednesday before classes started.

    I'd definitely talk to your potential advisor about funding opportunities. Also, I'd shop around for potential advisors too if you are unfunded for the first semester.
  • nahid5692001nahid5692001 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    jack63: I am in the exact same situation. I am in engineering as well. I am unfunded for the first semester. I bet I will get funding the next semester but you know it is a big risk. I will be joining nonetheless but having funding for the first term would have been great. Good to know that I am not along.
  • jack63jack63 Registered User Posts: 613 Member
    Are you a US citizen? Also, where you specifically accepted into the PhD program, or a Masters program with a strong promise to move you up to the PhD program as soon as possible.

    First, whether fair or not, there are far more funding opportunities for US citizens, especially in the first year. The graduate coordinator for you program would be a good place to start to talk about potential fellowships, etc....

    Second, check the universities statics on how many PhD students are funded. There should be a percentage somewhere. Universities hate for this percentage of funded PhD students to go lower than necessary. It actually effects certain graduate school rankings. This is why I ask of you are truly admitted to the PhD program. Sometimes schools play games and admit first to the Masters program, so they will not have to report unfunded PhD students.

    Third, before school starts, go to the University and personally speak with the graduate coordinator and professors if possible about funding. Tell them you have your apartment setup, etc. If they know you will come, they will be more likely to fund you once you arrive.

    Fourth, shop around for professors. Don't think you need to stay with the one that got you accepted....especially if you are not funded. If you are not funded, you don't owe these professors anything. Personally, I ended up with a different advisor than the professor who got me accepted into my PhD program.

    Fifth, Is this Seattle or St. Louis? I was considered for the an engineering program in Seattle. They had funding which I was considered for, but I didn't get accepted. I'm at U. Michigan now.
  • nahid5692001nahid5692001 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    Jack63: I really appreciate your responses.

    Yes. I am a US citizen. My professor and school knows I am coming. I have already met with him once on a visit, and I have spoken with him via email plenty of times. I have a meeting with him a few days before school officially starts.

    I am in the full pledge PhD program. I am not doing a Masters and I am not in the Masters leading to PhD. I am in the PhD track.

    I am an electrical engineering student going to UW Seattle.

    I will speak to more professors. I emailed the graduate coordinator and they stated they do not have any opening but they anticipate openings before school begins. Any tips on how I can put myself on the top of that list of candidates?

    Thank you so much.
  • jack63jack63 Registered User Posts: 613 Member
    University of Washington in Seattle is a great school. The campus is also really attractive and Seattle is great city. I've visited the city before. I liked the city so much, University of Washington was actually one of my top choices for grad school. Good luck there!

    Like I said, I got funded the Wednesday before classes started, and I originally accepted unfunded in the PhD program. I really sweated this funding thing too. I don't want to get you hopes up though, but at Umich, when I first started, people regularly got funded in the two weeks before school started. The changed the policy lately though, which is good because I thought it was unfair to not fund a US citizen EE in the PhD program.

    My advice...

    Make sure the grad coordinator and profs know you've arrived. Show them an address in Seattle! Arrive two or three weeks early and start talking to people. I almost think certain schools hold fellowships until they know which students actually arrive and then do a shuffle of funding to make sure all the international and US citizens are funded.

    Personally, I think it is fair to discuss your funding concerns with the graduate coordinator and professors. Almost anybody can say it is a significant financial burden. Do it politely. Don't give ultimatums or anything.

    For the professor who accepted you, if it were me, I'd tell him that I was concerned about funding, and will be speaking to a number of professors. Make sure not to give an ultimatum like "Fund me or I'll find somebody else". Just keep it professional. Then I'd go e-mail speak to other professors who's work you are interested in. My experience is that some of the Full professors and Associate professors are loaded with money(they'd probably beg to differ).

    Also, it is very important to do your FAFSA. Some of the fellowships are needs based, so you don't want to wait 2 weeks while your FAFSA processes to be considered for a fellowship that is needs-based. If you do end up considered for a needs based fellowship, call and make sure your are qualified based on your FAFSA. My personal experience was that I was considered for a needs-based fellowship. I had worked, but was let-go and on unemployment. This allowed me to qualify for the fellowship. I needed to go to the financial aid office to explain all of this though and show documentation because they originally said I wasn't qualified. I got the fellowship.
  • nahid5692001nahid5692001 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member

    Wow thank you so much! My grad coordinator said U.S. citizens do not get a priority over non citizens. They just do not have to take the English tests. You said that you got TA the Wednesday before school started. Is this Wednesday after or before your PhD orientation?

    We have a PhD orientation and I am thinking that they will see who is present at that to give out TA. What do you think?
  • nahid5692001nahid5692001 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    Also here is the funding statistics: https://www.ee.washington.edu/operations/advising/gradstatsfund.html

    83% are funded. Is that a decent number?
  • jack63jack63 Registered User Posts: 613 Member
    You can be funded via a TA, RA or fellowship. I got a fellowship for my first year in my PhD program the Wednesday before school starts. Many of these can only be awarded to American citizens. Often the university applies for fellowships from the US government and then hands them out to students who are qualified once the US government grants them first to the University. This is why I recommend filling out the FAFSA. Some of the fellowships are needs-based. In a fellowship, you don't need to TA you just work for a professor for the year with the goal he or she will continue to fund you.

    They won't give any preference to US citizens for TAs though. However, I did my terminal Masters at another school a long time ago, and come to think about I did get a TA offer ~2 weeks or so before school started.....I keep getting my funding....late.

    Don't get your hopes up because some random guy on the internet said this sometimes happens though ;)

    83% is not bad. Is this for both terminal masters and PhD or just PhD? I don't know if UofW offers a terminal masters. PhD students should have preference over Masters students for TA positions

    If this number is for both PhD and terminal Masters, it is excellent. The fact that they are posting it is a good sign. This school shouldn't want unfunded PhD students.
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