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Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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The_Minuteman Offline
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Post: #1
Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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I have not come across a thread which has funding queries answered or graduate funding explained. So, for all the newbies who are desperate for funding, here is how it works, why there are some do's, some MANDATORY don'ts and some more useful information.

What is graduate funding and where does it come from?

Graduate funding basically means that you get paid for doing some work for a Professor, a department or an on campus entity. Typically, graduate funding (and I am not talking about fellowships and scholarships here) come from three sources : research assistantships, teaching assistantships and graduate assistantships. Here is how each one works and where the money comes from.

1. Research Assistantship :

You work for a Professor, doing some work on a project, doing some research under him or working on your thesis which ultimately accomplishes the goal of the project he has started. In this case, the Professor would have written a proposal to a national (or private) funding agency (or company) that would have accepted his proposal and given him a grant of X USD which is to be utilized for this project over a period of Y years showing results on a roadmap he has drawn up.

2. Teaching Assistantship :

You work for a department (not necessarily yours since other departments offer out of dept TA positions), doing grading, taking classes (lab sessions), helping Professors set papers and supervising students and a host of other stuff. In this case the funding comes from the department. Each department will have a certain amount of money allocated for TAs from the funding they receive from the university. Again, in many departments, TA allocations are politically motivated and closely fought for (since there are a lot of implications in this regard which I will deal with later) and it is a strange scenario.

3. Graduate Assistantship :

You work for an entity on campus, like a counseling center, or the Information Technology Center where your expertise comes in handy and you get paid by that entity.

Why is funding so important for a student?

Funding is important because of two things mainly. It pays you a stipend enough to support you on a monthly basis and secondly, in most universities, an assistantship comes with a full tuition waiver, which means you just need to pay some mandatory tuition fee in the area of 1000 USD per semester. This is huge savings in terms of INR if you come to think of it and that is why the first question a student invariably asks of a university, even before jobs or internships is funding.

Why is funding important to the other entities involved and how does it work?

Like explained in the last question, if an assistantship is going to get you a full tuition waiver, then a student is extremely happy. But hang on a minute. The student's fee still needs to come from somewhere. Where does it come from? For an RA, it comes from the Professor's grant, for a TA, from the departmental account and for a GA, from the entity's source of funding.

Now, what you need to understand is that we are talking about a huge commitment here from these people. We are talking about amounts in tens of thousands of USD at the very minimum. Consider UMASS for example. The fee for one semester, everything included is roughly 13K USD. Per year that becomes 26K USD. Your stipend per month (at the minimal hourly rate of 21.25 USD at 10 hours a week) roughly translates to 11K USD a year. That equals almost 37K USD a year and that is huge money.

Also, when it comes to an RA, invariably, the Professor has to pay some percentage of the money he pays the student to the University. Just a random example, for every dollar he pays the student, 30% or 30 cents has to be paid to the university as per grant regulations (varies from place to place).

And this is the reason why funding matters so much to these people.

Coming to the case of a TA, since the department funds TAs (the scenario explained above is taken care of by the department) it becomes a little complicated. Different Professors have different TA requirements. Also, some Professors who are short of funds and don't want to lose a good student, try and waggle a TA for that student from the department. And it works out to be huge savings for him on his grant money. This is why it sometimes becomes very politically motivated in some departments (it is an occurrence, not a norm).

GAs are the easiest to deal with, since you are not tied to any Professor or department, but they are the hardest to get, since they are few and far between.

Why do Professors refuse to entertain RA questions from new students (invariably)?

Put yourself in their place. If you were supposed to pay someone, would you even commit to spending 40K USD per year on that person without even as much as a glimmer into the way he/she works?

Well, it is a different case if you have stellar credentials, superb recommendations and your work experience is so specialized that it speaks for itself. In that case, you may be able to negotiate for an RA even before you land up here. Otherwise, your emails are just going to go into the trash. My advisor receives like 50-60 mails like that in a day. I don't think he has the time or patience to sit and reply to any of those.

What are the added advantages of having funding?

In many universities, including UMass, the Graduate Employee Organization (or its equivalent) would have negotiated to get you some perks. For example, the assistantship may pay your medical insurance (percentage varies, at UMass, it is 100%), dental insurance (65%) and vision insurance (65%). For students (actually, for anyone in the US), insurance is a big deal. And I did not add it into the equation above. Depending on the insurance provider and the coverage, this could range from a few hundred dollars to 2000 USD per semester.

Wellness benefits qualify you for gym and fitness center reimbursements up to a certain dollar amount.

Some DOs and DONTs of funding :

1. Do not go write to a Professor about funding until you can prove that you are worth the investment.

2. If you get around to meeting a Professor, show interest in his work (and I hope it is genuine interest). DO NOT jump into funding in your very first meeting. If he has funding, he will propose it himself. You may bring it up with him sometime later if he has not talked about it since there are Professors who like to get their work done for free too.

3. DO NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT go to someone who has money because you want funding. Contact them only if you are genuinely interested in their work.

4. DO NOT apply for a Ph.D because funding is guaranteed and you don't want to spend money on your masters. This is a definite shortcut to disaster.

5. When you DO write a mail, keep it short, to the point and concise. DO NOT ask for funding in your first mail.

6. If you end up being funded, learn how the process works by helping your Professor with a grant proposal etc., so that you can understand the complications of the whole issue.

I will try to keep this as updated as possible with funding information. If you get any more, have any additions, clarifications or corrections, please let me know.

I am sure The_Observer, Ancalagon The Black, GravityEyelids and @[taro_curly] will have something more to add to this information. Please feel free to make this your own thread folks.

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04-21-2012 11:29 AM
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Pursue_MSINMIS Away
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Post: #2
RE: Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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Applause Applause Clear and to the point as always Smile

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(This post was last modified: 04-21-2012 12:11 PM by Pursue_MSINMIS.)
04-21-2012 12:11 PM
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Post: #3
RE: Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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Nice Smile Helps a lot .. Great jobApplauseApplause

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04-21-2012 06:49 PM
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amrkap Offline
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Post: #4
RE: Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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every aspect explained in great detail.. perfect .. ApplauseApplause

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04-21-2012 07:15 PM
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Post: #5
RE: Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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ApplauseApplause well explained...

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04-21-2012 07:33 PM
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mirthychaos Offline
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Post: #6
RE: Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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Great Post T_M Applause
Can this be part of Important/stickied threads?

04-21-2012 07:57 PM
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vraider Away
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Post: #7
RE: Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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Awesome stuff guru ! :respect:ApplauseApplauseApplauseApplauseApplause

^My two cents .
Tis' been a while.

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04-21-2012 08:38 PM
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Kite Runner Offline
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Post: #8
RE: Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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Very accurate explanations. Great work. Applause

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04-21-2012 08:47 PM
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Ancalagon The Black Offline
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Post: #9
RE: Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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Very well written. Excellent post. I'd also like to point out that prospective students should focus on creating the strongest possible profile for themselves. If you have a strong profile, you will be admitted and you will get funding and you will not have to beg for funding.

So keep funding concerns secondary as a doctoral student and concentrate on floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.

Ready to Rumble.

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04-21-2012 09:48 PM
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The_Observer Away
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Post: #10
RE: Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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Wonderfully written. I am sure you've covered all the bases here (and then some more) and I have nothing to add on the matter. However, like all stickies, I'll consider this as a work in progress and PM you if I find something that you might talk about and add into your post, if that's OK with you Smile

And, thread stuck. Very Happy

1) Please mention as many details as possible about your academics, research and work-ex, in terms of projects worked on, technologies used, roles/responsibilities handled, papers published/presented, awards/honors obtained, etc. All those have to be put in the misc details section of your infobank if you want any help on Edulix.

2) Please take some time out to read this and this thread in their entirety. PLEASE do that before asking questions about univs from a comparison perspective, or jobs, or coursework, or H-1B visas, or "placements", irrespective of which univ/department/program/major you're applying to.

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04-21-2012 11:21 PM
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superman1986 Offline
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RE: Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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Hi T_M,

How much do our academic scores weigh over experience wrt funding?

04-22-2012 03:08 PM
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The_Minuteman Offline
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Post: #12
RE: Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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For an RA, not too much. A Prof would prefer someone who has prior experience in the area to a fresher since the turn around time for productivity is going to be way lesser.

As for a TA, your scores are going to matter a bit more since they compare your proficiency in the same course during your undergrad.

For GAs, well, scores are not terribly important. But there needs to be some way you can prove your expertise. But they would prefer someone with some work experience in the area to make their job easier.

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04-22-2012 03:26 PM
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onusopus Offline
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RE: Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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Excellent Post ! Smile helps !Smile

04-23-2012 04:58 PM
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Post: #14
RE: Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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Just one small query The_Minuteman. Some universities have two application deadlines for Master's course. Eg: Purdue offers deadlines as January 5 to be considered for funding and March 31 for admission.

My question is whether this "funding" is the same as RA/TA/GA or is it something different? Because afaik, the funding through RA/TA/GA is decided by performance in 1st semester of study.

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12-26-2013 10:21 PM
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Post: #15
RE: Graduate Funding, why it is important and why it has to be treated delicately.
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Well for GA, I would like to add that start looking for departments outside Engineering right from the time you get admit. For example, libraries, horticulture, agriculture, life sciences, athletics, Biological Sciences etc. Many times, professors in those dept want Engineering students for coding, keeping database, making websites or other administrative tasks.

Although, I am still new to the grad school, I would just like to say one thing:
'Keep your eyes and ears open, search thoroughly and talk to as many people as you can, you don't know who can get you what. Don't just rely on your department to fund you!'


Regards
Abhishek

Quote:Just one small query The_Minuteman. Some universities have two application deadlines for Master's course. Eg: Purdue offers deadlines as January 5 to be considered for funding and March 31 for admission.

My question is whether this "funding" is the same as RA/TA/GA or is it something different? Because afaik, the funding through RA/TA/GA is decided by performance in 1st semester of study.

For Purdue, I would like to reply here that now Purdue hardly give RA/TA/GA to master's student with admits. But, you don't want to miss this deadline of Jan 5.

Reg your second question, It can be RA/ TA/ Fellowship but again, it is given according to the recommendation of proff. Usually, you can't expect funding from Purdue with the admit. This is just my observation, you are lucky if you can get one!

All the best
Regards
Abhishek

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(This post was last modified: 12-27-2013 08:37 AM by abhiloquacious.)
12-27-2013 08:33 AM
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