The Herman B Wells Library, as viewed from the West. Photo by Ren-Jay S.
The first time you see the Herman B Wells Library at IU, you may think, “wow, that’s awesome!” or perhaps, “what a strange looking building!” Either way, you may or may not realize that you’re looking at a library that hosts an extraordinary Information Commons, multiple quiet and group study floors, and endless rows of stacks that contain tomes of knowledge that have been slowly accrued over the last several millenia. So I encourage you to venture in, grab a coffee, and learn about the endless resources that are available to you through the IU Libraries.
We are fortunate here at Indiana University to have a library system that includes agreements with other libraries to grant us students and the faculty access to almost any resource in the world. I have yet to find a book, journal, or article that is not accessible either online, in print, or through Inter-Library Loan. So, it’s pretty easy to access scholarly resources here at IU, which makes life as a graduate student MUCH easier. There are many satellite libraries here on campus housed within each academic department (for example, the Chemistry Library, Life Sciences Library, Law Library, etc.), so you don’t have to venture far to speak with a librarian to assist you with your studies. Moreover, the library even offers live chatting to help you facilitate your research if you get stuck and need to ask a question right away. A little known secret is that some of the satellite libraries even offer graduate assistantships to students that includes a fee remission, health insurance, and a stipend, just like a teaching or research student academic appointment would. So if you’re still searching for funding, the libraries might be a good place to look if you’re running out of options.
The bottom line is that the extensive resources and expertise that are available through the IU Libraries exist to facilitate the work of graduate students and faculty, which makes life much easier for us. So go ahead and stop in one of the libraries sometime and get to know your friendly neighborhood librarian, because they might just get you out of a bind when you’re burning the wick at both ends trying to finish up an important project.
Life as a graduate student is full of challenges, especially those of the financial nature.
Of course, none of us enter graduate school thinking that we are going to get rich (LOL). Continue reading
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The first important step in affording the life of a graduate student is finding funding in the form of fellowship or an assistantship! My personal experience with finding funding for my Master’s and Doctoral degrees was not the usual case. Going into my Master’s program, my tuition was covered because I was a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, but that fellowship did not come with an assistantship, so I found a part time job so that I could pay for my books, apartment, and bills. Continue reading
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TUITION! FEES! BILLS! Words scarier than the most blood curdling horror story for a graduate student. I think the biggest concern for graduate students right after getting accepted, is figuring out how to pay for your new life as a burgeoning academic. It should come as no surprise that the pathway to higher education is never one paved in gold, with money trees and cash bushes lining the sides; the “poor college student” narrative tends to transform itself into the slightly more adult sounding “destitute graduate student” memoir. This should be looked at as an expectation, rather than a fear, however. There are ways of paying for it!
Now that you have sent in your application, you must be wondering what you should do next. Double check with your school if you need to submit separate applications for fellowships and scholarships. You will want to investigate these opportunities. It’s a good idea to talk to faculty of your department to see what departmental opportunities there are to apply for. Fellowships will provide opportunities for you not only to seek funding but also experience. What is important about fellowships is that they allow you to be secure regarding funding and during your first year as a graduate student, you can explore other options if your fellowship is only awarded for one year. If fellowships are not an option, begin looking for other financial assistance either through campus employment or working in the community if you are in need of funding while studying. Many schools and departments have research centers that may be looking for help. Make sure to be exhaustive in your search.
If you have missed the deadline to apply for fellowships, create a folder and collect information for the next year. Being prepared will help you keep a foot out front and have all necessary documents, recommendations, and information ready to submit at a moment’s notice. If you are needing recommendations, do not procrastinate. Professors will write you a better recommendation if they have time to prepare and not have to use a “canned” letter.
Stay tuned to next month about filing for a FAFSA.
If you tuned in to the Adobe Connect chat last week, I spoke a lot about working in on campus with Residential Programs and Services (RPS). I thought I would provide more details about what I actually do. In order to enter the HESA program, I needed to have an assistantship. My assistantship is with RPS as a Graduate Supervisor. I live in one of the residence halls on campus and supervise the Resident Assistants in the building. I gain a lot of experience working with student leaders and organizations within the building.
Why hold an assistantship? There are two main reasons you should hold an assistantship. First, you gain hands on experience in your field. Secondly, many of the assistantships pay for some or all of your tuition. If you haven’t thought about getting an assistantship before, it might be something for you to look into holding.
There are a number of assistantships that are available for HESA and non-HESA students. Here’s the link to the RPS website if you are interested in any of the positions: http://www.rps.indiana.edu/gradjobs.cfml
Me with my RAs at a February program
Folks, I’ve got the funding blues. There’s nothing that takes the spring out of your step quite like a rejection letter. It’s enough to make even a beautiful spring day like today turn sour. So since we’re talking about funding this month, I thought it was time for some advice on what to do when you get that email:
First things first – give yourself a little time to feel like lousy. It’s not fun getting turned down. It’s especially not fun when you really really wanted it. And it’s even worse when someone else you know succeeded while you did not. So it’s okay to spend a little time wallowing in grief over the lost opportunity and seeking comforting words from people who care about you. But the emphasis here is on a little time. I wouldn’t waste a full day on it, because next up you need to remember these things:
1. This is not a reflection of your self worth, intelligence, ability, or future success and awesome achievement. You are worthy, intelligent, and able. And you will be successful and achieve awesome things.
2. Every grant or other opportunity you apply for is a bit of a crap shoot. Sometimes the wrong person sees it, or maybe your topic isn’t quite timely. Even if your application could use some improvement, very rarely does a rejection letter mean it was terrible.
3. It takes a lot of applications to succeed. Some professors will say you have to apply for seven grants before you receive one. Some say you have to apply for ten. So rather than think of a rejection as a failure, think of yourself as just crossing off one of those necessary bullets that everyone has to bite before they score big.
If you can remember these three things, you’ll spend less time with the funding blues and more time finding new opportunities. So once you’ve shaken off that “rejection letter funk,” go back to your mentor for some more guidance, revisit some of the excellent advice that the other emissaries have provided this month, and attack your next application without fear – because one little letter has no place impeding your journey!
Money makes the world go ’round, and unfortunately, it is also the foundation of a graduate student career. As a graduate student, a big portion of the time goes into thinking about money. Are you budgeting correctly to pay for living expenses? Can you afford that trip to that really big, important conference? Where are you going to get money to conduct that research project? Do you have funding to support graduate school next year?
Fortunately, there are lots of sources out there where you can get money. My tips for getting this money is to: start early, do it often, and get help.
It is never to early to start applying to get money. NOW is the perfect time. Look for external fellowships even if your department is funding you, and apply to all of the ones you are eligible for. When going to a conference, apply for a travel grant. If you are starting a new research project, apply for grants to fund it, no matter how small. The more you apply, the greater the chance is of you getting something, and the better you get at writing grant applications (practice makes perfect!). Most importantly, talk to others who have gotten funding before. People who received funding don’t receive it by luck, they did something right. Ask them to see their applications, ask them to read yours, team up with researchers and faculty members who are well funded.
So what are you waiting for? Go out there and get that cash!
Most of my colleagues have talked about the most common source of funding for graduate students: research and teaching assistantship. However, I am going to take a different route and share some tips that helped get a highly competitive external fellowship.
Tip #1: Find someone that received a competitive fellowship and ask them if they will be open to share their materials with you. To be honest, most people will say no, but all you just need if for one person to agree. Once I got a successful application, it was not difficult to identify what I was missing.
Tip #2: Identify one of more faculty members that specialize in the area you are interested, and ask them if they will be willing to give feedback on your proposal. In my case, I approached a potential adviser and his comments played a fundamental role in improving the quality of my proposed research plan.
Tip #3: Apply to at least one fellowship that provides feedback to all applicants. Therefore, even if you get rejected, you will receive feedback on your application.
Tip #4: Keep applying until you are no longer eligible. If you applied Tip #3 you will get a sense on which fellowships to re-apply and those that you should not bother. Do not get discouraged!
Here is a link to some external awards: http://www.indiana.edu/~grdschl/external-awards.php
When I applied to graduate school, I was really surprised by the differences in the ways universities handle funding and appointments for graduate students. In many cases, applicants have to be more than a little savvy and be willing to ask potentially uncomfortable questions about money. Some universities (or schools within a university) require prospective graduate students to fill out applications for assistantships, that is, an application separate from the application to admission to the program or school. Many programs, however, will automatically consider you for a research or teaching assistantship based on your program application materials. Some programs/schools have competitive fellowships for applicants, so be sure to call the programs to which you apply and ask explicitly.
No matter what avenue you pursue for funding your graduate program, don’t be afraid to ask questions. I think the most appropriate times to ask is both before you apply to the program/school (scholarships/fellowships – some have early deadlines) and then once you have received a letter of admission into the program (assistantships). If the program or school doesn’t send information with your acceptance letter, pick up the phone or send an email to the contact for your program and ask them about assistantships and fellowships.
Most assistantships come in two forms: research assistantships (RA) or teaching assistantships (TA). For RAs, you will probably be expected to help a faculty member with some aspect of a research project(s): doing literature searches, conducting lab or field experiments, collecting and/or analyzing data, and in some cases, writing. For TAs, you will teach one or more sections of an undergraduate course in your program or school. If you don’t have previous teaching experience, this can be pretty intimidating. Most universities now have supports in place to help TAs get oriented to teaching, but honestly, your best resources for teaching are faculty members and the seasoned graduate students in your program. No matter what type of assistantship you receive, you can expect a tuition waiver (partial or full) and a (very) modest stipend for teaching. Most graduate students find it difficult to live on the stipend they receive, but to me, the tuition waiver is what makes the assistantship fiscally valuable. Without it, many graduate students would be strapped with monumental student loans, especially if you are coming to the program as an out-of-state resident. So you will find that you probably will have to take out some student loans, but having the tuition wavier makes the amount of loans more reasonable. Finally, from a professional standpoint, assistantships are valuable because they provide you with experience with teaching and/or research that becomes invaluable as you enter the job market.