Getting Your Hands on That “Mean Green”

Money money money money…some people gotta have it, some people really need it. It’s only fitting to begin this post with the lyrics of renowned soul group The O’Jays from their hit song For the Love of Money. These lyrics definitely describe graduate students’ sentiments regarding funding our graduate education. Graduate school is not cheap, and it sure is not free! But don’t be alarmed! What’s the best way to fund your education? SImple. Get someone else to pay for it.

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Libraries at IU


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.

What Profit?

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I was driving to Bloomington, my normal routine every morning my first semester of graduate school.  Now I know you’re wondering, “Why drive fifty miles back and forth every day?  Why didn’t you move to Bloomington?”  This is when the flashback noise would begin and the water effect would take you and I back to January 2012. Continue reading

Started from the Bottom: No Funding

College Money

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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

Millennial Money Smarts!

Photo from

Photo from

Engaging graduate students in a discussion about long term financial preparation and success can be difficult. Who has time to think about retirement when I have a dissertation to write, rent to pay, and conference registrations?????

I am lucky enough to have a graduate assistantship that is grad student centered. Working with Indiana University Human Resources and TIAA-CREF we have developed a survey instrument to ask grad students what is important to them financially. Hopefully with this data IU can develop seminars focused on financial issues to better prepare graduate students for when they graduate and accept those amazing post-docs, tenure track professorships, or jobs in the public or private sector.

As a graduate student that has completed a Master’s degree and now in the dissertation stage of the PhD, I can say that it is difficult to plan long term when I have to address more immediate financial concerns such as student fees, rent/housing, other miscellaneous costs, and looming student loans. I am learning that I should still be saving for the FUTURE.

Scariest Part of Graduate School

BOO! Image taken from

Image taken from

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!

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Graduate Assistantships and Portable Funding

Funding graduate school

Finding funding is an integral experience of most graduate students’ post-baccalaureate endeavors. The majority of funded graduate students earn appointments as graduate assistants. In fact, some programs will not admit a student unless they secure a graduate assistant position. Similar to most other job searches, many graduate assistant positions require an application, record of previous employment, statement of skills, and an interview. GA positions, as they are commonly called, frequently appear in job listings as teaching appointments (as associate instructor or an adjunct), administrative work in a campus office, or research. Graduate Assistantships are often institution specific, some are even departmentally assigned. (For help finding Assistantships at IU, visit or contact the GradGrants center .)

A more flexible, and accordingly much more competitive, source of funding exist as portable funding. Portable funding refers to financial assistance that is not tied to a specific institution and thus may be used at any institution accepting the funding.

See the following list of websites to find and further explain portable funding:
* US News & World Report –
* Grad schools website has a page dedicated to portable funding –
* The National Science Foundation offers multiple fellowships each year –

Living on a graduate stipend

Get a loan.
Unless you’ve worked full-time and stored up a considerable amount of savings, then you will more than likely need a loan to supplement your graduate assistantship. Some positions pay better than others. My assistantship as a ten month associate instructor is pretty common for doctoral students. The assistantship allows for a 97% fee remission for up to 12 credit hours in the Fall, 12 credit hours for the Spring, and 6 hours for the summer. Thus, 3% of the fees is still mine to cover. To help pay for that portion of tuition fees and help with living costs, I get a stipend that covers, just barely, the rent, food, and personal bills. During the Fall and Spring, the stipend is enough for just living, but not exactly enough for books and going out; moreover, it is no help at all in the summer. In which case, graduate students do a scramble every summer to find work for the two months we’re unemployed. It can be difficult, but doable. To survive the summer, I teach math for Upward Bound high school students and serve as a counselor for any other summer program I can find on campus. Additionally, I room with two other graduate students to keep the cost of living low. To avoid such hardships, most other graduate students get loans and live comfortably.

And now your waiting? What to do next?

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.