leónes y tiGREs y osos [dios mio!] or how I survived the GRE

GREs are serious business!
*Photo taken by me

What’s up blogheads I’m back! With some important information about grad school life. The topic this time is grades, gre, and funds [oh my!]. Christmas* is right around the corner and I have an early Christmas present for you. That right it’s the FTOD. Todays free tip is take advantage of test prep offered at your institution. Visit your campus’s Career Services. Often times they have partnerships with testing vendors.

My first year of grad school one of my colleagues informed me that they received free test prep from Kaplan just by going to a session hosted by Career Services. While I don’t believe in test prep as an industry. They do work. The main reason is they help test takers create a strategy to take the test. If you can’t afford test prep. Visit your local library, most will have previous versions of both the GRE and GMAT. You can also go to Barnes and Noble or another bookstore and by a test prep book. Remember practice makes perfect! So practice, practice.

GRE score and grades can largely determine what funding you qualify for. SO do well on your GRE and college grades that will go along way in increasing the number of opportunities that are available to you. Good luck.

PS – I love the Lion King… en Español! Check out the trailer por El Rey León!


Once You Submit Your Application(s)

Once you have submitted your applications, it becomes time to breathe. You may not know what the future has in store, but reading the tips from my colleagues, I hope you have been able to gain some insight into what a successful resume and CV looks like. Hitting the submit button or mailing the package is not the end of your journey. I remember sending off the five completed packages and trying to move my mind to something else. Yet, I know that is important for you now to move on to the search for funding options. There are many options that you should consider when looking for funding:

1. Institutional funding opportunities. This can be found on the graduate school website that you have applied to. Additionally, you may find information listed on your program website. Look for fellowships, grants, and scholarships. Be sure to meet the deadlines and do not hesitate to pick up the phone to ask questions.

2. Look for outside organizations that support graduate students. Organizations such as Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) offer free applications and other forms of support. It is important to recognize these early in your search and remember them throughout your educational experience.

3. Make sure that you understand the changes that have occurred with loan processes in the U.S. If this is an option for you, be sure that you recognize the penalties, fees, and restrictions.

Although this is a short list, I hope that it encourages you to make sure that you increase your knowledge of your funding opportunities.

When I graduated with my master’s degree, I was a happy recipient of a graduate assistantship. It allowed me to consider a doctoral degree as a strong possibility.



To be really clear: what follows is a very particular take on graduate funding, and one that emerges from (and speaks to) the social sciences. Every university and every college (within each university) handles things differently: what’s normal for me, in political science, is a world away from graduate students in physics, law, religious studies, and medicine! So, with that caveat in mind…

I’d venture that after finding the right program and the right mentor for you, obtaining funding at a reasonable cost to you is the most important factor in having a positive experience as a graduate student. Resources are scarce, graduate education is very competitive, and graduate students are very insecure; collectively these factors can make the scramble for funding an awful annual experience if you’re not careful. Here’s three thoughts on funding in the social sciences:

• Make sure that you can: (1) either afford to pay for seven years of tuition and your own living expenses—whether by loan or personal fortune (and you’ve definitely got a fortune if this is your path!)—or; (2) you have a guarantee for a certain amount of funding for a certain number of years before accepting an offer to join your program.
• Take seriously, very seriously, the search for funding for the entire course of your graduate career. If/when you’re funded by your department and have a steady stream of income it is easy to lose sight of what comes next. You should bear in mind two things about this ominous “next”: (1) eventually your funding will dry up; what comes then? (2) your ability to obtain external funding communicates to potential-employers both that you take your career seriously and that you have managed to convince a funding agency that your career is promising…
• I’d suggest spending at least 40 hours a year (only the equivalent of a work week, right?) searching for funding—and be methodical in how you keep track of the resources you uncover. Personally, I’ve developed a spreadsheet of funding sources that are germane to my work; I’d suggest considering something along these lines. Two implicit, but important, benefits of researching funding are: (1) you’ll also get a sense for which types of projects receive support and, (2) you’ll be compelled to think more clearly about your own work, which is always a useful endeavor!

Living on a budget

….is part of life in graduate school.  I haven’t really had an issue living within my means, as I’ve always been fairly conscious of my money and where it was going.  However, there are a few things that are important to consider in terms of budgeting for graduate school.

Many programs at IU offer a part-time teaching contract with your acceptance to their department.  To my knowledge, the packages range in amount and contract years–I think the average is something like 4-5 years of funding.

There are many places on campus where students can research further options for funding, including student loans, scholarships, fellowships, and work-study.

For nearly everyone arriving at graduate school from a paying job, of course, you’ll be taking a major pay cut. But that’s pretty obvious from the start…

In short, if you are smart about managing your money while you’re in graduate school, it’s entirely feasible to get through your program while staying comfortable and happy. It just means thinking carefully about the expenses you know you’ll have to shell out for, and the ones that you know are non-essential, even if you don’t want to admit it.