Posted by: thediygeochemist | September 16, 2009

money, money, money

Anyone who thinks they won’t have to worry about money during grad school is clueless. Grad school costs money: tuition (possibly exorbitant, if you’re at a private university or a state school where you’re a non-resident), fees, textbooks, living expenses…and, for scientists, the cost of funding your research. You might think you’re lucky if you get “guaranteed funding” (as I did), but what this means is that they’ll pay you for being a TA–an activity guaranteed to suck up all available free time. In other words, you still have to find the money if you want to have a hope of ever finishing your dissertation.

So here I am at grad school…and I’m a TA. I love to teach, but on the other hand, I know that I can’t TA and do research at the same time without giving up activities such as sleep. Which means that I have to find funding somehow.

Of course, one of the first things I did when I got here was to speak to the professors I’d identified as being possible advisors. Neither of them have money right now. *rolls eyes* They both have grant proposals in, but it’s likely to be January before they hear back on any of those. And, of course, there’s no guarantee that they’ll get the money that they applied for.

Now I could wait to see what happens, but that would mean that I might end up TAing for another year, and, frankly, I’d rather not. So I’m putting together my back-up plan by applying for fellowships. The NSF GRFP is on my list, of course, and the EPA’s STAR, and the NDSEG. I’ll hunt around for more as well.

Applying for all of these will be a pain, and I have to admit that I was reluctant to tackle this job at first. But I talked about the issue with SL over the summer, and he gave me some good advice. “You want to be a professor?” he asked. “One thing hiring committees look at is how much money you can bring in. If you start getting your own funding now, you’ll be that much ahead of the crowd later.”

And so here I go, applying again. I think I preferred the graduate school applications to the sort of stuff I have to write now…



  1. I found your site while looking for examples of proper EPA STAR formatting – agreed, paying for grad school does take some doing!

    I got the NSF a few years ago and have been badgering my classmates to post their successful applications on my website ever since. If you’re interested, you can find a half dozen or so successful apps from the last three years, including some of the review notes.

    Good luck applying for funding, and let me know if you’d like to trade applications- I could use an extra person to review mine.

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