Monday, September 10, 2007

Tell Me With Perfection in Your Voice, That You Never Really Had a Choice

Trolling through this Crooked Timber thread about advice for prospective grad students, I found this little turd of crappy advice:
Also, if a school admits you to its PhD program, but offers no funding, I’d think very long and hard before committing to it. (I would never have, for one thing, I already had enough loans from college.) If they don’t believe in supporting you financially, it’s not clear whether they really believe in supporting you at all.

No. I can't make it any clearer than that. You should not "think very long and hard before committing" to the PhD program, and yes, it is clear they really won't support you. There's no thinking to do here. Your decision's been made for you.

11 comments:

Himself said...

I think this advice is not that great - I have two counter-examples, although both are from the UK, so perhaps there's some transatlantic difference. Firstly, I know of a woman who self-funded through a PhD at a UK university and ended up with tenure at a more prestigious UK institution - the fact she was paying for it made her apply herself way more and become outstanding. Secondly, I myself briefly attended a PhD program at a UK institution without a stipend, before being offered one elsewhere and leaving. The former institution gave me far more support than the latter did.

Philosopher for hire said...

Yeah things are very different in the UK where funding is extremely difficult to come by. It's rare for UK departments themselves to offer students funding. Most grad students in the UK who have funding got it from the .

philosopher for hire said...

Whoah check my mad HTML skilz up there.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Yeah, what philosopher for hire said. Although I'm not 100%, it's a fair bet that any school in the top-50 in the US is going to offer tuition waivers and a stipend to any phil grad student they accept. (The only kind of exception I'm aware of is one where, eg, a really bright retiree decided he wanted to do a PhD instead of moving to Florida, and so a dept would allow him to join the program without giving him a stipend. But that's a sort of weird, very exceptional case.)

In addition, keep in mind US PhD take a few more years than (at least some) UK PhDs, and that the tuition is more expensive. So without tuition waivers, a philosphy PhD in the US is looking at, well, *hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt*.

How would those numbers work out in the UK? I don't really know--I'm just assuming tuition costs less and you need to do fewer years, so the whole thing's more doable. . . .

dslak said...

With the exchange rates (over $2 per £1), it's not too good. Americans don't qualify for AHRC funding, but many universities have Oversearch Research Student Award Scheme offers. These at least reduce tuition to that of a home student (at my institution, they also pay that and give you £1,000 on top).

It's obviously a competitive enterprise, but probably no worse than the odds most people have of getting into a top 50 US school in the first place.

Bhawna said...

Oh, and as for costs as an American in the UK, you're looking at tuition of $20K-$30K per year, and student housing will run you another $10,000 (don't even think of going private!). The typical Ph.D. program in the UK is three years, so it will still run you around $100,000 to do it without funding.

Anonymous said...

I was admitted to a US philosophy department without funding. It was in the last year that they did such. (Thus, had I applied the following year, I would not have even been accepted.) It was a great department, so I went for it and I eventually got tuition wavers, but no money for living expenses. Had to teach to do that. Was it worth it? Hell yes. I now have a tenure track job and my PhD from No-Funding-You looks just as good as everyone else's from the same school.

Cuchulâín said...

It's so good, thank you

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Anon. -- That's no mean feat--I mean that sincerely. As you hint, though, that sort of practice has mostly been phased out by the better depts. So, for the most part, someone looking at paying for their own PhD now isn't looking at the same opportunity.

Himself said...

No kidding about the UK being tougher funding-wise - a close friend, with a First from Oxford, was accepted to do a DPhil at Oxford in French, but wasn't given funding. He's a civil servant now.

We need to be clear on the difference between no funding whatsoever, i.e. full fee-paying, and having no stipend. Sure, if you're in category one, don't do it, unless you have a titanic trust fund behind you, but in the second I wouldn't rule it out. I know numerous others who've gone to schools, mostly in the UK but also in the US, without a stipend offered and managed to get one shortly after arriving, or even before in the US case. I think my Oxonian friend might have been a little precipitous abandoning his academic career just because the British government didn't cough up staight away. The golden rule is dedication: if you're going to put your all into it, regardless of money, then you'll probably do well and the money will probably come.

Anonymous said...

I too was accepted without funding at a department in the top 25. My first yesr I took out loans, begged for money from my parents, and ate some beans and rice. But from my second year on I was either a teaching assistant or teaching my own classes every semester, and was able to get through just fine.

All that teaching to pay for school helped me to get a good one year job, and the next year a TT job. And I just got tenure this year. If I did not take that chance, I would not be where I am today.