fear of commitment (to graduate funding)
March 6, 2009 6:36 AM   Subscribe

Graduate funding: I got it but don't want to accept it yet because I'm waiting on word from better graduate funding. How do I deal with this?

I got accepted to my top choice for grad school in international relations! Excellent news. I also have been offered an awesome scholarship that covers tuition and pays a stipend. Even better!

However, the scholarship is not directly from my department and requires me to take some extra classes only tangentially related to my primary academic interests and to "work in the security field, with a government agency at the federal, state or local level for each year of scholarship." This is okay, but committing to working for the government kind of freaks me out.

My department makes their final funding decisions by April 1, and I have applied for a fellowship that offers a larger stipend, pays for more credit hours, and has requirements more related to my primary interests (intensive language and area studies). So, better overall. I really want it.

The first scholarship needs me to sign a service contract and, wrote that they "would like confirmation by email that you will be accepting this scholarship, and we will then forward the contract to you." I don't want it to seem like I don't want this scholarship but I would like to indicate that I need to wait until April 1 before giving a definitive yes. I don't really want to be a jerk and say yes and then just hold on to the unsigned contract until I know.

Also, I am worried that because I am being offered this scholarship, my department will see this and potentially not rank me as highly for the fellowship as they would were I unfunded. Is this a realistic concern? And, if so, what can I do?

Apologies for length. Anonymous because I assume that grad schools google.
posted by anonymous to Education (4 answers total)
This isn't really a problem; graduate schools know this sort of thing goes on. The school to which I applied gives people six weeks to make a decision. They expect you to be pursuing other options and expect you to seriously weigh your choices before making a decision.

One thing you might want to do is to call the decisionmakers for the fellowship committee and let them know your situation. This happens all the time too. Just tell them you've got another offer with a deadline of April 1, so if they can get back to you before that you'd appreciate it.
posted by valkyryn at 6:40 AM on March 6, 2009

Tell the scholarship people you need to wait until you hear about the other fellowship. Then call the DGS in your new department and tell them all of this, including the part about your hesitancy to sign on to work for the government - it's not like you're turning free money away, you'd *like* to not be beholden to someone at this stage of the game.

None of this is anything new, you'll be ok. Congrats on the scholarship and getting in, by the way.
posted by barnone at 7:42 AM on March 6, 2009

I'm not sure that the other scholarship people (non-departmental) would be able to release that you've accepted the scholarship to anyone, at least not until you formally sign the contract.

I would call them, and before you do anything else, ask them when their deadline for acceptance is. If it's past April 1st, then great, do nothing, or even ask to be forwarded the papers so you can look them over. If they don't have anything official or it's before April 1st, then explain your situation and ask to be allowed consideration time until April 1.

I don't like bureaucracies like this (especially conflicting ones), so I would try to limit the information you spread around. Explaining your departmental funding situation unnecessarily might make the non-departmental group think about offering it to someone else "more in need" (in their eyes, at least), and the same thing could happen at your department. I would just be careful with how far you spread the information around.
posted by dnesan at 8:14 AM on March 6, 2009

I agree with the above answers; this won't be a problem. And in fact, your ability to win fellowships actually often makes you a more attractive applicant for other fellowships. So, it might even help your case.

What I wanted to mention was that you should also ask what qualifies as "security" positions. For instance, certain fellowships along these lines (like the Boren, I believe) come with a plethora of great job placement opportunities after you get your degree. For instance, a job with the government skips you straight past several pay-grades into a very comfy rung. Or, if you want to go into the foreign service, you can skip all the preliminary application stuff and go straight in for the interview. So, inquire about that so you know the extent of what the fellowship will do for you, and what sort of jobs are included in the definition of "security field." The answers may surprise you.

A cautionary note, too. Perhaps you have interest in going on to get a doctorate after your MA (a move which might or might not allow you to delay your service requirement; in some cases, at least until Bush got his hands on government fellowship regulations, teaching at the university level counted as a fulfillment of the service requirements for some of these "security" oriented fellowships -- not sure if Obama is going to bring that back or not!). If this is the case, you need to speak to professors in the disciplines you would consider getting a doctorate from, to make sure that a fellowship like this one wouldn't actually work against you. At my institution, in some of the social sciences (anthro, sociology), taking such a fellowship can actually harm your professional reputation.

If you aren't planning on continuing on for a doctorate, no worries. And congratulations!
posted by artemisia at 12:56 PM on March 8, 2009

« Older Gas Fired Heat Pump - viable alternative to a new...   |   Is there anything consoling to someone who's lost... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.