Should I have been applying to scholarships instead of spending my summer at the beach?
January 6, 2010 5:33 PM   Subscribe

How common is it for competitive liberal arts applicants to enter graduate school with outside scholarships?

I've been applying for a PhD in Classics at various top-20 universities, and all the online applications ask if I have any outside scholarships. This is in conjunction with "Do you plan on applying for university funding?" Which, yes, I do plan on applying, because I can't pay for a PhD all by my lonesome. I realize that an outside scholarship would make me more appealing for finance-strapped universities, but is it unusual to lack scholarships during one's first year of studies?

I began applying to universities last minute, starting in November, so I didn't have time to solicit scholarships. Now I'm worried that my application looks very bare when I leave that whole box blank. Should I be overly concerned?

Anon because my office knows I'm a MeFite.
posted by anonymous to Education (11 answers total)
I just applied to similar programs without any scholarships. I asked LOTS of questions (here and elsewhere) about the application process and no one mentioned that I should be getting scholarships. If I were you (and I almost am, I guess), I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:47 PM on January 6, 2010

I wouldn't worry about it. When I applied for my Masters I had no outside funding and applied literally last minute (more like last hour). I got in 5 out of 6 and 4 of 5 provided fundings.
I am an international student so I wasn't eligible for about 99% of the scholarships out there-- they didn't care.

I know phD is different though. But what can you do now--too late to undo the summer.
posted by atetrachordofthree at 5:53 PM on January 6, 2010

I have an MFA, and none of my cohorts had outside scholarships. I did apply for a Javits Fellowship in my second year, but didn't get it--I was the only one in my department who applied for this, too.

I think it's pretty common to have no outside scholarships.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:17 PM on January 6, 2010

Nope, not unusual. I knew a couple of people in our department (MA and PhD) that had secured funding by applying for fellowships the fall before they started the program. But everybody else didn't, they took what the school gave them - and if you're going into a PhD program, make sure they're giving you something and that you can live off it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:25 PM on January 6, 2010

If you have outside funding, that shortlists you into the program.

Another shortlist is if you've met with and already have a member of the faculty ready to take you in (you as a mentee, them as a supervisor).

Depending on how awesome/go-getting you are, the 2nd option is usually easer; junior PhD external funding is easier to get if you have a really great supervisor. Even if you don't get that funding, having a supervisor willing to take you in implies that they'll pay for you and the program is off the hook.

Heck, if you get someone who's willing to vouch to pay for you (or that you come with funding), grades and references almost hardly matter, since a) the school doesn't have to pay you, and b) you can afford to pay tuition.

If you do come with funding, it might be worthwhile to negotiate about you having to TA (but TAing is probably a good experience).
posted by porpoise at 9:05 PM on January 6, 2010

Yup, like everyone has said, it doesn't matter at all.
posted by ob at 7:32 AM on January 7, 2010

A word of caution - it's not uncommon - but that doesn't mean you shouldn't pursue it. I know that my candidacy was greatly improved by my outside funding and my fellowship gave me a support base outside the school I was attending. Absolutely look for fellowships - I've finished my degree and I continue to receive support (as I establish my career) because of the hard work I put in looking for outside funding.

Another way of putting it:
Should liberal arts applicants pursue outside funding? Maybe.
Should competitive liberal arts applicants pursue outside funding? Abso-freaking-lutely.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:29 AM on January 7, 2010

If you had scholarships, yeah, that would have given you an advantage.

But you don't have one, so you have three choices:

a) take a year off and look for scholarships to improve your chances;
b) gut it out, knowing that you don't have that advantage;
c) build time machine, go back in time and kill Hitler obtain scholarship.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:09 AM on January 7, 2010

It depends on the school. At the University of Toronto, about 1/3 to 1/2 of students have outside funding at some point during their degree, and many enter with it. Applying to external funding is a condition of the internal funding package. Schools often look favourably on people who apply even if they don't get it, because it shows initiative in pursuing funding. It's probably not make or break, but it can be a bonus.

Heck, even though your applications are in, you can look around now and see if there's anything you can apply to. Then if you get something you can send an update to the school, because I completely agree with Baby_Balrog. If you want to be competitive, showing that you are willing and able to pursue independent funding is huge.
posted by carmen at 9:15 AM on January 7, 2010

I'm pretty sure that in addition to depending on the school, it also depends on the department. It seems fairly standard (from the 5 minutes of research I just did) in engineering departments to come in with outside funding. Some humanities departments (the fancy ones) can and do guarantee full (internal) funding to all applicants.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:25 AM on January 7, 2010

(Also, don't worry about having blank portions of your application if you have nothing to fill them; I doubt admissions committees are going to sit there thinking THIS IS SO EMPTY. They'll mark a box that says "no outside funding" and then move on to be impressed by the rest of your probably great application)
posted by oinopaponton at 9:30 AM on January 7, 2010

« Older Help me keep my cool with my kid   |   CES for Non-Attendees Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.