Tuesday, October 5, 2010

18. Fellowships are few and far between.

It would be interesting to know when and how the word “fellowship” came to replace the word “scholarship” for graduate students, but that is what a fellowship is. It is money that is given to you, to use toward your studies, that does not need to be paid back. Fellowships are wonderful; there is no doubt about it. A fellowship, unlike an assistantship, is not a job; it is essentially a gift of money that comes only with the expectation that it will further your studies. A fellowship can buy a graduate student precious time to focus on preparing for comprehensive exams or on writing a thesis or dissertation. Some fellowships are designed to support travel to foreign countries for research or language acquisition.

For most graduate students, these are rare opportunities. Fellowships are awarded by the government, private foundations, and by universities themselves, but the number of fellowships is small relative to the number of graduate students. If all graduate students were funded solely with fellowships, then the average time-to-degree would be a fraction of what it is now. Of course, if all graduate students were funded this way, universities would have no teaching assistants, and the current teaching model could not be sustained.


  1. Yes, once your department funding runs out, you will be desperate. You will apply for a whole slew of fellowships--perhaps dozens--and they will range from the coveted Mellon with awesome benefits, to the measly $500 essay contest sponsored by your school. Think grad school applications were hard? Applying for fellowships is just as much work, if not more so. You need letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and transcripts from all your schools, in addition to much longer, more involved essays than the ones required by grad school applications. And they pretty much *all* require that much work, even the ones that don't pay enough to live on.

    The best case scenario is that you get one that actually covers all your tuition and living expenses. But even in this scenario, you only get about 6 months, tops, to concentrate on your research. Then it will be time to start the process anew, because pretty much all fellowships only last a year, and you've still got to scramble for funding for next year.

    The more likely scenario, of course, is that you get nothing, or maybe you get a $2,000 fellowship that doesn't even cover your dissertation fees. Now you've got to apply for fellowships all over again in a few months, while teaching a bunch of adjunct classes AND trying to squeeze in your research on weekends.

  2. In our small group of 10 gradute students under one prof, there was one guy that took two goverment fellowships when he was only aloowed the one. This was very demorilizing for me who had to survive on 25% of what he was taking in. He then manages to invest 50,000 dollars of his income in stocks before graduation. It was overlooked because he was the pre-modonna or superstar (although he was not any better tna anyone in my opinion). I even got a death threat from him once for leaving a computer monitor on overnight. It was ignored by my superiors.... ahh hell.... I hated doing a PhD and recommend to anyone DO NOT DO a PhD