Obtaining Graduate Assistantships

@TNicole84 asks us for advice on obtaining graduate assistantships. Here’s information and a few application tips:

Check out our PhD Admissions 101 Page!

Need help funding your graduate education?

Assistantships are a way of funding your graduate education. They are more often awarded to PhD students than to master’s students (though a department may sometimes have funding available for exceptional master’s students). You may be awarded a Teaching Assistantship (meaning you help teach a class, teach a section of a larger class, teach a lab, or the like—responsibilities vary by institution); or a Research Assistantship (meaning you work with faculty to support their research—your responsibilities will depend on your field).

Most PhD programs will evaluate your application for funding (including assistantships, fellowships, etc) when they admit you, based on the same materials you submitted with your application for admission. Most universities also require that you file a financial aid application (including the FAFSA, if you are eligible for federal aid), so that they can also determine your financial need. Check the requirements for each university you’re applying to.

Some universities offer “named” fellowships/assistantships through campus research centers or interdisciplinary teaching centers—these programs are likely to have independent application processes. Research your options carefully and make sure you get all your application materials in on time.

If you’ve been admitted for a PhD and your department has not offered you funding (in the form of assistantships/fellowships), contact the department to ask whether students are able to apply for assistantships in other (allied) departments. For instance, the university might offer graduate teaching assistantships for interdisciplinary general education courses, and positions might become available late in the year. If you’re in English, perhaps the Composition department needs additional TAs. Find out what materials you need to submit (normally your CV, LORs, occasionally the application you submitted for admission).

If you’re applying for a TAship independently of your admission application, use your CV to highlight any previous teaching experience. In your cover letter, explain why pedagogy is important to you and why you see teaching as an important part of your academic training (and career). If you’re applying outside of your home department, make sure you can demonstrate you have the skills to do the job (for instance, if you’re an Applied Math student, can you also TA Physics? If you’re a Comparative Literature student, can you TA German?).

In addition, you can often supplement your primary funding with work as a grader or reader during exam periods.

Helpful resources on campus will include your home department, the office of graduate studies, and the financial aid office.

Good luck!

Check out our ebook, Financing Your Future. It is a comprehensive guide to graduate funding.

Download free: Plotting Your Way to a PhD

Rebecca Blustein By , Accepted.com editor and former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Rebecca will be happy to assist you with your grad school applications.

Show Me The Money

You may get accepted. You may get rejected. Either way, you need to answer one question: "Now what?"

I’ll give you a little advice…everything is negotiable.

On a day like today, I’m doing my happy dance.  My MBA clients have been contacting me with good news from the schools to which they applied.  Several of them have multiple offers with scholarships attached, which immediately present the question:  Can they negotiate their scholarship offers?

Since most of you have yet to take your MBA negotiations class, I’ll give you a little advice…everything is negotiable.  You have an offer of admission and unless you did something egregious that the schools discover in their background research, the school will not take that offer away from you.  In fact, the schools want you to come to their programs so much that they’ve offered you scholarships, tuition discounts, or graduate assistantships to entice you away from other schools.  You are in the power position, but you have limited time to act.

If you have multiple scholarship offers, you have even more power.  So play the schools off each other.  You will need to provide proof of funding and develop a clear statement of what it would take to have you deposit and attend that school.  If school A matches school B’s offer, go back to school B and ask for more.  Many schools have some wiggle room with scholarship offers.  And the worst-case scenario is that school A will say “no” to your request and then there is no harm and no foul.

Caution: While you may be in the power position, remain likeable, respectful and courteous. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by coming off as arrogant.  And if you have deposited at a school, you have diminished your position of power.

If you need additional consultation on this matter, we are available to help you construct the communication that in the words of one of my former clients made his “investment in Accepted.com a very positive ROI.”

You may get accepted. You may get rejected. Either way, you need to answer one question: "Now what?"

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished Accepted.com consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.

Columbia Offers New Dong-Bin Shin Fellowships

Applying to CBS? Check out our application essay tips! Last week, Columbia School of Business announced that it will be offering two-year, full-tuition fellowships to four class of 2016 students. The fellowship – the Dong-Bin Shin Fellowship – is supported by the recent $4 million gift of class of 1981 alumnus, Dong-Bin Shin.

The fellowships will be awarded to four students who demonstrate academic excellence as well as financial need. One fellowship will be given to an international student from each the follow regions: South Korea, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East or Africa. To be considered, students must apply by January 6, 2014.

In appreciation of Shin’s generosity, Columbia will establish the Dong-Bin Shin ’81 and Lotte Classroom on its new Manhattanville campus.

Check out our Columbia Business School Zone for all the CBS news, stats, tips, and more.


NYU Stern Offers New Scholarship

Learn more about NYU Stern.

“We’re in the dream-enabling business at NYU”

NYU Stern received a $10 million gift that will go towards a scholarship fund for college seniors who wish to pursue their MBAs at Stern after they graduate. The scholarship is named for the donor, William R. Berkley, NYU alumnus and vice chairman of the NYU board of trustees. Berkley’s $10 million gift is part of NYU’s six-year campaign to raise $1 billion for scholarships.

Exceptional college students must apply to Stern’s full-time MBA program and The William R. Berkley Scholarship Program during their senior year on the regular Stern application deadline schedule.

The program provides awardees with “a scholarship that covers the full two-year tuition and fees, provides a housing stipend of $18,000/year, and includes a $10,000/year stipend for books and other expenses. Berkley Scholars will also receive intensive mentoring from the Stern community.” In other words, it covers virtually everything.

“We’re in the dream-enabling business at NYU,” says Peter Henry, NYU Stern’s dean. “With Bill’s support, we have the opportunity to inspire the best young minds around the country and the world to dream big. Whether they’ve studied engineering or economics, physics or philosophy and everything in between, we want to put the tools of business into the hands of the most promising leaders of tomorrow.”

I emailed Jessica Neville, Executive Director of Stern’s Office of Public Affairs, with a few questions. I thought I’d share her answers here:

1. Is this for ANY college senior? In other words do you have to be an undergraduate student at NYU or do you have to be a U.S. resident or citizen? Are there any other restrictions?

Jessica Neville: Yes, domestic and international college seniors are eligible to apply. We are seeking seniors who demonstrate a combination of stellar academic performance and exceptional potential to contribute to business and society.

2. How many students a year (or at least in the first year) do you anticipate will be awarded the scholarship?

JN: The program will be highly selective with a maximum of 10 students per year.

3. Does the student need to start the MBA immediately upon graduate, or is there a deferral option?

JN: There is no deferral option. College seniors will be required to start the Stern full-time MBA program in the fall after graduating from college.

(See NYU’s press release announcing the scholarship for more info.)


Against the Odds: Indian MBA Applicants – Find a Way to Pay

What are your options for financing your MBA?

A quick survey of total out-of-pocket MBA expenses at some of the world’s top business schools may leave you weak in the knees. The range is about $150,000 to over $200,000 USD. That’s before adding in lots of extra costs like travel, computers, and loan interest repayments.

Now most schools offer some sort of financial assistance. Harvard, for example, boasts that 65% of students receive some sort of financial aid.

But as an Indian applicant, you may have a few additional hurdles ahead as you secure financing for a U.S.-based MBA. The current 1 USD → 60 Indian rupee exchange rate means you’ll have to dig deeper into your bank account to cover costs. You also have fewer resources than U.S. citizens when it comes to securing loans if you choose an American MBA program.

What are your options then for financing your MBA?

Personal and family resources, company sponsorships

Most schools suggest you should first rely on your own savings, then assistance or loans from family. For those who’ve been savvy savers or lucky enough to have deep-pocketed relatives, this zero percent interest approach is a great way to start chipping away at your behemoth tuition fees and expenses.

If you plan to return to the company where you’re currently employed, then ask for a corporate sponsorship! Not only will this cut down on your costs out-of-pocket, but it may also enhance your chances of acceptance. Many one-year and accelerated MBA programs look very favorably on sponsored candidates as it means guaranteed tuition payment, and guaranteed job placement.


**Please note that all these resources are suggestions, not endorsements. Loan terms may be subject to change after publication of this blog post. Be sure to verify these sources on your own.**

Domestic loans from India

Start at home on your hunt for loans. But school financial aid websites can also be a good place to start! Cornell Financial Aid has a great website listing domestic loan options specifically oriented to Indian students. Columbia also has a page that lists domestic Indian loan and grant options.

US Federal Student Loans

Unfortunately, international students are not eligible for US federal student loans through the Department of Education, unless you are a permanent resident with a green card, or in the case of some other very rare exceptions.

Private US Loans

That leaves the private loan market as the only lender source for Indian nationals. It will take dedicated research to identify the right loan provider for your needs. Several US loan programs that did not require a creditworthy U.S. co-signor shut down in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Deutsche Bank then launched an alternative program in 2009 called ALPS (Affiliated Loan Program for Students) that was embraced by some top MBA programs, but they have since stopped offering loans to new borrowers. Lenders have a tendency to start and stop their programs frequently. It is thus best to confirm directly with schools that a loan program is still in existence before deciding to depend on it as a funding source.

Private US loans — no U.S. co-signor

Several MBA programs such as Wharton, Harvard, Stanford, Cornell and others offer loans through credit unions that do not require a U.S. co-signor. Carefully read the terms of the loan though. Wharton’s program covers only 80% of the first and second year budget. Cornell’s arrangement funds “cost-of-tuition only less any scholarship received.” If you choose this option, you will likely have to cover additional expenses with another funding source.

Private US loans – with U.S. co-signor

Again, make school financial aid websites your first stop when on the hunt for such lenders. Check out numerous schools’ sites, even if you don’t plan to apply. They may have information on private loan sources that your choice hasn’t mentioned. For example, Cornell has a list of resources for private loans requiring a U.S. co-signor. Check it out!

School grants or fellowships, outside scholarships

If you’re a stand out applicant, it’s likely you’ll be offered some money to attend.

Schools make this decision as part of the application process. If you don’t receive an offer with your letter of acceptance, it’s likely you won’t be considered for an award. But after you’re accepted, it still never hurts to ask.

If you do receive money from one school, be careful and tactful about playing schools off each other to get more award money. Each program may have different criteria to determine who gets awards. Money may be available to you at one school, but not another.

Some schools make additional grants taking your background or nationality into consideration. Stanford just announced the new Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship that covers “everything for up to 5 Indian students to attend Stanford GSB, and the top 50 finalists for the Fellowship will even receive a break on applying – submitting Stanford’s application for free.”

Check out this list of other school fellowships oriented to students from developing countries. And again, scour your top choice schools’ financial aid websites for more information:

• Wharton: http://www.wharton.upenn.edu/mba/admissions/grants-and-fellowships.cfm

• Insead: http://mba.insead.edu/schlmgmt/dsp_schl_info.cfm?schlcode=EC01

• Esade: http://www.esade.edu/ftmba/eng/fees-and-financing/need-based-scholarships-programme

• HEC: http://www.mba.hec.edu/How-to-apply/Funding/(level2)/281

• IMD (Women): http://www.imd.org/programs/mba/fees/scholarships/Nestle.cfm

Finally, here’s a brief list of outside scholarships oriented to Indian students. They’re all competitive, but worth your time to consider.

• AAUW (Women): http://www.aauw.org/what-we-do/educational-funding-and-awards/international-fellowships/

• Aga Khan Foundation: http://www.akdn.org/akf_scholarships.asp

• Fulbright: http://www.iie.org/Programs/Fulbright-Foreign-Student-Program

Every penny counts, especially those you don’t have to pay back!

Get the rest of the series: Download Against the Odds: MBA Admissions for Indian Applicants now!

Michelle Stockman is a professional journalist, former Columbia Business School admissions insider, and experienced MBA admissions consultant.