Sunday, April 19, 2015

How to Survive in Graduate School: Summer Funding

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm starting a series of posts based on the survival skills that I've learned in graduate school so far. Today I'm going to introduce one secret about graduate school that I wish I had learned: even if you think you have summer funding, you always need to be looking for more summer funding.

For background, last year, I wasn't eligible for summer teaching because I was on a fellowship during the year. So, I received a fellowship during the summer from my department, and I applied for a fellowship from an external source which I was fortunate enough to receive. As such, I was able to travel to Greece for the first time and it was an absolutely amazing summer.

This year, I have been TAing. I planned to stay here at my apartment for the summer so I would have access to the university library while Egnatius and I were studying for our various comprehensive exams. I was told that there was usually enough summer teaching to go around. Unfortunately, it does not look like that is going to be the case this year (although it is difficult to tell). As such, I'm kind of stuck. I applied for two other fellowships as a backup plan-- one was denied because I was not ABD (a stipulation I did not notice on the website) and the other was denied because it was the external fellowship I received last year and they rarely grant the fellowship multiple years in a row in order to spread out the funding. While waiting around to hear about those fellowships, I lingered hoping that one of them or TAing would come through. Afterward, a lot of grants and fellowships I found subsequently had deadlines that had already passed. At the moment I'm stuck with applying for two highly prestigious research fellowships that I'm unlikely to get due to the extremely stiff competition (especially of people who are further along in their PhD programs) and office jobs on campus, which are definitely not my first choice.

An even less appealing option would be to sublet my apartment and move home. Moving home might actually be nice-- I would at least have family, kitties, a dishwasher, and air conditioning (none of which are part of my apartment in grad school). Subletting, however, is a massive nightmare. I sublet last year and it was this horrible game of trying to hook someone who was going to stay for long enough in the apartment to cover my rent while I was gone. We're not allowed to rent our apartments for any more than we're paying for them, which makes it difficult, especially because the rent increases at the beginning of every July so you have to work out some detailed math to explain to the person renting. Moreover, the renter is responsible for any damage that the person subletting might inflict and the people who run campus housing won't help with disputes but they do insist on approving the person subletting and forcing everyone to go through a massive paperwork process.

So here is my advice: the second the summer is over, start looking for funding for the following summer. Some of the more prestigious and desirable fellowships have deadlines in October or November, so it's important to hunt those down. Even more importantly, keep continually searching for alternative possibilities. Bizarre things are constantly popping up all over the place, you just have to find them.

Good luck!

For those of you who are, like me, in the humanities, here are some possible summer funding links (all of these have passed as I post this, but they will be around next year):

Saturday, April 18, 2015

How to Survive in Graduate School: Starting with a Joke

I have now spent two long but great years in graduate school. I have learned a ton of information in my classes. But I've also learned a lot about how to survive the process of graduate school itself. I'm going to write a series of blog posts as I go through graduate school with the hope of helping anyone out there survive the process.

I thought, however, instead of starting with advice, I would start this series with a joke. Two friends of mine (also graduate students) showed me the FAQ: The Snake Fight Portion of Your Thesis Defense. Seriously, this is a great parody. Since I'm going to have to convene an orals board for my masters thesis defense this summer, I thought that this was the perfect thing to post.