Graduate schools: Two offers - how to tactfully ask about money/funding?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Zazoo, Jan 23, 2012.

  1. Zazoo

    Thread Starter Member

    Jul 27, 2011
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    I applied to few graduate schools at the end of 2011 (for PhD study in ECE) and I've received interest from two professors, each at a different graduate school. Both want to take me on as a student and each has nominated me for a fellowship at their institution. Both seem confident that I will receive the fellowship, but only one has told me how much of a stipend I will get from the fellowship. I tried finding this information on my own, through the department/school website but I was unsuccessful.

    The professor who has't told me how much I would receive sent me an e-mail and indicated that he was looking forward to bringing me on as a student and linked me to some research papers he had written asking me which projects were most interesting to me. It almost seems tacky for me to reply with something to the effect of "well it depends, how much money will I get?"

    I'm not sure if I should tell the professor that my acceptance is contingent upon him offering me more than the other school, but it really is.
    I was impressed with both schools and with both professors and both are doing research in the same field. Money really is the only deciding factor for me at this point, but I don't want to seem like I'm being ungrateful either.

    Advice about how to approach this is much appreciated.
     
  2. Brownout

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2012
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    Maybe you should simple say this:

     
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  3. Georacer

    Moderator

    Nov 25, 2009
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    Expressing your position in a diplomatic way is a major skill for everybody.

    Be frank but firm. Why don't you write something along the lines of:

    "I feel honored to be admitted into your college. Your curriculum is of much interest to me and I look forward to develop my skills into that knowledge sector.
    However, I have a similar proposition from that one college, which offers a similar education program and seems very tempting too. All factors being equal, the only distinctive factor is that they have offered me a fellowship of that much (insert true value if you think profs might communicate) $. This is an enticing offer which I cannot pass without consideration.
    Could you please provide me a rough margin of the fellowship you are offering, so that I can end into a decision?"

    Correct any grammatical/syntax errors I have done.

    He might reply that you should "take it or leave it" his offer, but since you say that both schools are of equal interest to you, you should probably leave it in that case.
     
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  4. steveb

    Senior Member

    Jul 3, 2008
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    My recommendation is not to use money as the deciding factor. While I would agree that this is a good basis IF all other factors are equal, I can tell you with confidence that all other factors are NOT equal. You may consider them equal because you lack enough information to make a judgement, but that is not quite the same thing.

    You need to gather more information until you are sure that one professor is better than the other. The choice of your professor is the single most important thing. It is even more important than the choice of schools. And, as with any relationship, it's not just how good the Prof is, but also how well matched your personality is to his/her way of doing things.

    You should visit each professor and talk in person. You should also find a way to talk casually (and tactfully!) with their students, both past and present.

    As far as money, you only need enough to survive. If tuition is covered and both offer a stipend, then the difference in stipend is not likely to be a significant factor. The wrong decision can have much higher monetary consequences later.
     
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  5. Zazoo

    Thread Starter Member

    Jul 27, 2011
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    Thank you to all for the advice. Steveb, you are right, of course.

    I have met with both professors on a few occasions now. I think I would be a good fit with either, although for different reasons.

    Professor "A" is a new professor. Very new - I would be her first PhD student. I like her enthusiasm to take me on, and she has been very clear about what she expects from me as a PhD student and what I can count on her to do for me. She understands that she will be my advisor/mentor but really wants us to have a relationship closer to that of colleagues.
    Her research is ambitious, and looks like it could really impact her field.
    My concern is her lack of experience as a mentor, I don't know if this will be a significant issue.

    Professor "B" is an established professor. He wants to push me hard my first couple of years to get me up to where I will need to be when I start my own independent research. I've spoken to one other student who has him currently. He said Prof. B is mercurial which makes him hard to deal with at times. He can be condescending but only because he expects you to be at his level and pushes you to get there.
    His reasearch is interesting, but less ambitious than Professors A's (although from my own limited perspective, perhaps it's just more realistic.)
    He's been doing this for a long time, and has mentored many PhD students before me.

    Obviously no one can tell me what is best for me. But any advice you can offer (as someone who has also had to go through this process) would be helpful.
     
  6. steveb

    Senior Member

    Jul 3, 2008
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    It sounds like you are going about the process in the right way. Even so, you are still torn between two good choices. Either one looks good to an outsider, with pros and cons on both sides (mostly pros, which is a good sign).

    With regards to the mercurial nature of Prof. B, this can be a problem to students who are sensitive, but if you are even just a little tough skinned it's not a problem in itself. However, if it goes beyond being tough due to having high standards, and becomes an issue of unstable mood swings, that is bad, of course.

    With Prof. A, you have the benefit of someone who is still trying to prove herself. This can create a very dynamic situation for you as a student. If you are talented yourself (and I'm willing to bet that you are!), it could be a real collaboration of colleagues, which she seems to welcome.

    The only additional advice I can offer, is to consider this relationship like any other. What moral and intellectrual personal attributes do you look for and respect in a friend. Which person would you be most comfortable being honest with and be able to express your true feelings, even if it might lead to conflict. Any long term relationship will lead to conflicts, and you want to have confidence that these conflicts will just be minor disturbances that you can easily work through in a positive way.

    Either way, I'm sure you will do well, but I wish you good luck anyway, since it never hurts.
     
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  7. Zazoo

    Thread Starter Member

    Jul 27, 2011
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    Thanks again for the input steveb, I really appreciate it.
     
  8. Georacer

    Moderator

    Nov 25, 2009
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    This might be due to personal bad experiences, bad professors more that 50 years old are always intolerable to work with, unless you already know a part of knowledge that they don't know (usually computational engineering) and they keep you around for that.
    Instead, they push you very hard by expecting you to know stuff they know for decades.

    Younger people on the other side remember more clearly how it was to be a student. They know the theory about your subject and can transfer it to you more readily.

    However, one key difference is that older professors have deeper connections with other people that younger people don't. But you might stick to them for their connections and they may never pay out. It's a hard call.
     
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  9. maxpower097

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2009
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    My brother did something like that for his phd. They paid him like 25k a year to goto school and be a teachers aid or something like that. May be he runs a dept. If you'd like to talk to him PM me and I'll give you his number. He's been all through it with a number of schools.
     
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  10. Zazoo

    Thread Starter Member

    Jul 27, 2011
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    Well after speaking with each professor by phone again I decided to go with "Professor A." It was a gut thing in the end.

    I submitted my acceptance letter today, so it is official!

    Thanks again for the advice.
     
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  11. Georacer

    Moderator

    Nov 25, 2009
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    Glad you could made your mind in the end. Best of wishes.
     
  12. loosewire

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 25, 2008
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    What about shared interest with class mates,any one want to handle that question.

    What are the pluses and minuses and class size,any good method before accepting.
     
  13. tracecom

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 16, 2010
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    Be careful to maintain a professional relationship, else things can go very wrong, very fast.
     
  14. joeyd999

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jun 6, 2011
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    Steveb, you would not happen to be an Ayn Rand fan, would you? Most humans would not ask such a question, IMHO!

    Nicely played! :)

    BTW: She would say 'virtues' as opposed to 'personal attributes'...
     
  15. steveb

    Senior Member

    Jul 3, 2008
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    Embarrassingly, I can't say I'm familiar with her work.

    But, you've inspired me to look into it more. Perhaps I should be a fan.

    Do you have a recommendation on a good book of hers to start with?
     
  16. loosewire

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 25, 2008
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    @ SteveB,how did you find your self,we know you are good with business.

    Surprised at you,who are you,were you a groupee. Does music make the man,

    when he don't make music,how does that happen. A t-shirt guy at concerts.
     
  17. steveb

    Senior Member

    Jul 3, 2008
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    Ha !

    Never been a groupee or T-shirt type of person.

    I love music though, and play classical guitar on and off as time permits. I'm and engineer first, but solved many a difficult problem while transporting in time on Renaissance harmonies from some forgotten composer.

    In ancient times, music pieces were like perfect working machines - and those composers were "music engineers". I feel closer to them than the musicians of our time. They used to think about composing music the way we here in this forum now think about designing circuitry.
     
  18. joeyd999

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jun 6, 2011
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    I think you will love Ayn Rand. Start with "Atlas Shrugged".
     
  19. steveb

    Senior Member

    Jul 3, 2008
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    Thank you!

    Kindle is a wonderful thing. I'm already reading it. I hope I like the book as much as I like the title.
     
  20. joeyd999

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jun 6, 2011
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    When you are done, start a thread. I'd love to discuss it.

    Note to OP: Sorry for hijacking your thread! :p
     
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