Before we start off, I want to put a disclaimer that my blog series about higher education is very US-centric. This may not apply in other countries so please keep that in mind!
Okay, let’s get started!
A fully funded PhD funding package typically contains the following things:
In my opinion, fully funded is a misnomer because there are often additional fees that are not covered. For example, fees for the athletic center, or facilities fees, health fees, or some additional fees that the university expects from you. These can range from $200 - $1000 a semester. This is the equivalent of the ‘fine print’ in a contract. Make sure you ask about this if it’s not listed on their website!
A second reason it’s a misnomer is because the stipend may not be adequate to live comfortably. Cost of living varies widely from place to place. A $25,000 stipend may be able to cover all of your costs in some places in the US, and barely any of your costs in other places. One quick way to estimate whether the stipend they offer is acceptable is to visit http://www.phdstipends.com/ This is a website run by Dr. Emily Roberts where you can see the “living wage ratio” and also compare stipends across different universities, different programs, and different cities.
A third reason it’s a misnomer is because academic funding is sometimes only during the fall and spring, which means May to August is not guaranteed. This is called a 9-month funding package. Again, inquire about this. Is it a 12-month funding package or 9-month? If it's 9-months, how do people usually fund their summers? These types of questions are important to know beforehand so you can start to make a budget and figure out whether you'll need additional financial support (scholarships, loans, etc.).
Lastly, a question I get a lot is whether all of the above applies to international students. YES, most universities do fund international students for their PhDs! This is usually listed on their website but you can always email them to ask about this. Getting adequate funding for international students is especially important because this is what will be printed on your i20 and will be a determining factor in whether or not your student visa is approved!
So, there you have it! If you have any questions, let me know in the comments!
I use this space to share my thoughts on a variety of academic and non-academic topics! Happy reading!