Friday, August 18, 2006

Understanding Funding opportunities: Student Jobs, Scholarships & Assistantships

Understanding Funding opportunities: Student Jobs, Scholarships & Assistantships
How do we fund our education while studying at an American University ?

There are three standard sources for Masters and PhD students, which are often clubbed together in a single concept "Financial Aid"

1. Student Jobs: These are the various student jobs that one can on-campus such as Dining services, Library, Book stores, Computer Labs, etc. These jobs typically pay about 6 to 10 dollars an hour and have NO fee waivers.

2. Scholarships : This refers to either partial or complete fee/tuition waivers (i.e. discounts) with or without a monthly or semester scholarship money. These are highly variable and are granted either at the department level or the University level. There are official deadlines for these, so look them on the websites!

3. Assistantships: These are the most sought after funding opportunities because they make life much easier and look good on the resume too.

Assistantships are of two types : Research Assistantships and Teaching Assistantships. Now, each of these assistantships can either be half-time (20 hours a week) or Quarter-time(10 hours a week) & typically pay about 11.5 to 15 $ per hour. Besides a monthly stipend, assistantships normally include a complete tuition waiver (i.e. complete academic fees discount) AND in most universities now include a free health insurance

A teaching assistant teaches some parts of a course (especially assisgnment discussions and paper gradings) to the undergraduate students. So people, if the department you are applying to, does not have any undergraduate courses, there wont be a teaching assistantship offered !

In many universities, assistantships are often offered automatically to some admitted PhD students. In other cases, they may be reserved only for the students of that particular department. In such cases, some students have known to opt for a dual degree to be eligible for these. For example, I knew a student who came to my university for a Masters in Electrical Engineering and signed up for a dual degree in BioEngineering to get a Assistantship from the BioEngineering Department ! [which obviously also means an extra year - but two Masters :-)]

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