Started by: khkshimabukuro@gmail.com @LuciferArgues Please don’t delete information that is not yours

  How to Prep for Grad School if You're Poor

This Google Doc was crowd sourced and created in the Summer of 2016, it is not up to date.

All the information from this document, as well as additions from the last year is housed on our wiki. I would appreciate it if you’d make sure to share that link instead:

http://howtoprepforgradschoolwhilepoor.wikispaces.coerm/

My hope is that this space will serve as a more stable, and easily navigated resource for students (M.As, M.F.As, and P.h.Ds) who are Grad School While Poor.

In many ways this is an informal space to seek advice and answers. It is curated but not censored.

This has been a real community effort, and I am overwhelmed and thankful for everyone's contributions.

Thank you for your generosity!

Karra

                


Table of Contents

Contributors: I want to make sure we give credit where credit due, so if you want to put your name next to information you’ve added, great, if you want a more general note, feel free to put your name here at the end.

Strategizing

Getting In

Letters and Recommendations

Starting the Program, Now What?

Money and Budgets

Initial Offer

Cost

Personal Finances

Insurance and Hidden Costs

Conferences

Books

Other Funding

Working

Contacts

Cultural/Social Capital

Networking

Choosing a Program

Housing        

Succeeding in Graduate School

International and Undocumented Students

Appearance and Self Care

Leisure and Mental Health

Child Care

Handling Awkward Moments - or How to Deal with The Privileged

Job Market

Other Options

Web Resources

Strategizing

Getting In

The General GRE

  • Double check that all of your programs actually require the GRE. Some graduate programs in some fields are moving towards making this optional.
  • Ask around for used preparation books / flashcards
  • Anki is a free flashcard software program with desktop and iphone apps. Deck sharing is encouraged, and absolutely everything is free. Use it for your GRE and for everything else, ever.
  • There are free online practice tests through ETS
  • There are several free mobile apps that can help you prepare:  Magoosh GRE, GRE Vocabulary, etc.
  • The Quantitative Section is not testing whether you know how to do math. It is testing whether you know the right trick. To spend your time most effectively, learn the tricks - this means using and reading the study materials.
  • Check with your undergrad institution (and your department) - some programs will pay for your GRE
  • Princeton Review puts out a book with the words that appear most often on the GRE - it doesn’t change a huge amount, so getting one a few years old works fine - go through this and make flashcards for the words you don’t know.
  • There are also websites that list the most common GRE words:
  • Here is a google drive full of resources: GRE Google Drive
  • Study as much as possible over a long period of time, since it is an expensive test and you may only want to / be able to take it once.
  • Immediately after taking your GRE, you can send your scores for free to 4 schools. Do this, because if you wait, you will have to pay 27 dollars to send scores to each school.
  • If the score is bad don’t send it right away, think about whether you want to try again. Only your last score will count.

-Recruitment programs such as IRT (Institute for Recruitment of teachers) help you get into grad school. Through their associates program, you attend a grad school recruitment fair, are paired with an advisor for helping you write your statement of purpose and have waived application fees to several different schools.

  • Many programs can waive application fees particularly if you are a scholarship/ fellowship recipient. Some won’t but it does not hurt to ask, as long as it is well in advance of the deadline.
  • Check to see if your university has a McNair Scholars Program. It’s initiative is to change academia through helping underrepresented students get into graduate school. http://mcnairscholars.com/ Most programs across the country help with GRE prep, the application process, and the research process.

^Does anyone have a list of recruitment programs? Programs that usher students through the application process?

**Does anyone know what a good GRE score is? Like what range is good, so that you don’t have to take it a second time?

Personal Statement

  • Mentioning scholars at the program you envision working with is the norm

 

Letters and Recommendations

  • Your letters will ideally be from faculty who know you well. At least one should be from someone with whom you’ve taken an upper-level class in your field. You can also get letters from your coach, your boss, a prof from a lower level class if you think they will remember you--really anyone who’s gotten to know you well in a professional or academic setting.
  • not all their instructors are professors and that letters of rec from a well known prof may mean more than ones from a grad student instructor. Mention how they can tell who is a professor by their titles on the school website.
  • It is best to get letters from professors from the same discipline as the discipline you are applying into. Obviously if you can’t - you can’t.
  • This means the earlier you start thinking about letters of recommendation, the better. Help some of your faculty get to know you. Speak up in class. Go to office hours. Pursue research opportunities.
  • Don’t assume that it’s a lot of work to send letters and that you should spread the work around. Once a prof has written one letter, it’s easy to send the same (or similar) letter to several schools. If no school asks for more than three recommendation letters, you shouldn’t need to have letters from more than three profs.
  • Don’t assume that your prof or recommender can write a letter for you in a quick turnaround or short amount of time. They’re busy doing their “real job” -- which is research. Make sure to give them sufficient time, the deadline for when it has to be submitted, and a couple of gentle reminders.
  • And don’t worry about burdening your profs, it’s part of the job. :-)
  • Ask for recommendation letters at least three weeks in advance of application deadlines, in person if possible.
  • Your profs might ask why you are asking them for a letter. This usually isn’t meant to scare you off; it’s just meant to make sure you are getting the strongest letters you can. Be prepared with a reason.
  • It’s pretty rare that a prof will say no. But usually it’s because they don’t feel they know you well enough to write a strong letter, or because you didn’t ask far enough in advance of the deadline.
  • If your prof agrees to write a letter, follow up with a list of the schools you plan to apply to, the application deadlines, and how each letter should be submitted. They will thank you for being organized!
  • Your profs might also ask for an unofficial transcript, a resume, a draft of your research or personal statement, or other materials. (I often ask my students to remind me of all the ways we’ve interacted and any work they did for me that they are especially proud of.) Again, this is all so they can write a strong letter that presents you in the same way that you want to present yourself.
  • A thank you note is always appreciated. Be sure to let your profs know how your grad school search turns out!
  • It is usually helpful to send your recommender a copy of your writing sample and personal statement in the event they need the extra materials.

Starting the Program, Now What?

  • Take time before school starts to familiarize yourself with the campus, take a campus tour even. This will help you navigate the campus once you start.
  • Reading
  • You can’t possibly read everything that is assigned, that is why you read strategically. Always read the introduction and conclusion chapters first, in their entirety. Then read the intro and conclusion paragraph of the body chapters and skim the rest. This will give you a really good sense of the book.
  • There are different ways to read and one of the things *everyone* in grad school has to learn is how to read strategically for the particular purpose of the moment. Know that you are not alone in struggling to complete readings, and ask sympathetic peers/professors for guidance about setting priorities
  • Printing: find free printing! This helps you save money!!!
  • In some departments, grad students can print for free, others you can’t. If you have an office and printing, great, if you don’t find free printing because you don’t want the fees of printing to cut into your budget. Centers around the university sometimes offer free printing, find them. Your library may offer graduate students a certain number of free copies and/or printing as well; we had 75 free copies per term on our student ID cards, and a lot of people didn’t know that and never took advantage of it! Better to ask than not to know.
  • Re; keeping up with assigned reading, make 1-4 friends in every class. Agree at start of term to all take on sections of the assigned reading, do your part, summarize, break it down, share with your partner(s). Choose study buddies wisely so they don’t flake later. Also, it will help you really be sure you have mastered the material if you can explain it to others
  • This strategy may not be the best in fields where you need to learn to read and distill information quickly
  • I cannot stress enough how hard the first year is. Every incoming grad student I have met struggles the first year. We go from being the smartest people in our classes to the totally clueless noob. This is normal. And mostly no one will be talking about it so it is normal to feel like you are the only one.

  • Money and Budgets
  • Initial Offer/TA Ship
  • Understand your Offer Letter. If you are offered tuition remission, find out what kind of hidden fees there are and whether they will also be waived. Fees information can add to the cost of attendance substantially and they are often hidden from prospective grad students.
  1. Usually there are two graduate coordinators who you can ask about tuition, fees, and the details of your financial package: one within your department and one in the Dean’s office at the college level. Should you need unvarnished details, facts, and figures, the Graduate Coordinator at the level of the Dean will be more capable of spelling out what your offer means.
  • Many schools don't have this, so try and be friendly with the folks in the financial aid and "office of graduate studies" to help you figure out these fees, what is covered, etc.
  • Common fees might include insurance, health, parking, technology fees, activity fees, dissertation fees, minimum credit fees, continuous enrollment costs plus the cost of books… [others?]
  • Depending on the program, the folks who work in the office of your department’s Director of Graduate Studies can also be *extremely* helpful
  • If you are an out-of-state student, find out what it takes to be classified in-state and jump through those hoops as quickly as you can (one way to shorten the wait time is to move to the state at the beginning of the summer, get a driver’s license and register your vehicles for that state, and get involved with some local organizations/volunteering/etc.) If you have a spouse, s/he can get a job in-state over the summer to help anchor your in-state status as well. If you are not receiving tuition waivers, in-state classification will substantially lower your tuition bill. If you are receiving tuition waivers, they are for out-of-state waivers and your department may only allow for that the first year or two, then will expect you to be classified in-state and might award you in-state tuition waivers only--meaning, you’ll be saddled with the rest of the tuition bill (i.e. if out-of-state tuition is $15,000 and the in-state tuition is $5,000, you’re on the hook for the extra $10,000 if they shift you to in-state waivers.) I don’t think this is true of every university and program, but it is common enough that getting in-state classification is important (and it usually takes a few attempts to get it).
  • Many schools near state borders have reciprocal in-state agreements with residents in the bordering state. You can maintain state residency and pay tuition as in-state.
  • Be sure to be clear about summer benefits because depending on your situation you may or may not have summer tuition covered and/or a stipend.
  1. Grad students at many universities are unionized, especially those who are teaching or research assistants. If this is the case, your union rep might be able to help you understand your offer letter, and will be able to fill you in on the rights and benefits that are guaranteed in your contract. They can also help advocate for you if you find out later on that you’re getting paid less than you should be, or shorted on benefits, or anything else.
  2. Find out what is taxable and non-taxable income in terms of scholarships/awards/bursaries/TA&RA-ships--it makes a big difference!
  • Training grants (like the NIEHS Ruth Kirchstein awards) are DEFINITELY TAXABLE, but they are also not subject to FICA taxes. Basically you have to pay income tax but not social security/medicare tax. Our school never took taxes out and said it was “our responsibility”, so definitely save a chunk each month if your school doesnt take taxes out, because April will be a huge shock if you don’t
  • And make sure you check on this not just for the awards you win from your institution, but for any and all awards--things like NEH seminar stipends, external dissertation fellowships, institutional grants-in-aid like those offered by the Folger Shakespeare Library--these are all taxable income and the taxes are not withheld before you get the check, so you have to set aside the funds for this. Also, if you receive an unexpected tuition waiver mid-year rather than having one from the beginning of the term, the taxes may not have been taken out of it yet, so make sure you ask about the tax situation for any awards you receive. A few good fellowships can unexpectedly push you into the next tax bracket.
  • Unless rules have changed, when I was in grad school I kept all of my receipts from buying books and deducted them from my gross income (even though I don’t itemize deductions, this is different because it’s an educational expense) -- some years this made a huge difference in taxes
  • Research and Teaching Assistantships: Sometimes these are automatically assigned. Other times you have to apply for them and seek them out, sometimes even in competition with students from other departments. Find out if yours are guaranteed or not. Assume you will need to apply at least one month prior to a school year (or semester) start date. Whilst a lot of this is determined by discipline, if you have expertise or experience in subjects other than your PhD topic apply for those assistantships!        
  1. TAships and RAships usually result in a tuition waiver plus some kind of stipend-like payment, which are a decent way to fund your education in the absence of guaranteed funding (more on this below)
  • Some schools and programs may offer only Research Assistantships. If you are interested in being a teacher, and getting a job anywhere beyond a top-tier research school, make sure you have the opportunity to get some teaching experience.
  • Once in your program, find out about the variety of assistantships available.  My program, for example, had one for a grad student to run the office that advised the department’s undergraduate majors.  Having a variety of academic work experience can help in the job search, especially if you are in a highly competitive field and are looking for jobs at schools where teaching and student interaction are more important than scholarship.  The experience can also make transitioning to an academic job easier.
  • What TA ships cover, what they don’t:
  1. Find out how many years of guaranteed funding your offer includes, and how that funding will be apportioned. Some programs reduce funding levels for students after they pass their PhD qualifying exams. Others pull funding entirely.
  • See what funding guarantees there are for future years. My institution did not providing funding after ABD (and I did not do due diligence in finding that out in advance so be sure you do!).
  • As with the language about your contract read your graduate student/department handbook so you know when your funding runs out (year 5? Year 6? Does your department have a good reputation for finding work for grad students after that?).  
  • In some states you may be able to apply for unemployment
  • See what is available for the summer; it may or may not be included
  • You can negotiate your funding offer (in some places).  Use the different offers you have on the table (if you have multiple) to get another program to offer you something comparable.
  1. With that said, realize that when you negotiate an offer and take it, you may be eating into a grant that was intended for something else. Your advisor (or whoever you negotiated with) will expect you to do that work. (Disregard if you’ve been offered a university fellowship with no strings.)
  • Taxes on fellowships can sometimes make them less attractive than TA or RAships.
  • Find out whether there are additional regulated (or pseudo-regulated) funds that aren't part of the TAship, but are available in the department, school, university. Sometimes there is money that is available, but it isn't talked about* or offered or something every advisor even knows about. It's ok to ask around, even if it feels uncomfortable.
  • The Cost of the PhD
  • Others might disagree, but never pay for your Ph.D. If you can’t be fully funded then you’re going into debt and in all likelihood you will not get a job that can carry that debt. Even if things are rough, don’t take a loan (to pay for tuition). Instead ask around, chances are there is money sitting somewhere that you can use. (In a grant that needs to be spent down, for example.) Although, professional doctorates (EdD, DSci) are NOT a terrible option depending what you want to do with your degree. Moreover, if you’re unable to get accepted into the university that you want and you consistently try year after year and get rejected year after year, professional schools are there for you. Some include (CIIS, Alliant International University, Palo Alto University, Argosy University, JFK University). Find out from those who have the types of position you want whether the degree you are considering will get you where you want to go. For example, you can get a PhD from some institutions and not be prepared for many academic positions because of the competitive job market.    
  1. When you are calculating the cost of a PhD, don’t forget to calculate the amount you would have been paid in a real job. E.g., if you would have been paid $50,000 a year at a copy editors and it takes you 5 years to finish your PhD, but your stipend is only $20,000, that’s (50-20)=$30,000/year x 5 years = $150,000 that you are actually foregoing to get a PhD. No PhD is free. This is why it is actually important to FOCUS during grad school and graduate ASAP - because living on 20k a year really does suck.
  • When you do this calculation, also think about the benefits you’re giving up, particularly an employer match to a retirement program. Compounding interest means that not contributing during your early and mid-twenties has an outsize impact on your eventual retirement savings
  • When you’re making this calculation, also think about the undergrad loans that you will be able to defer. If they are unsubsidized, you will still be paying the interest (and may have to compound it at the end if you can’t pay all along). On the other hand, I deferred undergrad loans while I was getting my PhD and it gave me enough leeway to pay down some crappy consumer debt that I never would have been able to get out from under while paying on student loans.

Personal Finances

  • Get an accountant! If your graduate education is a way to advance yourself in an existing career, you may be able to deduct a lot of expenses. If you do freelance work (e.g., copyediting professors’ manuscripts), set this up as your independent business and then more of your school expenses may also be deductible. The money a good accountant will save you is usually more than their nominal fee.
  1. You should be able to deduct the cost of books even if you don’t set yourself up as a business or itemize expenses
  • Family and friend support: As with your advisors and professors be honest. If they are in a position to help some or spread stuff around put books or supplies on an Amazon wish list, as for gift cards to Staples, or the local grocery store. Every little bit help. Family may not be able to buy big things but a $25 grocery card can be a life saver.
  • Don’t buy stuff. Seriously. I was in a car with two friends once. One made in a couple of weeks what we made a year. She asked how we survived. We said: “We don’t buy anything.” It was true, and it worked.
  1. We found free stuff (furniture on the curb) or thrifted when necessary.  Clothing exchanges were great too.
  2. Craigslist FTW! My wife and I furnished our entire apartment in Los Angeles for less than $400, including bed & mattress (California King, both from IKEA), dressers, chairs, desks, couch, TV stand, filing cabinet, bookshelves, microwave, lamps, etc. Freecycle is also great!
  3. That said, don’t deny yourself little pleasures sometimes. Get a treat when you can.
  • Try not to guilt yourself for those purchases--they can be crucial to self-care!
  1. Cultivate fun & free non-academic activities. Hiking was a good one for me. It cost only the shoes, and kept my stress way down.
  2. Also check with your university offices because they often have a second-hand store for furniture and appliances they’ve collected from undergrad housing at the end of each year. You can often get these for pennies on the dollar and get great appliances!
  3. Ask about your university’s surplus. All those abandoned office chairs, monitors, bookshelves, lamps, etc. usually go to some central location that staff and students can buy from.  
  4. Except buy a new, reliable laptop with a good screen. Offices sometimes come with crappy (or no) computer. Set it up for VPN (or proxy) access to the university’s library and related sites.
  • Daily Expenses
  1. Learn to cook. Seriously, not only is it better for your health (which may take a nosedive during your grad school tenure, as stress, depression, and weight gain happen a lot) but you can save a ton of money. Invest in a good basic cookbook, like a Betty Crocker or Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, which will explain things to you and provide you with manageable recipes (ePub versions of these books can also be located fairly easily online). And the ability to bake cookies(or bread) comes with the benefits of a) stress relief, b) a feeling of competency when your world goes to hell, and c) networking/bribe material that doesn’t leave a paper trail. Honestly, you can find recipes for absolutely anything online--just type in what you want to make and a thousand recipes will pop up, most of them very simple to follow.
  • Local libraries and even university libraries have good cookbook collections, including digital editions.
  • Learn to cook from scratch rather than using prepared foods.
  • Invest in a small crock pot. These are fairly inexpensive and can make meals go a long way. Also, it can help save time by having your meal ready when you return home.
  • Many thrift stores will allow you to return anything electronic - including crock pots - if it doesn't work. And crockpots are easy to find and clean!
  • If you have space, a small balcony garden (tomato plants do well) can help save costs of some fresh produce. This also cuts down on waste if you’re only cooking for one or two. Things stay fresh on the vine longer than in the fridge.
  • Don’t be afraid to get together with friends and share meals/resources. You contribute tomatoes from your garden, they bring onions and a box of pasta. Someone else turns up with olive oil. Also, don’t be afraid to cook in bulk - one big pot of something saves time and will last a while
  • Cooking can be very time-consuming. Potluck to save time and share the load (and also to hang out with other grad students so you’re less likely to fall into a deep, dark, scary hole of work).
  • Prep a meal on a less crazy day with plenty of leftovers to bring to campus, rather than buying over-priced lunch (or other meals…) on campus. I used to make a big meal on weekends and divide leftovers so they were ready to pull from the fridge quickly in the morning.
  • Buy one or two rice cookers (can be found cheaply on craigslist etc), and make a large batch of rice and beans once or twice  a week. Saves on time and money.
  • It is worth it to buy one with a timer if you can find it cheap enough. You can delay the start of the rice cooking so it is ready (and still hot) when you walk in the door. Same holds true for the slow cooker/crock pot- although those timers switch the cooking to "keep warm" from cooking so your food isn't mushy.
  • If there is a Chinatown near you, stock up - prices are usually more reasonable for ingredients there.
  • I would extend this to any “ethnic” grocery store. Indian, Middle Eastern, and Pakistani stores have spices and ingredients more familiar to most Westerners since that is where a lot of spices came from or came through into Medieval Europe.
  • Butchers and fishmongers sometimes have lower prices than standard grocery stores. They also can set aside scraps that you can use for stock/stew/etc.
  • Dollar stores often carry a variety of spices, and have good deals on sauces, canned veggies, pasta and other self-stable good.
  • Although cooking for yourself is cheaper, you won't have much time to do  this during the semester. Grad students resort to eating crap or nothing at all (to save money). I highly recommend batch cooking before each semester and freeze it all. That way you have healthy, fast meals for almost the whole semester. Invest in a high quality lunch box you can use the entire time and that can hold more than one meal at a time.
  • Alternately, you can learn a handful of easy, quick, healthy recipes that you can make through the week, making enough for leftovers. There are recipes out there for meals that will take less time to make than it will take you to go to and sit through a drive-thru. Once you’ve got the recipe memorized, it takes no time at all to cook simple meals from scratch. Try Rachael Ray’s 30-minute meals for ideas.
  • Sometimes you'll spend the entire day on campus. See if your department has a grad lounge with a fridge.
  • Spices in the Mexican food section come in little baggies and cost a fraction of the price of the ones in little bottles.
  • I just discovered that if you visit farmer’s markets right before they are about to take things down and close up for the day, you can ask for their “sale” prices. Last week I got a bounty of organic veggies for half-price and it was thrilling. I was even given several free items.
  • Don't be ashamed to go to the local foodbank if things get really tight. We had to do that a couple times when medical bills cut into food purchasing ability. Faith based ones don't usually have a proper application, they just limit how often you can come.
  • Most supermarket chains have a rewards card that both gives you access to their sales and offers some kind of incentive when you’ve purchased enough, make sure you have that card for each store you shop in, and use it every time you shop. Also, several supermarket chains have student discounts, so check about that also, and shop where they’ll give you a 10% discount with your student ID.
  1. Free food on campus isn’t just for undergrads. There are lots of opportunities for grad students to get food on campus as well. Also, some professional development opportunities may have food, or may earn you money for participation. You should make it a point to go to all department receptions/programming, or at least as many as you can reasonably accommodate in your schedule, not only for the networking and relationship-building opportunities, but because there will almost always be food. Consider starting a free food alert group via facebook messenger or what have you to tell others about free food on campus (and hear about it yourself).
  2. Cable/Internet: Internet is more important for your work. TV...not so much. By law, major U.S. channels (ABC, CBS, PBS, etc.) have to broadcast over airwaves, so you can invest in a $15 antenna and watch local channels for free. Besides, you aren’t going to have time for TV, anyway.
  • Also: do you really need your own dedicated internets? I mean, are you a game developer or something? If not: check to see if you live near public wifi (or, you know, “free” wifi). If
  • all you’re doing is browsing the net, reading articles, and using gmail and google docs, you’re not using very much bandwidth, and the internets are expensive. BUT if you need to do extensive online research, or be reached at all hours via email, or do last-minute grading, you’ll want internet at home.
  • Many fields do indeed require frequent and extensive online research. If you are in one of these disciplines, your own dedicated wifi is not an area in which you should compromise or attempt to save money. Your professors will expect you to have constant and reliable internet access.
  • Should you use public/free wifi, it would help to connect through your university's Virtual Private Network (VPN) for added security. Check if your university offers this service.
  • If you live in an area with hotspots like xfinitywifi, which is prevalent in Massachusetts, it might be a costsaver to split one of these subscriptions with multiple friends, allowing you to essentially have wifi anywhere in the area you go, and allowing you to cut down on your cellular data plan.
  1. Heating and cooling can be expensive, depending on where you live. Figure out in advance, as much as possible, what you can afford. Get a hat and layers, put blankets on the bed.. Only heat necessary areas (electric plug-in heaters cost a lot to run). Insulate your windows with plastic. If it’s cheaper, cool or heat only one room or go work at a cafe or library with A/C or with heat. Sometimes keeping the house at a particular temperature is cheaper than turning things off and having to get it back to normal again. If you are living with others, make sure you are all on the same page re: energy usage and bills. Some places have a service at the utility company where you can either get cheaper energy or you can pay in a way that helps you budget; so maybe you pay $150 a month instead of $38 in the summer and $300 in the winter. Call and ask.
  • If you are moving to the upper Midwest/other cold climates, ask if heat is included in the rent.
  • Some states and localities have public services (e.g., through the Department of Economic Security in NY State) that provide utilities assistance on a need basis.
  1. Carpooling can make a real difference on gas costs to and from campus if you are in an area where public transportation isn’t possible. Finding out who is in your area can also help build a local network, especially in non-urban university locations. Riding into campus together can also build in social time during a commute you’re already building into your day!
  2. Public transportation. Motorcycles and scooters. Bikes.
  3. For cars and motorcycles, ask what the costs are per semester for parking stickers. You can save a lot by parking off-campus and walking.
  4. If you need to choose between a nicer place to live with a longer commute, go for the nicer place. You will spend countless hours working in that room or apartment, often late at night. If it’s a dump or a hovel, it will impact your work. And happiness.
  • Rent in places further from the city is significantly cheaper, and the places roomier. While an extra 20 min on the train may seem bleak, it will be worth it. And you can use the commute time to read, mark papers, etc. if you are not driving for the commute.
  • Insurance and Hidden Costs
  • Often extra money for health insurance plans is taken out of paychecks at the end of the spring semester. Also check on the pay period schedule in relation to the semester schedule. For example, you may not get paid June-October depending on the way the semester is scheduled at your institution.
  1. Many programs do not pay over the summer or offer summer teaching that is very competitive or gets awarded by seniority. Scheduling decisions are usually made early, so ask early (January or so). Don’t wait until April before you try and figure out how you’re paying rent and bills for the summer
  • This depends on the program: mine pays a small amount in the summer, but it's not equivalent to what you get paid during the year so you have to add up your total income and divide it over 12 months as the basis for your budget.
  • My stipend was paid across the entire year, equal pay over summer months as academic year.  What we didn’t know is when we would receive our last paycheck once our stipend ran out- good to know that info so you don’t get caught by surprise.
  • Our TA and RA stipends were paid September 30 through April 30--that is, no paycheck for almost five months, rather than just over “summer”--be aware that this is a common practice for state institutions that work on a mandated fiscal cycle and plan accordingly, because any fees/tuition/other expenses you’ll have will come due at the beginning of the term, over a month before your first paycheck. A lot of people in our department would take out student loans to cover the cost of Fall tuition, fees, other expenses, then pay those back over the year once their stipends started. You can almost always find some kind of work on campus over the summer as an RA, or in a center or office, if teaching isn't an option. Check with campus employment and/or the Graduate school for summer job opportunities available to students.
  • Cost of Healthcare 
  • Know what will be covered and what is not. At many institutions, you will not have prescription, dental, or vision coverage.
  • I learned the hard way that our campus insurance did not cover wisdom teeth extraction, for instance.
  • Depending on the town check to see if there’s a dental school where you can get care discounted
  • Also for prescriptions, it's worth finding out which pharmacies you can use. Mine only lets me use my school pharmacy, and some restricted medications only let you transfer the prescription once so you have to get it right the first time.
  • good point! On the flip side, many schools with their own pharmacy will give you (usually small amounts) of otc meds for free or cheap. Especially if you're already there, this is worth doing.
  • Heads up that in many cases, your school’s student health center and pharmacy are the least expensive options for healthcare, and many times the services and prescription prices are free or seriously reduced in cost if you are on student health insurance, so definitely check into that. They also have free or seriously reduced-cost mental health services, like psychologists and group therapy sessions; some colleges also offer holistic therapies through student health services. Check into and take advantage of any such programs, because graduate school is wildly stressful, especially so when you are not familiar with how everything works.
  • If you have a chronic disease or are having medical issues, it's important to know the medical leave policy should you become too sick to continue. You want to know whether or not you can come back if your health improves.
  • YES--many have a very terrible sick leave policy and/or no family leave.
  • Find out everything you can about the clinic on campus. Most larger R1  universities will have free basic health services for students (both grads and undergrads). Find out about the amenities your campus offers as you consider which school to attend.
  • Many university health services have a small fund to help cover medical bills for graduate students. Mine for example can offer $300 per student per year.
  • If you are trans, university health services are often as good as or a better bet than local doctors for transgender health care needs.
  • Considerations for reproductive health:
  • Consider switching to an IUD before you go off your parents health care or the healthcare you may have had from your previous job. Insurance may cover the whole cost of the device (around $1000) but then there are no other costs for the next 5-10 years.
  • Campus clinics tend to offer most preventive care, STD testing, and contraception counselling. Often these clinics can offer contraception for very cheap (sometimes cheaper than going through a campus prescription plan).
  • Planned Parenthood is incredibly helpful and affordable for those of us whose health care packages through grad school were less than excellent. And most PP offices will provide scaled charges for annual exams and pills!
  • If you are considering starting a family while in school, pay very close attention to what is--and what is not--covered by your school’s healthcare provider.
  • Also look into the accommodations that your department, college, and campus institution make for graduate students who start families. Policies can vary widely from campus to campus.
  • Also, do not be afraid or ashamed to apply for government assistance for your children’s healthcare; you will almost certainly qualify and that’s one less major expense out-of-pocket. We are in North Carolina, and our girls were in the state healthcare program for all four years of my degree program. They received excellent medical, dental, and vision care, and we never experienced any stigma for it. This is a temporary state for you and your family while you work towards a secure job with benefits--exactly what such programs are intended to support.
  • Use Zenni optical online.  I can’t believe I paid what I did for my first pair of bifocals, which of course I needed to survive grad school.  Unless your prescription is super strong or really odd, try Zenni first.  You will need your prescription, and that means visiting an eye doctor/optician.  Do not be embarrassed to ask for a written-out prescription.  It is your medical data and you are entitled to it.  Ask that they write down your pupillary distance (PD).  You will need that, though Zenni has a workaround involving little rulers and the camera on your computer/phone. If you are embarrassed, call the optician afterward and have them fax/scan and attach your prescription to you.  But don’t be embarrassed.  Eye doctors/opticians live on those outrageously over-priced shops attached to their offices. 500% markup.  Say no.
  • If you wear contact lenses, buy them online or at Costco. Can almost guarantee they will be cheaper than buying them from the optometrist.
  • Look into a Costco membership (if you have a really strong Rx). For $55/year, you can use their optician and get a pair of eyeglasses for $100-200.
  • Costco’s online mail-order pharmacy will fill prescriptions even if you’re not a member. And their prices are often cheaper than what your co-pay might be. Ask your doctor to prescribe three or six months at a time to get bulk discounts, too.
  • www.cheapglasses123.com provides decent eyeglasses including bifocals at very reasonable prices if you have your prescription
  • If your university has a dental school, they may have a faculty practice with reduced-cost dental care.
  • Be aware that even if health insurance is included as part of your assistantship, you might be expected to pay for insurance during the summer months.

   Conferences

  • *This is so important, especially for those of us not from academic families or upper class backgrounds. Ask for money. Every time you have a conference, or research project, or seminar ask for supporting funds. There are often pools of funds officially announced for these needs, but also administrators have money at their disposal they can provide. But you won’t get any if you don’t ask. Do not wait for permission or invitation to ask.
  • Invisible costs of conferences/networking
  1. Print cheap business cards at home instead of the high priced uni ones,  unless those are free. Online companies like moo cards (Vistaprint) make really cool looking cards for relatively less than a local print-shop. Ask the department chair, the administrative assistant, the program coordinator, or students ahead of you in the program whether the program will purchase business cards for you, even if you weren’t offered any.
  • Careful with this. The point of a business card isn’t just to give someone your information (everyone is google-able now). It’s to present a professional face and to communicate your uni affiliation. If you’re cheap, or go too creative, you might not be taken seriously. If you do print your own make sure it’s branded properly.
  • Consider whether cards are even necessary. Search and reach out to conference folks on google, twitter, facebook etc. while the conference is happening. It’s free and less likely to get lost like a business card.
  1. Find out what your university will and won’t pay for in advance. With some prompting, they can often be convinced to pay upfront for flights and hotels with departmental funds, rather than expecting you to pay out a couple of thousand
  2. dollars out of your own pocket which they get around to repaying a couple of months later.
  • Ask about specifics: Is there travel funding? Is it only if you present original research? In a competitive presentation? Is there a specific amount allocated each semester, year, or over the course of your time in the program? Can it apply to things besides conferences, like research trips or seminars? Do they cover travel, registration, materials, lodging, and/or per diem (meals)?
  • Just because the uni says there is funding, doesn't mean you will get it. Some better than others. Students further along are a great help with finding out odds. Find out the timeline too
  • At my university, you could request a travel advance for up to $350, which made a HUGE difference in being able to pay bills instead of waiting for full costs to be reimbursed. I wouldn't have known this was even a thing unless a student a few years ahead of me (who knew I was living check to check) hasn't mentioned it to me.
  • If you’re funded through a grant make sure your PI or faculty advisor knows that you’re going. There are budgeted travel funds that can usually be tapped into.
  • Tip: Sometimes there is no funding available in advance. But, at the end of the fiscal year (end of spring semester), there may be money left in the budget that needs to be spent. If you were denied funding in advance, they may at this point be willing to use remaining funds to reimburse you. So save your receipts! Even if you can’t use them for your department, you may be able to use them on your taxes.
  1. Apply for travel funding. Ask about travel opportunities, some conferences/professional org’s also have travel grants to apply for.
  • Travel grants can be found at the departmental and college level… but can also frequently be found in your relevant disciplinary organization. These funds can be both from the organization itself and from specific divisions or interest groups within the organization. Often travel funds are earmarked exclusively for graduate students. Check all sources, and apply to as many as you can.
  • The Student Government Association and/or Graduate Student Association often has funds available for student conference travel, so definitely check in with these organizations as well. At our university this is coordinated under the Campus Affairs Program, a division of Student Affairs, and there is actually money available through them as well, although they usually just direct you to the SGA/GSA.
  • Check out other tangential organizations as well- feminist research institutes, medieval student society, they may have separately awarded and advertised help. This includes archives and research centers -- many of them have travel grants for researchers and especially graduate students.
  • If a conference is farther away of above the "limit" of opwhat your lab/department has funding for, sometimes t kohere are additional funds you can use. Some national organizations do travel awards.
  • Check the funding procedures carefully 1-2 weeks before travel, especially for a university award—you may need to get a travel authorization form signed.
  • Keep all of your receipts! And separate food from any alcohol purchases. Many restaurants will do this for you, but often you can do it yourself on a receipt. Just deduct the alcohol costs and adjust the tax.
  • Don’t let the fear of being unable to afford a conference keep you from applying. You can’t get funding if you don’t get accepted!
  • Consider asking family members to donate to a conference fund via deposit into a bank or Paypal account, rather than purchasing gifts for holiday/birthdays & etc. If you start this fund 1-2 years before entering your PhD program, it could help substantially. Also, try the 52-week savings trick; if you can do it, you’ll have saved enough for 1-2 conferences in relatively pain-free fashion: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/savings/take-52-week-money-challenge-1.aspx
  • You can also designate all or part of your tax return to a conference fund, if you don’t absolutely need the funds to cover living expenses.
  1. Don’t be ashamed to ask other conference-goers about possible room shares - even fully-fledged but underfunded professors do this to save valuable research funding! Avoid conference hotels and opt for cheaper options such as AirBnB or even Youth Hostels. You may miss out on breakfast networking, but you’ll have some extra funds left over for cocktail and dinner networking!        
  • Caution: know the policies of your university! Mine cannot reimburse AirBNB or anything not booked through an in-house travel agent site.
  • Along that first caution, you MUST have a hotel folio to be reimbursed for hotel stays, so if you book through a site like Expedia.com or similar and book the plane+hotel option and pay for it all up front that way, you still have to get a hotel folio from the front desk when you check out (just ask them for one and they will happily give it to you.)
  • Yes - I've also have to fill out a travel assistance form in advance to be reimbursed after from some funding sources.
  • or couchsurfing, which is FREE and I did a lot of when I went to conferences. I agree with Neil though about making sure that if you are getting reimbursed, go through the appropriate channels. If you have no money in your budget though, it's an option.
  • Social media (if you feel safe) is good for this too- meeting Twitter friends in real life and sharing, so too if a lot of grad students from your program are attending take the initiative to ask about shares.
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask local grad students - or faculty - to put you up, then return the favor when they come to an event near you. Hear hear!
  2. Bring food with you - peanut butter and a loaf of bread - to save on the costs of eating out for 3+ days. If you can’t get to a store, bring a bunch of granola bars with you. Check out the conference location on Google Maps and see if there are groceries nearby. Sometimes conference hotels are chosen more for senior faculty with families who can afford the ridiculous hotel food prices. But remember that peanut butter isn’t allowed on carry-ons in airports! A few years after heightened security measures were put in place, I had big jars of peanut butter and jelly in my carry-on, and that kept me in a screened-off back corner of LAX security where they picked through my luggage and hair with a fine-toothed comb for almost an hour. My labmates and I almost missed the plane, for that mistake!
  3. Speaking of food...many universities use a straight up-and-down per diem, with the cost of meals factored in. Find out what the rate is before going - this can be a way to make up for other costs that aren’t covered.
  4. Also - if staying at a hotel, the concierge can give great suggestions for places to eat on a budget. If you’re up front and say you’re a student on a tight budget, they can send you to awesome food that won’t break the bank while providing a nice treat.
  5. Find out which events at the conference (if any) include food...
  6. If you make connections with academics in your city or region, don’t be shy about asking if they’d like a guest lecturer, or even to organize a small event with a few speakers. Instructors generally love to bring a fresh perspective into the classroom, and they can sometimes offer small honorariums, too. It’s low hanging fruit, from a professionalization standpoint, and it’s great practice for the classroom and for job talks.
  7. Keep your eye open for national and regional conferences that will be held near you. Most make conferences plan at least a few years in advance so you can have in mind present at those that are closer.
  8. Smaller regional conferences can be a great way to build your network while staying within driving/training distance.
  9. Question whether you need to stay at the conference hotel. These are often expensive, even with the conference ‘discount.’ You can find much cheaper alternative, often with truly free wifi, breakfast, etc. within walking distance. BUT, it’s true that much of the real networking at a conference happens in the hallways, bars, and common spaces of the conference, not the panels. If you don’t stay at the conference hotel, think about how you can still spend time there to network.
  • Costs of books 
  1. Ask the previous year students for their old copies; group share with those in your class (you buy a set together and keep in an office or some other central location); ask the prof to borrow their comp copies. Some books you need to own and others you just need to read. Ask the prof and other students which are which.
  2. Be aware of shadow libraries. Ask other students which ones they use and remember to contribute back. >> What is a shadow library?
  3. thriftbooks.com and other sites for inexpensive books, used and new. because on campus bookstores are a giant rip-off
  4. It is also much cheaper to rent books on Amazon, Chegg.com, and Half.com - especially if they’re books you won’t want to keep
  5. If you teach, you might be able to request desk copies of books--if you teach courses in your specific field of study, all the better. Check with dept admin, and make contacts with local book representatives from various publishers. Some press, like Oxford, will allow you to contact directly to request desk copies. This is easier than it sounds. Often you can just go to the publisher website and request a desk copy. You’ll have to say what class you’re considering it for and, later, if you will be ordering it for that class. OK this with your advisor. You can also get in contact with the sales rep for your area and s/he will send you the books. The department administrative assistant may know the sales reps for major publishers your department works with, check in with him/her; otherwise you can do a search on the publisher’s website for your local rep and contact him/her that way.
  6. Go digital. This ties in with the cost of bookshelves and moving. It is not easy to move with boxes of books. Check if your university holds digital copies. If not, google the book. Some authors and professors believe in free and open software and sharing of knowledge. Get on your VPN and search Google Scholar, Research Gate, Academia.edu. Many entire books are available in PDF.
  7. Have you checked to see if ILL (Inter Library Loan) has your book? They probably do… but make your request early as you may be competing with other students for your library / ILL copies
  • At the start of each semester, I would get the syllabi and put the readings in my calendar on the days I would need to request them through ILL (or BorrowDirect for some) to get it in time for class.
  1. If the library at your university does not own a book, you (or your advisor) can request that they purchase it (i.e. desk copy). In many places, faculty are asked each year to suggest new books to their subject librarian to add to the holdings. If there are books that are foundational to your field or that faculty are asking you to read, they should have it in your library.
  2. Wait until Day 1 of class to see whether you truly need all the texts on the syllabus. Sometimes professors are mandated to list them but might not actually use them - so wait before spending $ on them
  3. Go to the campus bookstore early in the semester to check what the professor has ordered as a required text (they will submit that well before you get the syllabus) and then order cheaper copies online.
  • Compare editions online before you buy. Sometimes textbooks that are very expensive to buy new have older editions you can purchase for pennies on the dollar. Photo-copy chapters not found in your older edition at the library.
  1. Ask the professor or library to put texts on reserve or order books for classes on interlibrary loan. Scan what you need and learn to do your reading on a computer, instead of paying for photocopies.
  2. When you have a few years under your belt, you can ask to review copies of books you want but cannot afford. Check with your advisor.

  • Always ask about temporary faculty housing - it sometimes exists and can be extended to graduate students. Upside: won’t require big deposits or exhaustive credit checks, gives you time to get acclimated and get a few stipend checks
  • Along those lines, nothing beats walking streets to find good deals on housing. Even in the era of Craigslist, some people just throw a sign up in college areas and those are often the cheapest places
  • Harder if you have an significant other and/or pets, but sometimes good options anyway.
  1. Some schools offer temporary loans for emergencies
  • My department has a small fund that can be used (and paid back with no interest) by grad students in times of financial distress. It's worth inquiring if these exist.
  • My union also does this.
  • Others offer grants that don’t need to be paid back. Never be afraid to ask or use that money.
  1. Even if you don’t plan to use it, keep your FAFSA on file so that you can borrow in the event of an emergency
  2. Think carefully about transportation costs. Sometimes the cheaper housing is a greater distance from campus and you get into high costs for parking etc.
  • I moved from a rural area in TN to Atlanta and then to Madison, WI for grad school--had no idea that I would need to "rent" a parking space with my apartment and didn't understand that I really needed to prioritize an apartment with a parking space.
  • Often times local transportation will be free for students. Try to find something on a bus line if so. Also, some institutional missions include a focus on sustainability and so if you “decline to get a parking pass” you can sometimes earn a bike stipend.
  1. See if you can negotiate for moving expenses. Some universities will ‘sweeten the pot’ for your first year of funding by finding an additional, small, one-time-only scholarship to help defray your move.
  • Other Funding
  • Sources of funding for these things that are institutional (known to others-- rich kids, legacy kids) that it is assumed you will know
  1. Also remember that this is your job. You may or may not be expected to know. Either way you are expected to ask.
  • Apply for everything you can find out about - Fulbright, Trudeau (Canada), Vanier (Canada), Tri-Council Scholarships (in Canada), Canadian Federation of University Women (Canada), etc. Some of these are less well known and so less competition, all of them can provide you with funding for years.

    Most universities in Canada will help you write the tri-council awards, in fact it is usually required that you apply. The university often provides workshops on how to write grant apps. Ask on your first day where and when they are held. The tri-council consists of CHIR (health research), NSERC (science research) and SSHRC (arts and humanities research). You can apply for the appropriate grant before you go to your Phd and come in with funding before you start. Ask for help from your department where you did your MA or your undergrad. Look for guides to writing grants online. There are three tiers of funding, the base is 20,000 a year for three years, next is 40,000 a year and finally 50,000 a year for three years.
    The Vanier is the top tier of the tri-council awards and is
    very competitive but also really worth it. You have to be nominated by your department to get a Vanier and it has to be in your first year, so tell your department that you are interested as soon as possible! It is worth $150,000. There are three areas they look for “research potential”, “leadership” and “academics.” You have to write a letter about your research and your leadership. You want to tell one narrative about yourself. They love “feel good stories.” It will feel a bit gross to be reductive about your life but you need to do it and in a way that feels authentic to you.  It is really important to spend a bit of time telling the readers about obstacles you overcame and how this informs your research and volunteering. Write it and rewrite it. It should take you a month! You will  need three references: A supervisor from your old department, the grad head from your new department and a leadership reference from someone who knows you well outside of school. There is a guide from U of T on filling out the forms. Scour the internet to find examples! Give the appropriate guide/templates to all your referees and refer to it yourself. The whole process is really hard and you need as much help as you can get. Once you win you will need to do interviews for your institution and local media. You will also have to spend money on professional headshots. They give you the money in 16,000 instalments every four months for three years starting in May. To be nominated, you have to have done something impressive outside of the university, let your institution know what you did. Did you write a book, start a student organization for other low income students, volunteer? What have you done to help others? Tell them. It’s not bragging.
    Each province also has provincial awards. In ontario this is called the OGS. Ontario Graduate Scholarship.
    All of these awards in Canada are tax free. Don’t make the mistake of listing them on your taxes, it’s a mess if you do.
  1. Check the university grad studies websites for listings of external funding opportunities.
  • Many universities have a grant librarian who can help you find relevant grants/funding.
  1. Sometimes the timeline for funding applications is such that you might be applying for a scholarship before you know you’ve gotten into the PhD program (or sometimes even before you’ve submitted the application!). Be aware of this and work with your proposed faculty advisor to get applications in early for best odds. If you get a big award the program will probably take you (even if you didn’t initially quite make their cut). They want you to come with funding.
  2. Some awards are for 2 or 3 years. However, often if you get a big prestigious one, the university will give you funding for the following few years, so it usually doesn’t pay to wait to apply until later in your program--if you apply earlier and don’t get it, you may be able to apply again next year. Check the details at your university.
  3. Look for diversity fellowships or fellowships for people “underrepresented” in academia. Women, people of color, people with disabilities, veterans, and people who were the first person in their families to go to and/or graduate from college might be considered.
  4. NSF and the Ford are also good to look into (USA)
  • Loan availability and loan repayment
  1. If you are a US Citizen, learn about how the Income Based Repayment system works. Loans may not be the worst thing ever.
  2. \                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand/plans/income-driven 
    This is especially important for those of us who came to academia from low income backgrounds because we’re terrified of debt, but debt is manageable, and is not always irrational to take on.
  3. Learn about loan forgiveness. If you plan a career in the non-profit sector, chances are you can get your loan forgiven after 10 years of minimum payments (Income Based Repayment counts)  https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service - Public universities & non-profit private universities qualify; added benefit - unlike other loan write-offs, amount written off under this program is not considered taxable income when it gets written off! Note- not all loans qualify, so be selective in what loans you take!
  4. If you are a US citizen considering studying in another country, be aware that it may limit your US government grant/loan options.
  5. If you have a lot of student loan debt (or just because you want to), you may consider looking into jobs abroad after the PhD. If you live outside the US, you should take the earned income exclusion on your taxes. This makes your Annual Gross Income (AGI) go to zero (so long as you make less than roughly $100K per year). If you also take an Income Based         and when you return to the US, those months abroad count toward your qualifying months for loan forgiveness.
  6. Schools often don’t guarantee funding past a certain number of years.  Statements like “funding for 5th and 6th year students has never been a problem” shouldn’t be taken seriously.  If funding suddenly becomes a problem, you won’t have any recourse.  The only hard guarantee is what’s in the offer letter.  
  • When/if funding runs out, note that you are able to apply for unemployment benefits, food stamps, etc.  
  • In NYS and California work you do for a school while you’re enrolled as a student there doesn’t count toward your unemployment award.
  • Most states allow you to receive food stamps while receiving funding, as stipends are not considered income. This is true for all of the graduate students in my department (I live in Ohio) and many of my friends in programs across the US.
  • If your funding runs out, even the best intentioned of departments may not be able to find anything for you. Be proactive in seeking out opportunities in departments that teach undergrads but don’t have graduate departments of their own. They may need teaching assistants or adjuncts.
  • This is why you need to network within your university. If your package doesn’t contain funding for those crucial last few years, then you will need to line things up quickly so an unfunded term doesn’t sneak up you.
  1. Costing (in the UK) -- there are many funded PhD places, where your fees and pay of around £13,000/year is provided (that is without tax, so quite good). It is common for universities to have many places one year, and few the next, so don’t get too attached to one university. When you ask an academic if they have funding, and they say no, ask them if they know of any other PhDs with funding. It is common for academics to refer good candidates to friends at other universities, and that is your best way to get your foot in the door.
  • PhD students (like other students) don’t have to pay Council Tax in the UK. But you will if you live with non-students.
  • When you have funding it is often strictly time limited, so don’t assume that it can be extended: maybe it can but you need to find out.  So if you have money for say 3.5 years, then you need to make sure you always have a credible plan to submit in that time (discuss with your supervisor throughout the thesis).  It is common for PhD students to take say 4 years and there may be no funding at all for that last 6 months. Many academics will assume you can just get by for that extra period and won’t enquire too closely.
  • If you need to take an extended leave of absence (e.g. for health reasons) you might find your funding is on hold. I.e. at a time when you are ill and unable to study your income might suddenly go to zero. Or if it doesn’t it might effectively reduce the time available to finish your PhD.
  • Ask for help from your program if you have a medical crisis. I had serious medical crisis   grad school and advisor went to bat for me so I kept getting paid. Some people don't tell because they don't want to seem or like they can't handle it. People know and expect that when things wrong, people will adjust for them. Follow that lead and ask for what you need.
  • Check the PhD listings on jobs.ac.uk for funded PhD places. These are often attached to the projects of individual professors.
  • Working in School
  • You may be used to working your way through school. With few exceptions it is very very hard to do in a PhD program
  1. Many universities have a job website for students (e.g., jobcenter.wisc.edu) and a lot of these jobs are geared towards grad students.
  2. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Earning money gets easier later in your program when you can do things like data analysis etc. for pay
  • It’s possible, but working will almost certainly add years to the time you need to complete a PhD.  So you need to keep an eye on how extra years will affect your grad funding.  It’s possible you can earn less money over the long term by working a 2nd job if it impedes progress enough.
  • Also, if faculty “find out” it may also communicate that you are not taking your research/other work “seriously,” so there might be non-monetary consequences.
  • It might be worth finding out from students further along in your program whether there are any faculty who are particularly sympathetic to the need to work to pay the bills. They can become allies in navigating university policy about taking on outside work - which is technically not permitted in many programs.
  • The best case job scenario is probably to have your supervisor PI (lead) a grant that includes your PhD research, so they can pay you to work on your own project. Explore whether this might be a possibility (it might hinge on you ghostwriting a successful grant application).
  • Stay in touch with peers on their way out who have part time jobs they can hook you up with. A lot of folks in my dep’t work second jobs (babysitting, catering, ETS scoring, test prep class teaching (Princeton Review, Kaplan, etc.) editing/proofreading, transcription, translation, etc) and we share this (job opportunity) info with each other.
  • Can I just say that ETS scoring (especially AP exams) is an excellent way to recoup some summer pay? I did this for a few years in grad school, and at over $1300 for a week of my time, the check helped fund research each summer.
  • Drop a resume off at ALL the local schools (guidance department, typically). It is a great way to get tutoring jobs-- even if your program doesn't allow outside employment they likely can't bust you for under the table tutoring gigs.
  • Where I did my PhD I could easily make somewhere between 70 and 90/hr tutoring. One or two tutoring gigs a week made a HUGE difference.
  • Are there programs within your uni that offer tutoring/extra help sessions?  I made a substantial amount of extra money working within the uni running undergraduate review sessions  for students in a NYS sponsored program called CSTEP/STEP.  There is also HEOP in New York State which often runs review sessions, tutoring and summer programs. There are probably similar programs in other states. If your uni has one of these programs talk to them, they are often desperate for tutors, and once you are involved in them they offer great community, connections and support.  Even though I wasn’t allowed outside employment there were no rules against me being additionally employed within the university.  I worked both the academic semester and summers for this program and it made a huge difference.
  • Little known fact (US only): Federal Work Study Program can be tapped by graduate students if you did not exhaust your eligibility as an undergrad (few do). If you can find an on campus job (e.g., in a quiet library) you will be a “nearly free” employee to your university b/c the feds pay most of your wage. A 10 hour a week     job at $10 an hour can be the utility bill, the food money, the decent pair of shoes for interviewing in $$.
  • Check your uni for other departments that hire part-timers; they’ll be used to (sometimes set up for) working around student schedules. If there is a community or city college nearby, check them as well. Usually, within the school you are hirable your first or second year; for local colleges, usually once you’ve attained an MA.
  • Also note that some universities are now banning or otherwise restricting outside employment.  And this information can be difficult to find.  Ask first! (If you find yourself in one of these scenarios, you can find a workaround by acting as an independent contractor in the summer. This is useful for those planning to explore careers outside the professoriat). Some fellowships also have stipulations against outside employment. MANY DO
  • And if you feel the need to gain some approval or affirmation that this is "not against the rules" - students in your program might know a faculty member or two who also had to work to make ends meet and has a track record of helping students play this game…
  • This is a great point and one I would not have known if it were not in my contract. I recommend reading through contracts (if they're used).
  • While you should absolutely be aware of your contract, some places turn a blind eye (as long as it doesn't impact your academic progress). Also, some places allow employment but cap the hours. In both cases, you should ask other students in the program (or perhaps even the department secretary) if those rules are actually enforced. Even if they do enforce an hourly limit, that doesn't necessarily apply to freelance work where you're paid in a lump sum.
  • And since you have to sign a contract in order to get said fellowship, you need to read what you're signing in case you're signing away your ability to work in a competitive/comparable industry).
  • However, if you’re an international student, check very carefully to see if your visa allows you to work (at all and/or off-campus) before accepting employment. You could risk deportation if you accept paid employment without permission.
  • An F1 visa, which most international students are on, allows you to work 20 hours a week ONLY FOR THE UNIVERSITY where you study during the semester. This includes graduate teaching and research assistantship hours. During school vacations you are allowed to work up to 40 hours a week only for the university where you study.
  • Some schools administer semester-long “fellowships” as research assistantships with no duties which, unlike a real fellowship, still count towards your 20 hours of allowed work. Be aware of HOW you’re getting paid.
  • Don’t be afraid to do basic non-academic jobs for pay, especially during the summer. I cleaned houses in the summers (as one of my jobs). I was tired, but it supplemented my income in a way that didn’t tax my brain, so I could write and work on my own stuff as well. People were a little horrified, but I’ve always worked, and it was a better gig than some of the academic ones.
  • Many of the skills that make you an excellent academic--especially writing and research--could also make you some cold hard cash. Consider freelancing on elance or Upwork (or other online platforms) as a side hustle. Sometimes, folks are looking to partner with a subject matter expert (SME) to develop online content, and your PhD-in-progress can help you go far if you connect with the right person. (Freelancing keeps me fed in the summertime and keeps me in the little luxuries like electricity and hot water during the academic year!) Doing this might make your taxes a little more complicated: because the work you do as a freelancer will be considered self-employment, you’ll need to pay your portion plus your employer’s portion of your federal and state taxes. You can, however, take deductions for things like home offices and other business expenses. Sort of a hassle, but ultimately worth it if you need the money. (Freelancing might also be an avenue of employment for non-US citizens, but double check that before you commit to any projects.)
  • Is there a practical component to your dissertation work, i.e. does it involve making things, designing, creating art, testing things, etc.? If so, don’t be afraid to start your own small business. Do this early in the program, if you can -- it can take a few years to build a client list, but after a couple of years it can be a major boon to your financial situation, and dovetail nicely with your professional development. It can also be easier to adjust your weekly hours to fit with university policy & your fluctuating academic schedule.

  • Contacts
  • Being aware of scholars, their rank in field, their word of mouth reputations, how they work (or not) with others
  1. Understand your place in the hierarchy. As a graduate student you have limited power and/or influence. How much this matters day-to-day depends on faculty. Some may see themselves as your peers, others may see themselves as your overlords. Know how to spot the difference quickly.
  • Understand the ranking system (hierarchy) of faculty in higher ed. I had no idea going in there were so many levels.
  1. Don’t overlook your peers--people at the same ranks as you (either at your own institution or at others). Network with people at your level at conferences and don’t ignore them for the “stars”--eventually the “stars” will retire and your generation of scholars will be the new leaders. Your fellow graduate students will be the people that you serve on committees with, co-author papers with, etc. Ask graduate students at other institutions to join you on a conference panel, for instance.
  2. This should not be under-estimated: no matter how you feel about people in the present, those you encounter in gradschool/at conferences will be your peers for the rest of your professional life. Some might be employed by your institution. Never underestimate the power of professional courtesy (and the long-life of casual discourtesy, or, worse, drama) even if you can't see the connections right now.
  • Cultivate goodwill:
  1. Send follow-up notes via email when you meet someone at a conference. You never know when someone you meet, even casually, will be the person who reviews your article or grant ro tenure case.
  2. Send thank you notes (email is fine) when someone helps you out.  
  3. Don’t get involved in departmental (or institutional or disciplinary) drama. There will be gossip. There will be feuds. People may try to confide in you to get you on their side. Keep your head down and try to remain neutral.
  • I'm not sure this is a fair comment. A lot of drama stems from the treatment of women (for example) in a discipline or the treatment of graduate students. While we shouldn't feed the trolls, we should also take a stand if the situation calls for it.
  1. ALWAYS give your professors good marks on their end-of-semester course evaluations.  Whether they are or are not tenured, were awful and they know it, no good will come of a poor review.  They know who you are, and after a semester they can easily tell who wrote what.  
  • Choosing schools, programs, committee, supervisors, mentors
  1. Your advisor is probably the most important person in your life once you start a PhD. You should contact potential advisors before applying to grad schools, and when you apply you should try to arrange to have a face to face meeting with people that you might want to work with -- Skype is also okay, if face to face can’t be arranged. It isn’t “cheating” to contact a potential advisor, it’s expected--at least in most fields. If you are unsure whether it is typical in your field, you should contact an administrator in graduate admissions at the school(s) you’re interested in, and ask them.
  • And don't bother going to a grad program that doesn't offer anything you're interested in. It's not enough to get in somewhere good. If no one there does anything you're really interested in, it's a bad fit.   If you cannot write the dissertation you want to work on with anyone in the program, it doesn't matter if it is a top-ten program. Fit is really crucial to a good time-to-degree and overall well-being for you.
  • Meetings with prospective supervisors can feel a little like being on awkward first dates. This awkwardness is normal--neither of you knows if the other wants to take the relationship further yet, and you’re both trying to assess that.
  • When you meet with a prospective supervisor, send them your materials ahead of time (at least a CV, and if it’s possible/appropriate in your field, also a brief draft research proposal (1-2 pages) ). If you’re meeting in person bring hard copies of these things as well.
  • When meeting with a prospective supervisor with whom you’ve moved beyond the “first date” stage and are ready to talk nuts & bolts with, ask about what they can offer you in terms of specific types of support: an office, a desk, a computer, research funds, research assistantships or teaching assistantships, support from their/departmental admin staff, etc. Travel funding if you will need to travel to do fieldwork. These kinds of things are often good to include in applications for external funding, so don’t feel like you’re being demanding by asking what kind of support there would be--you will probably sound more prepared.  
  1. When you are accepted at schools, funding is one of the most important factors, but so is the cost of living in the area where you’re getting the degree. You’ll also need to think about where you can do your best work. If you visit a place where you are accepted (always do this!) think about whether you can do good work there, be productive, etc. Do you need a better library? Less politics? Urban/rural preferences? Etc.
  2. Also, don’t be afraid to apply to the fanciest schools. Just because they seemed like they were only for rich kids, the Ivies often have the most money/best packages. When i was applying to grad school it didn’t even cross my mind to apply somewhere fancy but it IS possible and might pan out best for you in the end.
  3. Also, ask what happens if your supervisor leaves campus, whether on a temporary or permanent basis..
  • Ask your potential advisor if they will be going on sabbatical leave within your the next two years, and how they handle their grad students during sabbaticals.
  1. Rank matters. All-star full professors may be hands off due to travel, but their support letter might have more weight when you look for a job. Associates will be more established, but may be in-between research programs. Pre-tenure faculty will likely want to publish a lot, which is great for you, but you may never be first-author.
  2. I would add to the above, that if you are accepted to a program that is a good fit for you, but doesn’t necessarily have top professors in your field, you can meet and network with such people at conferences/workshops/colloquiums/ or in professional programs like NEH and so forth, and they may take an interest in you and be willing to read your work and write for you--don’t expect it, but if they offer definitely take them up on it.

  • You are your best advocate. Don’t be afraid to cold-email faculty, ask to meet, drop by their office, introduce yourself. Take the initiative to sell yourself and your work.
  1. Hear hear! Approach academia as an entrepreneur -- don't wait for opportunities to come to you. Go knock on doors, do research, get to know people. Sometimes having coffee with someone can pan out two years later. DEEP TENURE FTW
  2. That said, approach with an ask or an offer - don’t just go to chat - have a particular question in mind, or some way in which you can help them/be useful to them. Don’t just expect them to know what to tell you.
  3. And not just the faculty -- Get to know the secretaries and staff! Help them, listen to them, and know that they are excellent sources of information! YES--your graduate studies administrative assistant, if s/he has been there for several years, knows more about everything related to graduate study in your program than anyone else in the department. You should get to know him or her as soon as possible, and ALWAYS be polite to him or her no matter how frustrated you might be. The behind-the-scenes work s/he does for all grad students in your program is essential for your success.
  4. We acknowledge this is extremely hard to do if you have no experience with it. Sometimes, it is easier to do if you can come up with “an excuse” to send that email. If you run a club or are part of a research group, it is sometimes easier to send an email as a “representative” of the group than to email “as yourself.” Getting this sort of experience makes it easier over time.
  • Approach the Graduate Program Director to introduce yourself early in your first term. Ask lots of questions about funding opportunities that will enhance your degree; put yourself on that person’s radar so when she has a scholarship nomination or an unfilled teaching assistantship position come up, she thinks of you.

  • Also make sure to introduce yourself to the administrator who runs the graduate program. They are not an academic and are likely to have much more common sense about payroll, know about who is reliable/decent/must be avoided in the department, or know which faculty member has a grant and might need an research assistant etc. Avoid whining to both these people but don’t be afraid to express that you have needs and are organized about meeting them.

  • Do not limit yourself to the department for contacts. Make friends with the library staff and librarians, and people in other departments.
  1. Be super nice to the administrative staff and secretaries of the department you wish to get into! They make a huge difference.

Cultural/Social Capital

  • Buy nice formal clothes. Yes, you can afford them. I bought a cheap suit at ross for $100 and had it tailored for less than $50. TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, etc. are great, especially if you snag something on clearance.
  1. Note that this is actually much harder for fat women than thin women--- if you're a fat woman- check online resale sites-- you might do better there.
  • Check on thrift store websites for new/ like new clothes from really great brands: therealreal.com has designer suits for as low as $85 (new), thredup.com has great buys for really, really cheap. And mostly new.
  • Thrifting in person can be time-consuming but can also be great:
  1. It’s an opportunity to try on a lot of different brands all in one place and figure out what stores are most likely to work for your body
  2. Read the fabric tags on (parts of) suits. They’ll often have a fabric code or season which will let you match things up. I found the matching blazer to a pair of suit pants I had already thrifted = $400 suit for <$15.
  • Also, check the places you can’t quite afford but know are good brands for people in your field. Go to the store, try on stuff and figure out your size and what cuts you like. Don’t buy anything. Then, watch for clearance events, look for used items on resale sites like eBay and ThredUP, etc. If you’re buying a black suit at Talbot’s, nobody is really going to know if it’s from this year or two years ago.
  1. Don’t hesitate to create a junk email and sign up for all the sale ads/newsletters/etc from high-brow stores.  Check for annual 40%-50% off sales and then go into the clearance section.  Do clothing swaps with friends and/or don’t hesitate to borrow clothes if need be.
  2. Check the local fashion culture.  Different departments have different expectations (for example, in my English transition course, we were told we needed to look “different” or “interesting” on the job market, and in general, women put a premium on unique fashion in my department.)  You don’t have to buy in, but just be prepared to change your self-presentation a bit, especially if you are coming straight from undergrad and don’t have a professional wardrobe yet.  Women-identified individuals, you can never go wrong with a collection of fancy-looking scarves. They spruce up the most boring, cheap t-shirt.
  3. Know that, depending on your background, you may need to go more formal on a regular basis than others to be taken seriously.
  4. Yet in many disciplines (especially STEM) the opposite is true. The more one “dresses up” the less skilled they appear and the harder it is to take them seriously.
  • Be prepared for the culture shock. Know that it is natural
  1. Rich kids can… well, they can suck sometimes.
  2. If possible cultivate friendships with others who come from a similar background and can relate to the culture shock. This will mitigate some of the loneliness and might just help you feel a bit more connected to your program.
  3. And maybe this appears somewhere else here, but if I could do anything differently now, it would be to stop dissimulating about my class status. Being white and poor meant I could pass among my also-white but wealthy peers… but I lost a lot of myself in trying to hide my background from my peers and from my profs. I no doubt also missed opportunities in grad school as a result of being fiercely private about this stuff. If you can, be open and unapologetic about class issues. If you cannot be open about it, find at least a few peers with whom you can be yourself.
  4. Know that sometimes people act like they know what they're doing and talking about, but they actually don't know anything. Don't be afraid to admit you don't know something. Everyone has learning to do.
  • This might especially be an issue with those privileged folks who have never (really) worked or really lived outside of the academy. If you are a non-traditional PhD student - as many poorer students are - you may be shocked to find colleagues, advisers, and professors dictate to you what your own "real-world" experiences were and were like (and how valid they may or may not be).
  • However, the flip-side of that is that you may often find yourself at odds with the standards of expectation in terms of labor, performance, assessment, etc. (e.g. - coming from a labor-intensive background, it has taken me a lot of effort not to scoff every time somebody tells me how much "work" academic life is, or how "unfair" labor conditions are, or how they shouldn't be expected to meet quantifiable standards because of their own pedagogical ideology.)
  • It's important to understand in these cases how your own class and upbringing/experiences inform your understanding of these realities, and appreciate how their perspectives are similarly shaped by personal experience and knowledge.
  • It also will not be uncommon, in programs with a strong social component (such as in the humanities), to have people speak authoritatively on the legitimacy of your own identity and experiences without knowing they are doing so. They may also respond to any correction by insisting you have no idea about X, because it has literally never occurred to them that they may end up in grad classes with a person who has lived X. They may become incredibly defensive when you point out they are talking over your actual history, and in fact, correcting people in this way, however gently, is a great way to make enemies.
  • I think the most important thing to remember in this case is that it's not personal. And that part of what you're doing in graduate school is working to change the discourse.
  • If you're coming to grad school later on, or by a different path, the best thing to do is to embrace that as a unique qualification you have in forwarding conversation.
  • But on this note, see the previous point two bullets up. A network of friends to share ignorances with is so helpful. It seemed like everyone at my program knew what the trivium and quadrivium were -- oh god, and they knew sailing terms! Sailing! I got in the habit of swapping definition-discoveries with a couple trusted noobs like myself.
  • However, never be afraid to be an authority. Everyone, and I mean everyone fakes it at one point or another. It’s better to be corrected than hedge every single thing you say.
  • Learn how higher education institutions work, especially if you didn't pay attention to that as an undergrad. Provost, Dean, Graduate Program Director, department chair, etc and learn academic ranks if you aren't already familiar
  • A lot of contacts, conversations, networking will be done during social events (through your department, at conferences, more informally depending on the professor(s). There will be a whole slew of cultural cues that go along with these that you might not be comfortable with. That’s okay. Go anyway. Watch people, learn, imitate.
  1. A large part of graduate school is imitating, at least in the beginning. Imitating those around you does not make you an impostor.
  2. And department events, like "brown bag lunches," job talks, speakers, etc.
  3. This is very important. One of the big hurdles in graduate school when you don’t have the same capital as your supervisors or colleagues is the ability to discern what is mandatory and what isn’t e.g. symposiums, brown bags, and holiday parties. A lot of events are presented as optional but they really aren’t. Go to everything until you’re sure and watch what others do and how people respond to what they do.
  4. It is extremely important to network at conferences. You’ll learn who else you’ll be competing with on the job market and what their cvs look like; you’ll meet senior scholars who can be mentors and outside readers; you’ll make sure others know who you are. There is no dollar value attached to this, but it is essential. Do not just go to your panel and hide in your room. Stay for most of the conference if possible (if you room w someone you are more likely to afford this). If you’re not outgoing, fake it till you make it.
  • Remember what the purpose of the conference is for you. Do not only go to your panel then skip out.
  1. Try to network to present a paper with a pre-tenure faculty member at your discipline conference the following year. They'll need it for their record and some conferences give advantage to "new" presenters (Which you would be).
  2. Ask your supervisor to introduce you to people at the conference. If they’re not there, try to find someone else to rope into acting as your “mentor” and introduce you--sometimes if you know another grad student you can hang out with them and their supervisor, other times you can strike up a conversation with someone senior whose work you know and like. In some fields, conferences frequently have doctoral student get-togethers. Go to those in the first few years of your attendance--whoever is organizing those things cares about mentoring students and can also be asked to help with introductions, etc.
  3. Know that a lot of conference networking happens before the conference even starts. Some people go to conferences to see friends from grad school, or to have a conversation they planned in advance. People have their own agendas, and so they seem like they don't have time to talk to you. This is often not true. But people do talk to people they already know. Get known advance. Organizing a panel is a good way know some people before you get to the conference. Ask your co panelists if they want share a meal or a drink.  
  4. If you have a poster session at a conference, which is very common in some fields for grad students, know that awkward is just how they are. They can be really good for networking, though. Usually, all you have to do is stand there by your poster doing your best to be approachable yet not desperate. When people walk over to look, ask if they have any questions or if they’d like “the elevator talk” (very brief synopsis). If possible, bring your cards and hang them by the poster so people can take them to remember you.  
  5. Academic units are communities, even if they can be dysfunctional ones. Engage with the community early on. Be the one who gets others to talk about their work, interests and lives. Very quickly this will be noticed and when the are opportunities to be meted out, you are more likely to get a shoulder tap.
  • You might “out” yourself as poor/working class in ways you didn’t anticipate, obviously. It will be okay, most of the time. All the time. Don’t be afraid to be you.
  1. Yes! Also, don’t be ashamed to be frank about your lack of resources when asking for support from your program and university. This is especially beneficial when doing administration level stuff. Your colleagues and faculty simply won’t think of it. For example, if you need a high limit credit card to book travel to a conference and then wait months for reimbursements? Politely bring up to the department admin or your advisor that you don’t have that, if that’s the case. Often, exceptions can be made to cover those types of things for you. But, again, we just don’t think about it. Closed mouths don’t get fed.
  • This is critically important because NOT ALL FACULTY WERE RICH KIDS. In other words, if you are frank about your background, you will find others who shared a similar background and tap into the network of academics from similar backgrounds.
  • This is very true, even at Ivy League schools.
  1. There are going to be many academics who believe all poor people are ignorant, stupid, and/or racist. They won’t include you in that hopefully (you are at the university), but they are going to include your friends, family and acquaintances in their sweeping statements. Unfortunately, on many occasions you are just going to have to bite your tongue and live with their comments.No, do not bite your tongue. Engage with them professionally.
  2. Academics like to think they understand all world-views. You will discover they don’t. That’s fine.
  3. I also think it’s key to make sure your supervisor/advisor/committee is aware of your finances and be sure you explain how these things impact your work (many may be totally unaware, but are in a position to help once they know).
  • Sometimes, esp. at larger schools, there are funds left over at the end of the year that must be distributed. Keep on top of dept./uni/outside funding possibilities. Usually your advisor or the grad advisor will be a big help here.
  • Yes. Now that I'm on the faculty side I realize how important it is for your advisors to know your situation. We advocate for students and student need is something I take very very seriously when it is time to divvy up resources.
  1. Academics in general care about things like titles and appropriate attire, esp. If you are a woman/POC/queer. (ie, straight white dude can come in a hoodie & be taken seriously, woc cannot; this is a racist statement). Learn to share/swap clothes and use thrift stores for shopping. A good consignment store can keep you going for a while if you sell clothes back there regularly. You can wear better brands than you could usually afford.
  2. Don’t be surprised when the professor who speaks so eloquently about social justice turns out to be classist, racist or just very liberal (in the political economy sense, rather than CNN or Fox News). Even people who study racism seem to believe--consciously or not--in meritocracy. This is particularly true for doctoral students: you will have earned your place and the expectation is that  you will make it work.
  • Develop several support networks, for different purposes
  1. If you can find someone who is faculty or higher position which shares your background as a mentor. In some fields they are harder to find but I found it helped so much with feeling more like I belonged and reduced some of the culture shock. She ended up being in a different department.
  2. A network to make you feel comfortable, so people who share your worldview and challenges
  3. A network to challenge you, so people who you like but whose worldview differs from yours
  4. A network of people who are in  your town but have little to nothing to do with school. It is easier to survive if you have local friends to grab a beer with who are interested in you and care about you but who don’t really know the nitty gritty of your academic life. If you go to a church, that can be a good community for this, so can peers at a volunteer gig or on a sports team or side job. YES!
  5. Avoid that cabal of postgrad students who spend most of their time critiquing the inequities of their programme, unit, school, faculty and university. Even if their critiques are relevant, they are often the ones who either drop out or don’t proceed to candidacy--sometimes unfairly, sometimes not. Make lemonade (#beyoncé)
  • Your summers and breaks will look very different from wealthier colleagues. Depending on how you manage bullet 1, money and budgets, you’ll need to get ahead on research/work rather than vacationing etc.
  1. pros/cons of research output vs. money income. Different years may look different. Some stipends cover first summer, some don't. How to balance productivity & income without burning out.
  2. That said, do find time to regularly decompress. The stresses of grad school combined with general anxiety about money, debt, etc. are incredibly hard on you. If you can take a few days in the summer to step back from your work, even if it’s a “staycation” you’ll be more productive and happier for the rest of your summer.  
  • The “real” value of graduate school is found in relationships. Building them will be easier for your colleagues. They’ll have gone to the same schools as your profs, have similar hobbies (tennis?!) and know almost intuitively to hang out in faculty offices etc. Some of that you can’t change but you can hang out. It can be uncomfortable but opting out really undermines your academic development.
  1. This may well be true, but as a corollary I would add don't get caught out by impostor syndrome if you can. Grad school is a weird, new environment for people of many backgrounds, and your colleagues may be less intuitive (and also maybe less elite) than it at first appears.
  2. If all "social" options are particularly unattainable/overwhelming, organize one. By cohort or by dept, its usually possible to arrange on-campus events that are more accessible/friendly to all.
  3. Some events are going to require suits / black tie / white tie. If you don’t know what those are, find out. Hopefully a good friend, or your supervisor, can tell you which dress codes are optional, and which are required. When it’s required, do it!
  • Try to find out how often you’ll need white / black tie, and use that to decide if you should buy, or rent.
  • Borrowing is also good
  1. Try finding a good, trustworthy friend (in person or online) and regularly have a mutual support session.  Anything from venting about others to collaborating on various projects.
  2. But also be wary. In competitive departments, other graduate students can steal your ideas. For example, what you are thinking about writing for a paper, or what you thought of a work to share in class. This may not seem significant, but it is. Don’t have people around you that steal your work, it is not worth it. This doesn’t just go for graduate students--there are professors who will skim your ideas for themselves as well. Don’t be paranoid--not everyone is out to steal your ideas!--but do be smart about how often, and to whom, you trot out new ideas before you are substantially into the project that develops from them. Having a few people in a writing/research group you pitch those ideas off of is a good plan, and even better if they are from other departments/field of study, so there’s no competition possible.
  3. There is usually a professor who also came from nothing. Find that person.
  • This. Once you find an ally in the faculty, make sure you are frank with them about your struggles. These allies can be crucial for helping navigate funding, program goalposts, teaching, everything!  
  • Also, look for these people outside your department and school. They will save you so much suffering. A friend of mine got out and got a tenure track job a few years before me. We’ve NEVER been at the same school. However, for the last two years of my program, when I was flat broke, any time we were at the same conference, she paid for the entire hotel room without blinking. When you are asking for roommates, don’t be afraid to ask faculty--especially junior faculty--that you are friendly with. They have resources you don’t, and if they have come from a similar place, they will probably be absolutely delighted to be able to pay it forward.
  • You will be offered debt. Don’t use it to fund a middle class lifestyle. You’ll regret it down the line. Stay as frugal as you can.
  1. Although cooking for yourself is cheaper, you won't have much time to do this during the semester. Grad students resort to eating crap or nothing at all (to save money). I highly recommend batch cooking before each semester and freeze it all. That way you have healthy, fast meals for almost the whole semester. Invest in a high quality lunch box you can use the entire time and that can hold more than one meal at a time. Sometimes you'll spend the entire day on campus.
  • Networking often happens over food, including meals with invited speakers or at conferences. You may be invited to these events--for example, in my department graduate students often have breakfast or lunch with visiting job candidates. You may find that you are expected to know about wine or fine cheeses or which fork/spoon to use. You can fake it if you want, but it is fine to acknowledge that you come from a different background. Not everyone grew up drinking seltzer and eating manchego.
  • Remember that you also bring value to the institution and to academe. Try not to feel too crummy about not having vacationed anywhere, or played lacrosse or whatever. You are enough. 
  • Be prepared for your relationships to change with your family of origin, too, as you proceed through graduate school. You may be perceived as “leaving” them in ways they are proud of and ways that trouble them.
  • Remember that a lot of other graduate students come from the same background. They are going to be less vocal about it, obviously, but most people in academia did not come from super wealthy backgrounds (at least not in my experience). There is no shame in growing up poor! You just have to compensate a little for social etiquette, etc, but I would say that the vast majority of academic culture has to be learned by all entering graduate students regardless of socioeconomic strata.

  • Networking

  • Choosing a Program
  • It is possible. Take time to do research on a a variety of programs. Being willing to move/look in a larger region increases your chances of a well matched & supportive program, but weigh your own needs. Start with uni websites, but don’t trust them. Talk to students, and if possible faculty.

  • Evaluate the social views, expectations, and culture of your program’s faculty and students before accepting the offer to enroll. This will ensure that you do not accept the first offer you receive and end up in a program that is not a good fit for you.

  • Another point you should evaluate when choosing a program is whether it will help you network and/or get hired. Grad schools differ dramatically from one another in this regard. Ask if there are professional workshops throughout the year. How many? What do they cover?

  • Ask what work you be expected to do exchange for your stipend. It is normal to work as a teaching assistant. But there are wide differences In when you start teaching (do you start TA’ing your first semester? Or not until your third year?), how many students you will be responsible for each term (25? 75? 90?), and whether you'll expected TA outside your primary area study. Are their TA opportunities in the summer? Will you be required teach then? Or get paid extra?
  • Ask how much of your stipend goes to Tuition. You may be offered 10,000 a year which sounds like a lot but 8000 goes back to tuition.

  • Ask if the person you want to be working with is going to be on sabbatical. You don’t want to get to the program and be surprised your potential supervisor is not there.
  • Find out if grad students are unionized at the universities you are considering (and if all grads are included - at some schools TAs are but research assistants are not). Grad unions commonly bargain for a range of benefits you may not think to ask about initially. Reach out to unions where present - they are a wealth of information about grad life and surviving programs.

 

  • In the end you have to balance job after graduating, with student loan payments, with options. I decided it was better to take an offer where you have funding (less debt) than not because of how uncertain job market is. While pedigree still matters, the letters you get (PhD) are still the same. Some of the benefits of “pedigree” can be made up for by doing conferences, making contacts (even on twitter) with established faculty at larger/more prestigious schools. Commitment to scholarship can be shown through consistent engagement with your field. However, in some fields, only a few top departments are able to reliably place their graduates in academic jobs. If you are entering one of these fields, it is absolutely crucial to find out which programs at which universities are worth the risk, and which are not. Find out where new hires in your discipline did their doctoral work.
  • This is really hard calculus. There are so many moving parts. This is mostly true, with differences by discipline and student needs, etc. My general rule of thumb is: if you get into a top 15 program, go even if it means debt. We reproduce class/race inequality when our profession pretends that prestige doesn't matter. IT MATTERS. After the top 15, the math gets more complicated. Will you have the resources to FINISH? That is different for everyone but roughly it doesn't matter how cheap it is if you want to finish, have risk factors for NOT finishing, and are taking a huge hit on opportunity costs by enrolling. But, it is true that there should be a limit to how much you'd be willing to even consider borrowing. I think a rough rule of thumb is approximately one year's worth of costs because things happen. Hopefully you won't need to do it all. With student debt the most important variable is completion. If you complete, the risk is different. But, of course, its hard to know upfront if you'll finish. You can risk a bit more, the more elite your program (not always the same as the status of your university; in graduate school it's the program rank that matters most) and the job market for your academic discipline. Sadly, debt for a humanities degree is really inadvisable, a little less so for social science (barely), a little less evil in some professional fields and natural science. Again, it's not fair but it is what it is.
  • Yes! And keeping in mind time to completion, whether there is funding (grants/fellowships/loans) possible for an extra year (or three).
  • I would be careful about getting hung up on the MA issue, depending on your field/subfield & the programs you are considering. I am in history & a field where it is increasingly common for PhD programs to expect people to come in with an MA. My PhD program (speaking specifically of my subfield at my university, not the department at large) had a lot of people with MAs enter (I was not one), as it's been pretty common in the field since the late '90s; we all did the same coursework regardless. Period. My advisors didn't care what you'd done before getting to the program after they'd admitted you. The flip side of that is we had what amounted to a (very timely - before defense) 100% placement rate in TT positions & advisors who were generous in self-funding (through endowed chairs) grad students who needed it to fund diss research/finish, if needed. I realize this is rare, but I can imagine students being scared off that their MA wasn't being "counted." I am now a TT prof at another university, we "count" a lot for our incoming PhD students with MAs, but good luck finding a job, or getting prepped for an alt-ac/non-ac position.
  • If you have a program like that where funding is likely to the end, the extra time "re-doing" the MA doesn't matter. But, if you are at a less well fundedschool, a year or two gap at the end can be disastrous. The total time doesn't really matter, esp. since the schools least likely to count MA work tend to be those who have better placement records, but it is important to look at the whole picture.
  • And, if coming from an MA, what if any of your coursework is counted.
  • Do not put all your chips on a faculty job at the end of your PhD. Plan for other options. If you don't see yourself as an adjunct professor, then you should plan ahead by opening up your possibilities while doing the PhD, even if it takes you a little longer to finish.
  • This links back to the idea of asking if outside employment is possible. I worked full time during my entire Ph.D. I had advisors that poo-pooed my decision to do so, especially as it took me 6 years to finish, but it positioned me to be much more competitive for both academic and non-academic jobs. Plus, if you can reduce the amount of debt that you incur as you move through the program, you're in a better position to take jobs that might be a quality ideal but not pay ideal.
  • I cross three fields, and I had different jobs related to my area(s) of study in addition to some freelance work. I worked for the state for my first semester, and went back into the high school classroom the second semester. Then, I spent the next four years working full time at the university where I studied, including a two-year gig as a visiting professor (once I was around, they realized they could use me elsewhere). I was upfront about what I was doing with each boss, and was able to negotiate a flexible schedule to allow me to fit classes in my schedule yet still fulfill my work duties. This work experience actually led to multiple job offers, and I was told that my practical experience set me apart. That said, there's a heavy practical component to my work (working with K-12 teachers), so this might not be the case in all fields.
  • I had lots of friends who landed full time work at the university, too, be it as academic advisors, etc. Helps you figure out what you do and don't want in a university position. Plus, tuition benefit was a big plus.
  • Make sure readers know the great work on being working class in the academy that has been published in recent years, including by Michelle Tokarczyk (Working Class Women in the Academy) and Linda Frost (essay in Generations: Academic Feminists in Dialogue).
  • Remember that you will have advantages that some PhD students from a higher socioeconomic group may not: these advantages include a lack of entitlement, willingness to pay one’s dues, openness about work assignments, availability for summer work/teaching, etc. Some people feel like they are “above” teaching a particular class, applying for a TT position other than an R1, working on literally anything outside of their research area, etc. Openness/ flexibility about all of these things is necessary in academia. Never be a doormat, but think of yourself as an eager junior colleague.
  • To add to that, often coming from a working-class background means that you had at least a part-time, more often a full time or even several, jobs while working through your bachelor’s degree, so you also bring with you the essential qualities of time-management, juggling multiple important responsibilities like work/school/family, and making the most of resources available to you. You are able to maximize the potential of any given situation because you’ve always had to do so, and all of this serves you very well in graduate school.

Housing

  • Check with your department/program secretary or current/former grad students about places to live. I know too many grad students who rented sight unseen and were stuck in a year lease in a neighborhood that was unsafe, not convenient, awful for other reasons.
  • Ask if there’s a grad student listserv or board for incoming students to share info, find roommates, etc.
  • Depending on your housing area, PhD stipend will not meet the income minimum for places such as apartment complexes in Maryland, for example. They will ask you to find a guarantor who makes 3-4 x the yearly income, which is a barrier if you don’t know anyone who makes 60K up for instance. So, be cautiously optimistic about apartment complexes because there are obstacles, but moving in with roommates or house shares that are less formal will be easier.
  • Sometimes, graduate schools can act as guarantors for landlords on your behalf -- this is especially valuable for foreign students who don’t have a credit score in the US yet and may be refused by landlords on that basis. You can ask a prof if they are willing to be your guarantor.
  • Many schools have graduate student housing that is reasonably priced and near the university, with at least some assurance that the apartments are not in, like, illegally bad condition. Establishing credit and proving a high enough income also are not issues in grad student housing the way they would be in other apartment complexes. Check this out at any school you get into. Determine whether the housing is reasonable for the local market or too expensive, etc.
  • Student housing cooperatives are often MUCH more affordable than other kinds of housing (and usually includes some or all of bills + food and often there are house meals, etc. which offer important social support and someone else helping make sure warm food ends up in your face). https://www.nasco.coop/ is a great resource for student coops..

Child Care and Grad School with Children

  • University childcare is usually high quality and convenient (and may have discount rates for students) but almost always has very long wait lists. If you have a child and want to use the university childcare, you should ask about this during all admissions calls, and get on the waitlist as fast as possible at any program that has accepted you.
  • If you are planning to have a child while in graduate school, look into what the parental policies are. Some schools offer time “off” from the program, while others (UC Davis, e.g.) offer child care stipends and parenting support groups. Be aware that these child care stipends are not even close to even partially covering the cost of your child care.
  • The vast majority of schools do not offer a large enough stipend for a single parent to afford child care, even with a grant. People have several strategies to deal with this. You can:
  • go earn your graduate degree once your kids are old enough to attend a free public school.
  • take work outside the program in order to afford childcare.
  • take out loans to cover childcare.
  • get government benefits. There are many local programs in towns and cities and states across the US that will pay for some childcare for low-income people who are working or in school. This said, many of these programs are not really helpful for graduate students. The one in my state, for example, counts my waived tuition and fees as income, and thereby asserts that I make upwards of $70k/year. Obviously, I do not qualify as low-income at this point. It’s also true that these programs can have even longer waiting lists than the university childcare and be impossible to apply to until after you have moved to the area. Still, research state-sponsored childcare subsidies in every place you might get your degree. Some folks have been very fortunate with this.
  • only consider programs that you can realistically afford--this means the ones with the highest stipends. If you choose this route, know that you will be limited to a small number of the nation’s more competitive grad schools and may not get in anywhere. There may not even be a deal this good in your area of focus. Ideally, you will want to consider places with $25k/year stipends and up (although I was able to stretch it down to $21k by taking on some outside work), and only those places that will combine the high stipend with a childcare grant or some other form of subsidization. And only those places where the living is cheap cheap cheap, so mostly the South and Midwest.
  • Day care, no matter where you are, is expensive. Super expensive. Figure this out before you have a baby and budget appropriately. Also, you will find it very difficult to get work done if you plan to “work around the baby” to avoid the costs of daycare. You will probably not feel comfortable letting your baby stare off into space for hours with no interaction while you work on your dissertation. And actually my baby demanded to be held constantly so that wasn’t even ever an option for me. They do not sleep through the night for a LONG TIME either so you will be exhausted at night, and working from 8-10 pm is a) only two hours and b) actually very hard to do when you’re exhausted. So some form of childcare is a must.
  • Child care may not be readily available in your location at all. Surprise! A months- or years-long wait list for a day care space or subsidy can lead to major disruptions to your program, particularly if your department is unsupportive or outright family-unfriendly. This has been a major barrier to women in academe.
  • If your household income is below 130% of the federal poverty line, you’re eligible for Head Start, which provides educational, health, and other services to pregnant women and children from birth to kindergarten entry. Head Start exists in most areas (though there may be waiting lists) so it’s worth looking into.
  • Many universities have dedicated family housing at reasonable rates. Look into this. Bad credit is often less of an issue, and you won’t have to travel to the area first to check out apartments in order to get one in family housing. Some schools have incredibly long waiting lists, while others are able to place all the people who ask, every year. The upsides for me have been that the apartment is huge for its price, and the neighbors, other parents, are happy to take turns watching each other’s kids, sharing tips on cheap stuff to do and arranging cost-saving measures like clothing and toy swaps.
  • Get some of that sweet sweet Medicaid for you and your kids. Get it now. Do not do not do not pay whatever huge fee your program is demanding for medical insurance. Waive anything offered by the school as fast as humanly possible (they will want documentation of your other insurance). If you are switching states to go to grad school, know that you will need to apply for Medicaid in the new state as fast as you can, so you can prove to the university you’re already insured. This saves so much money! Do it.
  • Apply to university daycare the minute you are pregnant! There are huge waitlists. Also, don’t feel bad going to the daycare everyday and telling them you need a space. Many rich people feel entitled to bud in line with a sob story and if you don’t push then you will not get a space.
  • In Canada you get one year of paid maternity leave through EI but it is only 50% of what you were earning. You can take a year off from your PhD and take a pause in funding and get your funding back. If you have a good award (40,000 a year +) then save half of the money so you can live on that. You don’t have to take any time off if you don’t want to.

Succeeding in Graduate School

  • In academia, the most important marker of success is the number and quality of your publications. In some fields these publications are books or chapters, in others (most?) they are academic publications in peer-reviewed journals.
  •  Try to read at least one academic paper a day. This adds up over time, and eventually you will be so familiar with how papers are written that you will be expert at reproducing the best of these yourself. It is also 100% free if you are university affiliated.
  •  Get involved in an easy, small research project your first year (take it slow though), and try to publish the results asap. After that, try to publish one paper every year or two during graduate school. This becomes much, much more important during your postdoc (when you should shoot for at least two a year).
  • PAY ATTENTION to those boring methods classes! They are required for a reason. Other people will read your papers and your methods in their journal clubs and will definitely 100% judge you for doing it wrong. Your advisor will obviously help you out here but you should know your field’s basic methods like the back of your hand.
  • Know that everyone in your program is smart (including you)--that’s why they are there. The difference between who succeeds--who graduates (on time) and who languishes--often has more to do with work ethic than intelligence. (Of course, sometimes things happen--having to take on extra work will delay your progress; you may have to take care of family members; and so on). But the point is that you should not doubt that you are smart enough to succeed.

International and Undocumented Students

  • Before you apply to graduate programs, enquire with US graduate colleges AND departments one by one about their TOEFL and language testing requirements. Note: a graduate college may require the TOEFL and/or language testing while the department may waive it. This can be contradictory. Also check with the office of international students if possible. Even more confusingly, these requirements or waivers can vary depending on what country you are from, or what the staff individually perceive your “native language” to me. I am from a Commonwealth country (former UK colony) and am East Asian by blood and appearance with a “difficult sounding” name, so I had a hard time convincing people that yes, my country’s education system IS English-based.
  • Factor in the costs of the TOEFL and language testing.

How it works if you do your postgrad work in another country

  1. Visa regulations
  2. How many hours you can work and whether this can be pro-rated (extra hours at some times, so long as the maximum total number of hours isn’t exceeded).
  3. Presence/absence of int’l student support office  No pay over summer
  • This depends on the program: mine pays a small amount in the summer, but it's not equivalent to what you get paid during the year so you have to add up your total income and divide it over 12 months as the basis for your budget.
  1. In my program, the school year started in late september, but TAs got paid once a month, so there was no pay until Nov. 1. It was awful. Learn when the pay schedule is ahead of time.
  2. In addition, if your assistantship includes health insurance in the US, be aware that you might have to pay out of pocket for health insurance during   summer months.
  3. Some programs prohibit you from holding another job while working on a TA.  Find out if that’s a hard rule or if they’ll look the other way.
  4. Funding from home: you might be able to secure external funding from your home country.
  • Language testing may be carried out privately by your US university separately from the TOEFL altogether. And you may have to pay for this language test. One example of a language test is called the SPEAK test. The SPEAK test used to be conducted by Educational Testing Services (which now conducts the GRE) but it was discontinued by ETS over 10 years ago. It is still privately used by certain university departments.
  • Language testing may be conducted not by your university’s graduate college or your MA/PhD program but by your university’s foreign languages department or ESL department. They may or may not have the power to give you a waiver.
  • If your degree scroll from your most recent degree is issued in a non-English language, you may have to pay for certification/translation services out of your own pocket. Northern Michigan University is an example of a university which wants you to pay this fee yourself. Factor this cost in.
  • Learn a bit about US culture, and undergrad and graduate student culture as soon as you can. There are a lot of subtleties.
  • I speak English fluently and (not but!) I have an accent. When I was teaching as a graduate teaching assistant, I found that they key to communicating well with my students was to write down the main points of everything I said on the board before class. If I was going to cover 3 things in class, I would write them down as bullet points on the board. I would also write down what homework was due on the board. After class, I would send post-class emails to the whole class detailing what homework was due and clarifying any questions students may have had. Students really appreciated these reminders. Also, it helps you cover your ass (back yourself up) and creates a record in case students claim “I didn’t know that piece of homework was due” or in case you receive any complaints that your teaching supervisor investigates. If students claim not to understand your accent, they cannot claim not to be able to read English.
  • Another important way to improve your teaching is to be relaxed and happy in class. The kids feed off your energy. Crack a joke, even if it’s a bad joke or a self-deprecating joke, and make them laugh. It’s hard not to get along with someone who makes you laugh. This actually helped my teaching evaluations...
  • Talk to fellow GTAs in your department and share teaching tips.

 Appearance and Self Care

How to manage subcultural affiliations visually: If you have a previous subcultural affiliation with a community where the appearance expectations differ from those of the corporate world, you should take some time at the beginning of grad school (or earlier) to find a visual and verbal self-presentation that works both for your new role and for your subculture. There are a number of hairstyles that can work well in both your social community and your work/academic community. Ask other graduate students or people with mainstream jobs how they manage having subcultural identities while being seen as professional.


Some examples:

  • a professor who talked to students about having been in the punk scene and wore a tie, a white shirt, and black jeans to lectures;
  • two multiracial, bisexual women who were previously in hard rock bands who both went to grad school, adopted intermediate hairstyles that were still somewhat alternative, wore business-friendly outfits that were their style during their teaching roles later, leveraged their working-class-related experiences in these roles, and remained open about their relationships and music interests;
  • a genderqueer person who transitioned into a postdoc role while being open about their relationship and subculture interests, doing class-inclusive research, choosing not to disclose their gender identity at work, and dressing androgynously in neutral colors;
  • a faculty member in a very mainstream field who chose to dress in an artistic, fashionable way while remaining open about her bisexual identity, talking about social responsibility, and mentioning her previous subcultural affiliations.  

How to look fabulous while in graduate school: luxuries like toner became impossible when I went back to school and had to scale down my expenses. Feeling gross just adds to the whole unnecessary stressful weight of grad school - it's more than just remembering to shower. Products have become are so deeply acculturated in contemporary grooming regimens that when you don't have smells, textures — even the fiction of externally-absorbed nutrients, etc. — to look forward to, it gets hard to pull yourself together. There's also this BS ethos about having to look mousy in graduate school or you won't be taken seriously - there's an obvious and irritating gendered element here. Double underline BS - when you feel good, the world is that much less chaotic all of a sudden, you perform better, and they take you more seriously because of it.

I discovered Pinterest early on (which has upped its secret board functionality so you can hide from the world your human-ness-need-for-drag if you like) & invested about $50 on ingredients at the beginning of my 2 year program, which I was able to have stretch throughout and then some. My regimen became simplified, inadvertently organic/all natural, and tailored specifically to my skincare needs. All plus points.

Some gems I've incorporated (FYI, I'm South Asian, have combination T—zone oily skin, and dry-favoring curly hair. These are just some recipes that worked for me - I advise becoming familiar with your skin before you spend any $. A lot of these ingredients can be cross-purposed for cooking or cleaning if they don't end up suiting you.):

3 ingredient foaming facial cleanser:

http://www.healthyeah.co.nz/recipes/diy-3-ingredient-foaming-facial-cleanser

Dry shampoo:

http://www.brit.co/diy-dry-shampoo/

Eye cream:

http://redefinedmom.com/homemade-best-anti-aging-eye-cream/

Rosemary-mint shaving cream:

http://foodformyfamily.com/manic-organic/rosemary-mint-shaving-cream-homemade-gift-ideas

Exfoliator:

https://liagriffith.com/seasalt-face-scrub-and-coconut-oil-makeup-remover/

Makeup removing wipes:

http://helloglow.co/diy-makeup-remover-makeup-removing-wipes/

To that effect, I've made a group Pinterest board - just follow the board and I'll add you as a collaborator: http://bit.ly/PhDIYbeauty

Favorite Tips/How Tos:

You can make a tub of liquid mascara or a tube of mascara stretch 1.5x the usual lifespan with a few drops of contact lens solution.

Jamaican castor oil scalp treatments for tension hair loss.

Job Market

  • Depending on the job, having a working class or lower socio-economic class background may work out to your advantage. When applying to teaching-focused jobs at institutions where a large percentage of the student body are first-generation college students, you can write in your cover letter or teaching portfolio about how you would be a good mentor for students who come from a similar background as yourself. This can make you an attractive candidate!
  • Interfolio is a great way to manage job applications and letters. But they charge you for every shipment. It can get really expensive if you apply for many jobs. Ask your uni if they cover any of the cost of Interfolio. In the olden days universities had a dossier service that was an office dedicated to gathering letters rec and transcripts for students and sending them out. Interfolio has replaced that, and so some unis will offset the cost to you.
  • Here’s where your MLA membership will save you. Interfolio is free through them. I didn’t know this and spend a ton of money until I tweeted about it and the MLA account told me about this.
  • Ask your department secretary if your university/department has an institutional arrangement with Interfolio that can get you some free time or perhaps a discounted rate.
  • First round interviews in many fields happen at the major disciplinary conference. Though some schools are moving towards offering Skype interviews instead, you will likely receive interview requests right before a conference that is extraordinarily expensive to attend. You can offset your travel costs by planning ahead, submitting a paper to present at your conference and seeking travel funding in advance.This takes planning well in advance but can save money and reduce stress.
  • Many of the major conferences/organizations also offer graduate student travel grants. You have to apply for these up to a year in advance of the conference, so check with your organization for the details on when and how to apply so you can do so the first year you are on the market. I received an MLA travel grant that, together with the grant I received from our GSA, allowed me to attend MLA essentially for free the year I was on the market.
  • Many many people don't get a job on the first round. Think about and plan with your advisor re an interim plan. Postdoc? Temp position at your uni? Something to hold you over so you stay competitive but can still pay the bills in the interim. Lots of US English departments have lectureships designed to employ PhD students for a year and up to three years post-degree to facilitate your job search.
  • Really, truly consider non-academic options in addition to academic ones. Academic jobs are incredibly hard to come by and regardless of the quality of your research and teaching--it doesn’t always work out simply due to dumb luck. Seriously consider and do some preparation for non-academic careers. While those in the hard sciences and engineering may be able to more easily envision the transition to the private sector, there are great opportunities for those in humanities and social sciences too. Consider things like consulting, /state/local government agencies, higher ed administration, non-profits, international organizations … there are a lot and they can be incredibly interesting and fulfilling, without much of the existential angst that Assistant Professors seem to face.
  • The cost of moving, something you will likely have to do often in this profession
  1. A job offer often comes with relocation package and is usually negotiable.
  • This seems to be increasingly hit-or-miss. I've heard from more than one friend who has gotten a job recently that they were told that the university/college wasn't "allowed" to offer moving expenses, though some tried to make it up in other ways.
  • Similarly, for tax reasons schools that offer relocation expenses may have very hard limits on what kind of things the fund for. “Relocation reimbursements” are the trickiest: this money can be used to rent a truck, but not to buy a sofa, for instance. The point: ask lots of questions about what the various funding sources are for when you negotiate a job offer.
  • Remember that all such expenses come out of pocket first and are reimbursed after you have made the move. As with travel funding for conferences, it is crucial that you keep all receipts for the moving process, including gas station stops, hotel(s) if/when applicable, meals, and so forth, as well as the moving truck and/or movers.
  • The least expensive moving option is stil UHaul. Budget Truck Rentals is also a good option- they have a bigger truck than Uhaul, and charge about ⅔ of the price of UHaul. You can also now pay for part-time movers to help for an hour or two on either end, to alleviate your having to move the really heavy items yourself. DON’T BUY BOXES. We cruised behind Barnes and Noble and the liquor store in town three or four times and had plenty of boxes to move with. Know when they tend to do overnight stocking, and come for the boxes the next morning, so they haven’t had a chance to get wet and/or dirty in the recycling bin. The best boxes for moving books are the liquor store boxes!

Other Options

By the way, you may have already considered that there are some ways to obtain the job position such as professor or likely that highly recognized ones without Ph.D. Even in Japan as a conservative country, there are a few socially recognized people, for example, Tadao Ando and Takeshi Kitano and etc. who are not educated highly and not even college graduates either. They seem to simply be diligent and earnest and creative and hard worker even in a out on a limb situation and circumstance. Therefore first of all we should make it clear that before one choose the way to be a Ph.D holder, one could go without Ph.D or no and if not such risky (without Ph.D) course should be gotten rid of, then we could make the discussion go forward.

-Fumiaki Sakamoto(freelance social worker in Japan)

Web resources for Graduate Students

My blog is designed to be a resource for graduate students, particularly those in the humanities who intend to go on to teach at the university level. I base a lot of my adv onice on the mistakes and hard-earned lessons I’ve won along my own journey: https://melissaridleyelmes.wordpress.com/

Contributors: I want to make sure we give credit where credit due, so if you want to put your name next to information you’ve added, great, if you want a more general note, feel free to put your name here at the end.