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Grad School is Expensive!

kimekime Queen of BladesRegistered User regular
edited March 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
So... I'll be graduating from college in a month with a B.S. in Computer Science. I've applied for and been accepted to some graduate schools for a Master's starting this fall, which I'm planning on doing. Unfortunately, it's looking like it'll be a lot of money (~30k per semester, total of (probably) three semesters, and while this includes things such as room and board and health insurance, not all of which I'll need, it's still a substantial amount). And it's just about April, and I haven't really started looking at things.

How exactly do I pay for this?


More background: I got a full ride, merit-based scholarship for my undergraduate degree, so while I'm leaving college with 0 debt (yay!), I also have basically no experience on how to go about paying for education (aww...). I also don't really have any worthwhile amount of money saved, nothing that really makes a dent in this amount of money, even with whatever I earn this summer. I am getting a merit scholarship for my most-preferred school, but it will still leave the majority for me to pay.

I will be a TA, which will make me some money. Most likely also doing research, for more moneys. Again, though, not enough to cover all this.

I'm not sure if it's too late for other, third-party scholarships?

I'll fill out the FAFSA (soon, perhaps this weekend), which is good, yes? That's for Federal loans, am I right?

Loans are probably my best option in general, I'd imagine. If so, I'll need advise on that, as I have next to no experience with it.

Any other advise on something I missed?

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  • WezoinWezoin Registered User regular
    Chances are you'll have to resort to a big pile of loans. Although you're not quite in the same boat as I was coming as an international student to a country you're also a citizen of (disqualified for both local and international scholarships and bursaries, wonderful.) But still, it can be very hard to find substantial funding for a graduate program at the masters level, a bit easier for a PhD from what I hear, but still difficult.

    Look online for as many scholarships as you can find, apply for as many as you have time for (some involve lengthy application processes and essays.) On the bright side I hear funding is much more plentiful in the sciences, so you may have an easier time of it.

  • kaliyamakaliyama Registered User regular
    Student loan debt is nondischargeable in bankruptcy. What exactly are you trying to get a master's for? Why not just go get a coding job and save up some money?

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  • schussschuss Registered User regular
    Honestly, I'd try to get a real job for a time or a part time and start working on some level of research that will get you a free ride.

  • kimekime Queen of Blades Registered User regular
    Wezoin wrote: »
    Chances are you'll have to resort to a big pile of loans.

    Which I realize is the most likely outcome. I've never gotten a loan before, though, let alone what I'd get as a student. Are there specific things I should get as a student? Things to avoid? Government vs private?
    kaliyama wrote: »
    Student loan debt is nondischargeable in bankruptcy. What exactly are you trying to get a master's for? Why not just go get a coding job and save up some money?

    Well, firstly, all other things equal, a Master's is best for career prospects. I'll probably go PhD later, but that overqualifies me for many options (which I still think is a ridiculous concept), and I'm not quite ready to be a professor yet, which would be one of my few options at that point.

    The decision is already made to further my education instead of getting a job. Perhaps not the best financial move in the long run, I don't know, but it's what I personally want to do. I'm mostly curious on how to do it. The best/safest way, etc.
    schuss wrote: »
    Honestly, I'd try to get a real job for a time or a part time and start working on some level of research that will get you a free ride.

    I don't know exactly how common those are for Master's. For PhD, I've heard that's the norm (or at least, if you don't get something near that you may want to reconsider). But I don't think a free ride based on research is something that happens in this situation much, no?

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  • TychoCelchuuuTychoCelchuuu ___________PIGEON _________San Diego, CA Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    If you want to go PhD later, you'll be able to get your Master's for free generally, right? I mean, in every field that I'm familiar with (which is an admittedly low number), PhD programs are funded through fellowships and such that are guaranteed for the normal time it takes to complete the program. My PhD in progress right now, for example, is fully funded, and I'll get a Master's in due time if I stick with it. My roomate is a CompSci grad student and I'm pretty sure he didn't do anything extra special to get funding. Of course, this doesn't help you much now, except insofar as the advice to get a job and get the Master's later when you want your PhD might be good advice.

    TychoCelchuuu on
  • LilnoobsLilnoobs Alpha Queue Registered User regular
    The advice I got for graduate schooling is if you're paying for it, you're doing it wrong. I'm surprised the TA doesn't at least offer a tuition waver.

  • _J__J_ Festive Pedant Registered User regular
    kime wrote:
    I've applied for and been accepted to some graduate schools for a Master's starting this fall

    You ought to be able to ask the departments what they offer in terms of funding, and if they have any suggestions for on-campus jobs you could seek out that would afford you a tuition waiver. If you did Computer Science, I assume you're doing an MA in something computery.

    You might try looking at the university's IT department for jobs. They usually hire student workers to answer phones and ask callers if their computers are plugged in.

  • DaenrisDaenris Registered User regular
    If you intend to get your PhD eventually, I wouldn't recommend taking on a bunch of debt to get a Masters. As has been mentioned, many/most PhD programs -- at least in the sciences -- are fully funded (or close) by fellowships/grants/etc at universities.

    If you don't have your masters coming in, it will generally be awarded after the first 2 years of coursework in the program (so if you change your mind and decide to stop the program, you at least still get something out of it if you stick through that long).

    If I were you, and intended to eventually go back for my PhD, I would just worry about getting real-world experience right now and saving some money to live on later when you're a student again-- because the PhD fellowships pay a crappy living stipend.

  • WezoinWezoin Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    If you want to go PhD later, you'll be able to get your Master's for free generally, right? I mean, in every field that I'm familiar with (which is an admittedly low number), PhD programs are funded through fellowships and such that are guaranteed for the normal time it takes to complete the program. My PhD in progress right now, for example, is fully funded, and I'll get a Master's in due time if I stick with it. My roomate is a CompSci grad student and I'm pretty sure he didn't do anything extra special to get funding. Of course, this doesn't help you much now, except insofar as the advice to get a job and get the Master's later when you want your PhD might be good advice.

    I believe the setup you're describing is a masters en-route program, where after your undergrad you subscribe to a PhD program, and after your 1st or 2nd year they give you a masters, and a PhD if you stick it out until the end. Depending on your subject of study they range from slightly uncommon to inexistent. If the OP can find one of these programs then there is a good chance they'd be able to find funding, but at the same time a PhD is a lot more commitment than a masters degree in terms of time and study.

    EDIT: You guys all appear to be from different parts of the world than me, not really sure where you are that masters en-route programs are common for you (I'm assuming the US), but ignore my statement about how rare they are.

    Wezoin on
  • Aurora BorealisAurora Borealis Registered User regular
    Get in that FAFSA ASAP. Like, you wanted that done two months ago. A lot of the federal programs are first come first served no matter what your EFC. At least that's how it was when I was in undergrad- I missed out on some fed loans I wanted senior year because my FAFSA didn't get in until March.

  • AManFromEarthAManFromEarth Let's get to twerk! The King in the SwampRegistered User regular
    If you went through undergrad without loans I wouldn't worry too much about having to take some out in grad school. Student loans themselves aren't so bad (they're pretty awful in their own right, yes) but it's the cumulative effect of them that really keeps me up at night.

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  • seabassseabass Doctor MassachusettsRegistered User regular
    kime wrote:
    I will be a TA, which will make me some money. Most likely also doing research, for more moneys. Again, though, not enough to cover all this.

    Most TAships (and RAships for that matter) come with a tuition waiver, at least as far as I know. That's how our computer science department works at least. Graders are hourly, but if you've got an assitanship, you're tuition is waived and you make a set salary (about 20k here). Most TA's for masters are of a fixed duration (ie, graduate in two years or you gotta pay for it yourself bucko). If they don't offer you a waiver as part of your assistant position, it may be worth looking at other places to go.

    The pay though is typically barely enough to live on, depending on where the college is. You'll probably make little enough to qualify for housing assistance, which can cut down on costs. You may be able to qualify for other government assistance programs (food, heating, etc), which you should spend some time looking into.

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  • Marty81Marty81 Registered User regular
    If you're paying for an advanced degree in a STEM field, especially if you're going to be TAing or doing research, you're doing it wrong. If I were you I would ask about assistantships and fellowships at the schools you've been accepted to, and if they don't have anything then start applying to more schools. At the very least, you should expect a tuition waiver. What you should be looking for is a tuition waiver, health insurance included, and a stipend of $10-25k per year.

    As others have said, masters-en-route PhD programs are common in CS in the US and these practically all come with tuition waivers and stipends. You should look into those too.

  • Gilbert0Gilbert0 North of SeattleRegistered User regular
    Lilnoobs wrote: »
    The advice I got for graduate schooling is if you're paying for it, you're doing it wrong. I'm surprised the TA doesn't at least offer a tuition waver.

    This. My wife is just finishing up her 4th year and we've payed maybe $1000. With grants / scholarships / work placements / TA's there are a ton of ways to get "free" money.

  • Fuzzy Cumulonimbus CloudFuzzy Cumulonimbus Cloud Registered User regular
    Gilbert0 wrote: »
    Lilnoobs wrote: »
    The advice I got for graduate schooling is if you're paying for it, you're doing it wrong. I'm surprised the TA doesn't at least offer a tuition waver.

    This. My wife is just finishing up her 4th year and we've payed maybe $1000. With grants / scholarships / work placements / TA's there are a ton of ways to get "free" money.
    Can't stress this enough. I am being PAID money to go to graduate school next year.

    You should have filled out FAFSA like three months ago. Do this ASAP.

    At this point you may only be eligible for unsubsidized but here's hoping you are eligible for subsidized.

    Second, find out if your TA position is an assistantship or if it includes a tuition waiver. If this is an Engineering masters, then that may be why you are paying some money but you shouldn't be forking over large sums, especially if you are going to be on RA or TA for someone. 30k a semester is insane, especially for a masters. Are you sure this is a legitimate university? I can't imagine paying 30k a year for a masters degree. That is insane and not worth the time or money. The grad school dealio in the sciences is that you work for them and they get you a degree and you both try not to financially wreck each other. Pay to play should give you some pause.

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  • HypatiaHypatia Registered User regular
    seabass wrote: »
    kime wrote:
    I will be a TA, which will make me some money. Most likely also doing research, for more moneys. Again, though, not enough to cover all this.

    Most TAships (and RAships for that matter) come with a tuition waiver, at least as far as I know.

    This. If you're doing your Master's degree in CS and are TA'ing, most places will offer a tuition waver or "tuition remission" as other people have said. You may still need to pay segregated fees per credit (this usually covers things at the university like bus passes, access to gyms, etc, for all students) but it won't be anywhere near 30k per semester.

    You may also be able to work with a professor to get an RA-ship or PA-ship, but many times those are saved for students who are planning on continuing for a PhD or who are interested in doing research work.

  • lessthanpilessthanpi Registered User regular
    There's no reason to fill out the FAFSA the first second it's available. As a graduate student you're only eligible for Loans. You only need to get it in early if you're an undergrad trying to get things like Pell Grants. More than once during Grad School I filled out mine a few weeks before the semester started and things worked out just fine.

    I'll go along with the other people saying "if you're paying for it, you're doing it wrong."

    Consider getting a job for a year or taking one more year of undergrad to get a 2nd major (math or physics would be good), then apply for PhD programs in the Fall. If you decide you really only wanted a masters you'll probably have it in about 3 semesters and then you can just drop out of the program.

    You want a school that will give you, at minimum, a TA position, Tuition Waiver, and Insurance. Try finding a place with guaranteed summer funding. Don't worry about getting into some big time school like Yale or Harvard. It won't matter that much in a STEM field. Just go for a big state school like Texas, Wisconsin, Michigan, etc.

  • lessthanpilessthanpi Registered User regular
    Slightly off topic, but...

    Are you really sure you even want to go to graduate school? I don't mean to offend, but it doesn't sound like you've got the clear focus and drive that most of these type of programs require.

    The amount of work you do for an entire semester in all 4 or 5 classes you'd take as a senior will be the amount of work a single graduate school course will require. You're going to have to take about 3 or 4 classes a semester. So imagine roughly triple your current workload, 10 to 20 hours of teaching responsibilities, and research. I've got Masters degrees in Economics and Math and each one of them amounted to between 60 to100 hours of work a week. This doesn't count things like masters/phd exam prep which will likely consume every waking moment (which is a lot because at best you'll be getting 6 hours of sleep a night).

    Don't expect to be able to have much of any social life or relationships. The only people I knew who managed to stay with their partners over the course of a grad program were married before they began. I've known a lot of people in STEM fields who basically only get to choose one of eating, sleeping, or hygiene. Its a rough lifestyle and while they tell you 3 semesters for a masters, its more likely to be 3 to 6.

    The end result? Either a brutal industry job market where everyone else has the same degree, plus more experience because they didn't go straight from undegrad, or a teaching position where you make half as much as people in your field with a BS degree where politicians tell you that you're a leech and drain on society for your exorbitant salary, benefits, and summers off.

    Look before you leap I guess.

  • BaidolBaidol I will hold him off. Escape while you can.Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    Well, places like Yale and Harvard tend to have more resources and bigger names. Who you worked for matters more than where you studied, at least in chemistry. Applying to such places should not be discouraged.

    That being said, the main point that you work for a reputable PI and location is not particularly important is correct.

    Addendum: There is a caveat where the strength of a department, which is what you should be looking at, does not necessarily correlate to the strength of the brand name. For example, Wisconsin-Madison is a top 10 department in organic chemistry, but Yale is not.

    Baidol on
  • LewishamLewisham Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    Masters students are cash cows for US university departments. They're great; they pay lots of money, they take classes that is taught for PhD students anyway, and if you're really lucky, you can get free research out of them.

    I would highly recommend considering whether you should just shoot for a PhD instead and do that next year. That being said, the bar for getting in on a Masters is pretty low (because you're basically zero risk, and you pay the university money). PhD is a lot more competitive.

    For Computer Science, I don't think a Masters is worth it. You'll end up taking classes that have little to no relevance to whatever job you get when you graduate, and I would hazard most employers won't know what to make of a Masters anyway, so would just treat you as a normal BSc student at application time. The time you spend on the job will probably be worth more to your salary potential and ability to dictate your own career path than that of a Masters.

    FWIW, I'm on a PhD course.

    Lewisham on
  • ED!ED! Registered User regular
    The advice I got for graduate schooling is if you're paying for it, you're doing it wrong. I'm surprised the TA doesn't at least offer a tuition waver.

    Depends on where you go and this is hardly some agreed upon standard. Public schools in California for example do not adhere to this (and generally only have evening courses to allow you to work while pursuing your degree), even if you are TA'ing.

    Some masters programs will fund, but I've found that it is usually the private institutions.

    I second going for the PhD, especially if you are young. As for employability - there are jobs for CS PhD's; yes these often come with requirements for relevant job experience, but that can easily be obtained (or at least started) while you are in the terminal stages (sounds so ominous) of your PhD.

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  • Pure DinPure Din Rhode Island Registered User regular
    I am a CS Phd student and I second not paying for the masters if you're thinking of doing a Phd later. If you're thinking about doing a Phd later, a lot of Phd programs have specific course requirements so you'll basically end up doing a second masters anyway. Plus the expectations of how good you'll be to get into a Phd program will go up a lot once you have a masters. Also, having the debt of the masters will make it harder to consider giving up so much income to be in a Phd program.

    I started my phd with no masters, while my boyfriend worked for a while, got a masters, then worked some more. Now he's thinking of going back for a phd and it's so much harder for him than it was for me because I didn't have 50k of debt to consider, and I had a much easier time getting accepted in schools just because a 20-26 year old who wants to explore a bit and figure out what they want to do with their Phd is looked on more favorably than a 27-35 year old with a masters writing the same application.

    Finally, there's a lot of money in tech right now because of the social media boom, it's pretty easy for a young person to go out and get a job, try learning a bunch of stuff, and then come back to the masters with a better idea of what their strengths are and what kind of things they need to learn to get the job they want. Some of the best masters students I know are older guys who have been around the block a few times and know what they need to do to further their career. They finish faster with less debt because they're less likely to waste time and money taking useless classes.

  • CptKemzikCptKemzik Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    I'm a (relatively) recent lib. arts graduate who is planning to get an advanced degree in the near future in a dirty humanities field and even I find it fishy that the OP is concerned about funding with a STEM master's program with a TA position. If you're lucky enough to be in a masters program where they award TA/RA positions to those students you really shouldn't be looking at $30K a semester (as others have said); fees beyond tuition sure, but nothing like that.

    In the field(s) I am considering, you should be looking at a masters only if the PhD isn't a priority, and if the program is a terminal masters one i/e the department doesn't also have PhD students where their money is inevitably going to go towards. There are exceptions in departments with a PhD program, and "if you're paying for grad school you're doing it wrong," really shouldn't be a hard-and-fast mantra anymore with any academic field (especially with the way funding is progressively being gutted for state/public research institutions), but you first A) need some clarification on the program you've been accepted to and B) may need to reevaluate why youre looking at grad school/ how to approach it.

    Taking some time off to work for one to two years before jumping back into school for an advanced degree is really something that should be encouraged more in academia unless you were an indisputable undergrad savant. In my case I don't have the knowledge/skillset/connections to get into the social media tech boom, didn't feel like trying to step into the already glutted entry level IT-help-desk world, and even struggled with applications to temp agencies, but still managed to find meaningful work experience that also allows me to save up (some) money for grad school via Americorps.

    If it comes to taking out student loans to go, not having any debt from undergrad helps, but I would not jump into your situation without having exhausted all other options. Also when it comes to federal loans, try and make sure as much of it is subsidized as possible (I'm "lucky" that I graduated with "only" $11K in subsidized loans), i/e accrued interest is paid off while you're a student, but also make sure to avoid private loans at all costs. Unsubsidized loans will accrue interest, but your interest rates are fixed and relatively low - non government loans are 100% a racket unless you get a special arrangement from family.

    CptKemzik on
  • kaliyamakaliyama Registered User regular
    kime wrote: »
    Wezoin wrote: »
    Chances are you'll have to resort to a big pile of loans.

    Which I realize is the most likely outcome. I've never gotten a loan before, though, let alone what I'd get as a student. Are there specific things I should get as a student? Things to avoid? Government vs private?
    kaliyama wrote: »
    Student loan debt is nondischargeable in bankruptcy. What exactly are you trying to get a master's for? Why not just go get a coding job and save up some money?

    Well, firstly, all other things equal, a Master's is best for career prospects. I'll probably go PhD later, but that overqualifies me for many options (which I still think is a ridiculous concept), and I'm not quite ready to be a professor yet, which would be one of my few options at that point.

    The decision is already made to further my education instead of getting a job. Perhaps not the best financial move in the long run, I don't know, but it's what I personally want to do. I'm mostly curious on how to do it. The best/safest way, etc.
    schuss wrote: »
    Honestly, I'd try to get a real job for a time or a part time and start working on some level of research that will get you a free ride.

    I don't know exactly how common those are for Master's. For PhD, I've heard that's the norm (or at least, if you don't get something near that you may want to reconsider). But I don't think a free ride based on research is something that happens in this situation much, no?

    The best/safest way to do it is to save up some money by working for a few years first. You will get more out of your grad program, you will be in a better financial position, and you will be much more employable upon program exit if you can list actual work experience on your resume. Failing that, you should enroll in a phd program and get a masters degree as part of it. Terminal masters programs are generally cash cows for universities whereas you will not incur any debt in a reputable phd program.

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  • lessthanpilessthanpi Registered User regular
    CptKemzik wrote: »
    I'm a (relatively) recent lib. arts graduate ...

    Your experiences don't apply. STEM plays by very very different rules.

  • CptKemzikCptKemzik Registered User regular
  • kaliyamakaliyama Registered User regular
    lessthanpi wrote: »
    CptKemzik wrote: »
    I'm a (relatively) recent lib. arts graduate ...

    Your experiences don't apply. STEM plays by very very different rules.

    It would probably help the thread and OP if you could explain where his post is not applicable, as his post gives a thorough and reasoned explanation.

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  • lessthanpilessthanpi Registered User regular
    kaliyama wrote: »
    lessthanpi wrote: »
    CptKemzik wrote: »
    I'm a (relatively) recent lib. arts graduate ...

    Your experiences don't apply. STEM plays by very very different rules.

    It would probably help the thread and OP if you could explain where his post is not applicable, as his post gives a thorough and reasoned explanation.

    Sigh. Fine.

    I've been a part of several schools as both a student and faculty member.

    In Math/CS/Hard Science/Engineering its not uncommon to see grad students getting a full tuition scholarship on top of a TA or RA stipend that pays more than most other departments.

    Where I went to grad school it wasn't uncommon for the STEM folks to get about 18k for a 9 month TA position as well as a full tuition waiver. Grading assignments were relatively easy to come by and could at between 800 and 1200 a semester. Summer funding was all but guaranteed to those who wanted it, that ranged from 800 to about 3000 depending on what exactly you were up to. Again, all you had to do was ask and it was yours for the taking. This whole package was renewable for up to 6 years. On top of that the local community colleges were clamoring for STEM adjuncts and you could pick up another 800 per credit doing that kind of work. All told it wasn't hard to clear 30k with full tuition for 4 to 6 years. Graduating with a MS or PhD usually meant about a dozen job offers to pick from.

    Contrast that with my wife's TA package in Music. She got a 1/4 time TA and no tuition. She made about 8000 in 9 mos and had to turn around and drop 5000 of it back into tuition. Most of the students worked a part-time job in the evenings on top of borrowing direct loans. They would live with 3 or 4 roommates in rundown nasty apartments. STEM people tended to live alone in the nicer parts of town. English/philosophy/etc were basically the same situation as Fine Arts. If you managed to graduate (most programs had horrible retention and they cut off funding at 4 years) you were one of 1000 applicants for every open position in your field and you tended to end up waiting tables in town to try to get control of your student loans.

    The other 2 schools I've been affiliated with are pretty similar.

  • TychoCelchuuuTychoCelchuuu ___________PIGEON _________San Diego, CA Registered User regular
    OK, but what you just said about STEM works out to about what CptKemzik said about liberal arts as it relates to funding for getting an MA vs a PhD, so... no big deal?

  • CptKemzikCptKemzik Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    While I won't disagree with some of your insights in the world of academia, it's incredibly off topic for the OP. It's also slightly ironic because you're extolling how easy it is for STEM grad students to get funding, yet (I am assuming) the OP is a prospective one, and is facing legitimate tuition concerns with a TA position awarded. Several people have already raised concern about this situation, and I was simply emphasizing how this issue needs to be investigated further as someone who is outside the world of STEM studies and has been looking at programs where being awarded such a position carries a tuition waiver, plus a stipend, (yes you have to do more thorough searching, but these kinds of situations exist for non-STEM students, as much as you may want to suggest otherwise with you anecdotal evidence). Also in this same thread you're telling the OP how grad school is a grueling long-term challenge (which it is) and does not guarantee zero competition from the job market, yet graduates get "dozens of job offers," and merely have to ask for funding while studying - as if it's like asking someone to borrow one of their books.

    You're giving contradictory advice by dissuading going to grad school, then seemingly encouraging it a few posts later because someone in the humanities had something to say about the grad school process (which I honestly cannot imagine being so alienating in difference, compared to say, medical or law school, where it's not unheard of to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt). "It's not uncommon," isn't only in the domain of STEM students.

    I apologize if it was too much of an effort for you to explain your dismissive remark towards my advice.

    CptKemzik on
  • MalgarasMalgaras Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    I'm not sure why education and a job have to be either or. If you want to further your education, I would still suggest finding a software development position and going to graduate school part time and there are lots of good reasons to do so.

    1. Tuition reimbursement is pretty much par for the course for software development positions so you will wind up paying for little if any of your graduate school, although it may take a bit longer.
    3. You will make a heck of a lot more money doing actual software development than as a TA.
    2. You will be more valuable work experience, which will look better when you finish (unless of course your end goal is to teach, which it sounds like it might be, but I couldn't tell for sure from your posts, but even if you are it's still a wash).

    Malgaras on
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  • LilnoobsLilnoobs Alpha Queue Registered User regular
    lessthanpi wrote: »
    kaliyama wrote: »
    lessthanpi wrote: »
    CptKemzik wrote: »
    I'm a (relatively) recent lib. arts graduate ...

    Your experiences don't apply. STEM plays by very very different rules.

    It would probably help the thread and OP if you could explain where his post is not applicable, as his post gives a thorough and reasoned explanation.

    Sigh. Fine.

    I've been a part of several schools as both a student and faculty member.

    In Math/CS/Hard Science/Engineering its not uncommon to see grad students getting a full tuition scholarship on top of a TA or RA stipend that pays more than most other departments.

    Where I went to grad school it wasn't uncommon for the STEM folks to get about 18k for a 9 month TA position as well as a full tuition waiver. Grading assignments were relatively easy to come by and could at between 800 and 1200 a semester. Summer funding was all but guaranteed to those who wanted it, that ranged from 800 to about 3000 depending on what exactly you were up to. Again, all you had to do was ask and it was yours for the taking. This whole package was renewable for up to 6 years. On top of that the local community colleges were clamoring for STEM adjuncts and you could pick up another 800 per credit doing that kind of work. All told it wasn't hard to clear 30k with full tuition for 4 to 6 years. Graduating with a MS or PhD usually meant about a dozen job offers to pick from.

    Contrast that with my wife's TA package in Music. She got a 1/4 time TA and no tuition. She made about 8000 in 9 mos and had to turn around and drop 5000 of it back into tuition. Most of the students worked a part-time job in the evenings on top of borrowing direct loans. They would live with 3 or 4 roommates in rundown nasty apartments. STEM people tended to live alone in the nicer parts of town. English/philosophy/etc were basically the same situation as Fine Arts. If you managed to graduate (most programs had horrible retention and they cut off funding at 4 years) you were one of 1000 applicants for every open position in your field and you tended to end up waiting tables in town to try to get control of your student loans.

    The other 2 schools I've been affiliated with are pretty similar.

    Got my MFA in English with a TA-ship that waived tuition and provided a stipend (that pays more than my adjunct jobs...) for other costs.

    Anecdotes are fun.

  • lessthanpilessthanpi Registered User regular
    Lilnoobs wrote: »
    Got my MFA in English with a TA-ship that waived tuition and provided a stipend (that pays more than my adjunct jobs...) for other costs.

    Anecdotes are fun.

    Well, you're the exception then. I've been in Higher Ed for 10 years and the trends are pretty clear.

    I've known dozens people in Fine Arts and Liberal Arts grad programs at several different schools.

    They pay a lot to get their degree, get treated like slaves, and often end up living with their parents for a long stretch when they finish.

    The other 150 or so STEM people I knew went through with full funding and got multiple offers on graduation. One guy I know hasn't found a steady job but everyone called him "Creepy Brian" and he's a walking sexual-harrassment-lawsuit-generator.

  • k-mapsk-maps I wish I could find the Karnaugh map for love. 2^<3Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    I won't reiterate some of the great advice people on this thread have already given. But I would like to provide a counter to some of the stigma associated with M.S. students being cash cows. While it is true that a lot of programs view them that way, many M.S. students in STEM still do manage to get their degree funded by RA-ships and fellowships. It is true that doctoral candidates get first dibs on these offers, but many schools still need more RAs and TAs, and will naturally turn to the M.S. graduate students for the remaining work. In one school I was visiting, they actually had an excess of two RA-ship funding to go around, so they ended up having to give it back to the granting agency! Furthermore, since a lot of programs (especially in CS) are M.S./Ph.D. there is basically a complete overlap between the work you put towards your M.S. and the work you'd put into the Ph.D.

    So, if you do decide to move on to Ph.D. eventually, you have not wasted any time. Also, many programs will take you on as a Ph.D. student if you have done well enough on your Master's as long as it was researched-based (involved writing a thesis), and you published some papers in reputable journals. I think the confusion stems from the fact that many schools do offer "professional Master's" for people who want additional training so they can get a job in a specialized field, and "research-oriented Master's" for people who want to continue on in academia. If your final goal is in academia, a "research-oriented Master's" might not necessarily be a bad option.

    So, although it is definitely ideal if you can get a Ph.D. offer in your top-choice school, it is not always necessary. I have seen many graduate students get funding as Master's and continue on to the Ph.D. program. Obviously, you have to research the program you want to get into, their funding situation, and internal policies, which vary a lot from school to school. But, just sayin', it's an option to look into. As someone who got both fully-funded Ph.D. and M.S. offers from various schools, I know this is something I'm going to seriously consider when making my decision.

    k-maps on
  • lessthanpilessthanpi Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    CptKemzik wrote: »
    While I won't disagree with some of your insights in the world of academia, it's incredibly off topic for the OP. It's also slightly ironic because you're extolling how easy it is for STEM grad students to get funding, yet (I am assuming) the OP is a prospective one, and is facing legitimate tuition concerns with a TA position awarded.

    OP did it wrong. You apply to a PhD program and pick up a MS along the way. The funding is better for PhD and the admissions aren't terribly competitive in STEM. I got into 10 schools in the top 50 of the rankings with a 3.4 gpa at a lousy school and good GRE scores.
    CptKemzik wrote: »
    yet graduates get "dozens of job offers," and merely have to ask for funding while studying - as if it's like asking someone to borrow one of their books.

    "graduates" is the key word. Only about 50 percent of the people entering the two programs I went through made it to a MS and less than that ended up with a PhD. Hence the "know what you're getting into" comments from earlier. Its hard work.

    As for funding, I was in math and the department literally sent out a form every March that had a checkbox for what you wanted to do for the summer. You could choose fellowship, teaching, training, or no support and they gave you whatever you asked for. I asked for fellowships two years in a row and they just gave me nearly 3 grand each summer. The next two years I felt guilty and actually decided to work for my stipend. They had the funding to do this for about 80 students.

    I got an adjunct teaching job at the community college in town because I happened to be playing Heroquest in the grad student lounge the day the Department Head from the CC came by to beg graduate students to teach a few math classes. I met the Dean later that day wearing sandals, shorts, a tshirt, and sunglasses. He hired me without an interview and asked me if I'd teach 5 classes instead of the 2 I had agree to do.

    It's good to be in STEM fields.

    lessthanpi on
  • CptKemzikCptKemzik Registered User regular
    Great. Fantastic. Bully for you. It still doesn't address the OP's problem of how he has received a TA-ship from a program he's been accepted to, and is still facing a high pricetag for a masters program. There are two posts in this thread, one STEM and one fine arts related, who have both been/are in situations with fully funded masters programs offered so "OP did it wrong," does not answer for anything. Also since you're making an appeal to authority by way of anecdotal evidence from "several" schools, I (like lilnoobs) must also know a lot of "exceptional" students and graduates who have gone to non-STEM grad school and received funding for a masters.

    I think enough has been said in this thread for the OP to digest until he updates on his situation, but if you want to keep bragging how great things have been for you and your peers, by all means. Just let it be known that I still don't see where my advice was invalid because the OP's experience plays by "very very different rules."

  • lessthanpilessthanpi Registered User regular
    CptKemzik wrote: »
    Great. Fantastic. Bully for you. It still doesn't address the OP's problem of how he has received a TA-ship from a program he's been accepted to, and is still facing a high pricetag for a masters program.

    I did that 3 days ago, apparently I'm now somehow arguing with you even though we're basically making the same damn points.

    I took issue with the original post because in STEM you really shouldn't be paying a thing for grad school and you're often way better off going straight to grad school post-graduation because enough of what they present in the undergraduate courses is either grossly oversimplified or just outright wrong due to outdated science. It's pretty difficult to excel in industry when all you'll be trusted to do is data entry or cleaning test tubes. A BS degree just doesn't mean what it used to.
    CptKemzik wrote: »
    Also since you're making an appeal to authority by way of anecdotal evidence from "several" schools, I (like lilnoobs) must also know a lot of "exceptional" students and graduates who have gone to non-STEM grad school and received funding for a masters.

    You're right...I defer to your exceptional knowledge of STEM academia you picked up as a recent liberal arts graduate who is thinking about going into an unrelated graduate program in the future.

    Anyway, I'm not saying there aren't people in that situation. I have been on faculty at 3 schools and a grad student at another. I've got friends/colleagues spread across the whole Midwest and East Coast. I have discussed this issues at length with faculty from other schools across the country at national and regional conferences and the general rule is that it is much much harder to get adequate funding and admission outside of the STEM fields. It's bullshit that its ended up that way, I'd like to see all programs fund anyone deemed worthy of admission at some level where there's some decent standard of living, but its not reality.

    My point is just that anyone with an interest in a STEM field and a gpa above 3.0 ought to be able to find a school that will fully fund a masters or phd. So my advice is basically the same as before, try again next year after researching the graduate schools more closely and never apply for a master's program if the school has a phd program.

  • ceresceres Just your problem OooModerator mod
    Your debate is not important and does nothing to answer the question. Please stop having it and start answering the question.

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  • EncEnc FloridaRegistered User regular
    edited April 2012
    Get a job at the school you want to enroll to go to graduate school at, but not in the department that houses it. The pay may not be very great, but most permanent positions at universities enable you to take 1 to 3 courses a semester for free as a service to their employees. Most large institutions have tons of positions in nearly every work field (from tech to sales to office admin), and if you have a bachelors already with any workable skills you probably have a leg up.

    The warning about the same department is that many times this is considered a conflict of interest.

    Enc on
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  • ASimPersonASimPerson Cold... and hard.Registered User regular
    Lewisham wrote: »
    For Computer Science, I don't think a Masters is worth it. You'll end up taking classes that have little to no relevance to whatever job you get when you graduate, and I would hazard most employers won't know what to make of a Masters anyway, so would just treat you as a normal BSc student at application time. The time you spend on the job will probably be worth more to your salary potential and ability to dictate your own career path than that of a Masters.

    I work for a major Silicon Valley tech company and just wanted to say this is wrong. At least here (and since we're so big, I believe this is pretty standard), having a master's is like a built-in promotion. It took me about the same time to get promoted for the first time as it would've for me to get my master's. So basically you need to weigh getting a master's versus entering the workforce now. Of course, since you already committed to enroll in a master's it is probably too late to find a job where you can start straight of school.

    Also I agree with other folks in general that it seems weird that you're paying for your tuition as a master's in CS.

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