When I started researching Ph.D. programs, I did not know much about the admission process or funding. I asked a few professors for their advice. The most useful piece of advice I received was: “Only go for it if you are sufficiently motivated, and if it is a fully funded Ph.D. program.”
Graduate school is expensive, almost anywhere in the world. It is possible to get scholarships, grants, or even internships to fund your program. However, the demanding coursework and research requirements, do not always allow students to be looking for funding continually. Instead, my advice is to put a lot of research and effort into your application process and look specifically for fully funded Ph.D. opportunities.
What is a fully funded PhD?
A fully funded program covers all tuition and fees. Also, you receive a stipend, which varies depending on the school and geographical location. The stipend is meant to cover your basic living costs.
In some cases, you can get offered a fully-funded program just by getting accepted, but in most cases, you will have to perform some work for the university. For example, there are teaching assistant (TA) and research assistant (RA) positions. These positions will encompass performing additional work outside of your research and coursework. But will also give you additional experience
How do I get my PhD fully funded?
There are two straightforward ways to get offered a fully funded PhD position:
1.- funded PhD programs by default
Some universities offer free tuition and a stipend to students that get accepted into their Ph.D. program. In most cases, universities offer this fully-funded programs for specific fields of study. For example, a college looking to expand its economics department might start offering fully-funded Ph.D. programs for a few years. Even though the program might be the same, the increase in funding drives more talent into the university.
This article below lists dozens of fully funded Ph.D. programs by major. Select your field of study and browse around for potential programs.
The only issue with all of those programs that offer a fully-funded Ph.D. is competition. Since universities advertise their programs and funding opportunities, they usually receive an overwhelming amount of applications. It is not impossible to get accepted to those institutions. However, it is very demanding. Most universities publish some admission statistics regarding the incoming class, such as GPA, GRE score, and years of work experience. Use the data as a guide to set realistic expectations.
- Funding is guaranteed
- Competitive admissions
- Limited options
2.- Connect with Faculty
Research professors at the universities can help you get accepted and even receive funding. This strategy requires some previous planning. First, you need to know which research you are interested in pursuing. Not your dissertation title, but the general subject, for example, optics, European history, or genetics. Then, you would research institutions that offer competitive programs in your area of interest. After, you will go much more in-depth, you will find the specific faculty members or research groups involved in that subject. Finally, you will reach out to those contacts and start a conversation, building relationships based on your interests. From my experience, research professors are always interested in discussing their research.
This strategy takes time and planning. However, impressing the right faculty can open many doors for you, especially if they are interested in being your advisor. Aside from reaching out by email, you can also try the in-person approach. Many classmates, including myself, have been able to connect with faculty during research conferences of graduate fairs. And some of those connections let to Ph.D. programs.