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Should I talk about funding in my statement of purpose

  1. Dec 6, 2012 #1

    I will be applying next year to some PhD. programs in nuclear engineering and I have been thinking about whether or not to include information about funding in the statement of purpose. I have already written a decent statement of purpose for REU programs this summer that I have had two professors proofread. I will probably use this as a basis for the grad school letter. I talked with an admissions coordinator at a major university and she said that if I could receive "outside funding" that my chances of acceptance would be much higher.

    So my question is, next year when I apply should I talk about funding in the statement of purpose? I know for sure I will be receiving $3500 per year as a scholarship (which is certainly not enough, but its a start). I am honestly willing to pay my own way for a semester or two if it is absolutely necessary. Should I tell them these things in the letter? I am also planning to apply to some national fellowships, from which I will not have received an acceptance/denial letter before the deadline for graduate school applications. So this logistical problem is a little confusing. Should I tell them that I have applied for funding, but I don't know whether or not I will get it? Or should I just leave it out of the letter completely? But how else would they know?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 9, 2012 #2
    I would like some advice on this, please.
  4. Dec 9, 2012 #3


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    At all the institutions I've been involved with (which are Canadian), it's generally expected that graduate students will seek (exhaustively) outside sources of funding. Departments will guarantee a certain level of support, but in most cases they prefer to top up students who come in with external awards.

    Highlighting the fact that you have received an external award is a very good thing. It demonstrates that you have the initiative to apply for external awards and that some group found you worthy of bestowing their award.

    Mentioning that you're willing to pay your own way, I don't think is a good thing. It makes you come across as desperate, and like you know you're not worth funding. Keep in mind too, that often it's not just funding that limits the number of graduate students a department is willing to take on. Sometimes it's a matter of resources (office space, computers, etc.) or a matter of staffing (a professor can only have so many graduate students).
  5. Dec 9, 2012 #4
    Hi and thanks for your reply. I have been looking through some of the physics and math applicant profiles on other forums and the search for a PhD seems pretty dismal if you ask me. At the very least there doesnt seem to be a solid indicator of an applicants success in being accepted. I have seen profiles of students with 4.0's, multiple REU's, and near perfect subject test scores who are rejected from 90% of the schools they apply to. Then the next one will be somebody with a 3.2, 25th percentile on GRE, and no research who gets into a top 20 or top 10 school. It's almost like some of these departments are just being a-holes and teasing. Princeton especially, I could not stand to go there for how stuck up and high and mighty they are.

    I haven't applied to any outside funding sources but my expectation is that I won't be accepted to any national fellowships right out of undergrad. I saw several profiles of people with better resumes than myself who were rejected by some of the fellowships I am considering (Krell Comp. Sci.). Mine isn't too shabby honestly but it is nothing to write home about.

    So you think that I shouldn't even mention paying my own way at all, not even one sentence?
  6. Dec 10, 2012 #5


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    I understand it can be frustrating, but there's more to the game than simple numbers. And unfortunately there is a random element to the whole thing.

    For example, some (most?) departments will admit largely based on your choice of sub-discipline. If you happen to want to string theory, for example and there is one department member who does that and she had three graduate students already chances aren't very likely that they'll admit you, even if you have a 4.0 GPA plus bells and whistles. But if the department has a large optics group with say fifteeen faculty all with funding and with experiments just waiting for graduate students then the applicants interested in this work will have a much higher chance of getting in, even if on paper they look less appealing.

    There is also a human factor, which can manifest in a number of ways. I'm sure you've met a 4.0 plus bells and whistles student (or at least could easily imagine one) who is vey well aware of his accomplishments... who takes many opportunities to remind you of his accomplishments... who attempts to embarrass professors during lectures... who stabs his colleagues in the back to get ahead... Admissions committees look for these kinds of things.

    Another human factor is just plain genuine interest. In my department, all faculty are allowed to browse applicant profiles and give feedback to the admissions committee. One of the most critical questions the committee asks is whether or not there is anyone willing to take on a certain applicant. This is why it is critical, I think, to at least visit a school you're applying to. Talk with potential supervisors. Do some background reading. It's a lot easier for me to say I'd be willing to work with a candidate if I've met her.

    I would also give up on this idea that there are "top 20 or top 10" schools. Such rankings are arbitrary and have minimal if any bearing on your career outcome.

    And no, I wouldn't mention paying your own way. Not even one sentence.
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