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I was accepted into Ohio State University CS PhD without funding.

I have heard that people who can show their capability may get funding after getting into the program. Is this understanding correct?

Is being accepted without funding a dangerous sign? Does this means that the faculty doesn't care about you?

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One possible implication is "hunger". – Dave Clarke Mar 31 '14 at 16:03
One more thing I don't understand, is that it's a huge department with many grad students: Could you elaborate "hunger"? How can they host this many students while being "poor"? – user1745048 Mar 31 '14 at 16:12
By "hunger" I mean: if you do not have any funding, you will not be able to buy food, and you will get hungry. More to the point: how will you support yourself? – Dave Clarke Mar 31 '14 at 16:15
Eat clay and drink wind? kd. I don't plan to go there. I will go to work instead. Just asking about the phenomenon, as well as ranting about how impolite OSU CS department is. I honestly believe that it is unethical to admit a phd student without funding. – user1745048 Mar 31 '14 at 16:42
@user1745048 The question of "is it ethical to admit a phd student without funding in a field where funding is standard" is another (interesting IMO) question entirely... – ff524 Mar 31 '14 at 17:16

3 Answers 3

My answer applies exclusively to CS in the United States, or other scenarios in which the standard PhD offer comes with guaranteed funding.

Implication #1: How the department feels about you

First, I will quote from an answer by JeffE (who is a member of the admissions committee at a top CS department in the US) to another question (also about CS PhD offers in the US):

A typical PhD offer from a strong department includes guaranteed funding in some form.

That may come in the form of guaranteed RA/TA work, or something else, but whatever it is will be promised at acceptance. Therefore, the main implication of a PhD offer without funding is that (as you have intuited), the department does not consider you a top candidate for their program. As JeffE remarks in the same answer:

Do not accept a PhD admission offer without funding. If they really want you, they'll pay for you.

You asked: "I have heard that people who can show their capability may get funding after getting into the program. Is this understanding correct?"

It's not impossible to get funding after beginning the program (e.g., if you really hit it off with a potential PhD advisor who has grant money to spare). But this depends very much on luck and circumstance, not just on merit; so unless you like living dangerously, it's not an advisable strategy.

Implication #2: How it will affect your future prospects

Having said that, if you somehow manage to support yourself while doing a PhD, it probably won't matter to anyone that you were self-funded. Per Suresh's answer to another question:

There's nothing on your CV that needs to indicate exactly how you were supported during your Ph.D.

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You know you've made it when your answer get cited in other answer. Academia h-index, anyone ? – Suresh Mar 31 '14 at 17:27
Seconded. If they want you, they'll pay. Most likely they'd be using your tuition dollars to fund stipends for the other students. The only way I could imagine you getting them to give you funding after a year would be to get into a better program with funding. I doubt that's going to happen, frankly or you wouldn't be considering this offer. – shane Apr 1 '14 at 0:03
I was about to post this answer; looks like I already did! In case there's any doubt: Ohio State has a strong enough CS department that it can offer funding to the students it really wants. – JeffE Apr 1 '14 at 0:37

It means you may want to look around for jobs on campus, like TA positions to pay for living expenses and tuition. Not having funding upon acceptance is not a mark against you, it just means exactly that. In biology funding is more common because the scientist will need to pay for materials and reagents. I'm assuming there aren't many inherent costs in CS research aside from a computer.

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I don't think this answer applies to CS PhDs in the US, which are usually funded (e.g., the student is promised a stipend, subject to some RA/TA work which is guaranteed.) – ff524 Mar 31 '14 at 16:26
As @ff524 said, most of the cs phd application results I saw online are funded. And some applicants of OSU said they received email of guaranteed TA/RAship. – user1745048 Mar 31 '14 at 16:42
I think it would depends on the institution as well as the department. Some departments will find by e requiring the student to TA, and this goes towards tuition. It may also be that student funding is dependent on the supervisor's funding. – user479 Mar 31 '14 at 16:54

I was part of Student Association in my university and I used to get this question many times from newly admitted students for CS PhD programs. I have told those students also that PhDs in CS without funding is not a common scenario in US universities. Usually projects come along with the funds and part of these funds get redirected to you in order to conduct the research. You may want to try out other options. I am sure you will find something better. All the best.

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