I'm a BSc holder looking for grad. studies. I contacted a professor from a good US university (not Ivy League) about his work and publications which I liked very much. I told him about my research background etc, his answer included the following points:

1- Telling me that I have "a very good background".

2- That I must first be admitted to the university and he can't directly take students.

3- The fact that 1st year is not so research-oriented and he can't say if he will be able to take a new student.

4- Telling me that I should apply.

This I think, isn't a specific case just for me so I'm going to ask here.

Funding is very important for me, I cannot fund my study even for a semester. Where should I go from here and what to ask to make sure of funding my Ph.D. study from the begining? Can I make sure I'll have a RA position before even applying?

  • 4
    Have you looked at the departmental admissions page for PhD students and see what they say about availability of funding?
    – Dawn
    Aug 1, 2018 at 3:31
  • 2
    The person to contact with funding availability questions is probably a departmental or university administrator, not this professor. Have you looked at the website to see who is listed as the admissions contact for the department?
    – Dawn
    Aug 1, 2018 at 3:34
  • 3
    Check with the department. But rest assured most US PhD programs are fully funded.
    – xuq01
    Aug 1, 2018 at 4:13
  • 3
    @Alireza They will fund your expenses, but probably through offering you a place as a RA/TA. After all, there are no free lunches!
    – xuq01
    Aug 1, 2018 at 4:38
  • 3
    @Alireza Department. Incoming graduate students are usually funded through the department in the US.
    – xuq01
    Aug 1, 2018 at 5:31

1 Answer 1


In the physical and natural sciences in the U.S., it is almost always the case that Ph.D. students are funded, meaning not just having tuition paid for, but also having a stipend / salary sufficient to live on. I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but I haven't heard of any, and I will guess that they are rare. Also, importantly, this stipend is tied to work of some sort, typically either teaching assistantships or grant-supported research positions, with the general idea being to transition from the former to the latter in a year or two. There are various details -- e.g. making adequate progress to degree, actually finding a research advisor who will take you and who is likely to have grant funding, etc. -- but in brief, when applying you should not be worried about the things you're worried about.

To directly answer your question, though: don't pester the professor you wrote to with funding questions. (His response is very similar to the one I usually send!) Check departmental web pages or administrative / admissions contacts if you have specific questions about this. Though it does matter whether your potential advisor has a track record of funding, and how likely he/she is to take on students, you won't get a clear answer about this, especially because it is quite difficult to predict what will be the case ~2 years in the future.

  • 1
    Right, the specifics are typically department-specific but should not be a concern as long as you see the words “fully-funded” somewhere. For instance, in our department, the first year has no work requirement to earn the stipend. Then students transition to a TA/ RA position which is guaranteed by the department (still competition for the best profs/courses, but you were guaranteed to get something to cover your stipend).
    – Dawn
    Aug 1, 2018 at 8:02

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