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I am an international student. I have received a MS admit (Fall 2021) from X University (USA) in Y department (STEM). My initial application to this university was for PhD, but I got a reject for PhD and they offered MS (thesis) instead.

The fees of X University are very costly for me. X University also has a no TA/RA policy for MS students.

The Graduate School of the university told me that there might be some small financial support possible from the department. Thus, I emailed the department explaining my situation. Their initial response was negative, but the Director of Master's program in my department has agreed to a brief call.

I need some guidance on how to convince the department/Director of Master's program to provide me with some financial support, any amount will help.

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  • If you are accepted: Do you have a professor/advisor/committee chair? It is possible that they can help you find funding for you based on a specific research project. And they will likely be more willing to help. – IronEagle May 28 at 4:31
  • is it possible to apply to this university without any of their funding or scholarship or assistantship/fellowship, but you get the funding somewhere else? like idk student loan or some government scholarship – BCLC May 29 at 18:10
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It's almost certainly not possible. The grad school sent you to the department because funding isn't the grad school's job. They don't really know if the department has funds or not. The department's initial response was negative probably because they don't have funds for you. I can only guess at why they've agreed to take a call anyways, but it's probably just because you've been persistent and either a) they are having a hard time saying simply "no", because it's culturally uncomfortable to say, or b) they think you'll take the "no" answer better over a call or stop bothering them.

There are no secret words; there aren't typically funds for MS students and your rejection for PhD was likely because they've offered the available funding slots to candidates they liked better for the PhD program; you're left as someone they maybe would be okay taking as a PhD student given unlimited funds, but they don't have unlimited funds, so they've offered the MS instead.

A more cynical viewpoint is that they don't really want you at all, but are willing to take any student who is willing to pay the high undiscounted fees that are typically charged to international students.

If you'd like to be a PhD student in the US, you are probably better off applying as a PhD student at other universities.

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    Maybe a bit overly negative and I wouldn't take the cynical view myself, but there is good advice here for the OP. It won't happen. Look elsewhere. – Buffy May 27 at 20:00
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    I think this answer is accurate, based on my experience. The issue about taking students to get the tuition is perhaps not accurate, since the department probably would not get that money directly... but higher administration might pressure a department to both have more students and to collect more tuition. My R1 U.S. math dept has pointedly resisted admitting non-funded students (MS or PhD) in various epochs, but external pressures corrupt that ideal. – paul garrett May 27 at 20:20
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    Yeah, it's a sentiment I've mostly just seen expressed here (and coupled with the "no TA/RA" policy - clearly they do not see a model where masters students are funded as something feasible). Might happen at the undergraduate level more often. I think grad schools are usually up against capacity limits for their courses and aren't going to increase them just to take money. I just think it's a mistake to see a masters admission as "almost in for a PhD!" and think it means anything as far as having a path to move to a PhD later. – Bryan Krause May 27 at 20:33
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    "A more cynical viewpoint is that they don't really want you at all, but are willing to take any student who is willing to pay the high undiscounted fees that are typically charged to international students." That's not cynical at all - it's basically a core part of the business model of many Australian universities, which is why they started complaining so loudly when the Australian government shut down our borders over Covid concerns. – nick012000 May 28 at 3:44
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    @nick012000 I think there is a fair amount of gap between "our budget relies on fees from international students" and "admit students just for their cash". One could still be selective in choosing to admit only international students who are likely to perform well and are among the best applicants (rather than all those willing to pay) yet have those students carry the budget for domestic applicants. – Bryan Krause May 28 at 16:49
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If you apply for a PhD and are offered a full-fee masters, this means the department has already decided it does not want to provide financial support. In the USA, departments that offer STEM PhDs only offer full-fee masters degrees for the purpose of collecting tuition money from people who cannot get in to their PhD programs.

Unfortunately, it is very likely impossible to get financial support from this university. I suggest you try applying elsewhere.

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There are several most common sources of support that a department can give to their grad students:

  • Fellowships.

  • Block grant money.

  • GSR (graduate student research support).

  • TA-ships.

Realistically speaking, the best that a student in your situation can hope for is a TA-ship. While the department is not going promise you a TA-ship now, come Fall, it is quite likely that they will find themselves short on TAs for scheduled classes. (How does this happen? For instance, some grad students cannot come because of a variety of problems, say, cannot get a visa, or some faculty get grants and they need to hire GSRs who are scheduled to work as TAs....) In this situation, the department will be eager to hire even grad students from other departments or, even some advanced undergraduate students. Thus, during your conversation, make sure that the department knows that you are willing and eager to work as a TA, that you have some qualification for this (tell them which, for instance, maybe you worked as a grader or you provided mentoring to other undergraduate students). Ask them to put your name on the wait-list (if they have such) for a TA-ship in the Fall semester/quarter. Assuming that this works in Fall, make sure you do a good job, so they might be inclined to offer you a TA-ship in a similar situation in the following semester/quarter.


Edit. Of course, it is quite possible that the department routinely admits substantially more PhD students than they can support (I know some departments that do so; my own department, in contrast, is rather conservative in its graduate admissions process) and, understandably, prioritizes these over MS students when distributing extra available TA-ships. In this situation, there are always Phd students in need of TA-ships and MS students never get these. However, the right thing to do is to find out the exact situation. You loose nothing by asking questions.

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  • "X University also has a no TA/RA policy for MS students" - from OP. – Bryan Krause May 30 at 0:38
  • @BryanKrause The question is what does this exactly mean. Does this means "under no circumstances we will hire them"? I would be very surprised if any department were to tie their hands like this. Mist likely, this means that they do not offer TAships to MS students as a part of guaranteed financial support. If they are short of TAs and have the choice of not having a TA support in a class and hiring an MS student, almost surely they will hire an MS student. – Moishe Kohan May 30 at 2:00
  • @MoisheKohan "I would be very surprised if any department were to tie their hands like this." There could be union agreements or the like at work tying their hands for them. – nick012000 May 30 at 6:24
  • @nick012000: I find it very unlikely that a union would differentiate between PhD and MS or even undergraduate students regarding allowing university employment. (University labs routinely employ undergraduate students. They would be simply unable to function if there was a union agreement not allowing them to do so.) The right thing to do for OP is to find out exactly what the situation is while taking to a departmental representative. – Moishe Kohan May 30 at 6:36

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