I searched the site and couldn't find any information on this topic so I thought I would ask myself.

I have been at work for quite a while now and am fortunate that they have offered to support me while I pursue a Physics PhD in the United States. This would mean that I would not need financial assistance while I completed it. I was curious if this would increase my chances of acceptance at my target universities in the US or would it have no bearing on the outcome.

Following up on this, should I mention that I do not need funding in my statement of purpose/personal statement or would it be a faux pas?

Edit: Thank you everyone for providing information. Yes Roland, it is very similar to a industry stipend but only living expenses/tuition would be covered. With respect to programs, Looktook, I am still in the beginning stages of the application process and haven't narrowed down my target schools, if that is what you meant by your comment. Thank you Buffy for clarifying, so it sounds like my situation is more of a good bonus to have but isn't a reason for me to get too comfortable. My place of employment is outside of the US and they do not have a pipeline to any particular University but thank you for your insight Jon. Fourier, I will keep that information in mind. Once again thank you all for sharing your insights.

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    Rephrase that. You basically have an industry stipend and are looking for an institute willing to host your PhD. And yes, this will increase your chances. However, would they also cover materials, overhead costs, etc? If not, that would be an issue for potential advisors.
    – user9482
    Jul 10, 2021 at 15:14
  • 1
    Does your company have a pipeline to various schools. Once upon a time, IBM supported students were highly regarded as pre-selected as suitable candidates in several programs. Your mileage may vary.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 10, 2021 at 17:26
  • You need to specify which program. Because they are different
    – looktook
    Jul 10, 2021 at 18:06

3 Answers 3


(My context is math at an R1 in the U.S.)

Our usual admission criterion is on merit first, and then have number of admissions limited by our capacity. The point I want to make is that "capacity" does not only mean "number of Research Asistantships or Teaching Assistantships or Fellowships" we have, but, also, on the number of faculty we have as mentors and advisors.

This does presume that faculty behave responsibly toward their PhD students! :)

But, still, yes, there might be a small marginal benefit to have your own funding. Make this clear in your application. But, again, funding is only one part of admission criteria (at least for a responsible department, as opposed to predatory, trying to generate as much tuition as possible without offering much in return).

  • Is it true that some R1 math PhD programs pick PhD students with the expectations that they won't finish and that they will be used as cheap TA labor?
    – Mehta
    Jul 11, 2021 at 15:49

This would depend on the place and probably isn't uniform for physics in the US. In most places the funding decisions and the acceptance are done separately. If you don't qualify when needing funding then funding isn't going to help.

There may be a few positions (spread over a lot of places) where it might matter if the lab you join is grant funded.

If you enter with an MS it might be more helpful, but less so if you apply with only a BS, as most students do.

In other fields it wouldn't matter at all, since most doctoral students are funded as teaching assistants. But some lab sciences will be exceptions.

But the more important thing is to have a good application independent of the funding. They would rather take a good student that needed funding than a mediocre one who doesn't.

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    "They would rather take a good student that needed funding than a mediocre one who doesn't." This is totally wrong, all the engineering departments at my uni are happy to admit anyone who pays. There is always room for more, if you have the cash. Jul 11, 2021 at 4:37
  • @FourierFlux, that would seem odd for a doctoral program. If I accept your statement I wonder if your university is so bad that it doesn't attract enough qualified applicants. Alternatively, is your opinion of engineering so negative that it biases your outlook? In any case, the OP is looking to study physics, not engineering. And in the US. You don't indicate where you are from, but "uni" is typically a UK abbreviation. And, by "totally wrong" do you mean "never correct".
    – Buffy
    Jul 11, 2021 at 12:53
  • For non-ivy universities the graduate program tuition is a money making operation, even a state school has huge tuition costs. Most programs are more than happy to take people's money, space isn't an issue. I even met international graduate students who clearly had no place in the graduate program but the university actively lowers their standards for them since they pay the most $$$. If you're semi competent and willing to fund yourself you will definitely get into a state school. Maybe not the best one but you will get in. This doesn't mean I put will graduate of course. Jul 11, 2021 at 19:36

Yes, but make that clear in your application or email a professor directly.

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