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I was recently notified that I was accepted to a Ms/PhD program with a full tuition scholarship but I am waitlisted for receiving a Stipend. I don't currently have the best credentials so I don't think the prospect of me getting into a better program is too good.

Would it be unwise for me to start this program? For now my plan is to attend until I get an MS and then at that point apply to a better program if I still don't have a stipend. I figure a tuition free MS is better than the usual.

By "unwise" I meant, will it potentially upset professors if I leave after two years with the masters to apply elsewhere to potentially funded programs (if I still don't have a stipend at that point). I don't want to ruin my reputation in the process.

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    Can you afford to do so? If so and you don't have any options then go for it. If you can improve your credentials during the program maybe you can get a stipend latter or apply for a better program. – scrappedcola Mar 18 '15 at 21:21
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    A huge part of this decision is your own financial situation. If you can afford the cost of living for a couple of years then it could be worth it. I wouldn't suggest going heavily in debt, but it shouldn't be too onerous without having to pay tuition. Note that, depending on the program and field, it may be possible or even likely that you will be supported as an RA on a research grant in later years. – Roger Fan Mar 18 '15 at 21:47
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    A 1.5 hour commute might get tiresome very, very quickly. If that is 1.5 hours each way, then an 8.30 – 17.30 workday means leaving home by 7.00 and getting back at 19.00. Ugh. – Moriarty Mar 19 '15 at 15:04
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    By "unwise" I meant, will it potentially upset professors if I leave after two years with the masters to apply elsewhere to potentially funded programs (if I still don't have a stipend at that point). I don't want to ruin my reputation in the process. – thedude28 Mar 19 '15 at 20:37
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    If you have a chance for funding somewhere else - take it. Your professors should understand. Such is the nature of life. – che_kid Mar 20 '15 at 1:46
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I think that you are more asking, whether it is common to start graduate school without funding. Generally at the MS level, it is not uncommon for MS students to be unfunded. All depends on the school. Most schools that I've encountered would much rather fund PhD students since you get more out of the students.

Now at the PhD level - I would not advise a PhD without funding. Trying to live 4-6 years without a salary is difficult, and most people I've seen try this failed. There are enough schools out there that you should be able to get funding somewhere (unless you really have bad scores/grades and shouldn't be in graduate school).

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