First of all, I am open for a new title for this question to help me reach more people.

I am an international Masters student at a top 5 electrical engineering program in USA. I applied for a PhD though, but given admit in Masters program. I have spent two semesters already. Currently, I am doing an internship at a reputed company. Five months ago, I started working under a professor, who then just finished his post-doc from one of the best institutions. I still work for him during my spare time, and things look very promising (prospects of a paper). While working on the internship, I realized how much I want to do PhD.

Now, my department allows transition from MS to PhD given adviser's recommendation. However, my adviser tries to avoid the questions about PhD. Possible reasons could be that he is getting smarter students from his post-doc university next semester. Also, he can't afford too many students given he is extremely new.

Now, at this stage I don't think I can get another PhD adviser as I haven't worked for anyone else.

Another catch is that my university's tuition fees is very high, and a PhD would have eliminated the fees for the next year. But, that is not the reason of pursuing a PhD.

So, I am thinking if I could get a grant based on my own research to fund the upcoming year, that would have been great. Remember, I am an international student.

  • 4
    Your advisor may not be willing to take you on a s a PhD student, but that doesn't meant he can't help you, and I don't see why he wouldn't, if the only reasons for his behaviour are what you have written. Did you try asking him the same question? Maybe he can suggest a scholarship that could help you? Or refer you to another person who might be willing to be your PhD advisor?
    – tomasz
    Jun 10, 2015 at 7:18
  • @tomasz : This is a valid point. I should ask him. I just don't want to sound like I have been working for getting funds only.
    – GKS
    Jun 10, 2015 at 11:47
  • I don't know how it is at your institution, but in mine, there's no shame in looking for funds. Especially if the funds are needed to cover costs like tuition or conferences. In fact, I believe that demonstrating the ability to gather funds is actually something that might put you in better light when it comes to future employment in academia and getting more funds (as long as you actually do accomplish something research-related using these).
    – tomasz
    Jun 11, 2015 at 18:52

1 Answer 1


Typically grants for international students in the U.S. are extremely limited because all government/state grants are only for US citizens or permanent residents (you need to have a green card). Depending on your field though private companies, NGOs and other entities whose funding doesn't come from public sources, will have grants that are open to non-US citizens. The other option is to apply to grants through your advisor, so he would "sign" the grant proposal under his name but you prepare the proposal. Keep in mind that in this case if anything happens with your advisor he/she is holder of the grant and can decide how to spend the money. For example he might pick another graduate student. Although I imagine in Engineering big private companies might have incentives to pay a PhD student to work on something that will profit them as well.

It is extremely rare for non US citizens to find grants that will support the full duration of the PhD. Another option is Fullbright. Your best option though is to find an advisor who can guarantee at least 1-2 years of salary/tuition to get you started, otherwise you might have to TA to pay for your salary.

  • This is very misleading. You do not need to be a permanent resident to apply for an NSF or NIH grant; if it were, you wouldn't be able to hire faculty members who didn't already have a green card in the US, because they wouldn't be eligible before they came up for tenure.
    – aeismail
    Jun 10, 2015 at 10:49
  • @user4050 : This is what I heard about the funding sources for international students. Thanks for the idea that I can ask my adviser if I can write a grant for him.
    – GKS
    Jun 10, 2015 at 11:51
  • @aeismail : Your point is valid too. I need to look into that.
    – GKS
    Jun 10, 2015 at 11:53
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    @aeismail the NSF grants reserved to graduate students are only for US citizens, like the EPA star fellowship or the NSF fellowship. Those were the ones I was referring to. here we are discussing grants for graduate students not for postdocs or professors. Jun 10, 2015 at 14:48
  • 1
    @user4050: Calling an NSF fellowship a grant is still unhelpful, because the application procedures are completely different.
    – aeismail
    Jun 10, 2015 at 15:30

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