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I am considering submitting a single author paper to a computer science conference that would be very expensive for me to attend based on travel costs alone. If accepted, is it realistic to expect that I could find some grant or other means of covering the entirety of the cost? I really cannot afford it on my own. The conference has a student volunteer position which I will definitely apply for, but it does not cover travel costs, only registration costs.

Also, the project is not quite finished – I anticipate a couple more months of work.

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    Is there some reason you have one particular, very-expensive-to-travel-to, conference in mind? If the work is several months from being finished, it's not even clear that you'll be able to submit to this particular conference in time. Why not spend more time completing the work, raising money, and keeping your eye out for a conference which would also be appropriate but is closer at hand? – Pete L. Clark Dec 27 '15 at 6:26
  • There are two top conferences in my field. The other conflicts with final exam period, and would also not be cheap to travel to unfortunately. – Student123 Dec 27 '15 at 6:28
  • CS = Computer Science? – BCLC Dec 27 '15 at 11:41
  • You'd have to ask your advisor for suggestions. It very much depends on your local environment, and the quality of the work. – vonbrand Dec 27 '15 at 13:42
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    @BCLC - yes, computer science. – Student123 Dec 27 '15 at 22:40
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Many universities have funds specifically for student travel to conferences. (For example: University of Washington, Wayne State University.) Even if there is no special fund at the university level, your department may be willing to sponsor all or part of the trip. While it's more common in my experience for student travel to be funded directly by their advisor from their research grants, my department has, on occasion, been willing to pitch in (e.g. under circumstances where a student has no advisor, or the advisor can't sponsor the trip.)

Many ACM SIGs (special interest groups) and IEEE societies offer student travel grants including travel costs (up to some amount) for their conferences. Many conferences in computer science arrange student travel grants from a government funding agency and/or industry sponsors. So you might consider submitting to one of those conferences instead, if there is one relevant to your field. There are also special grants for minorities, e.g. this one from ACM's women in computing.

Regardless of the funding issue, I encourage you to find a faculty advisor to give you feedback on your work. (Also, every travel grant I have ever applied for required a letter from an advisor.)

  • Thanks for the advice! Found out that my university will give me up to $1500 for conference travel, so I think it should work out if it gets accepted. – Student123 Dec 28 '15 at 22:11
  • @carlp123 That's great news! Good luck with your submission. – ff524 Dec 28 '15 at 22:11
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Are you planning to apply for graduate school in the fall? If so, I'd definitely submit to the conference. There are some potential avenues for funding (see below), but even if you have to pay for it out of pocket, it's likely worth doing. You may end up with an extra $1,000 in student loans, but if that increases your chances of getting into a good program, it's money well spent. Conference attendance at this stage is an investment.

Possible sources of funding:

  1. Check your college's website for travel grants. There's unlikely to be anything for undergraduates, but you should check to make sure.
  2. Are you part of any honor societies? Sometimes, they have funding for their members that you can apply for.
  3. Ask your undergraduate adviser if they have some funds for student development or know of any available travel grants.
  4. The conference may offer travel funding for minorities. Although in my experience that tends to be available to graduate students, not undergraduates.
  5. Is there an office promoting diversity on campus? They may have access to resources for minority students and some of them may be discretionary. Doesn't hurt to ask if they can pitch in and subsidize your conference.
  6. Once you have ruled out those 5, contact the dean of your college. My very first conference was funded out of the dean's discretionary budget. It's not that common for undergraduates to present their own research and I'd think universities would generally be supportive of that.
  7. If that also fails, you can try a long shot and contact the research office on campus. They usually promote faculty and graduate student research, but they might be interested in promoting undergraduate research or getting a small press release out of it. Doesn't hurt to ask.

I would strongly advise against adding a co-author just for conference funding. Having a paper on your own at this stage is quite valuable as it will set you apart from other applicants. Don't give that up for pocket change, even if the amount right now seems like a lot.

  • Thanks for the advice! There did turn out to be travel grants for undergrads offered through my university, so hopefully it will work out. – Student123 Dec 28 '15 at 22:11

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