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I applied to graduate school (masters programs) for an engineering major. It is not the most common type of engineering like electrical (my undergrad field) or mechanical. I applied to about 9 schools and heard from the 4th one today (accepted in all 4 so far). Three of these four are top 10 program (in the specific major) in US. Two of the four are top 15 graduate engineering schools in US according to published rankings.

The caveat is that all four of them have said that no funding/financial aid is available at this moment. If aid becomes available at a later date, we will notify you as soon as possible. Schools I applied to stated, if you apply before certain date you will be considered for funding and I did apply before this date. I read the post on this here and here.

What I interpreted from these two posts is that if they really like you they will offer you funding or sometimes it is offered after you accept to attend the program (does this hold any merit?). I am just slightly disappointed. It is just surprising to me that none of the school offered any funding. One of the school's professor contacted me first, after looking at my application, which I looked at as a plus (and I didn't feel like I messed up our conversation). Another school had a application deadline in January and I got positive news from them at the end of January which is unusually early (this was the most competitive university I applied to).

My question is, if they offered no funding in acceptance letter does this usually hold true or should I even consider that it might change and I might get some funding? Usually how much percent of tuition is covered with funding? Is it true that you get funding as you accept the offer?


I would not be a international student. I could be out of state, but not international. In US.

  • Are you applying for MS or PhD? – scaaahu Mar 1 '16 at 2:20
  • I applied for masters – USER420 Mar 1 '16 at 2:27
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    In engineering in the US, funding is standard for PhD offers but definitely not standard for masters offers. – ff524 Mar 1 '16 at 2:39
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    I think whether for masters or PhD if they do not have funding at time of admission, then you should assume they will never have funding. How are you going to pay for the degree (assuming no funding)? If you can not, then I could recommend that you pass on this opportunity. Funding should cover 100% of tuition and fees as well as provide some living allowance. – emory Mar 1 '16 at 12:41
  • @emory I have some money saved up from working, and probably loans. But i dont want to cover more than about 20% of my tuition in loans. – USER420 Mar 1 '16 at 15:57
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Yes it is possible, but more likely during the PhD level (it happened to three friends of mine). So basically they got the acceptance letter, they might even gave an initial fee (e.g., for first 3 months); and then, the supervisor worked out how to apply for a funding from the university or put them in a funded project.

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In most US grad schools, funding is provided only for PhD candidates. But I have heard that few universities have waived tuition fees either 100% or partly from 2nd semester if you top the exams. Apart from that if you need monthly stipend, either you need to apply to a proper international graduate scholarships or TOEFL graduate scholarships. You can find details on appropriate scholarship suitable for you in US News website.

Good luck.

  • One of my friends who studied masters at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta was waived from tuition fees from semester 2 as she ranked top in final exams. I'm not sure about other universities. – Ak2817 Mar 1 '16 at 10:54
  • I earned a funded terminal Masters degree. I thought it was common. Though funded PhDs are more common. – emory Mar 1 '16 at 12:38
  • See update, not an international student – USER420 Mar 1 '16 at 15:58
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It's really, really hard to say with any certainty, or even give a vague statistic. Some people - and we've had some posts here to this effect - entered a program with the hope of getting funding later, and just never got it (at both the Master and Phd level, sadly). This is very US-centric, by the way.

Meanwhile, some people do enter with no funding and receive funding in the second semester or even the second year. From everyone I've talked with about this, everyone said they had no idea for sure until they actually got the funding - and often the funding is only semester to semester with no promised/guaranteed renewal.

Ultimately I do not advise you to start a degree that does not offer funding if you cannot, at least in principle, finish it entirely self-funded. If it's a PhD in STEM, I generally suggest you don't take it at all if they want you to pay for the privilege of attending. Too many people go through a year+ of a program hoping something will become available, and ultimately have to drop out or switch to another program because the funding just doesn't come in. If the program doesn't guarantee you anything, that's just it - there is no guarantee. I'm also not aware of any statistics that are kept on such a situation, and doubt they'd be useful anyway. You just don't know, at all - some people get funding, some don't.

With all that said, you should generally know that at the masters level funding generally is available at the University, Department, and Professor level - and University/Department stuff is commonly quite limited. Each department is different in how they run their budgets, but most people I've known who went to a masters and arranged funding did so by working with professors in their first semester, often working in some research unpaid for the semester or at least working closely with the professor, in an attempt to convince the professor to hire them officially as a research assistant and fund them the following semester. This can work, but you should be relatively open about your interest and intention so that there is actually the possibility of being actually funded if you get along well together. It seems to work best with professors who have available funding and aren't maxed out on PhD students, so they are willing to spend some funds on anyone with the right skills and match to the research they have going.

Again, I must emphasize that such financial uncertainty only makes sense if you would be willing and able to pay for your degree program and living expenses entirely out of pocket (and/or with loans) if you could not obtain funding at all. Any other method will expose you to some potentially very unpleasant situations.

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