I've recently been awarded a graduate school dissertation fellowship which (unlike many other fellowships) is awarded directly to me personally rather than to my institution. Normally, when fellowships are awarded through my institution, the amount of the fellowship is deducted from the stipend that my lab pays me. For example, when I received an NRSA (National Research Service Award) Fellowship, my actual take-home pay didn't change -- the NRSA money was used to cover my tuition, and to pay my stipend, instead of my lab paying it.

In this case, since the fellowship is being awarded directly to me, I have the option of asking my PI whether I can keep some or all of it -- in effect, giving myself a raise. The fellowship is $20,000 annually, and I was considering asking for $10,000 of it, and allowing the other $10,000 to be applied against my tuition. Does that sound reasonable to you? I haven't heard of other people doing it, so I'm not really sure what the rules around this are. I also don't want to annoy my boss.

I'm a graduate student in biology.

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    I'm confused. Your institution presumably has a fixed tuition rate. It sounds like that rate is more than $10,000 per year, so if you are not going to pay the difference, who is? Jun 2, 2016 at 1:20
  • @NateEldredge The fellowship I'm getting specifies that it may be used for tuition, but also that it may be used for a bunch of other things including living expenses, travel, etc. If I didn't have any fellowships, my tuition would be paid entirely by my lab. Since this fellowship is allowed to be used for non-tuition expenses, I'm trying to figure out if I'm obligated to use 100% of it on tuition anyway.
    – sfcaaa
    Jun 2, 2016 at 1:22
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    @user37208 Prestige, basically. Helps with finding a good job later.
    – sfcaaa
    Jun 2, 2016 at 1:33
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    This is almost certainly down to the policy at your specific institution. You need to ask them. I think that, most likely, the fact that it comes directly to you will not prevent the school from effectively taking all of it by reducing your stipend accordingly.
    – user24098
    Jun 2, 2016 at 10:24
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    I think you have left out important details here. Why do you have to ask your PI anything? Jun 3, 2016 at 10:00

2 Answers 2


If money is awarded to you personally as a gift, you may do what ever you want with all of it. You should consult with the awarding agency to determine if the award is a gift or if it comes with contractual obligations.

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    Don't let them get one thin copper more than you legally or contractually are required to turn over to them. They are NOT your friends, they are a business who pay you the absolute minimum they can get away with.
    – Broklynite
    Jun 3, 2016 at 10:58

This relates to two things:

Conditions on the fellowship about how you must use it.

In this case, since the money is given to you with a wide latitude of allowable uses, there probably isn't any restriction here from you just keeping the money. But you should check.

Conditions on your existing funding from the university.

Since the university is already paying you a stipend, there are probably conditions attached to that. These conditions may prevent you from receiving another funding source, or may mean that your university stipend is reduced by an equivalent amount based on this fellowship.

Here is one example which I found with a quick Google search, the rules for students on fellowships with Ohio State University:

Fellows are expected to devote full-time attention to their academic studies. Therefore, fellows may not hold other types of employment/appointments/awards, such as graduate associateships, fellowships, and/or traineeships. Any requests for an exception to the conditions of the fellowship must be submitted, in writing, by the graduate studies chair (GSC) in the fellow’s graduate program...

You need to check with your institution about this. I suspect that the award will result in a reduction of your university-paid stipend, unfortunately. But it depends on your institution and the type of funding.

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