By Amanda Davis / ASAS Southern Section Graduate Director
Graduate school is an exciting and challenging time in one’s life. Graduate students have the opportunity to fine-tune skills and gain in-depth knowledge about an area in which they feel passionately about. However, graduate school is oftentimes filled with stress and concerns over a variety of topics, especially about funding a student’s degree program. Here are a few reminders about some of the resources and tools available to students seeking funding to support their graduate careers.
Be proactive in seeking funding for your degree. Funding is often distributed on a first-come first-served basis, so I encourage you to take action regarding your future. Speak to your advisor about any assistantships that may be available in your area of study. Assistantships are available to graduate students who are interested in assisting with teaching, research, and occasionally administration. In exchange for assisting with teaching and research, students receive a monthly stipend and tuition waiver. In the event that there are no assistantships available in your department under your area of study, I encourage you to be open-minded and consider seeking an assistantship outside of your department. For more information concerning assistantships, contact your university’s graduate school office.
I encourage you to check out your university’s graduate school website for information regarding scholarships, fellowships, and grant opportunities. In general, scholarships and fellowships are available to students who meet specific criteria such as academic requirements, field of study, geographical area, or financial need. Oftentimes, students will qualify for a fellowship regardless of if they are already on an assistantship or not.
Grants, which are similar to scholarships in that they do not have to be repaid, are another option to consider when evaluating options for funding your degree. The first step when applying for grants is to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA; http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/). Also check out the following websites for exciting opportunities available in your area of interest:
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (http://www.nsfgrfp.org)
National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (http://www.nagps.org)
National Research Council – Research Associateship Program (RAP; www.nationalacademies.org/rap)
In addition to funding your degree, finding opportunities to fund travel to meetings can also be a challenge. Currently, ASAS has three travel scholarships available to its student members (for more information go to http://www.asas.org/award_travel.asp):
- Wilson G. Pond Appreciation Club International Travel Award – Designed to aid with travel expenses to an international meeting/training venue.
- Joseph P. Fontenot Student Travel Scholarship – Supports graduate student travel to the Southern Section ASAS Annual Meeting and the national ASAS scientific meeting.
- H. Allen Tucker Graduate Student Travel Scholarship – Designed to support travel for graduate students to the international ASAS/ADSA scientific meeting and the triennial Biology of Lactation Workshop, held in conjunction with the ASAS/ADSA scientific meeting.
I also encourage you to look into travel grant opportunities available through your university. Typically, universities will offer a limited number of travel grants to qualifying graduate students to aid with expenses incurred due to traveling to professional conferences/meetings. For more information, check out your university’s graduate school website.