Confession: I came into grad school with absolutely no funding…not a dime to my name…you could hear echoes in my bank account (if you were small enough to fit inside of it in the first place).
Now, my story is not unique by any means. I had heard of all the fairytales about how STEM students don’t pay for advanced degrees (especially women and certainly minorities). Whelp, here I was! Sure that I had done something wrong, or wasn’t smart enough, or “special” enough, or thinking critically enough, etc. I could have remained defeated, in fact, I threw myself a pity party for a few weeks as I toiled with how I would manage acquiring over $60K worth of debt my first year. Needless to say, the title is “Stay HUNGRY!” for a reason. I did not give up. More importantly, I made sure that I talked with as many people as I could about the issue. Many were nonchalant–“it happens to a majority of students their first year,” some were sympathetic–“it will all work out in the end,” and a few were touched, truly touched. The next thing I knew, I was staring in the face of what seemed to be a miracle. Funding came in the form of a fall quarter fellowship +stipend, and I received assistantships for winter and spring. This meant my mom didn’t have to borrow money against her retirement fund at work (essentially her life savings) to see me live out my dream. This has given me a few more people to make proud and several more prayers to say in “thank you’s” every day. Follow your heart and be sure to speak it as well. Don’t be satisfied with settling, be overjoyed by overcoming!
A Dash of Inspiration: Stay Hungry! School is your JOB. You must take this seriously to be taken seriously. If there’s something in your way, figure out what it is, and ponder strategies you can employ to overcome it. Grad school is a marathon, not a sprint. Remember, other people have made it through this process before. You can and will do it too!