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I'm running into an issue regarding my financial aid for the fall as I'll be an incoming PhD student at Berkeley. Federal guidelines only let schools estimate a student's budget based on that student being single. I am married with 3 small children and my wife does not work in order to raise our children. Because of my estimated student budget, I can only obtain school loans (federal or private) up to the amount of my estimated costs minus already received aid. While I can submit a budget appeal, it does not allow me to take into consideration support for a spouse or children, other than child care costs, which are irrelevant in my case. Since I'm assuming I am not the first person in the history of Berkeley to try and go to school while feeding, housing and clothing a family of five on one income, I hoped someone might have some advice. I've secured a GSI position for fall, but I'll still be a little short and would like to somehow get school loans to make up the difference. Thanks, any advice is welcome. James
1) the FAFSA *does take into consideration the fact that you are a parent and have kids - just not enough.
2) take advantage of *all of the appeals - get your advisor to sign off on books you'll need above the minimum amount (depends on your field), include homeowners' insurance costs, etc., tell them you need to buy a laptop, etc.
3)apply for the student parent grant! - if you haven't heard of it, it is about $4k/semester - when/if they turn you down - *appeal - not just their official forms but write out a statement, call, complain, insist, etc. squeaky wheels do work!
4)if you are want loans, anything above and beyond the *subsidized loans (the best, as you know since the feds pay interest til you're done), consider private loans or a home equity loan if you own your house - at least compare costs - it might be cheaper than the student loan rates.
5) go in and talk to the financial aid folks - find someone who will listen - and tell them you have 3 kids for god's sake - one issue that you need to be prepared for is that i think they expect the spouse to be ''working'' - and this is where the rub is - if your spouse is the primary caregiver - they would give you allowances for paid childcare but not your spouse....good luck. grad school mama
Hi, Playing around with the idea of pursuing a PhD what do you do when you have kids? I have 3 - oldest will be out of high school in two years, so I would start applying after his next school year is complete to begin right after he graduates. The younger two would be in prek and 1st grade when i ''started''.
Would love to hear how people did it - or why not to. I work for a non profit and I'm burning out fast. I figure I might as well work just as hard for something for myself, that is more intellectually stimulating etc. I only have my BA so it would be about 6 years of commitment for a social science...
Biggest questions are about how many hours per week is this? classes, studying, writing... is it way more than a full time job of 40-60 hrs per week?
Do they make any considerations for kids in terms of financial aid? I understand a TAship can defray a lot of the costs, for an individual, but what about those of us with kids? And healthcare? My current job covers the whole family! thanks in advance!
Has it been worth it? Absolutely? Challenging? You bet.
If you are currently working 40-60 hours a week, you probably won't notice a huge difference in the time commitment. I was working more like 30-35 hours a week so I definitely feel the additional burden. The good news, of course, is that you do have a lot of flexibility in terms of when you do the work. For me, unforunately, it means that I have a lot of evenings where I am reading or working on papers after the kids go to bed and too much gets done between 9 p.m. and 1 or 2 a.m. But then I can often sneak in a nap during the day. I also can do things it was hard to do before when I was working, like get to the gym, since I can go between classes.
Here's the things that seem harder for me than for my classmates without kids:
(1) Too many of my classes, especially seminars, get scheduled between 4 and 6 p.m., and a lot of the available TA slots are at 8 a.m. Since I have to handle most of the drop offs and pickups, I can't always do those classes.
(2) Not enough long stretches of time to write and think. Graduate school is a lot of paper writing and deep thought work, or being in the lab running experiments, or coding loads of data, etc. I end up with an hour here, or two hours there, between classes. I have to knock off by 5:15 to get kids, deal w/dinner, bedtime, while my classmates can work on for hours without interruptions. Hence the 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. problem. And I usually have to work at least part of the day on either Saturday or Sunday.
Here's what's easier for me than for those w/out kids: (1) handling stress. As a mom, and as a mom who also had a fairly high pressure job, I'm a total pro. Not only at time management and not getting too worked up about things that don't matter, or getting into big grade stress, but also I am not really intimidated by the profs and have a lot more self confidence than the ''kids'' of 24 or 25. (2) not worrying about when I am going to have kids. For many of the women in my program, and many of the professors, it's a constant angst about when the ''right'' time is to do that. Well, did it. (to be continued on next post)
The money thing? Total nightmare, frankly. We are spending down savings to make it work - there's no way I can make anything close to what I was contributing before. And I'm just too old and in too much of a different place in life to really live like a grad student now. We met with a financial planner and tried to work out a budget and plan for what we were going to draw down off our savings, and how to invest the rest for maximum benefit.
I have full time childcare, which feels like a necessity to me. Some grad students with kids try to make do without spending much on childcare, just a few hours here and there to cover classes, which I totally understand. But I have no idea how they get anything done.
You can get cheap campus student housing often times - we did it for a year, which was all we could stand. When we started, I calculated that my stipend would cover childcare and my tuition was fully funded. So I wasn't a net ''cost'', I just wasn't bringing in income. But I couldn't have done it if it would have cost us. I got the top fellowship in my program, even though we had assets and my husband had a job. They knew as an older student w/kids I simply would not come unless I had funding. If you are thinking about UCB, they have _no_ dependent health insurance for students. None. Nada.
My goal is to finish everything in four years, so I can minimize the hit on the family finances. So I am going full time, trying not to do too much outside work, and having child care, with the idea that it might save me at least a year if not more in completion time. I treat it like my job - I need to be studying and writing as much as I can, getting good grades, and if the dishes don't get done, so be it.
And I love, love, love it. I love it that my ''job'' is to read important books, go to classes and talk about them, try to come up with my own ideas and write about them. Living the intellectual life is great for me.
So here's my advice: First, make sure that a graduate program is what you really, deeply, passionately want to do - that in your gut you know it's right. Because it is a big sacrifce. Second, make sure you choose a program carefully. Mine is small, not hyper-competitive, with faculty who do research in the areas that interest me and with an excellent placement rate. Third, make sure your partner is totally on board, and will be there to pick up the slack at crunch time, like the last four weeks of the semester when you suddenly have to produce three or four 30 page papers, or some major league data analysis, etc. Soon to be PhD Mom
You'll have to talk to your department/university about child care, TAships, etc., but the one thing I'll advise is that in order to be successful at grad school, you have to treat it like a full-time 40 hour job (if not more). My department has been very supportive, but in the end, there is only so much financial support available, and the time constraints can't be worked out by anyone but you. It is a very rewarding experience, and I think being a mother will give you knowledge and experience that can only enrich your research and writing. And your kids, of course, can only benefit from you going through such a challenging and enriching process. Good luck! Cynthia
Also, this is a Stanford/Berkeley Humanities experience. I have a friend at SF State who is very happy. She's doing a PhD in Education, loves it, has a 12-year old, just got married, and continues to teach at university on the side.
As for fellowships and TAs--I get full tuition plus a $16,000/year stipend, which is quite good--I have friends who get only partial tuition or $10,000/year stipend-- and some moneys towards health care for myself. I know my university does not provide health care for the family, but there is some discount.
Depending on the year, I have worked anywhere from 30 - 70 hours/week, approximately.
There is one woman in my department who has a 10-year old daughter and she is in her 10th year, having found it very difficult to finish while also raising her child. Another woman in the department has a 9-year old. She is in her fourth year. Her mother moved from Europe to live with her and take care of the child because my friend never has any time to be with her son. (Both women have wonderful husbands, by the way.)
But, when we're all finished, finally, we'll have something to be proud of. I guess. -- PhD burn-out
To answer a few of your questions specifically, I'll assume you live in Berkeley, and plan to go to Cal. Cal student health insurance does not pay for dependents. You're on your own for that. Unless you qualify for Healthy Families, expect to pay a bundle, even for a high-deductible plan. If you get funding (through a fellowship, teaching, or grant), don't expect your stipend to pay for any more than your childcare costs. Unless you qualify for subsidized care (i.e., you do not have a partner with much income), and can deal with a school that closes for the summer; then get on the wait list for campus child care as soon as they'll let you.
Talk to the departments you're interested in, and ask what they pay graduate student teachers. The graduate student adviser is a great resource.
There is also family student housing, but Cal has been systematically demolishing the affordable complexes. The last is scheduled to go down in 2010. The new West Village is technically below market rates, but not by much.
As far as I know, subsidized child care and (barely) below market housing is the extent of financial assistance to student families. I'll be interested to hear if anyone else knows of more! Good luck. doctoral candidate & momma
In my experience, a PhD is around 60 hours a week, but it is harder than a 60 hour job. The work is VERY intense and requires a ton of concentration. If you have writers block, or if you have to read a particularly dense journal article, then you could end up working twice as long as you expect. In the weeks leading up to the big exams (qualifying exams and orals), you could easily spend 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, in preparation - and still not feel ready.
PhD students with kids do not get extra money. I am getting huge amounts of money from my parents to supplement the measly amount I get paid as a research assistant. And health insurance does not cover kids at all. The university is not designed to take care of students with kids. Only recently did UC Berkeley start a maternity leave program for grad students - and they are on the cutting edge! To cover our children's health insurance, we had to purchase it ourselves.
Also, I don't think a PhD with kids is possible unless you have some kind of household help. I often spend all day at school - and then work another 3-4 hours at night. This wouldn't be possible if I also had to cook and clean.
That being said, the positive side of a PhD is the flexibility in my schedule. I can work from home, run errands during the day, and was able to breastfeed longer than I otherwise would have because I was often at home during the day. So I think a PhD with kids is possible, but it is only worth the effort if you NEED a PhD to make the career change that you want to make. Otherwise, it is WAY too much work! Burnt out PhD student
However, below are some issues you may want to consider before you start a PhD:
1) Know your program: some programs have more people with families, and some are more geared towards very competetive, right out of a Master's program type of students. The program I am in at UCB is very flexible, and I feel good, because I am not the oldest person in the program. The hours, required courses, etc. all depends on the program. Taking classes (auditing, as a guest student, or paying for a class and taking it for credit) before you even apply to the program is a very good way to get to know the program and people in it.
2) PhD is hard and takes a lot of time. Make sure you want a PhD. It is a very long time committment and overall more than half of the PhD students do not finish their degrees (a national statistic). In your case, you may start with a masters. Or, better yet, why don't you try to take one or two classes to see if you really like the topic you are interested in, and how you feel about being a student.
3) Going back to school after a professional life is sometimes hard. You lose your status, money and other things. But you can work in a research or in teaching, or get a part time job while you are still in school. I have been working as GSI or GSR all through the 4 years, and they do help with paying the tuition, and then they pay me a part time student's salary (which is nothing compared to what you can make if your were not in school). The funding you may get also depends on the program, but of course the more competitive programs have more funding, and it is hard to compete academically with 20-24 year olds whose only thing in life is to be a student (I mean compared to a mom with kids).
4) Depending on the program again, you may be able to get health insurance, and for your kids also. You will have to find about it before you start.
So, it is your call. But a PhD is certainly doable with kids. I think it is rather the more general decision about doing a PhD or not, and having kids is only secondary to that decision.
Good luck PhD mom with 2 kids
My concern re: your question, however, is *why* you want to get a PhD. Not liking your current job, or wanting to be in an intellectually stimulating environment, is not enough. Six years of working hard on anything, even something interesting, can burn you out. (Plus, note that I am going to take *8* years total to finish.) The only good reason to do a PhD is because you are committed to the job you ll be able to get *after* you earn the PhD, not because you re committed to grad school itself. The latter is a sure-fire path to dropping out of your program. Make sure you know what your post-PhD options are before you apply.
The # of hours per week is pretty variable. If you are heading to an academic career, you ll have to work harder/more than if you want an industry/nonacademic job. Before kids, I worked probably 60+ hrs/wk. Now I work probably 40-45 hrs, but this has definitely extended my time in the program. It s an hours vs. # of years tradeoff.
Finances depend on your field and school. For most nonprofessional PhD programs (including anything at UCB), the general idea is that they pay your tuition and a small stipend in exchange for some kind of work usually research on a grant or a teaching assistantship. The stipend won t be enough to live on unless you have a 2nd income probably $14-$25K per year in the social sciences. Health insurance: check the schools websites. At UCB, the student health insurance does *not* cover kids. It s terrible. You would have to buy an individual policy for your kids.
I am enjoying my program immensely in spite of everything, and so far am on track to an academic career. Just be *sure* that this is what you want (again, meaning the eventual career rather than the program itself) and be realistic about the total # of years (don t listen to what the faculty tell you ask the students). It can be a great lifestyle for a parent I m home with my kids 1-2 days/wk, which I could never do with a real job. However, is that unlike a real job (or some of them anyway), the work is *never* done anytime I m at the park w/my kids I bring a paper to read, or if not I m anxious about deadlines. It takes a lot of discipline to compartmentalize to work really hard during the hours that I have childcare and really relax when I don t. Good luck!
First, don't get the degree unless you have something specific you want to do with it. You will have lots of ups and downs during the 5 yrs that it takes and you need to be motivated to get through it or you'd might as well not even start.
Second, the hours depend on the area - because the research committments and classes depend on the area (even within social sciences). It will depend on the course load, the teaching load, and the research load. These factors will depend on the department and the advisor. Insurance and benefits will also depend on the university. Where I was I could get family benefits but they weren't very good.
So, my recommendation would be to:
1) look at the grad school websites at the different universities you would be interested in. This will give you an idea of the benefits available to their TAs and RAs (research assistants - typically paid off your advisor's research grant if available such as in psychology). This information should be available at the grad division level (for instance, UCBs is here: http://www.grad.berkeley.edu/)
2) once you find schools that will be do-able for you, find out whether the department will fit for you. You can contact their graduate affairs coordinator to answer some of your specific questions (like course load, TA availability, etc) if it's not on their website.
3) once you find a department, then look at specific people. Get in touch with them - show your interest. If you intrigue them, they can let you know ways they can help make it work.
4) at some point, get in touch with grad students in the department, particularly those with advisors that you're interested in. They will be able to tell you how much perceived pressure there is to work 20 vs. 40 vs. 60 hrs/wk and whether this work can be done from home at 11 o'clock at night or whether you're ''expected'' to be on-campus 9-6 or whatever.
Hope that helps! Mom, PhD
It was interesting to read about combining kids with grad school in the recent posts, but I'm wondering about attending Berkeley's journalism school with kids -- anybody out there done that? Or one of the other professional schools? I've just received word that I've been accepted to the program and I'm very excited about the prospect of attending, but my daughter will be 2 in August and I'm due with baby #2 in June -- perhaps going right now is a crazy notion? My spouse is completely supportive and I'm hoping to tap into the family student housing and childcare, though frankly it all seems a bit daunting what with waiting lists and documentation galore. Let me know what you think. And thanks.
Regarding housing and child care, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. We are in the East Village of family housing. I called at least once a week after submitting my app (do that NOW). We didn't get UC child care this year, but there are MANY people in the village who stay home with their kids who would love to watch others (that's what we did my first semester) for reasonable rates.
Sorry this is so rambling. It's a topic I feel very strongly about. Feel free to email me if you have any other questions.
Hi! I am returning to school in the Fall after taking 3 semesters off to stay at home with my son, who will be 18 months in June. Just wondering if anyone has advice about finishing course work and preparing for orals with a young child. Thanks! Charlotte
I found that my work efficiency became much better after my daughter was born because I could work only in certain time blocks. When I sat down to work for a couple of hours during her nap or after bed I knew that I wasn't going to get anything more than that so I worked hard! And focused. I tried to think about my studies as I would a "regular" job in terms of putting in a certain general number of hours each week at it, rather than letting it take over my whole life as it did before my daughter came along.
Also, if you can afford to put your son in a preschool program or day care for at least a few hours of each day, or a couple days a week, you are likely to get a lot more done and feel a lot less crazy!
Good luck! It's worth it.
I think this forum might be just the place to go with this question: do I stick it out in a Ph.D. program, when I know I don't want a tenure-track job, or should I bolt with the M.S? I'm in biology/ecology. I've realized that I don't have it in me to go for the high-pressure academic positions--I just don't have that drive. Ideally, i'd like either a research position (government, university, or foundation), OR a teaching job, not both. Will a Ph.D. actually decrease my chances for employment in biological/environmental sciences? I'd like to stay in the bay area for my family, and it seems like most of the jobs that come up in the government listings around here are GS 9-11--meaning for an M.S. More: I'm three years into my program, have a 3-year-old, would like to have another kid in the next year or two, and time with my family is a big priority. Thanks in advance for any insight!
A PhD can open some doors, but an MS opens a lot of doors too. I don't think a PhD is (in my experience) a minus, but depending on the career goals it is not necessarily a plus, and as a result if it were me, and I was not into the work I was doing to get the PhD I would not stick around just for the credential. The only thing to be sure of is that you are not just going through a temporary motivational crisis, or just with the wrong PhD advisor. The PhD is hard work, so is an academic career, but for some of us, we love what we do and the work is therefore mostly fun, and quite a blessing to have the opportunity for independence (no real boss) and to do what interests us. I think sometimes all that is obvious is the work, but I get to do a huge variety of things, mostly very interesting, and mostly by my own choice (e.g. answering this letter, when I really should be writing a research paper that is long overdue!).
So, that is the best answer I can give. I think these global career choices finally really come down to what your guts are telling you is the right thing to do. Finding something you really enjoy, and that includes being able to balance work and family, is always the goal.
As to long-term career choices, I think that PhD-level work often can be more stimulating, it's usually more money, and at a higher level. Getting a higher salary, and being your own boss translates to more flexibility for moms who want to be with their kids. In engineering a PhD opens you up to a whole range of jobs that are not available to people at the MS level, not only academic jobs, but also higher level positions in industry and research. I have heard people say that it's easier to find a job with an MS than with a PhD, but I have never seen this in practice. What I have seen is that a PhD is often more attractive to a small company, even if there is an MS candidate with the same skills who will take less money, because having PhDs on board brings the company prestige and credibility with clients and financial backers, etc. I have mom friends who stopped with the MS and others who got the PhD, and I would say that there is no difference in how long it took to find a job in the area where they wanted to live, or in job satisfaction. My friends with the PhDs just make more money!
Another option is to get your MS, and go back to school for the PhD later when your kids are in school. Good luck whatever you decide! Engineer mom
Hi. I am wondering if there are any other grad. student parents (especially moms) out there who have children but have not yet taken their qualifying exams. How are you handeling course work and studying? I am a second year student who will probably take my exams in the Spring of 2005. My first child was born in December 2003. I took spring semester off and am now enrolled in summer school (for language). I am dying! I never have more than 15 minutes at a time to do my work and feel like I am just scraping by in class; consequently, I am really worried about starting seminar classes again in the fall. We were not accepted into UC daycare so now I am also faced with this challenge. Others who have been there before, or who are there now - how did/do you do it? Thanks!
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