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Introducing the Office of Graduate Fellowships

February 26, 2016

By Dr. Kay Ágoston

It’s spring, when graduate student minds turn to thoughts of… funding!

Or at least they should. Many fellowship programs have fall or winter deadlines, which means that spring is the right time for organizing, planning, and getting a head start on the applications you will be working on over the summer.

There are many different types of fellowships, scholarships, and grants for graduate students, including:

  • Fellowships to launch students in graduate school by funding the early years of their graduate education and training.
  • Grants to support the cost of graduate research, fieldwork, or conference travel.
  • Stipends for the final year or writing and defending the doctoral dissertation.
  • Fully funded international experiences, including opportunities for international research, study, internships, or language training.
  • Paid professional development experiences in the United States.

Within these various types of award there is a great deal of variety: Programs may be open to a wide variety of different fields, topics, or applicants, or they may be narrowly targeted at particular fields of study or demographic groups.  What they have in common is that they are competitive, merit-based, funded opportunities to support graduate research, education, and professional development.

The Office of Graduate Fellowships exists to support Mason graduate students by providing information and guidance on extramural funding opportunities.  We offer:

  • Information and search tools for identifying funding opportunities. This information is shared via the Graduate Fellowships website, and also through information sessions, workshops, seminars, class visits, and one-on-one advising for students and faculty on fellowship and grant opportunities.  For a list of upcoming information sessions and related events on campus, please visit the web site.
  • Advising materials and in-person advising services to help guide students through the fellowship application process. This can include one-on-one advising, small-group application workshops, and electronic proposal review/feedback.  For competitions that require university nomination, endorsement, or OSP submission, the Office of Graduate Fellowships helps to coordinate that process.
  • Post-award support for students who have received offers of fellowships, grants, or other extramural awards.

Spring is a good time to start thinking about the role that grants, fellowships, or scholarships may play in YOUR graduate education.  For this reason, the Office of Graduate Fellowships will host “Graduate Fellowship Tuesdays” in March and April, 2016.

This series of mini-workshops is open to ALL Mason graduate students. All sessions are hosted by Dr. Kay Ágoston, the Director of Graduate Fellowships.  Light refreshments will be provided. These sessions are intended to be relaxed and offer plenty of opportunity for Q&A.

  • Tuesday, March 1, 12-1 pm, JC Room B: Dissertation Completion Fellowships
  • Tuesday, March 1, 3-4 pm, Research 161: Fulbright U.S. Student Program General Information Session
  • Tuesday, March 8, 4-5 pm, Merten 3300: NSF Funding Opportunities for Graduate Students
  • Tuesday, March 15, 12-1 pm, JC Room D: Fellowships for International Research and Language Study
  • Tuesday, March 22, 2-3:30 pm, Exploratory 3301: Fellowships in STEM Fields (Hosted by COS)
  • Tuesday, March 22, 4-5 pm, JC Room D: Fulbright and Fulbright-Clinton Fellowships
  • Tuesday, March 29, 3:30-5:00 pm, JC Room D: Graduate Fellowships Open Q&A: Ask the Director of Graduate Fellowships
  • Tuesday, April 5, 12-1 pm, JC Room D: NSF GRFP Open Q&A – Your Questions about NSF GRFP Answered!
  • Tuesday, April 12, 4-5 pm, JC Room A: Dissertation Completion Fellowships
  • Tuesday, April 19, 4-5 pm, JC Room G (337): How to Search for Graduate Fellowships
  • Tuesday, April 26, 4-5 pm, JC Room D: Graduate Fellowships Open Q&A: Ask the Director of Graduate Fellowships

Dr. Kay Ágoston is the Director of Graduate Fellowships at George Mason University

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Tips for Staying Financially Healthy During Graduate School

February 11, 2016

By Kelly Pedersen

Being a graduate student isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to finances. Many students are forced to discontinue working full time when they decide to pursue graduate study. Some are living off stipends or student loans. Living with limited resources can be tough, but we often make it harder on ourselves when we aren’t conscious of our spending habits. Budgeting and tracking where your dollars are going is the first step toward financial well-being in graduate school. Below you will find some tips on how to start budgeting.

  1. Track Your Purchases

First you have to figure out where your money is going. Spend one to three months tracking your expenditures. Break everything you buy into categories to see where you might be spending unnecessarily. You can use Excel or Google Sheets to do this or try a free budgeting app. Some recommended free apps are:

  1. Wally
    If simplicity of use and design are your thing, look no further. Wally tracks your income and expenses and projects your savings each month. It takes out the tediousness of actually creating a detailed budget and focuses solely on your spending vs. saving vs. income ratio.
  2. BillGuard
    This app not only automates your entire budget, but it also alerts you anytime an unauthorized charge occurs on any of your accounts or credit cards. The user experience is both intuitive and enjoyable, and it’s a great app if you’re looking for a more automated budgeting system.
  3. Dollarbird

Dollarbird allows users to create a budget and enter expenses manually. The design is light, bright, and easy to use. This is an ideal manual budgeting app for a single person trying to stick to a budget.

  1. Mint
    Mint takes you out of the budgeting equation and literally does it all for you. You can also use it to keep track of our net worth at the end of the month since it tracks the balances of your various accounts.
  1. Separate Expenses into Wants And Needs

No need to give up all of your wants, just recognizing what you must spend and what you are choosing to spend can be enlightening.

  1. Figure Out Where You Can Cut Back

For example, can you get a cheaper cable package or cut out cable all together in favor of Netflix or Hulu? How about making your own coffee at home instead of buying it on your way to class?

  1. Be Proactive

You can call your phone or credit card company to renegotiate your terms. You can also plan your purchases in advance and shop around for the best deal. Instead of walking into a store and buying a TV or piece of furniture, do your research and find out where you can get the most bang for your buck.

  1. Don’t Take On New Debt

Avoid signing up for new credit cards or taking on private loans while you are in graduate school. Seeking out new credit can damage your credit score.

You can consult Cash Course at Mason if you want to get your current debt under control or learn more about budgeting.

University Life has partnered with the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) to provide Mason Patriots student-centered information on helping you boost your financial literacy. You will be asked to enter your Mason email address and will be prompted to select George Mason University from a list of schools.  Once you have access to Cash Course, you can take tutorials, watch videos, use calculators and worksheets, and save your work to the Cash Course site.

Remember, grad school is likely to be a short time in your life and living within a limited budget doesn’t have to last forever. You don’t have to get rid of all of the fun things you do, just be aware of where your money is going.

Kelly Pedersen is a Graduate Assistant with University Life Arlington and masters candidate at the College of Visual and Performing Arts in the Arts Management program.

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Meeting the Challenge: Learning How to Better Manage Your Time During Graduate School

February 5, 2016

By Vicki Dominick

Time management in graduate school presents students with a variety of new challenges. By learning about these challenges and following the recommendations below, you can successfully manage your time in graduate school.

Challenge: Increased academic rigor

You should expect to be assigned a great deal more reading than during your bachelor’s degree. In addition to the amount of reading, the complexity of the concepts presented will be greater as well. Also, you will be expected to write lengthier papers and take on larger, more complex class projects.

All of this takes more time. For a typical 3-credit graduate class, you should set aside 9-12 hours per week for reading, researching, writing, and completing assignments. You may also need to spend more time on campus meeting with faculty or consulting with research librarians.

Challenge: Long-term requirements

Graduate school often includes requirements outside of academic classes such as qualifying exams, comprehensive exams, research proposals, and thesis or dissertation papers. Rather than thinking in terms of semesters, graduate students need to think in terms of years.

Create a 2-year monthly calendar for long-term requirements and projects. Include important departmental and university deadlines, conference dates, and your expected graduation date. Be sure to update this calendar regularly and add your own interim long-term goals as well. This will help you keep the big picture in mind and remind you of what you are working towards.

Challenge: Independent work

As you progress in your program, you will be expected to take on more independent work such as capstone projects or dissertation papers. Without the structure of a course with regular class meetings, assignments, and grades, it can be difficult to work on these projects. In addition, you often lack the social support found in classes from fellow students who are facing the same challenges at the same time as you.

Create a weekly schedule with specific days and times set aside in order to complete this independent work. Without a plan, it is easy for your days to get filled with other activities. By saying what you are going to do, when you are going to do it, and how long you are going to work on it, you are much more likely to complete the project. In addition, include checkpoints to ensure that you are on track to achieve your goals. You can form a study group to review for your qualifying exam, schedule a monthly meeting with your dissertation chair, or join a peer writing group. Weekly write-ins are available on both the Fairfax campus  and the Arlington campus

Challenge: Multiple commitments

Most graduate students have more commitments than they did during their undergraduate programs. You may hold a graduate assistantship or a full time job. Perhaps you have a growing family or you need to care for aging parents. Maybe you are involved in campus or community organizations.

It is possible to balance all of your obligations, but you need to be realistic. If you are working, add up how many hours you work, how many hours you are in class, and how much study time you need during an average week. Remember, you still need to have time for sleep and recreation. Determine if you need to reduce your work hours or if you need to be a part-time graduate student. It may take longer to finish your program, but it will be worth it in order to balance your life. Also, if you have a graduate assistantship, find out how many hours a week you are expected to work and create a schedule with your supervisor. Make sure you are clear about your responsibilities. It can be easy for a 20 hour a week assistantship to balloon into 40 hours a week if you are not careful.

In terms of your home life, discuss your academic goals with family members and decide if others can take on some of your responsibilities. Children may be able to take on more chores and a spouse or sibling may be able to help out. It may also help to lower your expectations about household cleanliness. Maybe it is okay to vacuum four times a week instead of everyday and the kids can make their own beds, even if they are not perfect. Finally, see if you can share child-care responsibilities with family members or other graduate students so that you have regular blocks of study time available.

Resources

If you still need assistance managing your time, there are a number of resources available to help you. First, speak with your fellow graduate students about their time management strategies. Your classmates are facing the same challenges and can offer you advice. Second, talk with your faculty members. They have been through the same process and they understand the department’s culture and expectations. Your assistantship supervisor should be able to help you prioritize tasks and make sure the most important work is being completed. Third, Learning Services offers individual academic coaching. You can make an appointment online at by clicking here to meet with a coach who will help you determine your academic goals and help you develop a plan to achieve those goals.

On January 29, Learning Services and Graduate Student Life offered a webinar on time management.  Click here to view the webinar.

Vicki Dominick is the Associate Director for Learning Services at George Mason University.

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