Dealing with Financial Rejection - Postgrad

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WhyJustRun?
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#1
Report Thread starter 1 month ago
#1
First, this is mostly just to rant a bit. That said, I'm looking to see if someone has any advice.
The 'myth of Cambridge' has been in my family since my grandmother turned down a BA in Maths eons ago to move to Canada and I have been researching this school since my elementary years so it feels very much like a weird part of my identity. For my undergrad I applied and didn't interview. Okay, that's fair and was probably great for me in the long run as it was a field I didn't end up anywhere near. I was devastated at the time and it took me a year and a half of mild depression to work my way through it and accept my situation, which I was only able to do because I could try again for grad school. Two years ago I applied for a PhD in Chemistry and was offered a spot with King's but didn't get any funding. Hard to swallow, but I could take time to put extra work into my MSc and apply again (again). This cycle, I applied for a PhD in Biotechnology and was not only offered a spot with St John's but the department scored me 29/30 (top three for the programme apparently) and fast tracked my application through two months of bureaucracy in a few hours. I got an offer letter before my portal had even updated to "Degree Committee". And yet, now, after months, I've resigned myself to the fact that, once again, I will be completely left out of the funding allocation. Not a single penny from any source. With international tuition and a middle class background, it looks like I have to give up on ever being a student at this institution. It feels like I'm having to give up a piece of my (admittedly unearned) identity. It would be one thing if the university had determined that I wasn't compatible with the program or that my background was insufficient. But I know and they seem know that I would be able to succeed and so the only thing holding me back is the funding.
The college emailed a few days ago with the accommodation request form and it hit me like a brick to the side of the face that there was no point in filling it out. The part of my brain that plans incessantly has had nothing to do but dwell and pine. I spent the weekend alone in my room on google maps street view 'walking' around the city and back and forth to the department just sad over the loss of what the next 3-4 years could have been. It's getting bad.
So here's the question: does anyone have any advice on how to let go of Cambridge and rationalise this into being a good thing?
I'll be taking a more than fully funded PhD (similar project) at McGill instead and have been named the department's top incoming student and nominated as one of the university's top 5 incoming students. But somehow, even this feels like a sorry consolation.
Last edited by WhyJustRun?; 1 month ago
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St Edmund's Admission
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#2
Report 1 month ago
#2
(Original post by WhyJustRun?)
First, this is mostly just to rant a bit. That said, I'm looking to see if someone has any advice.
The 'myth of Cambridge' has been in my family since my grandmother turned down a BA in Maths eons ago to move to Canada and I have been researching this school since my elementary years so it feels very much like a weird part of my identity. For my undergrad I applied and didn't interview. Okay, that's fair and was probably great for me in the long run as it was a field I didn't end up anywhere near. I was devastated at the time and it took me a year and a half of mild depression to work my way through it and accept my situation, which I was only able to do because I could try again for grad school. Two years ago I applied for a PhD in Chemistry and was offered a spot with King's but didn't get any funding. Hard to swallow, but I could take time to put extra work into my MSc and apply again (again). This cycle, I applied for a PhD in Biotechnology and was not only offered a spot with St John's but the department scored me 29/30 (top three for the programme apparently) and fast tracked my application through two months of bureaucracy in a few hours. I got an offer letter before my portal had even updated to "Degree Committee". And yet, now, after months, I've resigned myself to the fact that, once again, I will be completely left out of the funding allocation. Not a single penny from any source. With international tuition and a middle class background, it looks like I have to give up on ever being a student at this institution. It feels like I'm having to give up a piece of my (admittedly unearned) identity. It would be one thing if the university had determined that I wasn't compatible with the program or that my background was insufficient. But I know and they seem know that I would be able to succeed and so the only thing holding me back is the funding.
The college emailed a few days ago with the accommodation request form and it hit me like a brick to the side of the face that there was no point in filling it out. The part of my brain that plans incessantly has had nothing to do but dwell and pine. I spent the weekend alone in my room on google maps street view 'walking' around the city and back and forth to the department just sad over the loss of what the next 3-4 years could have been. It's getting bad.
So here's the question: does anyone have any advice on how to let go of Cambridge and rationalise this into being a good thing?
I'll be taking a more than fully funded PhD (similar project) at McGill instead and have been named the department's top incoming student and nominated as one of the university's top 5 incoming students. But somehow, even this feels like a sorry consolation.
Congratulations on your funding at McGill - winning a doctoral scholarship is a fantastic achievement. Funding is very competitive and, as your experience with King's and now Cambridge shows, many excellent students and excellent projects are not funded.

I am sorry that you haven't had the experience with Cambridge that you had hoped. However, you seem to have built Cambridge up rather a lot. In my experience, students who build Cambridge up as something a world apart and as something very very different from other universities can really struggle to be happy at Cambridge. It is unlikely that the reality of studying here would fully match your expectations. We are first and foremost another university. There is far more that Cambridge shares with other universities (for example McGill) than is different.
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WhyJustRun?
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#3
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#3
(Original post by St Edmund's Admission)
Congratulations on your funding at McGill - winning a doctoral scholarship is a fantastic achievement. Funding is very competitive and, as your experience with King's and now Cambridge shows, many excellent students and excellent projects are not funded.

I am sorry that you haven't had the experience with Cambridge that you had hoped. However, you seem to have built Cambridge up rather a lot. In my experience, students who build Cambridge up as something a world apart and as something very very different from other universities can really struggle to be happy at Cambridge. It is unlikely that the reality of studying here would fully match your expectations. We are first and foremost another university. There is far more that Cambridge shares with other universities (for example McGill) than is different.
Thank you for that perspective. It is useful to think of universities as being more similar than different, especially if the research is going to be more or less equivalent. It's just hard to think this way after writing applications where the goal is to hype the school as super unique. My draw recently has been the structure of the university that seems to be highly focused on communities. This isn't something that's common, though some try.
I guess part of the issue is a lack of understanding in the funding philosophy in the UK. In North America (in most universities) there are minimum funding levels that departments are supposed to award to every student. It is also very common to award tuition waivers to students (or certain high cost students) so that everyone pays the same, and ideally very little. Even the national research council studentships are intended over living costs only and sufficiently. The idea is to be able to recruit the best students regardless of background. It feels like the system at Cambridge (and the wider UK) makes the degrees mostly attainable to the wealthy and not to the students the departments want. A 50% attrition rate between offers and matriculations for a university in demand such as Cambridge should have been a red flag in retrospect.
I think I'll get over this the same way I did last time. By being able to apply again. My perspective supervisor has opened the door for post-doc opportunities and I'm sure with my existing resume I'll be able to get funding from my country for that (yay no tuition fees). It kicks the problem down the road, but it's the best solution in the meantime.
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WhyJustRun?
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#4
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#4
Just a follow up, because I assume you'd know ... I have an update. I was offered two partial funding packages that make up filling funding, plus some. The weird thing is that both came after the deadline to fulfill all conditions. Is this a common practice? Seems a bit weird to me. I accepted a fellowship elsewhere and am now super torn between trying to scramble at last minute to do the project at Cambridge or to just stick with what I have at McGill. Really worried about burning bridges but also, this opportunity won't come around again.
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threeportdrift
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#5
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#5
(Original post by WhyJustRun?)
Just a follow up, because I assume you'd know ... I have an update. I was offered two partial funding packages that make up filling funding, plus some. The weird thing is that both came after the deadline to fulfill all conditions. Is this a common practice? Seems a bit weird to me. I accepted a fellowship elsewhere and am now super torn between trying to scramble at last minute to do the project at Cambridge or to just stick with what I have at McGill. Really worried about burning bridges but also, this opportunity won't come around again.
Bridges are rarely burnt in academia due to conflicting funding offers, because everyone knows that's the world of academic funding. Just have open and honest conversations, because it happens to everyone at some point. Speak to McGill about the Cam opportunity, even speak to Cam about the McGill opportunity, though they may not know you as well and might give a more procedural answer.

Yes, it's quite common to get late funding (at Ox and Cam). They have an overwhelming number of exceptional candidates, and can only make offers to a proportion of them. It in inevitable that these 'creme de la creme' get multiple funded offers and have to make a choice, that means funding is returned later in the cycle, enabling further funding offer to be made, until it is all accepted.

The history if philanthropy for tertiary education in North America is very different to the UK, hence the very different 'pots' of funding universities have. Ox and Cam have far more than other UK universities.
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mnot
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#6
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#6
(Original post by WhyJustRun?)
First, this is mostly just to rant a bit. That said, I'm looking to see if someone has any advice.
The 'myth of Cambridge' has been in my family since my grandmother turned down a BA in Maths eons ago to move to Canada and I have been researching this school since my elementary years so it feels very much like a weird part of my identity. For my undergrad I applied and didn't interview. Okay, that's fair and was probably great for me in the long run as it was a field I didn't end up anywhere near. I was devastated at the time and it took me a year and a half of mild depression to work my way through it and accept my situation, which I was only able to do because I could try again for grad school. Two years ago I applied for a PhD in Chemistry and was offered a spot with King's but didn't get any funding. Hard to swallow, but I could take time to put extra work into my MSc and apply again (again). This cycle, I applied for a PhD in Biotechnology and was not only offered a spot with St John's but the department scored me 29/30 (top three for the programme apparently) and fast tracked my application through two months of bureaucracy in a few hours. I got an offer letter before my portal had even updated to "Degree Committee". And yet, now, after months, I've resigned myself to the fact that, once again, I will be completely left out of the funding allocation. Not a single penny from any source. With international tuition and a middle class background, it looks like I have to give up on ever being a student at this institution. It feels like I'm having to give up a piece of my (admittedly unearned) identity. It would be one thing if the university had determined that I wasn't compatible with the program or that my background was insufficient. But I know and they seem know that I would be able to succeed and so the only thing holding me back is the funding.
The college emailed a few days ago with the accommodation request form and it hit me like a brick to the side of the face that there was no point in filling it out. The part of my brain that plans incessantly has had nothing to do but dwell and pine. I spent the weekend alone in my room on google maps street view 'walking' around the city and back and forth to the department just sad over the loss of what the next 3-4 years could have been. It's getting bad.
So here's the question: does anyone have any advice on how to let go of Cambridge and rationalise this into being a good thing?
I'll be taking a more than fully funded PhD (similar project) at McGill instead and have been named the department's top incoming student and nominated as one of the university's top 5 incoming students. But somehow, even this feels like a sorry consolation.
If your about to embark on a PhD imo you should be focusing on the supervisor, research group & the project and not the university. Frankly it's time to put the university behind you.

The reality is for most people getting accepted for a PhD really means getting funding as people of "normal" financial backgrounds cant afford a PhD (especially considering their age and developing life costs). You can either try again for funding, or just go to McGill and focus on generating some really great research and the output you want to see.
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