U.S. graduate programs will put you in contact with the latest research trends and you will be working under the guidance of select faculty in a state-of-the-art learning and research environment. Over 800 Romanian students are currently enrolled on graduate programs in the USA enjoying a unique academic experience. Most of them have access to full or partial financial aid from their universities. Some of them worked extensively with FEAC and ended up attracting from their U.S. university/department the full amount they required to cover their annual costs. Others, depending on the type of program, field of interest, and location, covered their living expenses through financial aid. Others are studying in the USA on a Fulbright grant. A quick survey of the main types of financial aid available to international students who want to study in the United States will be of help at this point.
There are two avenues leading to a PhD or Master's degree in the U.S.
Through the Fulbright Awards for Romanian citizens you have the opportunity to study, do research, or teach at excellent schools in the U.S. for up to one academic year with funding provided through this most prestigious grant program of the U.S. government. The other avenue is the independent student approach, which is described at length below:
Fellowships are awarded on the basis of academic merit, in recognition of scholarly achievement. Fellowships do not have to be paid back. Read more...
Grants are also gift money that you do not need to repay. Read more...
Teaching assistantships (TA): many departments offer teaching assistantships to their top applicants who demonstrate good oral communication skills and teaching experience or a special interest in teaching. Read more...
Some teaching assistants have full responsibility for teaching an undergraduate course – usually one that is introductory in nature – which can include preparation of lectures and exams and assigning final grades to students. Others provide assistance to faculty members, which may consist of a variety of tasks such as grading papers, monitoring exams, holding office hours or help-sessions for students, conducting laboratory sessions, or administering quizzes to the class.
Based on Romanian students’ experience, the TA position is one of the best financial arrangements available to graduate students. As a graduate TA, the best case scenario is typically to receive an annual stipend or salary between $7,000 and $15,000, as well as free tuition. At some larger universities, you may be eligible for additional benefits.
If you choose to pursue a Teaching Assistantship, you will find it beneficial in many respects. The financial rewards of the position are only part of the story. As TA, you will gain valuable experience in and out of the classroom and have the opportunity to interact closely with faculty members in your department. The relationships you develop with your professors are crucial to your future success. The opportunity to work with them more closely, as colleagues of some sort in the teaching program, can help you establish yourself in the department and also in your field.
Research assistantships (RA): just like the teaching assistantship, this is another form of financial assistance provided to graduate students through part-time academic employment, in this case assisting a faculty member with his or her research. Read more...
Most decisions concerning the allocation of RA positions are made by the professors in the department and not by the department as a whole. RAs are often paid from the research grants attracted by professors for their research programs. That is why it is very productive to get in touch with the professors before you send in your application. Your goal is to show the professor that you are a great potential assistant. By developing a professorial link, chances are the professor will recommend you for the graduate assistantship, be it teaching or research. The department web pages usually provide the email addresses of all the professors in every department, as well as information about the fields in which they work, the title of their PhD thesis, their publications, etc.
Commonly, a graduate student who is appointed RA participates directly in the research activity of the department, in the design of experiments, data collection, analysis, and/or reporting of research results. Research assistants support faculty research agendas and provide a valuable service to the faculty as well as to the department. Students chosen as Research Assistants commit to working maximum 20 hours/week with a faculty member and they commonly engage in a variety of duties supporting the research program in their respective department.
Student benefits as a Research Assistant usually include in-depth research experience, mentoring from a faculty member, a monthly stipend, and a tuition waiver. If you are interested in a research assistantship, your application should showcase your research skills and interest in research, as well as your ability to work efficiently alone and on a team.
A highly successful doctoral student is sharing the following:
"A word on Teaching Assistantships/TAs and Research Assistantships/RAs. Mind that no two departments work exactly the same when it comes to these opportunities. I’m currently doing my PhD in Chemistry and, in my experience, in the sciences (especially Chemistry), students will usually work as teaching assistants for a few years, at the beginning of their doctoral program. The “official” reason is that the teaching experience will benefit the student, especially if they aim at pursuing a teaching career upon graduation. During the first years students usually get minimal lab experience, so this is the best time to engage in a TA. The practical reason, and most of the times the one that dictates the length of the TA, is the financial status of the lab/professor the student chooses to work with. How so? TAs are funded by the university. RAs are funded by the professors, through the grants they attract.
In the humanities, teaching assistantships tend to be the most generous source of financial aid. In the sciences, your choice will also be influenced by your professional preferences and goals. Usually students enroll on a PhD to do research, which makes any extra work they have to do outside the lab – a class they need to teach or anything else – seem like a hurdle in their way to a PhD.
Some students decide for a career in teaching from the very start. In these cases, TAs are perfect fits, especially when the student and advisor are both very much into their field. Feel drawn towards teaching? Strategy for success: try to teach smaller, more advanced classes, where you can work closely and even bond with the undergrads you’re teaching. This is a good way to avoid, for instance, the unnerving experience of teaching 100-300 people. Important note here: a not so memorable Teaching Assistantship doesn’t mean you can’t be a great professor. Teaching as a TA and teaching as a professor are different stories. Also, if the 1-2 years as a TA don’t seem like enough practice, you can always ask your advisor for more teaching time later on. You can budget in time for everything before graduation.
Generally, PhD students can’t wait to finish their TA to get to the RA stage which allows more research experience. RAs mean your only responsibility is to the lab, so prioritizing in grad school becomes a lot easier. Your research, however, generally doesn’t."
Adina Badea, PhD student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL
One final option to consider at this point: study loans. They may also be included in the financial aid packages offered by U.S. graduate programs. Read more...
Attend our face-to-face and online admissions training sessions in order to learn how to research the financial aid available for international students. Careful advanced research and realistic expectations are most likely to result in success.
My fulbright experience
Students at the advising center