Filed Under Real Life Grad School Tales, alternate title Grad School Reality--It Sucks, So Keep Your Day Job:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a grad student who is not fully funded is cheated by his or her institution, and should not go to that grad school. One exception is if the grad student is attending a professional school, where there is never funding. And that's me, The Sucker. So I'm scrambling to find funding for the summer, and looking ahead to 2009-2010, when I'll be on approved research status (my dissertation year) and have no financial aid or funding. Help me.
I find it kind of sad that teaching summer school classes here at Liberal University pays so little--less than I would get maxing out research assistantships. If I finagled my way into TA'ing a class (and finagling it is, since my stupid degree is not attached to any cognate disciplines, and thus I am on the Law School Fantasy Island), I would have to attend lectures and TA sections 3-4 days a week--a lot of work, twice the amount--for half the pay during a normal semester. This is what happens when they don't give you fee remission. So not only would I be working twice as hard, I would be paid half as much. And this work takes me away from my own work. Yes, research and writing is a job, and so it is ironic that you have to fund your job by getting another job. I resolve to not take any jobs that do not actually help with my project, or do not compensate commensurate to its degree of attenuation. So I'm looking for RAships this summer with professors who do similar work, or at least will give me some skills I need (like coding cases) and faculty relationships that will be good to have.
Searching for funding is the hardest part about being a grad student, especially if you're in an anomalous, sui generis program like mine. As an SJD, I'm not eligible for most fellowships that other grad students are, although perhaps this will change once I advance to candidacy next Spring 2009.
Paul Caron is most awesome for identifying all the fellowship and VAP programs out there, and I'm seriously considering doing one of these before I go on the market. I wish that there were a list of fellowships law grad students are qualified for. It's hard to figure out. Are we professional students? no. are we eligible? I have no idea. How many American SJD students are there that are eligible for fellowships based on their citizenship but not based on their program? Probably lots, but at my school, I'm the only one, and so no one here is in much of a position to advise me.
One day, I am going to pay it forward (stupid feel-good expression, but there's no one to pay back, so little supported am I at my school) and help out other American SJDs. First and foremost, by telling them to go back in time to the age of 21 and do a joing J.D./Ph.D instead. And then tell them how to get out of the hell of being in a program with no institutional support that doesn't much care about its students, because it's largely just a cash farm for the school through the extortion of money from naive international students.
Bitter much, you ask. Only a little. Because of the great freedom of the program and the fact that they don't care about me until I get a placement, I've attached myself to any and every other department at the school to get actually useful and interesting interdisciplinary skills. The law school is better than the program I'm in, and the university better than the law school, and so this is a good place to be for someone like me--someone with little or no sentimentality or fealty to her actual program, and is willing to carve a new path rather than sit on the sidelines. It's a little mercenary, yes, but until they create an actual law Ph.D out of the SJD program, there's little else to do for American advanced law degree programs, except jump ship to a Ph.D program. Which I almost did, if the sunk costs weren't so much of a factor. If only I had a timeship.