Negotiating Your Ph.D. Funding Package

Photo:  iStock

Photo: iStock


Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to a PhD program! You've probably received your funding package and are wondering what's next. Most Ph.D. programs will provide tuition remission and a stipend in their funding packages. This means you won't pay for tuition AND you get a check for your work. Yes, you will be getting paid to go to school!


Every school's stipend will look a little different. According to careers website Glassdoor, the national average for Ph.D. stipends is $30, 105 per year. Keep in mind that some schools will offer you more and some schools will offer you significantly less.


How much you're offered is based on a number of factors. Is the school public or private? Private schools tend to have larger endowments and thus more funding for graduate students. Is your program highly selective? You can bet the top programs in the country are offering their students more money to get them to attend.


Regardless of how much you're offered, it is important to at least try to negotiate your stipend as part of the process. 


With Ph.D. stipend negotiations, it's important to remember that your chances for a raise are better when you already have more than one admissions offer. Still, there are a few things that you can do to try to get as much financial support as possible. Here are a few tips for the negotiation process.


Explain your situation and start the negotiation.

Email the director of admissions of the program you were admitted to. Let them know that you would really like to attend their institution and some of the reasons why. However, the stipend is a major concern for you. The other schools, although not your top choice, have appealing offers.

Here's a sample email of what you might say:


Dear [Name of Director of Admission],

I'm thrilled about the opportunity to attend [xyz school]. Your program is my top choice because [state your reasons].

In addition to [xyz school], I have been accepted to [name the schools and programs]. These schools have offered larger funding packages than [xyz school]. Financial support is an important part of my decision, so I need to seriously consider their offers before making a final decision by the end of the month. Because I believe [xyz school] is the right fit for me, I am writing to inquire if [xyz school] can match or top their offers. I would be happy to forward their funding letters if you like.

Thank you very much for your help during this process.


[Your name]



Let’s say the other schools' offers are actually lower than the school you would like to attend. Think creatively. For example, are there moving expenses associated with attending your preferred school and not the other? Did your second choice school offer medical insurance while your first choice school did not?

Think about all the aspects of your funding packages and compare them. Figure out the differences and use that in your negotiation!


Remember, Closed mouths don't get fed.

The important thing is to try. Think, a lot of time and effort went into the decision that YOU would be a great fit for their program. They want you and, if within their means, are willing to take measures to get you to come to their school. Be confident and start that negotiation!


About the Author

Ashley Dennis is a Ph.D. student in the Department of African American Studies at Northwestern University.