Got accepted to Ivy League, can’t afford


I never thought a woman like me, who came from nothing in Hong Kong with parents who didn’t even graduate from junior high, could be accepted to an Ivy League school. I cried with I received my acceptance from Brown via email. It was not ideal because I applied for the PhD program and they could only take me for the MA program, but still, it is a freaking Ivy League! It’s the biggest deal ever happened to me!

I only applied to Brown after my friends told me I’d have nothing to lose but $100 for application and ruined ego even if I was to be rejected. I never even dared to imagine getting in. I keep daydreaming about getting accepted to two other lower-ranked schools which I have also applied to, but never Brown. It turns out those two lower-ranked schools didn’t think I made the cut, but Brown did!

I’m still ecstatic even though it has been a week, but there is just a big problem. The school can’t fund me. Before you start telling me to save up, let me tell you how much the program costs – US$68,000.  Right, three zeros after the 68.

There is no way I’d get a loan that big for a humanities MA. Did I mention that I already have one? Just not in that same discipline.

All I can do now is to apply for the only scholarship available in my home country, and frame that acceptance letter.


About Nicky

Nicky English is a journalist, an educator, a podcaster, a couch potato, a dreamer, and a child at heart. Learning is her passion, so is the English language, which she believes is the tool to unlock the door of knowledge. Born in Hong Kong, she received intensive writing training at The University of Iowa, where she double-majored in journalism and political science. Apart from the Hawkeye State, she’s lived in Chicago and Philadelphia. When she was a guest student at Georgetown University, she fell in love with Washington, D.C. She also has a Master of Arts in Communication. A little side note—she cannot imagine a world without her Mac and iDevices. Like many crazy ones, she hopes to change the world one day at a time.
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14 Responses to Got accepted to Ivy League, can’t afford

  1. Katherine Ng says:

    Hi Nickkita,

    I know it’s a great amount if going to study at the Brown, but please keep your hope. Even if you can’t get the funding from scholarship, check if they can extend your eligibility for one or two years so you can save during the days.

    I am not a good student that put effort enough to get a degree so far, however, I know it good to study in good college even it’s a second master degree. It’s better than a phd in HK I bet. So don’t give up your chance easily.

    Add oil!!!!!

    Katherine Sent from my iPhone

  2. janiod says:


    Came across your blog. I was actually in a very similar scenario about two years ago. I got accepted for a Masters program at Columbia. I was ecstatic. I was floating on clouds and sunshine for two weeks, until my funding letter came. It was approximately the same $68,000 plus the added costs of living in NYC without the spare time to work. My mother, who I’m convinced was disappointed in me not being a doctor or physicist or other acceptable Asian daughter vocation seemed very pleased to say her daughter got into an Ivy. I’m convinced when I called and told her how impossible it was financially, she was going to mortgage her house.

    In my field, social work, hardly anyone funds masters, just PhDs, but PhD students are expected to have gotten their terminal masters first — you don’t often find programs where you just get both in the same program along the course of 7 years. Going to a non-Ivy school did not limit my chances of going to a good PhD program, but it did help my bank account. In fact, I have classmates that did their Masters at an Ivy just to do their PhD at a non-Ivy. It depends very strongly on what you hope your future profession to be, but plenty of people don’t break themselves financially to go to Ivys and do just fine.

    Is there a chance you could wait a year, build up your resume or credentials, and re-apply for the PhD so you’re more likely to get a tuition waiver and stipend?


    • halfabc says:

      Thanks! I’m so glad someone understands. I want to get a PhD because I want to become a professor, not so much for research, but I genuinely love teaching. I also loved the academic freedom I enjoyed when I was doing my undergrad in the states, and I just hope i can submerge myself in it every day for the rest of my life.

      Like you, my professor thinks I should wait another year, get my GRE scores up instead of paying for another MA. I personally don’t mind spending a year on a second MA, but $68000 is just crazy.

      I think any other drawback on my application is my lack of research exp. I have very good undergrad and graduate GPA. I have more than 5 years of working exp, but I don’t really have any research exp because my MA is course-work based. I don’t know how I can work on that now that I’m already out of school.

      Out of despair, I’ve also started looking at PhD elsewhere. It seems like Australian PhD programs are shorter (3 years, all research, no coursework) and the schools are more generous with funding international students.

      • janiod says:

        Professors and Researchers are usually very happy to have volunteers on their teams for research experience, and in my experience have not hesitated to have alumni on the research team. Most professors are very willing to groom someone towards the eventual PhD and generally expect that if you are volunteering your time for their research, you will be needing a letter of rec at some point. If you’re integral to the research, you may even get a publication! This can be hard or easy, depending on the university. Some colleges post opportunities for research experience on their websites, some post the notices on bulletin boards outside their academic office for the college, and some, you just have to email each faculty member individually and see who bites.

        I would evaluate if you’re ok with doing research for the rest of your career, since it sounds like you enjoy teaching more than research, as professors are expected to publish a certain amount of peer-reviewed articles per year in most fields. Also, some PhD programs gear themselves up for teaching + research, which may be more bearable than pure research programs that are only interested in producing pure scientists, social or otherwise, and care very little if they have teaching experience. This can also be a detriment. A PhD candidate with research plus teaching experience plus publications is a more attractive job prospect than someone who has never had the opportunity to teach their own class.

        No one will know better on what to do that you though! Have you gone to Brown for a tour yet? The actual experience of how you feel while you are there may make or break your decision. You can determine if that way is really the best fit for you by talking to other students who have gone that route at Brown, the faculty, and administration for that department. Best of luck! Whatever you decide, it sounds like you’re pursing your dreams. =)


      • halfabc says:

        Thanks! I checked with my professor at school and she offered me a temporary RA position. But I just have to be really sure I want to do this because its only until oct and I will have to look for jobs again after the contract ends

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  10. James says:

    May I ask what you ended up doing? I was accepted for a terminal MA at Brown (history). Initially I was so excited I just sucked up having to take out about $70,000 in federal loans. Now, I’m feeling sick and thinking a bit more clearly. I’m not looking at a particularly lucrative career path to begin with, so taking on that much debt would hurt. I was accepted to a PhD program at UC Santa Barbara but it’s in Political Science which is definitely a second preference to History. And of course, Brown has a more “elite” reputation. Damn my ego.

    • Nicky says:

      Hi! I didn’t know a history MA was supposed to be terminal, so I think our situations are a bit different. I had postponed my PhD plan for a year and took a corporate job and many side teaching jobs in the past year to save up. In no way I’m borrowing money for school. I’ve accepted the phd offer from University of Auckland and I’m actually flying out next week to embark on my long phd journey! On the brown side, I met with their department chair and he has agreed to let me study there for up to a year as a visiting fellow/scholar for free after the first phd year at Auckland. So in the end everything works out! I get to pay only a fraction of what I would pay brown at Auckland for a phd (not a MA) and I get to study at the prestigious brown and make connection with their world class faculty. I actually blogged abt it just last week. You might wanna check that out. Good luck!

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