Advice from a Phase 3 scholar

General Discussion for SMART Scholarship Recipients
toferkey
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Advice from a Phase 3 scholar

Post by toferkey »

All,

Some advice from someone who has completed the program.

Remember that you are an asset to your SF. They hired you because they want and need people with outstanding technical skills and intellect. Use this to your advantage, and don't let them keep you down. It's a two way street, they agreed to hire you for n years while you agreed to serve n years. They should want to do all they can to keep you happy so you choose to stay with your organization.

You CAN negotiate. You can negotiate for higher salary, recruitment bonus, etc. There is not any legislation that says otherwise. If they tell you this, ask them to send the regulation that informs of this (they won't as there isn't one, at last within my DoD component). As an example, I was planning to leave my SF before completion of requirements, I informed them of such (had some job offers with industry) and I received a retention incentive.

Lastly, I would strongly recommend that you take the SMART scholarship for not more than 2.5 years. If you end up in a bad situation like some of these people, you could be stuck at an organization for longer than you desire. Even if you have to pay for some student loans, you can truly negotiate these things with your SF (and likely have the loans repaid with less additional time than if you used SMART).

I had a good experience with my SF and we have several other SMART students. I plan to stay possibly 6 months to 1 year past my obligation before seeking a higher paying industry job.

Before agreeing to a organization, ask if you can speak with some of their younger staff or other SMART scholars (if applicable). Directly ask them about the negatives/positives of that organization.

While dealing with SMART, make sure you save records proving you have submitted documents, forms, etc. They will routinely be lost and you will be informed by SMART that you are in "non-compliance" with the program. Don't be alarmed by this, just simply re-send your document, or show them your evidence. I think I've been informed of my "non-compliance" 3-4 times due to their disorganization.

NOTE: Your experience may vary. I was hired at the PhD level and have had positive experience with my lab as they rely on my expertise to lead projects. I've also had an acceptable experience with the SMART program (aside from their disorganization, SMART management has definitely improved over the years, though they can still do better). I think the experience tends to be more positive for the MS and PhD people, but I could be wrong. Lastly, if you can get hired at a lab with demo pay (DB instead of GS) you will be better off in some cases.