How to go to a conference for (practically) free!

Hi Grad students!

Conferences are a lot of fun and are great opportunities for you to network, get experience, and broadcast you research! Typically, you might get full funding from your professor or at least partial sponsorship from your department or school, especially if you are presenting a poster or oral presentation.

But sometimes there might be a conference that you want to go to for fun (yes, you CAN have fun) or that you aren’t presenting at, which can make piecing together funding difficult. I’m here with a tried and true way to go to a conference for FREE!



Read and blog and, wait, where’s the COFFEE?!

The situation: I was a 2nd year MSPH student in Epidemiology at the University at Birmingham, Alabama in 2012. I was doing independent research, classes, and I was the secretary of School of Public Health graduate student organization and I ran our blog. That year, the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene was having their annual meeting in nearby Atlanta, where I am from and have numerous places to crash. I really wanted to go, especially to learn about what I could do after my Master’s. I don’t really remember the cost of registration then, but for student members this year it is $190, $215 if not a member. Back in those days I did NOT have spare cash for this kind of venture as an hourly lab monkey.

The solution: I scanned the site and saw the opportunity to apply for a press pass. Since I had the platform of the blog to use a press related media outlet, I wrote in describing the blog, who read it (UAB School of Public Health students) and what I would do (write up the experience and some of the latest research presented at the conference). After a little bit, I got a response with the go ahead! (what!!!) I would have a press pass name tag at the check-in for me and would be free to go throughout the conference!

The outcome: I got to be a swanky media-gal! I had access to the press room which had some snacks (yum!) AND the late breaking information. This was fun because I had the pulse of the conference at my fingertips with these memos and abstracts with new data or the new seminars if something had to be changed or canceled. Overall, it was an awesome experience, especially since I was there to soak things up and share the research on the blog. I got to network with a few researchers at the CDC, learn more about research programs at other universities, and funding opportunities for students and young investigators..

-Free access to conference? Check!
-Minimal travel costs to go the next state over? Check!
-Free room and board with family? Check, Check!!

Conference season is coming upon us for some scientific fields. So cast your net wide and see if anything happening nearby this year or next year might be interesting and worth looking into getting a press pass for!

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