3 Tips for Landing a Graduate Assistantship

Graduate Assistantships

Earn Your Way Through Grad School

August 7th, 2015 | HigherGrad Staff

Graduate assistantships are meant to be not only financial aid while you pursue a graduate education but they offer additional experiences through teaching and research. These opportunities allow graduate students to hone their skills in teaching and research while also gaining some real-world experience in their field. Assistantships are highly competitive and those who wish to apply for one should present themselves in the best possible way to have a fighting chance at landing one in graduate school.

  1. Know the College and Unit - Most graduate assistantships are advertised and filled locally, meaning that individual college departments and professors handle the hiring process. It is important to know the college and more importantly the college department where you are going to apply for an assistantship and ultimately enroll in graduate school. Use the department’s website to find out what majors they offer and what research professors are actively involved in. Being educated about the opportunity will put you a step above your competition in earning one of these competitive grad school positions.
  2. Showcase Your Value - With a crowded field of graduate school students seeking a limited number of positions, it is critical to showcase the value you will provide to the college. Make sure all your social media accounts are up to date (and for the most part "PG") because in today’s world employers are checking these. Create a LinkedIn® profile or update your existing one to show any past employment, skills and education leading up to graduate school. Add any volunteer work, undergraduate research or special projects you have accomplished in order to show your future employer your skills and abilities. Depending on your field, it may be appropriate to create a website to show off computer programming skills or more simply to just provide an enhanced view of your background. For instance if you are trying to get a computer science assistantship you may put yourself ahead of others being considered by developing and designing a modern website. Many free sites such as Weebly® allow you to create websites easily and for free and are suitable for those wishing to enhance there profile. The age of the one page resumes is slowing ending, use other tools to show off your value for the position and get notice for these graduate school positions.
  3. Cultivate Professional Friends - Most graduate assistantships will ask for professional references. For most that will be challenging since you probably have little work experience and even less work experience (if any) in the actual field you are about to go to graduate school for. Solution? Return to those professors and professionals you have had a relationship with during your undergraduate program. Cultivate those relationships into great professional letters of recommendation. They can comment on your work ethic, education habits and ability to succeed. Ideally two references from professors/professionals in the field is powerful and the third could be from a past employer or volunteer coordinator.

Grad school itself is competitive but earning an assistantship is even more competitive. Take time to understand your future graduate school college/department and showcase the value you will be bringing to it by thinking outside the box. Finally, look to past educators to get stellar recommendations that will push you to the top in the assistantship search.

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