How to Apply for RA, GA, and TA
Hey guys, have you chosen the type of assistantship you are ready to apply for? This time we will discuss the process of application for an assistantship and its differences between the three types of assistantships we have already discussed – graduate, teaching and research. So, grab your pens and be ready to take notes, because we are going into deep!
Types of applications:
First things first – as in the university application, the early application is essential – for acceptance into the university, for scholarships and for assistantships.
The procedure is different in every university – some universities have just some marks in their online application that is an inquiry whether the potential student wants to apply with financial aid only, afterwards you chose what type of aid – scholarship or assistantship you want. And, that’s it! In other cases, there is an application (from 1 to 3 pages usually, but not every time) and with this application you declare your willingness to perform the assistantship chosen. So, your first step should be familiarize yourself with the particular way of application that your university institution uses. Download the application, fill it in, find some contact in case you have question with the process of filling in and do not hesitate to ask if you have questions with the form.
Time for applications:
When can you get an assistantship? The usual time of getting an assistantship is after the first year. However, if you show excellent parameters of the application, combined with perfect recommendations… oh, here’s another thing. In the majority of the cases, you will need recommendations for the assistantship application. That is the reason they gave it after the first year, because you need to know some professors that should give you one. Here we have exceptions, as usual, you can gather recommendations from professors from your undergraduate studies, or work, or research activity, and they could do the magic. But nothing is promised, and, since we talk about international students, if you are from some country like mine for example (Bulgaria), there is a high probability that the authorities that will grade your application won’t know the professors from your undergraduate. So, even if you have recommendations, make sure their have relatively high weight, and are armed with additional information that can be proved, like portfolio, previous research results, etc. Remember, that the battle for funding (in this article this equals to assistantship) is even harder than the one to be accepted in the university. Perfect results, perfect recommendations, perfect motivation – that is what you need.
Even if the case is that you don’t have another application for the assistantship you will always need the approval and support of academic representatives, in other words professors. Get to know your department’s professors and make your research – find the one/s whose scientific interests match perfectly with yours. Not only research, but learn – study these professor/s research achievements and contributions and what are they currently working on. Only after you are perfectly prepared, get in contact – if you are in the country it will be better to present yourself face to face, but if you are still the application process in your country, get in touch by email. Make a perfect presentation of yourself and show your knowledge of the professor’s work. Explain your ideas of assistantship and see for yourself what will happen next – if the professor is interested, he will guide you in the process next, or redirect you to a colleague that is more suitable or currently looking for assistants.
After reaching your goal – to get in touch with a professor regarding an assistantship (and believe me, it won’t happen after your first mail), you have to prepare yourself for an interview with the professor and faculty members. Be prepared with documentation, recommendations, and of course ready to answer some general and technical questions. Be on time, follow the official dress code, and demonstrate perfect knowledge of body gestures and etiquette (here the topic is so vast; you could check some articles of the interview etiquette). After passing the interview part, be prepared to discuss the salary and the work hours, show the authorities your study schedule, because it is important to successfully combine both work and study here.
All in all, here is the thing – as in your university application, there are a couple of things that are crucial.
Firstly, know what you want – graduate, research or teaching assistantship. Secondly – know your strengths and weaknesses. If you have terrible fear of public speech and you that there is absolutely no chance of overcoming it, and in the same time, you love to spend hours searching for info and analyzing it, the research assistantship position is what you are looking for. If you have fear of public speech (which is a common state by the way) and you want to fight it, take the resources your university offers you (like teaching centers) and go into the deep. Thirdly, make a perfect research. Many times in my articles I have advised you to build a perfect strategy, and for real, the thing with school, higher education, and job is a question of strategy. Make a perfect path, work on plan B and C, and in the end, all will work out best for out. Success comes to the well prepared, believe me. So, research the university, the professors, their work and ideas, the chances of getting an assistantship, make your best appearance, negotiate, and soon the financial troubles related with your studies will disappear. Wish you the best of luck!