Tips for Graduate Students Seeking Assistantships

Graduate assistantships are meant to be additional educational opportunities for graduate students to improve their skills in teaching, research, and other activities while pursuing their graduate education. Graduate students seeking assistantships should present themselves in the most favorable light to get the attention of campus units offering assistantships. Following is a list of tips recommended by several units on campus that offer excellent advice for those seeking graduate employment.

  1. Know what a campus unit does before applying for an assistantship there. Check the campus unit’s website or promotional materials and make sure you have the necessary skills to contribute to that campus unit.
  2. Before visiting a campus unit, contact its main office and find out if it has assistantships available, and if so, whom to contact about the assistantship and how to submit your application. Avoid walking in to an office without an appointment or going door to door individually or in groups to find this information.
  3. Know that academic departments are different from support units when it comes to assistantship positions. In an academic department, individual faculty may have research assistantships available, but in a support unit, the head of that unit usually hires all graduate assistants. Some campus units may also advertise its assistantship openings by direct mailings to campus units or through Human Resource Services.
  4. Before applying for an assistantship, know all the requirements related to graduate assistantships. This may include course load, GPA, working hours and immigration authorization (if you are an international student) requirements. You may be able to find these requirements from your academic department or from the Graduate School, International Student and Faculty Office and Human Resource Services.
  5. Prepare your application materials to suit the assistantships available from a particular campus unit. Your resume should contain up-to-date information and should be spell-checked and carefully proofread. Be certain all the information in your resume, including your GPA, is accurate and current.
  6. Make sure your email address included in your resume is professional and check that email regularly. Avoid informal, suggestive or inappropriate email addresses such as or
  7. If you wish to share a website as part of your application, consider creating a professional site that includes your resume, experiences and other information relevant to the position you apply. Be certain that all the links on the site work and the information is professional.
  8. Make sure your voice mail greeting on the phone you have listed in your resume is professional and includes your name. Avoid unnecessary music and inappropriate messages in your voice mail greetings.
  9. After submitting your application either in person or through email, make sure you are accessible and available for interviews. Find out when you can check back or when a hiring decision will be made. Avoid frequent visits, calls and emails, which can work against you.
  10. When corresponding with a campus unit, make sure your email messages are professional. Avoid emoticons such as J or text messaging format such as U for "you" or R for "are". Use proper grammar, punctuation and spelling. Always spell check your messages before sending them. Employers want students who can correspond professionally.
  11. If you are called by a campus unit for an interview, make sure to be there on time. If you cannot make it the interview for some reason, inform the campus unit in a timely manner. Dress appropriately for the interview but it is not necessary to be too formal. Do not wear t-shirts with inappropriate messages.
  12. During the interview, be prepared to demonstrate the skills needed for the position. Respond to questions sincerely about what you know and do not know. Do not convey the impression that you know something when you really do not.
  13. Find out during the interview the expectations for the position and the working hours, and be sure you can meet those. If you cannot meet the expectations and requirements for the position, inform the interviewers right away so you do not waste their time.
  14. If a potential employer asks you for some references, be prepared to provide professional references. Do not list your friends and family members as references. It is a courtesy to ask your references for permission to list them in your resume and provide them with your current resume, information what types of positions you are applying for and what skills you are highlighting so that they can help you.
  15. If a campus unit that interviewed you does not offer you the assistantship, thank the interviewer for taking the time to interview you and request them to keep your name in the list for any future openings. Do not keep emailing or calling the unit unnecessarily.
  16. If several campus units offer you assistantships at the same time, decide appropriately and inform the units in a timely manner. It is not a good idea to accept an offer from one unit and sign the contract, and then decline it because another unit has given you a better offer.
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