When I was considering grad school, applying for graduate assistantships was a no-brainer.
I know many other grad students have full-time jobs, have started their careers, and/or have received tuition aid from their companies to help pay for school. But for students in a similar position to myself, who went from undergrad straight into grad school, there isn’t a much better option to gain professional skills and financial aid than a graduate assistantship.
I am by no means an expert on this subject, but I can speak on my own experience and offer tips to any fellow students who have considered applying for graduate assistantships but don’t know where to start.
First of all, the best thing you can do for yourself is simply get connected with anyone and everyone you can around campus. Let everyone know you are interested in an assistantship. Whether it be students, professors, custodians, administrators, the guy making your sandwich at Subway…it doesn’t matter. Get on the roof of Towers and scream it to the whole campus that you’re looking for a graduate assistantship if you must (I accept no liability if someone actually does that). The key is to build connections with people because the odds are that someone in that line of people knows someone or knows someone who knows someone who can get you connected with someone who has an opening for a graduate assistant in the upcoming semester. The more people who have your name in their ear and know you’re interested in an assistantship, the better your chances of getting an interview. It’s sometimes difficult to find a comprehensive list of openings, so getting your name out there this way can help connect you to opportunities you may not otherwise have a chance to hear about.
Another tip is to apply early and apply often. Of course, you should first and foremost apply for assistantships that interest you, but if you are relying on this job to pay for grad school, you may need to consider some other positions that would otherwise be outside your scope. There was one assistantship that I was most interested in, but I applied on the last day they were accepting applications. Although they do have a deadline, applying well before the deadline shows initiative and that you value the position you’re applying for. Of course, I did not get that position I applied for. And after a brief panic session about how I would afford grad school if I don’t get an assistantship, I received an email for an interview about an assistantship that I hadn’t even applied for. This ended up being the position that I would accept, and I was lucky to receive that email, but I wouldn’t recommend rolling the dice like I did. I had only applied to one office, and I didn’t even get an interview. But since I had spread my name across campus about my interest in an assistantship, I was able to find a position that ended up being perfect for me. I would highly recommend avoiding all the stress and anxiety I experienced by instead just applying all over campus because there are over 100 assistantships available, you just have to find them.
As enticing as it sounds to just have a job that pays for your tuition where you don’t have any responsibilities, you may be holding yourself back from something truly beneficial. There are so many opportunities for professional growth with an assistantship that it would be a shame to waste those opportunities. It’s important to keep an open mind for opportunities that may arise when working your assistantship. My position was originally considered to be in data analytics and now here I am writing for our school blog. The key is to simply take on new opportunities head-on without fear of failure.
Use Your Network
Above all, make sure to use your resources. The faculty and staff here truly want to see you succeed, and you may be surprised by who can help you most in finding an assistantship that fits you best at SEMO. If you’re having trouble finding assistantship openings or you just don’t know where to start your journey into grad school, reach out to the Office of Graduate Studies or have conversations with your current professors. Graduate school isn’t always easy and the process to get to grad school is often just as difficult, which is why SEMO offers so many resources to help you along the way.