Many Chinese students have or hope to obtain graduate assistantships
to cover the cost of their education in the United States.
Here is some information for prospective graduate assistants:
assistant is the generic term for a graduate
student hired by an academic department (usually his or her
own) to perform some kind of service. Teaching assistants do
some form of teaching, perhaps presenting lectures, conducting
discussions, or meeting with individual students who need academic
help. Research assistants help faculty members with research
projects or other scholarly activities.
Who gets assistantships? Generally speaking, graduate assistantships
are awarded to students with the best academic records. In
some fields of study, graduate assistantships are relatively
plentiful, and most or all graduate students in the department
will have one. In other fields assistantships are scarce, so
competition is fierce.
In the case of non-native speakers of English, obtaining a
teaching assistantship normally requires satisfactory performance
on a test of English fluency.
Paperwork. Before they can be paid for their work, graduate
assistants need to complete various employment-related forms
and to obtain a U.S. social security number. All this can entail
visiting various offices, and some delays.
Relationship with supervisor. A graduate
supervisor is essentially his or her “boss” on
a job. The supervisor may or may not be the student’s
own academic adviser.
Conflicts with own studies. Most graduate assistants, American
as well as foreign, must deal with a built-in conflict between
their assistantship duties and their own studies. Performing
well as a graduate assistant can prevent graduate students
from performing well in their own studies because graduate-assistant
duties can be very time-consuming.
Unexpected interruptions in duties. Graduate students sometimes
cannot carry out their assistantship duties for personal reasons
such as illness, accident, or childbirth. Assistantship letters
or contracts should specify procedures for such instances (for
example, whether the stipend will continue, who will carry
out the duties for the person who temporarily cannot work,