How Should Students in Pakistan Apply for Teaching Assistantship?
For all of us in Pakistan, affording a graduate school in the US is a daunting task. Moreover because of the uncertainty of coming back to Pakistan after graduation makes us even more skeptical of affording a degree in the US. Although there is a plethora of scholarships available to Pakistani students including the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, still the number of awards is insufficient to accommodate thousands who apply to US every year. Therefore, it is always a good idea to aggressively look around for an opportunity to afford your graduate education.
One of the best, yet the least known source of funding while at graduate school is the teaching assistantship. A teaching assistantship is a part-time teaching position in which you assist a professor with his course during the whole semester.
Advantages of being a Teaching Assistant
Teaching assistants are graduate students (Master’s or PhD.) who help professors in teaching undergraduate or graduate students. As a teaching assistant your job responsibilities may include helping students with their assignments and quizzes. You may also be asked to take extra review classes and recitations to assist students their understanding of the content. Through teaching assistantship, you can earn a stipend between $700 and $1,400 per month along with a complete or partial tuition waiver. In some cases, you may be eligible for other benefits like medical assurance.
Besides these monetary benefits, a teaching assistantship can deepen your understanding of a subject matter and improve your teaching and communication skills. It can also help you develop contacts with professors which can help you gain a number of opportunities in the future such as getting good recommendation letters and great projects.
It is always a good idea to work as a teaching assistant rather than doing menial part time jobs (such as working at grocery stores or restaurants) while studying in the US.
Are You Eligible for a Teaching assistantship?
Now that you know about the advantages of a teaching assistantship, the next important question is how you can get one. In order to gain assistantships you will have to prove that you are a strong candidate who deserves earning this valuable funding opportunity.
Following are the different conditions of eligibility for gaining teaching assistantship for a particular class.
- If you have taken a similar class previously in the graduate school and gained a perfect grade in it (ideally A)
- If you have taken a similar class in your home country and earned a good grade.
- If you have research publications related to that subject.
- If you have significant work experience related to that subject.
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Please note that in nearly all cases, you will be asked to submit your TOEFL and GRE scores. GRE scores are more important especially if you are applying from your home country as the professors would want to evaluate your analytical skills and GRE is the perfect benchmark that lets them do that.
Many top universities will even ask you to take a short English language course for teachers after you arrive at the university. In that case you will be given a conditional offer for a teaching assistantship – once you clear that teaching course you can then commence your Teaching Assistantship. As a Pakistani teaching assistant you are not allowed to work for more than 20 hours per week.
How to Prepare Your Application for a Teaching Assistant?
Most students in Pakistan do not dedicate sufficient time preparing their applications for teaching assistantship and therefore they end up not getting any funding. Typically, students study for one semester in their master’s course and then apply for funding. But there have been several students in Pakistan who have received teaching assistantships along with their admission package. I would highly recommend that students in Pakistan contact the professor’s directly during the ongoing admission process.
Planning is the Key: You should plan properly and take the right classes with good grades during your undergraduate education. Moreover always aim to TA a course that interests you – hence focus on such and similar courses during your undergraduate classes. So set your priorities and plan intelligently.
Score well on the GRE: GRE scores will help you differentiate with other potential candidates. Even if your graduate school doesn’t need GRE, you should try getting a good score as most of the professors would want you to take GRE in order to have a better picture of your analytical skills.
Research Publications: Research publications show that you are seriously interested in pursuing a particular area of interest. Take advantage of any opportunity that will get you international conference publications during your undergraduate studies. Choose the right professors in your relevant area of interest and make sure you align your goals. Good publications can also make up for your low GPA in case you have one.
My advice is simple: You should plan properly with the help of valuable advice from your professors, line managers and seniors. Make sure that you get an ‘A’ in the subject that you desire to assist at the graduate level. Build your profile around that and make sure you do well in this particular subject area before you apply to the graduate school.