Advice for being a TA or RA
From PsychWiki - A Collaborative Psychology Wiki
There are a number of different positions that you can occupy while in graduate school. Typically these positions are classified as GTA or GRA. A "GRA" is a Graduate Research Assistant in which you assist with a faculty members research. A "GTA" is a Teaching Assistantship in which you assist with the teaching of a course, such as leading discussions in a lab, grading exams, etc.
- Try to be a TA for classes that are relevant to your career or field of interest, and especially try to be a TA for statistics because a solid background in statistics is what potential employers are looking for.
- For every class you TA, that faculty member can now be another person on your "networking" list of people, so stay in contact.
- Good TAs get punished by getting the more challenging and difficult students and/or courses, but being a good TA will also help you when your mentor writes a letter of rec.
- When being a TA, pay attention to how each faculty member teaches the course - such as their teaching style, how they create each presentation, how they create assignments, how they create the syllabus... this will give you both the good and bad examples of what to do and not do when you become a teacher.
- Try not to TA the same classes semester after semester because you want a broad range of TA experiences, not just on your CV, but also make you a better teacher.
- Definitely try to TA courses you'd like to teach in the future. This is the best way to really get immersed in the material and get ideas for examples and in-class demonstrations.
- A good time to TA is the semester after comps, when you need a break from research.
- In terms of TA'ships, find out who is the person who assigns TA'ships and communicate to them your preferences because its can't hurt to ask.
- Also, there are less TA'ships available over summer so one way to increase your chances of obtaining these TA'ships is by finding which professors are teaching those classes and persuade them to recommend you as their TA for the summer class
- I would suggest working with multiple professors early in the graduate career to get as much experience and mentorship as possible. With this base of experience, you are then better able to choose which path to take and how to narrow your research focus in later years of graduate school.
- Try to get involved with a faculty member who is well-funded and whose research interests align with yours. Finding this intersection may prove to be challenging.
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