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How to get RA despite low GRE, TOEFL and academics…

Assistantships is the word that we hear all the time during application process and every student wants it. How’s it possible that a university can offer to all its students. Searching for RA,TA or Graduate Assistantship (GA) revolves more around how you can convince the professor and also depends on your background. Not necessarily in your department that you have applied. Here is a perfect example of Subash an electrical engineering student who got RA in Pharmacology department.

Pharmacology is no way related to electrical engineering, so how did Subash managed to get an RA in totally unrelated field. Subash did not get any form of aid when he received his I-20.His GRE was 1060 and TOEFL 92 with academics 64% .After he reached the university subash started applying for part-time jobs in library, cafeteria and in dorms on the same day he reached the university. He takes his blue file filled with 20-25 resumes and walks to different buildings and submits his resume.He didn’t care whether they had openings,he gave his resume and talked with different people (like stores in cafeteria) even if they don’t have opening at the time. He got a call from one of the students dorm to work as a server cum kitchen assistant. He took up this part-time offer. This happened on the 3rd day after he reached the university. Subash didn’t stop looking for assistantships.Then took the same path and started to walk into professors office with resume in different departments.He says he talked with atleast 20-25 professors on any given day.He says most of them were harsh on him and some even shouted to leave immediately. But it didn’t stop him from looking.He researched what the professors interests are and tried to highlight his old experience in his resume. It was pretty tough to walk into professor office without appointment. Time went on for 2 weeks.One day he walked into one of the Pharmacology professor office and started to explain how he can help in her research. The professor said his resume doesn’t match up with pharmacology department and said she might need somebody with experience in dissecting frogs. Subash said, dissecting frogs ? I do have experience in dissecting frogs when Iam in high school. Subash was a science student in his 11th and 12th grade and dissecting frogs was in his practical curriculum and he had good grades .He started to explain her about his past experience in dissection and professor was impressed. She asked him to come back tomorrow, so she can think and make a decision. Subash, went the next day and he was offered an RA position that covers 90% of tuition.

Dear students, this is a real experience happening in pretty much all the universities. You never know where the opportunities are. The position what Subash received was an unadvertised position. Subash hardwork, commitment towards his goal of getting assistantship, his communication and ability to convince others have earned him a position that can take care of his tuition till he complete his MS. Each student will have a unique background and experience and definitely some one will need your expertise. If you are committed and do your part, everything will fall into place.


  • You can reach university 30 days before your class starts. Take advantage of this. Reach university earlier to apply for jobs.
  • Prepare resume, highlight your resume and print from library. Unless you are applying for RA,TA,GA resume can be generalized.
  • Don’t just apply for jobs that are advertised. Walkin and talk to managers, supervisors and give them your resume. Tell them you will be available to take the job if anything turns up.
  • You should submit atleast 15-20 people per day.
  • In the evening look at other department professor profiles where active research is going on. Usually medical school and science depts have good funding. See if your background can contribute to their research. Please don’t fake your resume. They will come to know within 5 minutes of your conversation with them.
  • Send an e-mail to professor for appointment. Most of the time it will be turned down. If not don’t hesitate to walk in. You should have strong mental toughness to overcome harsh words. Don’t worry this is usual.
  • Repeat the last above 2 steps and you will definitely get a position that can take care of your tuition. There are also luck factor involved in it. This luck factor will created by constantly looking for positions.


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  1. Rohan Aurora says:

    Nice read. At which school Subash studies in ? Is there any means by which I can contact him ? via LinkedIn or Facebook etc


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