How to Write an Essay for a Graduate Assistantship

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A graduate assistantship can provide you with lots of training in your chosen field, a chance to make more academic connections and even a way to pay for your graduate education. These positions can be highly competitive, though, so you'll need to find a way to stand out. A clearly written essay that conveys what you'll bring to the job can draw the attention of the professor with whom you'd like to work.

1 Tailor Your Essay

Your essay should be specific to the assistantship to which you're applying, not a general purpose essay you used to get into graduate school or apply for a study abroad program. Develop a thesis that explains clearly and succinctly why you're suited for this position, then keep all of the information in your essay focused on this. For example, if you're applying for a job as a lab assistant, you'll need to focus on your laboratory and science experience.

2 Write Well

Your essay should be written well, so have someone appropriate edit it for you. Stick to the point, and avoid needless jargon and wordiness. Instead, give each paragraph a clear topic sentence that relates back to your thesis and is directly relevant to the job. A professor offering a job as a lab manager, for example, is likely uninterested in the fact that you won the spelling bee in seventh grade.

3 Focus on Accomplishments

Your letter should highlight your achievements, with a special emphasis on anything that's not made clear elsewhere in your application packet, such as community service, awards you've received, publication credits or challenging classes at which you have excelled. Don't try to explain away poor grades or build a story explaining how challenging your life has been. Your future boss wants someone with a history of achievements, so present yourself that way.

4 Explain What You Offer

To get an assistantship, you can't just focus on your past achievements. Instead, you need to tie these accomplishments to your future. Explain what you bring to the program and why you can offer a better deal than any other candidate. For example, if you've worked in a challenging laboratory environment before, you can highlight your skill, unflappable nature and the fact that you'll learn quickly.

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.