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How to Prep for Top Interview Questions for Graduate Assistants

Posted by Shelly Quance on 1/6/23 12:11 PM

  January 06, 2023    

graduate student being interviewed-1

Graduate assistantships remain one of the most valuable and practical learning opportunities for graduate students today. In addition to gaining real-world work experience, graduate assistants also receive a stipend or tuition discount that helps to offset the cost of graduate school.

The graduate assistantship application process differs by school, but many universities require applicants to submit an essay, GPA, and in some cases, attend an in-person or virtual interview as part of the process.

Interviewing for a graduate assistantship may seem stressful to some, but we're here to discuss some of the top interview questions for graduate assistants, including the kinds of questions you should be prepared to answer.

️ Download WVU's Graduate Assistantship Guide!

Understanding what a graduate assistant actually does

First, let's talk about what being a graduate assistant consists of. A graduate assistant is a graduate student who secures a specific academic job for which students are selected based on academic excellence and faculty referral. 

Most graduate assistants receive a tuition waiver and a small stipend for the tasks they perform for faculty members or departments.

As a grad assistant, you will have the opportunity to do the following:

  • Network with faculty and industry thought leaders who share your passion and goals

  • Gain practical, quality, and hands-on work experience

  • Collaborate and learn with other graduate students in your field of study

  • Offset the cost of graduate school with a stipend and tuition waiver.

  • Make lifelong connections with likeminded, driven professionals

Note: Check out our blog post, "How to Get a Graduate Assistantship in 2023."

Sample interview questions for graduate students

Interviewing doesn't come naturally to everyone, and that's okay! There are myriad ways to prep for an interview, including anticipating the kinds of questions you will need to answer. 

1. Why do you want to be a graduate assistant?

Graduate assistantships are competitive, and for this reason, you need to be able to adequately and efficiently explain why you want to be chosen for the position.

Whether you are interested in developing teaching skills or whether you want experience in research, you should come prepared to highlight two or three specific reasons that you want to be a graduate assistant.

2. What do you hope to gain from your participation in an assistantship?

Similar to the aforementioned question, you should attend the interview ready to give a detailed response regarding what you hope to get out of your assistantship experience.

Whether you want a mentor closely related to your field of study, have aspirations of being published, or are looking to conduct cutting-edge research, it is paramount that you effectively communicate your specific goals for participating in an assistantship.

3. What specific skills make you qualified for the position?

You need to be able to articulate what sets you apart from other candidates, and you can do so by focusing on skills or character traits that will positively impact the team with which you will be working. For instance, you could provide examples related to time management skills, organizational abilities, attention to detail, and how you work with a team.

You should also make sure to provide tangible examples of your academic and professional accomplishments — especially examples that will complement the responsibilities in the position you are interviewing for.

4. How will you balance your assistantship responsibilities and your coursework? 

This is a logistical question, but it is one that makes a lot of sense to ask during an interview for a graduate assistantship. You need to be able to adequately describe your ability to manage multiple deadlines, navigate tasks simultaneously, and apply what you are learning to your own graduate coursework. 

You might want to answer this question by providing examples of times that you've had to juggle a variety of time-sensitive projects and describe the ways in which you did so with success.

5. What are your long-term career goals?

A graduate assistantship is an investment — for you and the department in which you will be working. As such, the professionals you are working with and for during your assistantship need to have a solid understanding of the ways in which your career goals align with their overarching mission. 

This is also a great opportunity to ask some of your own questions and learn more about how the assistantship could help you to achieve your career goals, so don't hesitate to show your excitement and ambition with some relevant questions.

These are just a few of the kinds of questions that you should know how to answer before your interview, but here are a few more to consider as you prepare:

  • Why did you choose your current field of study?

  • How will your involvement in the assistantship positively impact the department?

  • How would you describe your work style?

  • What kind of time management skills have you developed in grad school?

  • What challenges have you experienced in grad school?

  • What motivates you as a grad student?

  • Can you describe your expectations for professional development?

Learn how to become a graduate assistant at WVU

West Virginia University awards approximately 1,700 graduate assistantships annually to incoming and continuing graduate students. All graduate assistants must be accepted into a graduate degree program and are required to be enrolled full-time while employed during the fall and spring terms (9 credits or more).

The graduate assistantships at WVU are incredibly valuable experiences, and graduate students from all over the nation benefit from these professional opportunities. If you want to benefit from the graduate assistantship opportunities at WVU, learn more by exploring our Graduate Education and Life page or our Graduate Assistantship Guide.

Also, while researching for various financial aid opportunities can seem overwhelming, there are so many resources to help you find the solution that works best for you, including:

If you think that choosing graduate school at WVU could be the right decision for your academic and professional future, then we encourage you to get in touch with us. You can request more informationvisit our Resource Library, or review our admissions requirements


Ready to reap the benefits of being a graduate assistant? Download WVU's Graduate Assistantship Guide today!

Unlock the GA Guide


Topics: Funding Your Graduate Education

Posted by Shelly Quance

Shelly Quance has spent almost 20 years working in higher education marketing communications. She currently serves as Director for West Virginia University’s Office of Graduate Admissions and Recruitment where she works collaboratively with College leadership to develop, implement, and evaluate creative and effective comprehensive communication and marketing plans to increase graduate student enrollment.


About the Blog

Deciding what graduate school to attend can be daunting at times, and navigating the admissions process can be that much more difficult. We hope to make the journey from considering graduate school to enrolling in a graduate program easier by publishing content that will be helpful to you as you discern if, when, and where, to pursue your next degree.

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