TA Frequently Asked Questions
AM I GUARANTEED A POSITION IF I APPLY?
No. The information provided on your application will be used as a guideline by the DGS to help determine the best placement for applicants. However, applying DOES NOT guarantee a TA position.
I HAVE NOT TAKEN THE SPOKEN ENGLISH TEST FOR TAS (SETTA). CAN I STILL APPLY FOR A POSITION?
Yes. Many of our incoming Fellowship students apply before arriving in Minnesota and taking their SETTA. However, the ME department requires all nonnative speaking applicants to have an ELP of 1 or 2 on file with the University to be eligible to TA. For most students, their TOEFL iBT speaking subscore will be automatically converted to an ELP rating when admitted to the University. This score will be confirmed by ME staff through UM reports. Note that the absence of an ELP on file at time of application may prevent applications from being fully processed unless further steps by the applicant are observed.
For nonnative students without an ELP on file with the University when they apply, the following steps are required:
I HAVE BEEN STUDYING IN THE U.S. SO A TOEFL SPEAK SCORE WAS NOT REQUIRED (OR WAS OUTDATED) WHEN I APPLIED TO UMN. WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?
You can apply for a position, however, this does not guarantee you will be offered a TA appointment.
In order to hold a TA position, you must have an ELP on record. This is a University policy. Furthermore, your ELP of record must either be a 1 or 2 to hold a TA position within the Mechanical Engineering. This is a Departmental policy. We advise all nonnative speakers with no ELP scores on record to do the following:
A PROFESSOR SAID I CAN BE THEIR TA, BUT MY OFFER IS FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT. WHO DO I LISTEN TO?
Only the DGS can offer you a position.
WILL CONTACTING THE DGS HELP GET ME A BETTER TA OFFER?
No. In the interest of making this process as fair as possible, the DGS will not respond to e-mails asking for a higher priority ranking for TA appointments, nor will they discuss TA appointments in person.
Additionally, the DGS has access to all TA reviews (from faculty and students), as well as access to all graduate degree plans and progress towards graduation. This information will be taken into account in making TA appointments. The best things you can do to increase your chances of getting an appointment in the future are:
- Take challenging classes and do well in them
- Complete your graduate degree plan ASAP
- Complete your qualifying exams and written prelim exams in a timely fashion (PhD students)
- Make progress in your research (such that there are no concerns that a TA appointment will hinder your research progress
- If you get a TA appointment, work on becoming a good instructor to our students and be assistant to the instructor (i.e. take TA positions seriously)
WHY DOES THIS APPOINTMENT PROCESS TAKE SO LONG?
There are many reasons why this takes so long. To start with, it's a multi-step process. Secondly, there are several people who must approve along the way. Lastly, candidates frequently drop out due to receiving RA positions. This causes some TAs to be reassigned and can create additional openings at the last minute.
HOW DO I BECOME A SUMMER TA?
At the moment there is no formalized TA application system for summer. However, it is not uncommon for email requests for interested grad students to be sent. As with spring and fall TAs, summer TAs are handpicked by the DGS after conferring with the course instructor. If you are interested in a TA position in the summer, it is always a good idea to directly notify the instructor of the course you are interested in.