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Evaluating offers

If you receive an offer, it can be very helpful to speak to at least one current RA in the research group, or anyone else who works there. In general, don’t hesitate to reach out to current/former RAs of the position you’re considering once you have an offer, as most would be happy to tell you honestly about their experiences. Don’t forget that you can choose to turn down an opportunity: you may be better off not taking any RA position than taking one that doesn’t suit you, even if you are sure that you want to attend graduate school! Here are some questions you might consider asking before you accept an offer:

  • Does the PI invest time/energy in mentoring RAs?
  • Does the PI invest in your experience to ensure you’re learning?
  • What is your PI’s management style?
  • What is the work culture like?
  • Is this workplace diverse in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, background, etc.?
  • How much are you expected to work? Will you have to advocate for yourself to get evenings to yourself? Weekends?
  • Where is the position located, and what are the travel expectations (if any) for the work? Can you see yourself being happy living where the position requires you to live?
  • Will you be able to take classes, and will you get discounts on tuition fees? Will your PI give you time to attend class and do schoolwork, or will you need to complete this work on top of regular work hours?
  • What opportunities are there for RA professional development?
  • Are there structures in place (e.g. reporting systems) to handle workplace conflicts or abuse, if it comes up?
  • What are the placements of past RAs who have worked with this professor? Have they gone on to PhD programs, and if so, which ones? (Don’t take this factor too seriously if you suspect that placements reflect selection effects rather than anything causal.)
  • Is the position pretty solitary or will you interact with other RAs (either those who work for your PI(s) or others at the institution)? Is there a network of RAs there at that institution that you will be part of?
  • What are the expectations about remote work?