The Graduate Wife Dictionary: Vocabulary of Grad School

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When stepping into the world of graduate school, how many of us knew the lingo used? We know we spent a good while asking our husbands, “What does that mean?” when they first started grad schools. For those of you starting out on your graduate journey, our team thought we’d create a list of words we’d wish we had known when we started our journey! We hope it helps. -Mandy & M.C.

Entrance Exams

GMAT- GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admission Test. It is the entrance exam for MBA (Master of Business Administration) and related programs.

GRE (Graduate Records Examination) – The GRE is the entrance exam required for admission to most graduate degree programs. It consists of a verbal (grammar and vocabulary) and math section. Depending on a student’s field of study, he or she may also take a writing component and subject specific components of the GRE.

LSAT- LSAT stands for Law School Admission Test. It is the entrance exam required for law school.

MCAT- MCAT stands for Medical College Admission Test. It is the entrance exam required for medical school.

 

 

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The Graduate Wife Dictionary: Vocabulary of Grad School

dictionary crdotx flickr

credit

When stepping into the world of graduate school, how many of us knew the lingo used? We know we spent a good while asking our husbands, “What does that mean?” when they first started grad schools. For those of you starting out on your graduate journey, our team thought we’d create a list of words we’d wish we had known when we started our journey! We hope it helps. -Mandy & M.C.

University Organization

Accreditation– Accreditation is the process a university or degree program goes through every few years to be recognized as qualified to grant degrees in a specific field or fields of study. Most students won’t ever be involved in the accreditation process, but it is important to know if a program is accredited because graduating from a non-accredited program may make the student less competitive in the job market.

Bursar- The bursar is like the cashier for the university. Bills are issued by and paid through the bursar’s office for tuition and fees.

College- Most people use college as a general term and synonym for university. However, a college is actually a sub-unit of a university made up of similar departments. For instance, a University may have a College Fine Arts, made up of the Departments of Music, Visual Arts, Dance, and Creative Writing and a College of Natural Science made up of the Departments of Biology, Physics, Chemistry, etc. The head of a College is a Dean.

Degree Program- A degree program is the set of classes leading to a specific degree, and the infrastructure that supports those classes. There may be multiple degree programs within a department. For instance, a Department of English might have master’s degree programs in both English Literature and Creative Writing.

Department- A department is the unit of a university that graduate students will interact with most often. A department is made up of faculty all teaching the same or very similar subjects, for instance, a university might have a Department of Social Work, which delivers all of the degrees and classes in the field of Social Work.

Graduate College (or School) – Many universities have a Graduate College or Graduate School separate from the other colleges that make up the university. In these cases, students still take classes and work with faculty within the college related to their field of study (for instance an engineering student taking classes in the College of Engineering), but much of the paperwork students are required to submit for admissions, enrollment, and graduation are handled by the Graduate College.

Registrar- The registrar’s office of a university keeps track of student records, especially transcripts. A student may need to visit the registrar to change courses in the middle of a semester, fix a problem with his or her enrollment, or to request a copy of his or her transcripts.

School- A School is a group of related departments within a college. Grouping departments into schools can help with the management of very large colleges. For instance a College of Arts and Sciences might have a School of Fine Arts that includes the Departments of Music, Visual Arts, and Theatre.

University- A University is an organization that awards graduate degrees. Universities may be public, funded partially by taxpayer money and partially by student tuition, such as the University of Missouri, or private, funded by student tuition and gifts from donors, such as Harvard University.

 

The Graduate Wife Dictionary: Vocabulary of Grad School

dictionary crdotx flickr

credit

When stepping into the world of graduate school, how many of us knew the lingo used? We know we spent a good while asking our husbands, “What does that mean?” when they first started grad schools. For those of you starting out on your graduate journey, our team thought we’d create a list of words we’d wish we had known when we started our journey! We hope it helps. -Mandy & M.C.

Assistantships

Assistantship- An assistantship is an agreement a graduate student makes to work part time for a university in exchange for tuition, a stipend, and benefits.

Fellowship- A fellowship is similar to a scholarship or grant, but may go beyond paying tuition, to cover other school related and living expenses for a student. Unlike an assistantship, a student on a fellowship (called a fellow) usually does not have to work for the university as part of their fellowship agreement. Depending on the field and university, fellowships can be very competitive and difficult to obtain, but they do provide a unique opportunity for students to focus more solely on their education.

Graduate Assistant (GA)- Although used by many as a catch-all term for students with assistantships, graduate assistant more specifically refers to a student with an assistantship that works on something other than research or teaching. GAs may provide support to the university administration, athletics, residence halls, libraries, or other parts of the university.

Postdoc (Post Doctoral Scholar) – A postdoc is a person who is working on research for a limited period of time after they finish their doctoral degree. Postdoctoral research may be funded by a fellowship or grant, and depending on the field may be an important step along the way to an academic career.

Practicum- A practicum is a period of time where a student is working in their field of study under the supervision of a professional in that field. It usually happens prior to graduation (as opposed to a residency, which may occur after graduation). Practicums are most common in education and medical fields.

Research Assistant (RA) – A research assistant is a student with an assistantship whose work duties are tied to a specific research project or laboratory. RAs may be assigned to a single faculty member or group of faculty members whom they assist with research. RAs do not usually teach or perform duties outside of their research assignment.

Residency- A residency is a time period where a graduate student is working in their profession, under supervision of an advisor. It may occur after graduation and licensure, but is still considered part of the student’s required education. This is most common in medical fields.

Teaching Assistant (TA) – A teaching assistant is a student with an assistantship whose work duties include either teaching courses or assisting a faculty member with course related duties. Some TAs (usually in PhD programs) will teach courses on their own (known as being the teacher of record), while others may teach lab sections related to the lecture led by a faculty member, and other may provide tutoring or grading support for courses.

 

 

 

The Graduate Wife Dictionary: Vocabulary of Grad School

dictionary crdotx flickr

credit

When stepping into the world of graduate school, how many of us knew the lingo used? We know we spent a good while asking our husbands, “What does that mean?” when they first started grad schools. For those of you starting out on your graduate journey, our team thought we’d create a list of words we’d wish we had known when we started our journey! We hope it helps. -Mandy & M.C.

Academic Ranks

Adjunct Instructor- An adjunct instructor is a part time faculty member, often hired on a per course or per semester basis.

Lecturer- Lecturer is the lowest academic rank. At many universities, lecturers are non-tenure track faculty members so they may be on part time or short term contracts that have to be renewed once the term is ended.

Senior Lecturer- After several years of teaching at a university, a lecturer may be promoted to senior lecturer, which often comes with higher pay and more seniority. This is also a non-tenure track rank and many senior lecturers are on short term contracts that have to be renewed after one, two, or three years.

Assistant Professor- Assistant professor is the entry level rank for tenure track professors. At most universities, faculty members serve 6-7 years as assistant professors before they are considered for tenure and promotion to associate professor.

Associate Professor- Associate professor is the middle rank in the tenure track. Promotion to associate professor often comes after a 6-7 year probationary period, with intensive performance reviews. At many universities, this promotion is considered alongside the decision to grant the faculty member tenure or not.

Professor- Professor, while used by many students and people outside of the university as a catch-all term for all faculty members, is technically the highest academic rank. At most universities, becoming a full professor takes at minimum 12 years of service and tenured status.

Professor Emeritus- A professor emeritus is a retired professor, often one that has been granted special recognition by the university for outstanding service. At some universities, professors emeritus may sit on graduate student committees.

Tenure-Tenure is a system of career protections unique to the academic world. Faculty members with tenure undergo evaluation less frequently, have longer term contracts, and are more difficult to fire or layoff than their non-tenured colleagues. Tenure was developed to protect faculty members from being fired for controversial, unpopular, or critical speech and publications.

Tenure Track- The tenure track refers to the career path found at many universities for full time faculty. Tenure track often includes a 2-4 year probationary contract at the assistant professor rank, followed by an evaluation, then another 2-4 year probationary contract still at the assistant professor rank. At the end of the second probationary period, the faculty member is evaluated and either granted tenure and promoted to associate professor, or if tenure and promotion is denied, may have to leave the university and find work elsewhere. In many fields of study, tenure track positions are highly competitive and difficult to obtain, especially for new graduates.

Non Tenure Track- Non tenure track positions do not come with the protections of the tenure track. They may still be full time positions, but are often on shorter contracts that must be evaluated and renewed every 1-3 years. If the university no longer needs a non tenure track faculty member at the end of his/her contract period, the university may choose not to renew the faculty member’s contract and he/she would have to find work elsewhere. Many new graduates begin their academic career in non tenure track positions.

 

 

 

 

 

The Graduate Wife Dictionary: Vocabulary of Grad School

dictionary crdotx flickr

credit

When stepping into the world of graduate school, how many of us knew the lingo used? We know we spent a good while asking our husbands, “What does that mean?” when they first started grad schools. For those of you starting out on your graduate journey, our team thought we’d create a list of words we’d wish we had known when we started our journey! We hope it helps. -Mandy & M.C.

Funding

1098-T– A 1098-T is a U.S. government tax form that shows what a student paid to a university in tuition and fees, and any scholarships the student received from the university. The 1098-T is usually provided by the university’s Bursar, and is either mailed to the student or available online in January of each year. 1098-Ts are used to help calculate income tax owed and education related income tax credits.

Federal Direct Plus Loan for Graduate Students- Federal Direct Plus Loans for Graduate Students are student loans available through the U.S. Department of Education to fund graduate studies. Unlike scholarships and grants, loans must be repaid. You can learn more about Federal Direct Plus Loans for Graduate Students here: https://studentaid.ed.gov/types/loans/plus

Fulbright Fellowships/Grants- A Fulbright Grant or Fellowship is a grant provided through the U.S. State Department to support research and study abroad. You can learn more about the Fulbright program here: http://us.fulbrightonline.org/about/history

Grant Funded Position- A grant funded position is a job at a university that is paid for by funds from outside of the university, for instance from the state or federal government or a non-profit foundation. A faculty member, department, or research program applies for the grant to support a specific research project or program. The granting agency provides money to the university which may then be used to pay the salaries of faculty members or graduate students who are working on that specific project. Grants may only be for a short time, or may have to be renewed frequently. If the grant ends or the grant money runs out, the grant funded position will also end.

Lifetime Learning Tax Credit (LLC) – The lifetime learning tax credit is a US government federal income tax credit available to graduate students. To learn more about this credit and if you or your partner is eligible visit the IRS’s website: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/LLC

Scholarship- A scholarship is money provided to a student specifically for paying his or her tuition.

Stipend- A stipend is money paid to a student in exchange for work as a graduate assistant or to cover living expenses while on a fellowship. A stipend is different from a scholarship because it covers expenses beyond tuition, while a scholarship only covers tuition. It is also important to note that while scholarships are usually not taxed, a stipend is considered taxable income.

W-2- A W-2 is a U.S. government tax form that documents how much an employee earned and how much tax was taken out of their paychecks over the course of a year. It is used when filing income tax returns and may also be used as evidence for need based scholarships. In the case of a graduate student, a stipend would appear on a W-2 as taxed income, while a scholarship would appear on a 1098-T as untaxed income.

 

 

 

 

The Graduate Wife Dictionary: Vocabulary of Grad School

dictionary crdotx flickr

credit

When stepping into the world of graduate school, how many of us knew the lingo used? We know we spent a good while asking our husbands, “What does that mean?” when they first started grad school. For those of you starting out on your graduate journey, our team thought we’d create a list of words we’d wish we had known when we started our journey! We hope it helps. -Mandy & M.C.

Types of Degrees

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) – A doctor of philosophy or Ph.D. degree is considered the terminal or highest degree in a field of study. Many universities require a Ph.D. to be a full time faculty member and to teach, especially graduate level courses.

Master’s Degree- A master’s degree is a graduate degree that is one step up from a bachelor’s (or undergraduate) degree. Depending on the field and the student a master’s degree may be the final step in a graduate student’s education, or a step along the way to a doctoral degree. There are different types of master’s degrees but some of the most common are the M.A. (Master of Arts), M.S. (Master of Science), M.F.A (Master of Fine Arts), and M.B.A (Master of Business Administration).

Professional Degree/ Schools- Degrees considered to be professional degrees are the highest degree awarded in their field. Unlike a PhD which students earn after master’s degrees, students enter professional degree programs directly after receiving a bachelor’s degree. Examples of professional degrees include J.D. (Doctorate of Jurisprudence, a law degree), M.D. (Medical Doctor), D.D.S (Doctor of Dental Science), D.V.M. (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine), and Pharm. D. (Doctor of Pharmacy), among others.

 

The Graduate Wife Dictionary: Vocabulary of Grad School

dictionary crdotx flickr

credit

When stepping into the world of graduate school, how many of us knew the lingo used? We know we spent a good while asking our husbands, “What does that mean?” when they first started grad school. For those of you starting out on your graduate journey, our team thought we’d create a list of words we’d wish we had known when we started our journey! We hope it helps. -Mandy & M.C.

Working on a Degree

Admissions– Admissions is a general word for the steps a person must go through to officially become a student at a University. Almost all universities have a dedicated admissions office, and all but the smallest have admissions staff that specifically work with graduate students. Some of the steps in the admissions process include taking an entrance exam, submitting an application to the university, applying to a specific program of study (like Music, or Biology), sending in undergraduate transcripts, applying for financial aid, and possibly one or more interviews.

Blackboard and Canvas- Blackboard and Canvas are software programs used to deliver online courses, post reading materials, and record grades and attendance.

Comprehensive Exams- Comprehensive exams are tests (possibly written or oral) given during the last year of a graduate program as a requirement for graduation.

Cohort- A cohort is a group of students going through graduate school together and at the same time. Cohort may refer to all graduate students at a university in the same year, or more specifically those in the same degree program in the same year.

Defense (of thesis or dissertation) – A defense of a thesis or dissertation is when a student presents their thesis or dissertation to a committee of faculty members selected for that purpose. The committee members ask questions about and evaluate the paper. The committee must approve the thesis or dissertation for the student to graduate.

Dissertation- A dissertation is a paper or book written as the culmination of years of research in a graduate degree program (usually a doctoral program) and presented before a committee of faculty in a defense as a requirement for graduation.

Licensing Exam- A licensing exam is a test required by certain professions to be qualified to work in that field. Examples of fields that require licensing exams are education, accounting, nursing and law among others.

Matriculate- To matriculate is to enroll in a university.

Peer Review- Peer review is the practice of submitting a paper to other experts in a field of study for comments and criticism. Peer review is important in academia for validating the results of research studies and maintaining high quality publications. To have a paper peer reviewed means that other experts have looked at it and said, “Yeah, that seems correct, and this is a good paper.”

Thesis- A thesis is a paper written in culmination of a research project as a requirement for graduation, usually from a master’s degree program. While defended, like a dissertation, theses are usually shorter than dissertations.

Thesis/Dissertation Advisor- A thesis or dissertation advisor is a faculty member who oversees a graduate student’s work on his or her thesis or dissertation.

Thesis/Dissertation Committee- A thesis or dissertation committee is a committee of faculty members who advise a student on his/her thesis while it is in progress, and to whom the student defends the completed thesis. At the defense, committee members ask questions regarding the thesis or dissertation and determine if the student’s work is satisfactory for him or her to graduate.

Viva- Viva is a term specific to Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the United Kingdom that is a synonym for a dissertation defense.