Professional Careers

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.

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.



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