Graduate School Explained

Graduate School Lingo

  •  GA – Graduate Assistant
  • GSA – Graduate Student Association
  • RA – Research Assistant
  • TA – Teaching Assistant
  • Assistantship – Funding source for many grad students that can be teaching (TA) or research (RA) centered. In exchange for completing some work/research for the graduate program, you are offered free or reduced tuition as well as other possible benefits such as health insurance and a monthly stipend.
  • Comps – Comprehensive written and/or oral exams taken at the end of coursework
  • Dissertation – extensive research paper completed after course work for a doctorate; usually more in-depth than a thesis
  • Failing grade – Often a C or lower in graduate school
  • Full-time – Usually 9 credit hours for graduate students
  • Major Professor or Advisor – the faculty member who most closely guides your work
  • Practicum – A work experience or hands-on portion of a class offered in grad school that has less of a time commitment than an internship
  • Residency requirement – Required on-campus full-time study at the university
  • Thesis – Research paper completed for a master's degree
  • Thesis or Dissertation Committee – Faculty who guide the development of your thesis or dissertation

Paying for Graduate School

There are several types of financial aid available to graduate students. Many students get a combination of the funding sources listed below. It is important to check with the programs you are applying to about available financial aid. You will need to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in order to be considered for almost any type of aid; the FAFSA is used to assess your financial aid needs. Be sure to watch for the deadline to apply; the application is usually made available in January for the upcoming academic year.

  • Assistantships – Similar to internships in that the student is required to work as either a teaching assistant, research assistant, or other types of graduate assistant on campus. 
  • Fellowships – Can be awarded to graduate and post-grad students and do not need to be repaid.
  • Grants – Monetary gifts that do not need to be repaid  Grants may be administered by the government or through private sources. Each grant will have a different set of eligibility criteria, but may be given to students with more financial need. Grants are often used towards travel, research, experiments, or projects.?
  • Loans – Awarded to students based on financial need, and the amount you borrow plus interest must be repaid after graduation. There are several types of loans that have different guidelines. It is important to fully understand the terms of your loan(s) before accepting it.
  • Scholarships – Awards given to students based, often times, on academic achievement, background, the field of study, or financial need. Scholarships do not need to be repaid. Scholarships can be awarded through your school or private funding sources.