Graduate Admissions Glossary

Applications for graduate school often require you to learn a few terminologies to help make the process a little bit easier. The following are some of the useful terms to know when applying for a graduate program.


Accreditation – This is the process of recognizing an educational institution by an independent private organization. Accrediting agencies often have to be recognized by the Department of Education and the Council of Higher Education Accreditation Organization.

Assistantship – This is a form of financial assistance usually provided to graduate students who have to perform research tasks for a member of the faculty. In return, the student will get a stipend that he or she can use to support his or her graduate studies. Some universities have graduate programs that offer assistantship for full-time students. Usually, the part-time academic work would require 18 to 25 hours a week. The program can help students pay tuition in full or with substantial discount, aside from the small stipend. Assistantship also includes teaching, counseling, and other administrative tasks, depending on the program.


CSW – This refers to a licensed clinical social worker, who specializes in psychology. To be a CSW, one has to fulfill all the requirements of a supervised clinical training program. Getting a license in a state where the social worker will practice is also required.


Dissertation – This is a form of research that is made to contribute to the discipline or field of study. Dissertations are often associated with doctoral study and takes several years to complete. While a thesis is often associated with bachelor’s or master’s degrees, the dissertation is more often associated with doctoral work. It can also mean, in more general terms, a treatise in some subject without the purpose of obtaining a scholarly degree.

Distance Education – This program allows students to earn their degrees through Internet and computer-based instructions. They can take classes off campus, as lectures are held online, while assignments and projects are submitted through email correspondence or web conference.


Endowment – This refers to funds used for the continued support of an organization or to support projects for that organization. The endowment may come with stipulations concerning its usage. For example, it may be required to be spent in a certain way.

Encumbrance – These are funds that have been set aside or claimed for projected expenses pending actual expenditure on funds.


Fellowship – This is a financial reward given to graduate students based on academic and personal achievements, which may or may not include a tuition waiver. It is often given by an institution, government, or a private organization.


GMAT – Short for Graduate Management Admissions Test, this exam is required for most MBA and other graduate school programs. This is a computer-adaptive standardized test in math and in English for measuring an applicant’s aptitude to succeed academically in graduate studies. It measures verbal, mathematical, as well as analytical writing skills and takes about four hours to complete. Applicants may register for the test online or by calling one of the test centers. An appointment must be made for those who want to schedule for a test. Applicants are also required to pay a testing fee of $250. The exam may not be taken more than once within 31 days, even if the scores of the latest test were canceled.

GPA – Short for Grade Point Average, it is computed as the average grade based on all the taken courses. It ranges from 0 to 4, which is the resulting mean after converting grades of A to F to these scores. This represents the student’s overall academic record or performance.

GRE – Short for Graduate Record Exam, taking this exam is part of the requirements for graduate school admission. It is used to evaluate the applicants’ cognitive abilities, reasoning skills, and general knowledge. PhD and master’s degree programs require the GRE.


Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) – This refers to any college or university made prior to 1964, whose principal mission was the education of black Americans. They must be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or organization.


Institute – An institute is an organizational unit that provides both an academic and an educational service outside the traditional degree structure.


Key Professional Personnel – A research term that refers to individuals who participate in the scientific and individual development or execution of projects. They may have master’s or doctoral degrees. Some may also have baccalaureate degrees, as long as they provide substantial contribution to the research.


Letter of Inquiry – This is letter sent by the applicant to inquire if a proposed project is within the agency’s fundable program areas. This is also sent to request for agency policy and program information, as well as forms on instructions.

LSAT – Short for Law School Admissions Test, this is an entrance exam law school applicants are required to take so they an be considered for admission. Like other standardized tests, this is used to measure the prospective student’s aptitude, reasoning abilities, and cognitive skills.


M.A. – This refers to a masters degree in arts, which is mostly research-oriented and theory-based compared to other graduate programs.

Master’s Degree – This refers to a degree taken after completing the undergraduate course. This graduate degree type would usually require a coursework of 30 credits and can be completed in two years when immersed in a full-time study. The degree program also requires a thesis and comprehensive exams.

MAT or Millers Analogy Test – This is an examination used by many liberal arts programs and social sciences graduate programs because it emphasizes qualitative and verbal reasoning skills. This is a standardized test that evaluates logic and reasoning through analogies. This kind of test demands a wide knowledge of Western culture and subjects such as science, music, literature, philosophy, math, art, and history. The test can be taken as a computer-based exam and is accepted by MENSA, the Triple Nine Society, and the Prometheus Society for its admission requirements.

MCAT – Short for Medical College Admissions Test, students applying to medical schools are required to take this standardized test as an admission requirement. It is used to assess the applicants’ aptitude and other abilities and skills. With good MCAT scores, applicants may have good chances of being accepted to a med school.

M.D. – This refers to the Doctor of Medicine degree. This can be obtained after fulfilling all the requirements of a medical program provided by an accredited med school.

M.Ed. – This is an acronym used for Master of Education. The masters degree in education is more on applied coursework and field experience, as opposed to research-based graduate programs.

M.S. – This refers to a masters degree in science, which is mostly research-oriented and theory-based compared to other graduate programs.


Organized Research – This refers to all the research and development activities that are separately budgeted and accounted for according to Circular A-21. This usually involves sponsored research and university research.


Personal Essay – A personal essay or personal statement is a requirement of most colleges and universities for admission and contains the writer’s explanations for choosing a particular course, his or her motivations for the future, and interpretation of how schooling will benefit him or her. This type of essay is also a way for the admissions panel to gauge the personality of the applicant. The personal essay is also known as the admissions essay, personal statement, statements of purpose, statement of interest, and application essay.

PhD – This stands for doctor of philosophy or may also refer to any doctoral degree. A PhD degree program requires years of study, often beyond the time required to finish a master’s degree. It may last up to 8 years, based on the field of study, the research topic taken by the student, and his or her skills and abilities. PhD degree programs would most often require coursework, dissertation, and comprehensive exams.


Recipient – This is an organization that receives financial assistance directly from the awarding agency to carry out the project or the program.

Renewal – This is a proposal requesting for additional funds for extending the scope of the work beyond the current project period. However, a renewal is only applicable to grants and cooperative agreements.


Statement of Work – This is description of work to be performed and completed on a research project.

Stipend – This a payment made to an individual who is under a fellowship or training grant in accordance with previously-established levels, which provide for the living expenses of the individual during the period of work or training.


Thesis – This is a written work based on the results of research on a specific topic prepared by a candidate for a bachelor’s or master’s degree. This is done by the student under the supervision of a thesis adviser. A typical thesis is made up of several parts: the title page, the abstract, the table of contents, the body comprised of the various chapters, and a bibliography or a references section. Oral examinations usually accompany the thesis as a requirement for advanced degrees. The presentation may be presided by the examining committee. The results of the examination may be given right after the examination and can either be acceptance, acceptance with revisions, revisions, extensive revisions, or unacceptance of the thesis.

Transcript – This is the official academic record of a student, which contains all the courses taken and their respective grades, including withdrawn courses.


Work – A body of work is an original creation of authorship produced in a tangible medium, including literary pieces, musical composition, dramatic selections, photographs, dances, etc. This can be considered the total work of an author or artist in his or her lifetime.

This glossary list contains some of the words you will encounter in the process of applying to graduate school. Once you have mastered these terms, processing your admission will no doubt become easier and more efficient.