McNair Scholars Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the McNair Program a scholarship?

No. Its full name is the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program and it prepares undergraduates to become scholars with Ph.D.'s and participants in the program are referred to as McNair Scholars.

Who is eligible for the McNair program?

The program is open to UWRF students who:

  • have completed their sophomore year (60 credits) with a strong GPA (3.0 higher is preferred)
  • are U.S. citizens or permanent residents
  • are defined as "first-generation" (neither parent/guardian obtained a bachelor's degree) and low-income (under 150% of the federally-determined poverty level) students OR are students from groups traditionally underrepresented in doctoral study (i.e. Native American, Latino/Hispanic, Black (non-Hispanic)
  • are academicaly motivated and committed to pursuing a Ph.D.  Advanced degrees such as M.D., MBA, J. D., DDS, and DVM do not qualify.
How does the McNair program prepare students for graduate study?

Participants who begin the program at the start of their junior year benefit from a full two years of monthly seminars on topics that build research and teaching skills, explain the graduate school process, and introduce professional academic culture (such as presenting and publishing research/scholarship). For two years, the McNair Scholars also work directly with faculty mentors in their field who serve as role models, offer personalized advice, accompany the scholars to conferences, and help them network. In the summer prior to their senior year, scholars undertake a summer internship in which they do original research or creative activity in their field under faculty supervision which prepares them for the kind of work they will do in graduate school.

Are there any financial advantages to the McNair program?

During the summer internship scholars receive a stipend, tuition for the academic credits earned from the internship, and assistance with room and board. There are also long-term financial advantages. See the next question.

Will the McNair program help me get into graduate school?

Yes. Many graduate schools provide application fee waivers for McNair Scholars and some actively recruit McNair Scholars and offer them graduate fellowships. Graduate schools know that McNair Scholars are motivated, have an understanding of the rigors and culture of graduate study, and have research and/or scholarship experience. Faculty mentors and McNair staff offer a wealth of information and advice about graduate programs and aid sources. In addition, McNair Scholars may sign onto the National McNair Scholar listserv from which they can learn about scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, special offers from graduate schools, and insider's tips from past Scholars who have entered doctoral programs.

How can I afford graduate school?

Even if you are not a McNair Scholar, you may be eligible for fellowships, grants, assistantships, and other forms of funding. The important thing is to do as much research into financial aid possibilities as possible (see "Financing Graduate Study" in the Grad School Information section and "Related Links"). Do not be afraid of loans. With an advanced degree, you will be qualified for higher starting salaries than if you only have a BA and loans can be an investment in a more secure financial future. It is wise, however, to borrow money prudently--research your earning potential and calculate a comfortable loan level accordingly.

What if I want to work for a while before going to graduate school?

Whether it is better to enter graduate school or the workforce after graduating from college depends on your personality, goals, and circumstances. For some people it is best to proceed immediately into graduate school while they still have motivation for studying and before they acquire other responsibilities (family, career track, etc.) that may limit their options. Other people find that they need a break from studying, in order to gain work experience, or save money, or reach a clear decision about the type of advanced degree they really want. Some types of employment may encourage you to continue your education, while others may be less flexible and require too much time for you to study while working. If you choose to work after finishing your bachelor's, decide how important graduate school is to you and make plans that will accommodate your educational goals.

Do I need to attend graduate school full-time or can I study part-time?

Again, this depends on you and your needs. Full-time graduate study often provides a more supportive environment that can help you complete your degree and assistantships usually require full-time status. A part-to-full-time job apart from part-time studies can result in more distractions and lower productivity and satisfaction in both areas, or the two can complement each other, providing intellectual satisfaction, a steady income, and a balanced perspective. It really depends on who you are, where you work, and what and where you study.

How do I know if graduate school is for me?

The best way is to do a thorough self-assessment and to spend time trying to identify your goals, values, strengths, and interests. Career & Counseling Services can help you with this process through personality inventories, workshops, and individual career counseling. Your professors and the McNair staff are also a valuable resources, because they have successfully completed graduate school and know firsthand what it is like. In general, you will need to decide if you want to do full-time, focused study for several years, if you are honestly interested in doing sustained original research, if an advanced degree is necessary for attaining your career and personal goals, if there is sufficient financial assistance available in your field, if you are willing to move to a school that offers aid, and if you are willing to postpone the benefits of full-time employment. Only you can determine if graduate school is right for you and you will be better prepared for it if you have done an honest self-assessment and are aware of what matters to you.

What are the advantages of graduate school?

Many people consider an advanced degree as a means to higher salaries and this is certainly one of the advantages gained from graduate study. People with advanced degrees have the credentials that make them eligible for upper-level and specialized positions, which have higher salaries to match increased responsibilities. Beyond mere economics, however, graduate school provides invaluable opportunities to pursue in-depth research in a field of interest, to study with specialists, and to improve methodological and writing skills. The rigor of graduate studies also offers a greater breadth of knowledge and enhanced critical thinking abilities that enrich your overall life. Lastly, graduate school is extremely challenging, which, like all challenges, serves as an opportunity for growth and for attaining your personal best.

What are the challenges of graduate school?

Graduate studies require a long-term commitment. Depending on the choice of programs, field of study, and availability of funding, the general time frame for completing a doctorate is four to five years on a full time basis. Even with full financial assistance and the support of family and friends, it can seem like a long time to be living as a student. There can be times when graduate study demands all of your time and energy, which makes it difficult to lead a balanced, healthy life. It can also be insular, isolating you from outside activities, and in many institutions it can be extremely political. If you don't receive a good financial aid offer, it can also be expensive-graduate tuition and fees are higher than those for undergraduate study--although these costs can be offset by higher earnings. Only you can weigh the advantages and disadvantages and decide what you are comfortable with and what is best for you. Be sure to take advantage of the resources available to help you make your decision: your professors, the McNair staff, e-mail with current graduate students, Career & Counseling Services, and others with whom you can evaluate your needs.