Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the McNair Scholars Program?

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln McNair Scholars Program, established in memory of astronaut-physicist and Challenger crewmember Ronald E. McNair, is administered through the Office of Graduate Studies and supported by a U.S. Department of Education grant. This graduate school preparatory program serves a diverse group of talented sophomores, juniors and seniors who are traditionally underrepresented in graduate studies, encouraging them to consider careers in college teaching and to prepare them for doctoral study.

The UNL McNair Scholars Program provides a system of integrated services to help scholars develop their academic, research, and communication skills. The following services are delivered: academic planning and advising, faculty mentoring, undergraduate research, and graduate school preparation.

What is the research component?

During the summer of your first year in the McNair Scholars Program, you'll participate in the nine-week McNair Summer Research Experience (MSRE), completing research projects (or pilot studies) under the guidance of a faculty mentor. You'll prepare and submit a research proposal, follow IRB guidelines for certification and protocol development, conduct research in collaboration with your faculty mentor, provide periodic progress updates to your peers and McNair staff, write a research report and prepare a conference and poster presentation. During your second year in the McNair Scholars Program, you'll participate in UNL's Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experience (UCARE) fellowship program.

How does the McNair Program help me prepare for graduate school?

The McNair Scholars Program assists scholars with graduate school preparation, including finding the right graduate school, completing application forms and researching funding opportunities. Through the McNair Scholars Program, you'll learn how to negotiate the application process, write a statement of purpose and construct a curriculum vita.

What are faculty mentors?

Faculty or research mentors assist scholars in selecting and designing an appropriate project that can be completed in two academic semesters and supervise all research-related activities. Your mentor should direct you to the appropriate background literature and provide training and assistance for you to learn required techniques or procedures. In addition, your research mentor will be asked to review and critique a rough draft of the proposal, presentation abstract and final paper. Your research mentor should be available to offer support and advice for graduate school opportunities.

What are the benefits of being a McNair Scholar?

McNair participants are recognized throughout the nation as dedicated students who have taken extra steps in preparing themselves for the graduate and doctoral experience. Although successful completion of the McNair Program depends on personal commitment and hard work, there are many ways in which research fellows can benefit from participation:

  • Assistance in understanding the culture of graduate school, guidance in selecting the right graduate school, preparing applications, and financing graduate programs
  • Help in securing graduate school application fee waivers from over 200 participating institutions
  • Opportunities to attend professional conferences
  • On-going consultation and support from faculty mentors and staff to help ensure success in making the transition from undergraduate to graduate education
  • Inclusion in a national database of McNair scholars that is submitted to the majority of graduate programs within the U.S.
  • The opportunity to compete for a graduate fellowships
  • $2,800 research stipend, distributed in increments during the summer and/or academic year. The research stipend is contingent upon satisfactory completion of expectations and may be taxable.
Who is academically eligible to apply?

Sophomore and junior students in good academic standing who wish to engage in undergraduate research are encouraged to apply. Carefully review the eligibility requirements below. Applicants must meet ALL of the following requirements:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Have achieved the following academic standing at the time of application:
    • Sophomore (must have achieved junior status by the start of the summer component)
      or
    • Junior (must not be graduating for at least one more academic year)
  • Have a minimum overall GPA of 3.0
  • Have a strong interest in doctoral study and a willingness to consider a career in academia as a scholar or researcher.
  • Be a first-generation student (meaning neither parent has received a four-year, bachelor's degree) who is economically disadvantaged (as determined by the US Department of Education criteria), or be a student from a group that is underrepresented in graduate programs (African American, Hispanic, or Native American).

Individuals whose sole interest is pursuing a professional doctorate such as the Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), Juris Doctorate (JD), or Medical Doctorate (MD) are not eligible for the program, unless interested in the possibility of a dual degree (JD/PhD, MD/PhD, etc.). Individuals with such interests are encouraged to apply.

I am a first-generation student, but I don't meet the low-income guidelines. Can I still apply for the McNair program?

Unless you are a member of an underrepresented population, you would not qualify for McNair. You must be both first-generation and meet the federal low-income guidelines; or be a member of a group underrepresented in graduate education.

Am I considered a first-generation student if my mother and father have two-year associate's degrees?

Yes, you are considered a first-generation student since neither parent has a bachelor's degree. The U.S. Department of Education definition of first-generation scholar is:

  • A student neither of whose natural or adoptive parents received a baccalaureate degree;
    or
  • A student who, prior to the age of 18, regularly resided with and received support from only one parent, and whose supporting parent did not receive a baccalaureate degree;
    or
  • An individual who, prior to the age of 18, did not regularly reside with or receive support from a natural or an adoptive parent.
What groups are considered underrepresented in graduate school?

For purposes of the McNair eligibility criteria, the following groups are currently designated in the McNair Program regulations as underrepresented:

  • African American / Black
  • Hispanic
  • American Indian / Alaskan Native

The Department of Education also includes Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders (with an affiliation with the United States, such as residents of American Samoa, Guam, Mariana Islands and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands) in the underrepresented groups designation.

What is expected of me as a McNair Scholar?

All McNair Scholars:

  • participate in all scheduled McNair activities
  • meet regularly with your faculty mentor
  • meet all deadlines for submission of required documents
  • attend all courses, seminars, and classes
  • complete needs assessments, create educational action plans, and identify graduate schools to which you plan to apply
  • maintain a satisfactory GPA of 3.0 or higher from the time of acceptance into the program until graduation
  • cooperate with follow-up surveys in subsequent years
  • academic year participants are required to meet with the Program Advisor on a monthly basis during the academic year and summer Fellows are required to meet with the Program Advisor on a weekly basis during the summer Fellowship period
  • present the research at a local, regional or national symposium or conference
Is there a requirement as to the length of the research project?

The research project is conducted during the nine-week McNair Summer Research Project, scheduled between May and August. Projects are carried out under the supervision of a faculty advisor, and additional collaboration with a postdoctoral Fellow or graduate student mentor is encouraged.

What about summer room and board?

Scholars receive support for room and board costs during the McNair Summer Research Experience.

What expectations exist for the research?

The McNair Summer Research experience requires a great deal of internal motivation and self-discipline. You'll learn the entire research process, from planning stages to completion, and be better prepared for graduate studies. Scholars participating in the McNair Summer Research Experience expected to:

  • Prepare a research proposal and submit it for their mentors' approval.
  • Secure necessary Internal Review Board (IRB) or Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval before commencing the research. (Students are encouraged to apply for IRB or IACUC approval during the spring semester prior to the MSRE.)
  • Begin the research project as outlined in the proposal adhering to the approved timeline
  • Spend 30-35 hours per week during the summer completing research responsibilities as stated in the proposal and as more specifically defined by the faculty mentor
  • Submit weekly activity/research logs demonstrating progress toward completion of the project. The logs require the signature of the faculty mentor
  • Attend summer seminars to develop/refine academic research skill, explore concepts related to graduate school, and share insights on the research project
  • Present and discuss the research results at an academic conference or symposium, either locally or nationally
  • Evaluate the research project and the overall experience through various program constructed evaluations and debriefings
Can I participate in other research activities (UCARE, REU) and the McNair Scholars Program?

Yes, there should not be any conflict with participation in multiple research activities, as long as you're not be paid for these research activities at the same time. In fact, all McNair Scholars are required to apply for at least one year of UCARE. Typically, McNair Scholars conduct their McNair research during their first summer after entrance in the program, and participate in UCARE research during the academic year.

Is there a culminating expectation to the research?

At the end of the nine-week McNair Summer Research Experience, each student prepares a research report. Scholars are expected to present at the annual McNair Research Symposium and are eligible to attend a professional McNair conference. While the end-of-summer research conference remains optional, it is strongly encouraged as it represents the opportunity to share your research findings at a scholarly conference.

In addition, faculty mentors are asked to complete and submit an evaluation of the student's progress and the overall value of the research project. Scholars should acknowledge support from the McNair Program in any publications resulting from the project.

Am I required to apply to graduate school at UNL or can I apply to other universities?

Scholars are not required to apply to graduate school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We encourage all of our McNair Scholars to apply to at least 6-10 graduate programs.

UNL McNair Scholars have gone on to masters and doctoral programs at numerous institutions across the country, including Cal Tech, Cornell, Stanford, Ohio State University, University of Maryland, Southern Methodist University, Oklahoma State, Temple University, University of Arizona, University of Florida, University of Central Florida, University of Chicago, University of Indiana, Tulane University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of New Mexico, State University of New York at Albany, University of North Carolina, University of Georgia, Texas A & M University, University of Texas-Austin, University of Washington, Washington State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia, to name a few.

How can I apply?

Start here!