First and foremost, the Program gives McNair Scholars actual research experience. Scholars are required to complete a research project with the help of a faculty mentor, which foreshadows the dissertation required to obtain a PhD. A dissertation is usually a book-length work that a graduate student must complete under the guidance of a faculty adviser. The McNair program gives McNair scholars the chance to do research as undergrads, so that the dissertation will not be such a dreadful beast when they find themselves in graduate school. This is especially important considering that a large percentage of students do not complete the graduate programs they were admitted to. Being accepted into a graduate program is one thing, completing it is another.
Secondly, the McNair program gives the a to z on the graduate school admission process. If someone is serious about getting into graduate school, the McNair program is the best resource out there. Plus, having the title “McNair Scholar” in a graduate application carries a lot of weight.
The McNair program will teach you how to get into graduate school and what to do when you are there. At what price though? Time and effort. You will need to attend all the McNair workshops, meetings, and colloquiums, which totals to at least 15 hours a quarter. In addition, you will need to spend at least a few hours on your research every week. On top of that, you will probably spend at least an hour every week with your mentor. Participating in the McNair program is no small commitment. However, if you can make the commitment, then the pay-off is huge.
Out of all the graduation school admissions information programs I have been to, the McNair Scholars Program has helped me understand the process more than all the others combined. The program explained to us in great detail how to choose a graduate program, how to write personal statements and statements of purpose, how to prepare for the GRE, how to explain GRE scores in applications, how to contact faculty, and so forth. You name it, and the McNair Scholar Program will explain it. The acceptance record for scholars in the program is a testament to the quality and quantity of the information the McNair program provides regarding graduate school admissions.
Simply applying to graduate programs has been my greatest accomplishment in the McNair Program. Originally, I felt too pressured by work and my coursework to apply this year. I resigned myself to postpone applying until next year. However, I found the strength to apply this year thanks to the inspiration and motivation the McNair program lent me.