EWU McNair FAQ

Is this a scholarship?

The McNair Scholar Program is not a scholarship, although it may make you more eligible for scholarship opportunities! EWU's McNair Scholar Program supports sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are first generation and low income undergraduate students, or students from backgrounds underrepresented in higher education, who wish to pursue doctoral (PhD) degrees. We do this through classes each quarter, a paid summer research internship with a faculty mentor in the summer, and one-on-one support and graduate application feedback year round.

Where do I look for scholarships?

Our resources for Undergraduate Scholarships is a good place to get started. You can also check out these free scholarship websites.

How do I qualify to participate?

We're happy to meet with any student who is interested in or has questions about going to graduate school. To be eligible to be a McNair Scholar, you must be: a sophomore, junior, or senior with at least one future summer and fall before graduation; interested going to graduate school and attaining a PhD; first generation and low-income undergraduate student; and/or a student from racial background(s) underrepresented at the doctoral level (Black/African American, Latine/x/o/a/Hispanic, Native American/Alaskan Native, or Native Hawai'ian, Pacific Islander). If eligible, you then need to complete the McNair application process. To get started, fill out our Eligibility Questionnaire. and we'll get back to you within a few days to set up a meeting on next steps. Our application process is done through a Canvas course and includes, interviewing faculty in your field to learn more about getting a PhD, completing an application form, a short personal essay, and answering questions about your research interests. Don't be worried, we're here to help you through every step of the application process!

Which racial backgrounds are considered underrepresented at the doctoral level?

According to the US Department of Education, the following backgrounds considered underrepresented in higher education: African American/Black, Latinx/Hispanic, Native American/Alaskan Native, and/or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. EWU McNair acknowledges that there are many Asian American groups that are not well represented in higher education. People of all racial backgrounds are eligible for McNair if they are undergraduate students who are both low-income and first generation students. If you want to participate and do not fit into these categories, are unsure if you do, or do not wish to share this information through our questionnaire, please contact us. We also can meet with any student, eligible or not, and talk you through how to prepare for strong graduate school applications and just generally understanding the graduate application process.

What is graduate school? What is the difference between a master's and doctoral degree/PhD?

Once you complete your undergraduate (bachelor's) degree, you may wish to continue pursuing education. Some fields and positions require advanced degrees. All of your professors have master's degrees at minimum, and most have PhDs. A master's program with a research focus generally takes 2-3 years of coursework, plus the writing and defense of a thesis, which is your original contribution of knowledge to your field. (There are some master's programs that are more career based, which may not require a thesis). A PhD program generally takes 3-5 years of coursework, plus the writing and defense of a dissertation (which is like a thesis, but more extensive). PhD/doctoral students tend to receive better funding offers than master's students. You do not need to receive a master's degree before applying to PhD/doctoral programs! Many students go directly from undergraduate into doctoral programs. However, in some cases, earning a master's degree can make you a more competitive candidate for PhD programs.

Bonus: Once you receive a PhD, you get to call yourself a Doctor and use the prefix Dr., no matter what your field of study!

How does the EWU McNair Scholar Program prepare students to apply to graduate school?

Our program begins Winter Quarter, with a course called Creating a Scholarly Identity. Here, we discuss the qualities of a scholar versus a student, and explore what research is and how to get started, and how to build relationships with faculty and find a faculty mentor. Spring Quarter, we offer a course on research methods (HONS 340 - Research Methodologies for Social Change) to prepare you for your Summer Research Internship. You also meet weekly with your mentor during this time to further hone your research idea and prepare for the summer. During McNair Summer Research Internship, which lasts the 8-weeks of Summer Quarter, you will be in the McNair office or in your research lab/field completing your research project, as well as preparing application materials for graduate programs - looking into schools and programs, contacting faculty, designing your CV, and writing your essays for graduate applications. In Fall Quarter, our course is focused entirely on supporting you through the graduate application process. All McNair Scholars are asked to apply to at least 8 graduate programs. Graduate program applications are generally due between November and February (most around Dec 1st), with acceptances arriving between late January and early April. We then continue to support you as you decide on a good fit graduate school, negotiate funding offers, and whatever else is needed until you're off to graduate school!

When and How do I apply to become a McNair Scholar?

You may apply as early as spring your freshman year, but applications are generally due November 15th. Our Selection Committee meets at the end of fall quarter to review applications, and you will be notified around the end of fall quarter, but no later than a week before winter quarter. Your application materials will be submitted through a Canvas course, which we will add you to once you've filled out the Eligibility Questionnaire and met with a staff member to discuss your academic and career goals. Application materials include: an academic plan created with your academic advisor, faculty interviews and a short reflection paper, a personal statement, two letters of recommendation from professors, an application form, and a research interest survey. You may be asked to provide a copy of your/your family's tax return for low-income verification, but in most cases we are able to use PELL eligibility for that purpose.

What fields do McNair Scholars study?

Scholars in our recent cohorts have studied psychology, secondary education, biology, biochemistry, mathematics, political science, international affairs, philosophy, Africana studies, and many more. The most important thing is that you wish to do research in your field of study. McNair may not be the best match if you plan to go directly into medical or law school, or a terminal degree in the arts (for example, master's of fine arts in visual arts, performance, or creative writing). However, a research focus can take place in any of these fields. If you are interested in doctoral research in medicine, law, or fine arts, please contact us and we'll talk about the possibilities.

If McNair is not a good fit for me, where can I get help applying to graduate school? 

Please check out our Student Resources page. EWU's Career Center, faculty in your area of interest, and the Writer's Center can all be of great help in preparing for and applying to graduate school. In fact, McNair encourages our scholars to make use of these resources as well!