McNair Scholars Program stands for Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. It is an elaborate educational program started by the U. S Department of Education in memory of Dr. Ronald E. McNair. He was an African American astronaut working for NASA when he lost his life aboard the Orbiter Challenger on 28th January, 1986. He was the mission specialist on the Orbiter Challenger and lost his life along with six other crew members, just after take off. This tragic incident eventually led to the commencement of the McNair Scholars Program.

Dr. Ronald  was born in South Carolina in 1950. He graduated in Physics in 1971 form North Carolina A & T State University. Later he specialized in laser physics and obtained a Doctorate of Philosophy in Physics form Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. Besides, he received an honorary doctorate of laws from North Carolina A & T State University in 1978, an honorary doctorate of science form Morris College in 1980 and an honorary doctorate of science from the University of South Carolina in 1984. His interest in physics led him to carry out researches in isotope separation, photochemistry, infrared detectors and scientific foundations in martial arts. Apart from his academic achievements he received many awards in karate; he was fond of music and was interested in mechanics as a child. As a member of NASA Astronaut Corporation he successfully flew as a mission specialist aboard STS 41-B in 1984. In his second space mission aboard Orbiter Challenger he met his tragic end.

The McNair Scholars Program is a part of the Federal TRIO programs. These programs are federal programs which aim at giving equal education opportunities to underprivileged or deprived students. The first program under the Federal TRIO programs was the Upward Bound Program which commenced in connection with the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. Many new programs have been started under the TRIO programs ever since, the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program being the sixth such program. These programs aim at providing equal educational and research opportunities to students coming from all sections of the society. More details can be obtained from the website of the U. S. Department of Education .

This program is fundamentally designed to give systematic guidance and assistance to students to achieve a doctorate degree. This program extends over a long period of time and guides the students at every step of college education; beginning right from the admission prerequisites. This is done through involving the students in research, workshops, seminars, conferences, internships etc. Their performances are closely monitored and they are provided with timely guidance and counseling. The projects also include financial aids, stipends, special grants and scholarships. The students who benefit from this program are mostly from the socially, economically and politically weak backgrounds. Those students who have shown remarkable potential and motivation to pursue studies are preferred for becoming the McNair Scholars. They have to be backed by an appreciable academic record to avail this opportunity.

Various programs are undertaken by universities across U. S. under the McNair Scholars Program. The program schedule of each university is different, though it is based on the common standard guidelines and conditions. Each university which has the Scholars Programs in its campus also has a separate McNair Faculty. This faculty is responsible for carrying out the different projects and programs scheduled under this program. The McNair Project Directors are supposed to send an annual report of the performance of each McNair Scholar to the U. S. Department of Education. This report is called the Annual Performance Report. In addition to the current participants of the Program the performance of the previous year’s project participants is also asked for. This is meant to keep track of how the participants are performing in their fields of study.

A university generally admits 15 – 30 prospective scholars each year if they meet the criteria for selection. Only U. S. citizens and permanent residents of U. S. are eligible for the McNair Scholars Program. Those students whose parents have not studied beyond school, who represent an underprivileged group or meet the income criteria set by the U. S. Department of Education are eligible for admission, provided they prove their intention for advanced studies backed by academic achievements.

There are a number of projects that are run under the McNair  Program. The most important among those is the educational counseling provided from time to time by their staff members. They keep in regular contact with the  scholars and assess their performance. Accordingly they advise their scholars about the next stages of the project and what the participants are required to do. You have to maintain your scores throughout the program and for this the McNair staff gives timely suggestions about how you can improve your scores and the different tutoring services that you can benefit from.

The McNair scholars can avail of a number of loans, fee concessions, stipends etc. to deal with their financial constraints. These scholars are informed about the details and they can accordingly apply for the same.

Most universities run special programs in summers. During these summer research internship programs the McNair scholars are given ample opportunity to interact with the faculty mentors and advance in their field of study. These programs run over a period of a few weeks and the complete program schedule is fixed much in advance. The scholars undertake research projects under the guidance of their mentors. Besides the summer program includes seminars, workshops conferences, lectures, educational visits to other universities, informal interaction sessions with the faculty, weekly discussions with the faculty etc. Each student is given a stipend in installments during the summer programs. They are also given the facilities of accommodation during the period of the summer research internship. The scholars have to submit a report on the research that they carry out during this period. In case a student can not attend the summer programs he can attend monthly seminars and conferences to get motivation, for counseling and information.

The McNair scholars get opportunities to attend conferences and seminars at a national level as well. These visits are fully funded under the program. The students can visit the national conferences and make presentations on the research work undertaken by them. Such visits are very informative as the students get to share their knowledge and learn about the other researches being carried out in their field of interest.

In order to pursue their academic interests these scholars are given access to libraries and other information centers. They can go through the latest research journals, books, McNair newsletters, graduate schools catalogue etc in such centers. They also are provided access to other sources of information and study.

The McNair staff helps scholars with extensive preparation for the GRE, besides other facilities. You shall be guided at every step of the graduate admission process. The staff shall help you shortlist suitable colleges according to your needs and interests. There are a number of colleges which offer scholarships to eligible students. Some of them give a Graduate School Application Fee Waiver to McNair scholars. This opportunity you can avail only if you have the required certificate of being a participant of the McNair program. The staff helps you obtain the certificate and select such colleges before you register for the GRE. The Fee Waivers are also granted to some McNair scholars depending on who qualify for it.

Further you shall be given timely, systematic and professional guidance on how to crack the GRE. This is a tough exam and one has to dedicate three to four months to study for the exam. Universities run special preparation programs for McNair scholars who have to appear for the exam. You shall be prepared for the exam through a well planned preparation program. Initially you will be tested for your strengths and shortcomings through a test which is a replica of the real GRE. Then you shall be given guidance accordingly on how to overcome your week points and how to exploit your qualities to the maximum.

The GRE is divided into three sections: Verbal Section, Quantitative Section and Analytical Writing Analysis Section. For the Analytical Writing Assessment section two essays have to be written whereas the remaining two sections have multiple choice questions. Each of these sections has to be prepared for exclusively, there is none which can be ignored. McNair Scholars Program on GRE preparation does exactly that. The participants are given thorough preparation for the different sections of the exam. Each section is taught separately and students are told strategies, tricks and tactics to score in them. You shall be given study material as well. Depending on the university, the McNair scholars are provided with GRE preparation books, GRE preparation CDs, GRE preparation guidelines and strategies.

In addition to teaching the McNair faculty also provides the McNair scholars an opportunity to practice for the computer adaptive exam, CAT GRE. This practice is very essential as it makes the test taker familiar with the format of the CAT. Moreover those who are not acquainted with a computer can learn about its functioning and be better prepared for the CAT.

The scholars undergo a number of full practice tests before the actual test. This helps them get a simulation of the real GRE. They learn how to solve the exam within the time constraints and with regular practice master the art of time management for the test. Furthermore these practice tests are scored in the same style as the GRE and the McNair scholars can predict how they shall perform in the exam. They get an idea of where they stand in the competition and how far they are from achieving their goals. McNair staff is generally well trained and the preparation program conducted by them is considered to be very fruitful.

A participant in this program also gets to attend seminars and workshops for preparation of GRE. He gets financial aid to visit two to three graduate schools in order to examine them closely and to make a choice of which college he wants to apply to.

The McNair Scholars Program is demanding in terms of time and commitment. A student with an average interest in studies might find it difficult to keep motivated and attend the projects. Hence only inspired students should opt for being a part of this Program. Once you are a part of the program you get immense opportunity to advance in your field of interest. You get the best of guidance, information and exposure which is required for deciding what you have to pursue in life. In return the program only demands your time and the drive and passion to learn.


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