McNair Scholars


The UW Ronald E. McNair Program offers seminar and GRE preparatory courses, at least one per quarter, for its scholars to provide structured support as students go through the graduate school exploration, preparation, and application process. Courses can be taken for 0-2 credits depending on student need, and are on a credit / no-credit grading scale. Barring scheduling conflicts, McNair Scholars are expected to take all courses with the exception of Different Ways of Knowing, which is optional.

Below is information on each of the courses we offer by quarter, starting with the seminar courses for students who begin the McNair Scholars Program in the fall as juniors. Students who begin our program as rising seniors will start classes in Spring Quarter 1. To see how these courses fit in with the overall McNair Scholar experience, please refer to the Program Experience Timeline.

Fall Quarter 1

Junior Seminar: Graduate School Exploration

This seminar provides a structured way to explore academic, research, and career interests so that students gain clarity about their graduate school and career goals. By conducting informational interviews, attending community and campus events, and applying for experiential learning and funding opportunities, students will create their unique pathway towards graduate school and develop the skills and experience they need to become more competitive graduate school applicants.

This seminar has three primary learning goals:

  • Scholars will clearly define and articulate their academic, research, and career interests/plans.
  • Scholars will build a strong and supportive McNair Scholar community.
  • Scholars will pursue experiential learning and funding opportunities.

Different Ways of Knowing: Exploring Research Methodology (Optional)

This seminar explores how to conduct research. Students will learn how to develop research questions, how to find faculty research mentors, and how to determine appropriate methods for investigating their research interests. Students will explore different research methodologies and develop a research proposal by the end of the course.

This course is particularly recommended for McNair Scholars who are new to research and looking for additional support in developing their undergraduate research project.

Winter Quarter 1

Public Speaking and Research Presentations

This seminar offers students the opportunity for students to develop public speaking, research presentation, and interviewing skills. By developing and fine tuning elevator pitches, participating in mock interviews, creating a research poster, and doing a short oral presentation, students will be able to successfully present, network, and interview during the graduate school preparation and application process.

This seminar has three primary learning goals:

  • Scholars will gain experience in public speaking and in presenting their research.
  • Scholars will learn about best practices for designing effective research posters and oral presentations.
  • Scholars will learn and practice communicating their research and education goals in preparation for graduate school interviews and networking at professional and research conferences and meetings.

Spring Quarter 1

*McNair Scholars who begin the program as rising seniors will start this quarter.

Graduate School Planning

The goal for this seminar is to support students’ preparation for graduate school admission. Through a structured process and interactive environment, students will be guided through the initial stages of their graduate applications. Through this course, students will create Excel spreadsheets to track application due dates, application materials, and potential faculty mentors as well as an e-portfolio. The e-portfolio will contain an up-to-date CV, general Statement of Purposes and Personal History Statements, and a writing sample of the student’s best academic work. An e-portfolio will also contain samples of poster or oral research presentations if applicable. Through these assignments, by the end of the quarter, students will have identified potential graduate programs, prepared for contacting graduate mentors, and created drafts of materials required in graduate applications. E-portfolios may be sent to potential graduate school mentors and letter of recommendation writers.

This seminar has five primary learning goals: By the end of this seminar, each student will…

  • fully understand graduate school requirements and the necessary steps to prepare for graduate school admission.
  • develop a comprehensive list of potential graduate programs and mentors.
  • identify all applicable scholarships and fellowships and create a funding plan for graduate school.
  • finalize their e-portfolios.
  • learn how to create competitive graduate school application packages.

Summer Quarter 1

GRE Preparation

Starting first week of August, the McNair Program offers weekly, 4-hour GRE prep courses for 6 weeks. Each week, 2 hours is spent covering topics in Quantitative Reasoning (Math) and 2 hours covering topics in Verbal Reasoning / Analytical Writing culminating in a full-practice GRE test session. Students have their choice of only attending Math or Verbal review, or specific class sessions covering particular review topics. Students in this class will work closely with Magoosh GRE Prep Tools and Tutorials to supplement in-class review.

The GRE Prep course has three primary learning goals:

  • Students will be comfortable and familiar with the GRE test format.
  • Students will have developed test-taking skills so they can best demonstrate their knowledge within a testing environment.
  • Students will gain understanding of the basic math, verbal, and writing concepts covered in the GRE.

Fall Quarter 2

Senior Seminar: Graduate School Applications

This seminar strives to prepare and enhance students’ preparation for graduate school. Each week focuses on a key element of the graduate application process. The course is structured to tackle components of the application logically and chronologically. By the end of the quarter, students will have the necessary tools to complete a graduate school application for admission. In addition to offering a structured application process, we offer a supportive and interactive environment to help maneuver applying and attending graduate school.

This seminar has three primary learning goals:

  • Scholars can clearly define and articulate their academic, research, and career interests/plans and how they are qualified to pursue those goals, particularly within a written format.
  • Students will have completed at least one Ph.D. application (unless there is no direct to Ph.D. pathway available within their discipline) and at least one application for fellowship or grant funding.
  • Students will gain skills in mindfulness and stress-management so they can perform self-care.

Different Ways of Knowing: Exploring Research Methodology (Optional)

See course description above, under Fall Quarter 1.

Winter Quarter 2

Public Speaking and Research Presentations

See course description above, under Winter Quarter 1.

Scholars who took this course as juniors have the option to take this course again or attend specific class sessions to refresh their public speaking skills.