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Prospective scholars

A page within McNair Scholars

Interested in McNair?

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How do I know if I am eligible to apply?

There are two options under which you may qualify to become a McNair Scholar. You must fall under one of these options to qualify. However, if you are unsure if you qualify, please contact one of the McNair Scholars staff.


To qualify as a first-generation college student, the parent(s) you primarily lived with before turning 18 must not have COMPLETED a baccalaureate (or Bachelor) degree. If you meet this criteria, you must also meet our income guidelines to be eligible to apply. Any student that meets these criteria would be eligible, regardless of their race/ethnicity.

Determining Your Income Eligibility


Income eligibility is based on your taxable income. Dependent students must add their income and their parental income. Married students must add their income and their spouse's income.

The U.S. Department of Education updates income eligibility criteria each year... please contact our office to get help determining if you might be eligible. Usually, students who receive Pell grants and/or other need-based financial aid are eligible.


Students are also eligible to become a McNair Scholar if they are Latinox, African American, American Pacific Islander, and/or Native American, regardless of first-generation or income status.

NOTE: This program is only open to U.S. Citizens (including residents of the U.S. Trust Territories or Freely Associated States), and individuals that are permanent residents or in the process of becoming so.

Eligibility blocks

The McNair Scholars program is not specifically aimed at students that would attend one of UWL’s graduate programs; it prepares students for graduate school in general and does not focus on a single graduate institution. Students in the program will be provided individual academic advising to specifically tailor their application strategy to meet their graduate school goals. McNair Scholars will be given fee waivers for graduate school applications, and will be expected to apply to at least 5 graduate programs… so we’re especially eager to assist students who are flexible about where they study.

Not everyone who participates in our program will choose to complete a Ph.D.; however, it is our program’s responsibility to make sure that all of our participants are fully prepared to pursue a Ph.D. after they graduate. The McNair Scholars program prepares students for conducting graduate research, submitting competitive graduate school applications, and securing adequate financial assistance for graduate school. Even if you’re currently moving along a clinical track, or have your sights set on a Masters degree as terminal degree, there is always a chance you might change your mind down the road and explore a career in research!

There are lots of good reasons to take time off between undergraduate and graduate study. Some students have family or financial obligations that take priority. Others want to gain practical experience in the workforce before deciding on a graduate program. These are compelling reasons to wait. But some students postpone graduate study because they are nervous about how they’ll finance their education, uncertain about the application process, or because they sense that they’re somehow “not ready yet”. If this is the case for you, McNair Scholars program could give you the information & confidence you need.

The Department of Education expects that at least 70% of all McNair Scholars will begin graduate school during the fall semester following graduation; this is true whether you graduate in December of May! For this reason, the decision to postpone graduate study could impact your acceptance into the program. Please get in touch with McNair staff to discuss your situation and how we might be able to help.

Research and Mentoring

McNair Scholar conducting research with mentor

Scholars will be paired with a faculty mentor who will assist them in designing and implementing a rigorous, independent 8-10 week research project. Scholars build a strong relationship with and receive ongoing academic advising and mentoring from their mentors.

Knowledge and Training

McNair Scholars conducting field research

Scholars attend our Research Seminar Series of workshops in the Spring semester to prepare them for the undergraduate research process. Over the summer, they attend our weekly Graduate School Seminar Series, where they receive assistance and training on topics related to the graduate school application process and career planning. They also receive technical and skills training from their mentors.

Campus Visits

McNair Scholars on a campus visitMcNair Scholars have the opportunity to visit multiple graduate school campuses in the Midwest. On these visits, they learn about specific programs, connect with faculty members, and gain insight into a typical graduate student’s life. All travel is free for McNair Scholars!

Students have traveled to universities in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, California, New York, Minnesota, North Carolina, and others!

Professional Conferences

McNair Scholar at a professional conference with their mentorScholars and their mentors will travel together to present research at least one regional or national research conference. Scholars are also encouraged to give either poster or oral presentations of their research at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR), the National McNair Conference, and the UWL Research and Creativity Symposium.

Graduate School Recognition

McNair Scholars smiling Being a McNair Scholar demonstrates a seriousness of purpose and dedication toward ambitious goals; graduate schools are familiar with the program’s high standards. As a result, they often offer additional financial incentives to Scholars applying to their graduate programs, ranging from application fee waivers to full-ride fellowships to eligible students. 


Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until all positions are filled.

The McNair Scholars program at UW-La Crosse has a maximum of 28 scholars at a time, with 14 spots reserved for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) students.

We strongly recommend that you meet with a staff member before beginning an application.

Click here to complete an online application.

Click here if you would like to refer a student.