Penn State Graduate School Penn State Penn State Graduate School

Application Process

Overview of the Application Process

The McNair Scholars Program is funded to work with a minimum of 34 eligible undergraduates each academic year. As students may enter the program in their sophomore year, some students are active program participants for up to five regular semesters before graduation (the norm is two to three semesters for upper-level students). Each fall semester, the McNair Scholars Program recruits a variable number (usually 12 to 15) of new scholars to fill slots that will be vacated by graduating scholars. The McNair Scholars Program recruits new members once each academic year during the fall semester. The recruitment period begins mid-September and concludes in November.

Recruitment of McNair Scholars Candidates

To make Penn State University Park undergraduates aware of the McNair Scholars Program and its benefits, the program conducts information sessions in the fall for interested students where they may meet current scholars and staff and learn more about the program. Program staff members also engage in student outreach by making presentations to campus organizations and classes. Faculty and administrators are invited to nominate or refer students to the program as well by using this form:

  • McNair Scholars Program Nomination Form (DOC) | (PDF)
    The following form is available in Adobe PDF and accessible Microsoft Word (DOC) format.  The accessible Word document is designed to be used specifically with screen reader technology. Please use the PDF version of this form unless you require the use of screen reader technology.

Fall Recruitment Information Sessions

The 2016 Fall Recruitment Information Sessions are now over. Check back again in September 2017 for Fall 2017 sessions.


We do not provide an online application so you will have to attend one of the information sessions or meet with the Program Director to be provided access to the electronic application materials. Why? The application process requires a time investment, and we want to help. We want to make sure you qualify before you invest the time in applying. We also want to make sure that you are ready to make the commitment to a Ph.D. program.

When you hand in the application packet, your completed packet consists of:

  • A completed application form
  • A statement of purpose
  • One copy of your college transcripts from all institutions attended, including Penn State
  • A copy of your family’s income tax form from the previous year
  • A copy of your financial award letter
  • Three letters of recommendation (at least two must be from faculty)

We highly recommend that if you cannot attend any fall information session, you call us at 814- 863-1095 to make an appointment to speak with our Director, Teresa Tassotti, or email her directly about the program and the application process.

The application process for the 2016-17 program year has concluded. Check back again next fall to be considered for the 2017-2018 program year.


After the submission deadline, applications are screened to determine eligibility. Eligible candidates are then notified by email to contact the McNair office to make an appointment for a November interview with the McNair Scholars Program Admissions Committee (consisting of McNair staff and representatives from the Graduate School and various colleges/schools on campus). After interviews are held, members of this committee meet to share assessments of the candidates and make final recommendations for selected candidates. The program will notify all candidates of their application status by late November or early December.

Successful candidates become McNair Scholars in December and fully enter into program activities immediately.

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