McNair/Gateway Scholars Program USC

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the program benefits?
  2. How do I know if I qualify?
  3. What if my GPA is below a 3.0?
  4. I'm new at USC, or I don't know any professors -- can I use a letter of recommendation from a community college professor, graduate teaching assistant, or academic advisor?
  5. Does the McNair program choose the research topic?
  6. What if I'm planning on graduating in the spring and am already in the process of applying to graduate school?
  7. I'm a senior. Is it too late to become a McNair Scholar?
  8. I'm a sophomore. Can I still become a McNair Scholar?
  9. What if I'm interested in a professional degree (JD, MD, MBA, etc.) and I still want to participate?
  10. Can I do research outside of Los Angeles?
  11. What is the McNair schedule once I’m accepted?
  12. How will the Summer Research Institute relate to my other summer obligations (e.g., summer classes, summer job, family responsibilities, etc.)?
  13. Will participating in the program cost me anything?

1. What are the Program Benefits?

  • Research Experience
  • Graduate School Preparation
  • Faculty Mentorship
  • Receive Mentoring from a successful Ph.D. Student
  • $2800 Summer Research Stipend
  • GRE Prep Course
  • Fee Waivers for the GRE, Graduate School Applications, etc.
  • Publication Opportunity in USC Undergraduate Journal administered by the program
  • Conference Travel Grants to present research, visit a graduate program, for supplemental research, etc.
  • $200 Graduate School Research Stipend
  • Professional Development
  • Fall Semester Group Travel Visit
  • Individualized, Comprehensive Advising: academic, career, personal
  • Workshops
  • Summer Housing
  • The McNair/Gateway Scholar Gear!
    • Polo
    • Tee-shirt
    • Backpack
    • Business Cards
  • Presentation Experience and Professional Development
  • Assistance in securing admission and financial aid for enrollment in graduate school programs

2. How do I know if I qualify?

Who can apply? What's the program eligibility?

  • USC undergraduates enrolled full-time with sophomore, junior, or senior status (only seniors that will Not be graduating Spring/Summer 2015 are eligible)
  • Cumulative USC GPA of at least 3.0
  • All USC undergraduate majors are eligible. Yes ANY MAJOR!
  • U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident status
  • Strong desire to pursue graduate-level studies, especially at the Ph.D.-level
  • Strong desire to learn about how to conduct formal research and to engage in a real-world research project
  • Participate during the Spring 2015 Semester in a Research Methods Course/Graduate School Preparation Seminar (only on Tuesdays, 12:30 - 1:50 p.m.)
  • Participate during Summer 2015 in an Institute with a focus on Research Training, Graduate School Preparation, & Professional Development (only three days per week from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.)
  • AND must meet one of the following criteria: (1) First-generation College Student; (2) From a Low-income background (using federal income guidelines); (3) From an Underrepresented background in higher education (Black/African American, Chicano(a)/Mexican American, Latino(a)/Hispanic, Native American, Native Alaskan, & Pacific Islander). Please note that all students are eligible so along as they meet one of the aforementioned criteria.

First generation college is defined by the federal government as a student who has not resided with or received primary support from a parent who has received a BA degree or equivalent.

Low-income guidelines are established by the federal government. Please refer to http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/trio/incomelevels.html to determine if you meet this criteria.

The US Department of Education considers the following students underrepresented in higher education: Black/African American, Chicano(a)/Mexican American, Latino(a)/ Hispanic American, Native American, Native Alaskan, and Asian Pacific Islander.

3. What if my GPA is below a 3.0?
Graduate admission committees generally look for doctoral applicants to have minimum GPA of 3.00. Only grades earned at USC will qualify applicants for McNair/Gateway. Admission to the McNair/Gateway Scholars Program is competitive, but applicants are encouraged to contact the McNair/Gateway staff to discuss special circumstances. McNair/Gateway Scholars must have a satisfactory GPA by the end of the Spring semester. If you are working on correcting a grade, or feel that your GPA will be above a 3.0 by the end of the Spring semester, you should apply for the McNair/Gateway Scholars Program and explain any special circumstances in a letter accompanying your application.

4. I'm new at USC, or I don't know any professors -- can I use a letter of recommendation from a community college professor, graduate teaching assistant, or academic advisor?
No. Letters of recommendation must come from a USC faculty member (tenure track, lecturer, adjunct professor). McNair/Gateway aims to equip the students it serves with the academic and professional skills needed to succeed as aspiring doctoral students. USC faculty are an important facet of the McNair/Gateway program and may serve as research mentors. Obtaining a letter of recommendation may be the first important step in establishing a mentoring relationship. McNair/Gateway applicants are encouraged to review important materials available on obtaining a letter of recommendation. and consulting with the McNair/Gateway staff prior to approaching a potential faculty recommender.

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5. Does the McNair/Gateway Program choose the research topic?
No. Applicants to McNair/Gateway select their own research question and author a research proposal on their own. The McNair/Gateway Scholars Program is open to USC students in all majors and all academic disciplines. During the spring semester, AMST 392: Undergraduate Research Methods course, we will assist all Scholars through a series of workshops and classes that focus on drafting the research proposal and selecting a faculty mentor to assist you in the research process.

6. What if I'm planning on graduating in the spring and am already in the process of applying to graduate school?
The McNair/Gateway Schools Program seeks to assist students with their graduate school preparation and would not be beneficial to graduating students in the spring of the current academic year. McNair/Gateway is a two-year program with the core component administered in the summer (the annual Summer Research Institute).

7. I'm a senior. Is it too late to become a McNair/Gateway Scholar?
No it is not too late! You can apply as long as you have the fall semester remaining in the next academic school year (the Fall semester following the annual Summer Research Institute).

8. I'm a sophomore. Can I still become a McNair/Gateway Scholar?
Yes! We highly encourage sophomores to apply as long as you will have completed 60 units (transfer or earned at USC) by the end of the Spring semester.

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9. What if I'm interested in a professional degree (JD, MD, MBA, etc.) and I still want to participate?
The aim of the McNair/Gateway Scholars Program is to diversify the faculty in U.S. institutions of higher education by reducing the barriers to the Ph.D. for underrepresented individuals in graduate education. McNair/Gateway recognizes that first-generation/low-income undergraduate students and undergraduates students of color have a number of career possibilities to consider outside of academia. However, individuals to who demonstrate particular interest in and motivation for doctoral study and the academic profession are likely to find the program satisfies their short and longer-term goals.

10. Can I do research outside of Los Angeles?
Maybe. Students who wish to conduct research away from Los Angeles must explain in their proposals why it is essential to travel for their research project and have it endorsed by a USC faculty mentor. We will review the possibility of travel on a case by case basis. McNair/Gateway Scholars are encouraged to remain in Los Angeles since a critical component of the summer research will be the McNair/Gateway Summer Research Institute and regular meetings with graduate students and other McNair/Gateway Scholars in the same discipline. Attendance and Participation in the Summer Research Institute is mandatory. Funds for travel are not provided by the McNair/Gateway Scholars Program.

11. What is the McNair/Gateway schedule once I’m accepted?
See the program structure.

12. How will the Summer Research Institute relate to my other summer obligations (e.g., summer classes, summer job, family responsibilities, etc.)?
The Summer Research Institute in an intensive, time-consuming program that requires dedication and a full-time commitment. Scholars are paid a summer stipend and provided on campus housing to offset the opportunity and financial costs associated with full time study. McNair/Gateway Scholars may not take summer classes. In order to give summer research the attention it needs, scholars are not advised to work at all (and definitely not more than 12 hours per week) during the summer research weeks. However, limited summer employment is allowed following consent from the USC McNair/Gateway Scholars Program staff. McNair/Gateway works closely with the USC Financial Aid Office to ensure participation in McNair/Gateway does not adversely affect student financial aid packages.
**Individual circumstances vary; all applicants and McNair/Gateway Scholars are strongly encouraged to consult with the McNair/Gateway staff to discuss personal circumstances.

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13. Will participating in the Program cost me anything?
No, just some time and dedication! We will cover the costs of any McNair/Gateway required materials, you will not pay tuition dollars for McNair/Gateway seminars or courses, and we will even cover reasonable research costs during your summer project. We will cover travel costs and registration fees for various conferences. We will even pay for your attendance to social and cultural events (i.e. plays, musicals, concerts, guest lectures, non-American restaurants, etc.) with other McNair Scholars. We are here to make academic life more enriching for you, not more expensive.

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