McNair Application

Before Applying

  • Check Eligibility Requirements
  • Note Important Dates and Deadlines
  • Prepare Application Documents
  • Complete Application Process (Application period opens January 1)

Check Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for McNair at Iowa State, you must be:

  • An enrolled Iowa State University undergraduate
  • A US citizen or permanent resident
  • Classified as a junior by Fall term of entry into the program
  • Able to demonstrate that they meet at least one of the following:
    • Member of an underrepresented group in graduate education:  Black (non-Hispanic), Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaskan Native (Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders may be included in this definition) OR
    • First generation college student, who also meets specified low-income guidelines set by the US Department of Education

As an applicant, you must also demonstrate a:

  • Potential for graduate school
  • Strong interest in pursuing a graduate degree immediately following completion of a bachelor’s degree
  • Desire to attain a traditional, research-based Ph.D. (McNair does not prepare students for professional degrees, such as D.V.M, M.D., or a J.D.)

Note Important Dates and Deadlines

  • Applications are accepted for fall admission only
  • Applications open each year on January 1st and close on March 1st or until all slots are filled
  • After the March 1st deadline, all completed applications are reviewed and invites for interviews are sent via email
  • Admission decisions are made prior to the end of the spring semester

Note: Eligibility requirements and other factors, including the number of slots available, are used to make final admission decisions.

Prepare Application Documents

Checking Your Academic Record. McNair does not have a GPA cutoff; however, your academic performance and transcript are evaluated as they will be a factor when you apply to graduate school. 

Writing Brief EssaysTwo (2) essays are required for the McNair application. Each essay has a strict limit of 300 words; therefore, be succinct in answering each bulleted point. 

Requesting Recommendation Letters. One (1) letter is required (two preferred); if possible, one should come from a current Iowa State University professor and/or an individual who can speak to your academic ability, the potential for continuing your education beyond the bachelor’s degree, or your involvement and engagement on campus or in the community. Remember to include recommenders’ names and email addresses on the application. Once your application is submitted, recommenders receive an automatic email with instructions for completing a fillable recommendation link. Prior to applying, contact your recommenders to tell them of your interest in the program and the reason for applying.

Waiving Rights to Review Your Recommendations. Federal law, FERPA* protects the privacy of student educational records and gives enrolled students the right to view the contents of their application files. It is common practice for porgrams like McNair to ask applicants to sign a voluntary waiver of their review rights. Essentially, this means that you are giving up your rights to see the recommendations written on your behalf. You may refuse to waive your rights. Before doing so, please understand and assume that 1) recommenders may be more candid in their statements about you if they know the recommendation is kept confidential, and 2) the option you select is shared with your recommenders. 

*Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974

Complete Application Process

Applying to McNair is a two-step process:

1. Application - After your essays are written and your recommendations have been requested, completing the application should take approximately 20 minutes. 

2. Interview - If you receive an invitation, please expect your interview to last approximately 30-45 minutes. 

Please Pay Close Attention While Applying Online

  • An application will TIME OUT if no activity is detected over a brief period
  • Once you SUBMIT an application, you will not be able to make changes
  • You will receive an EMAIL CONFIRMATION once your application is received by the program
  • McNair reviews applications for completeness and will contact you by email regarding any MISSING INFORMATION or documents


It is our pleasure to assist you in your application to the McNair Program. Please read all information carefully. If you have questions that are not addressed on this website, please feel free to contact us at 515.294.2059 or via email at

Have questions about applying for the McNair Program? Click here for answers to some FAQs.