University of Delaware
The Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program recently welcomed more than 50 high school students to the University of Delaware during an outreach program on college preparation.

McNair outreach

UD's McNair Scholars Program hosts college preparation event


1:47 p.m., July 30, 2013--The Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program welcomed more than 50 high school students to the University of Delaware during an outreach program on college preparation held Thursday, July 18, in Lerner Hall. 

The visit by Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS) students from Delaware Technical Community College’s Wilmington Campus included a UD tour guided by McNair Scholars and a college transition panel, and was topped off with an ice cream social.

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The McNair Scholars Program, named for the late physicist and NASA astronaut Ronald E. McNair, prepares first-generation college students, low-income students and students from historically underrepresented ethnic groups to matriculate into doctoral programs in their field of study. 

“We want each of you to attend college,” Kimberly Saunders, director of the McNair Scholars Program at UD, told the UBMS students. “Apply to the University of Delaware even if you think you might want to attend an out-of-state college.” 

Saunders noted that UD hosts three TRIO programs -- Upward Bound, Student Support Services and the McNair Scholars Program. 

“If you come to UD, you will find we have TRIO programs that will give you the same type of attention and support that you get from your current teachers in Upward Bound,” Saunders said. “We also have the McNair Scholars Program, but we can only accept a limited number of students who have at least a 3.0 grade point average in math and science.”

Planning for college

Alejandra McFern, a UD admissions counselor, outlined a five-step planning strategy for students choosing to pursue college after high school.

Noting that decision-making is a process, not an event, McFern said the first step includes analyzing reasons for going to college and taking a realistic assessment of individual strengths and weaknesses.

“Next, you need to look at majors and degrees offered, as well as educational programs, admissions policies, financial aid, support and internship opportunities,” McFern said. 


“You need to be wiling to get out and do things,” McFern said. “Make sure the school has what you need to succeed.” 

Visiting colleges is the third step, which also includes compiling a comparison checklist of the advantages and disadvantages of attending each school and getting an overview of their admissions policies.

Developing a plan to finance college, step four, includes determining the actual cost of attending an institution, while applying for financial aid as early as possible.

“You need to check with college officials for accurate costs,” McFern said. “Don’t eliminate any college because of costs before receiving information on the kinds of financial assistance they offer.”

Reviewing and finalizing college plans, step five, involves showing initiative, being assertive, talking with parents and counselors and following up on those applications.

“Keep your communication lines open,” McFern said. “You also should have a separate box for placing information from each college. Pay attention to deadlines for scholarships and financial aid.” 

Coming to college

Following the admissions presentation, a panel of McNair Scholars Program students fielded questions on issues ranging from college applications to student activities and mentoring.

The UBMS students expressed interest in academics, club and intramural sports, campus parking, working, and social life outside the classrooms.

Guest students also wanted to learn how to become involved in the Center for Black Culture’s multicultural programs, such as the one that brought Maya Angelou to campus last spring. 

Comments from visiting students, who enjoyed the ice cream social and interactive college transition activities, included, “We had a great time and we learned a lot about UD and support services for diverse populations such as the McNair Scholars office and the Center for Black Culture.”

Saunders said the outreach event was filled with excitement and college transition awareness-building, affording UBMS students the opportunity to gain college preparation advisement from the McNair Program students and staff. 

The panel discussion by McNair students was received as being honest and informational, and the visiting UBMS staff noted that the event was well organized, Saunders said. “Our McNair Scholars were excited to reflect on their successful progress from high school to college and to share tips on preparing for the college applications process,” she added.

The UBMS students and staff felt that the McNair Scholars were impressive in many ways, including their academic achievements, graduate school goals, current leadership roles, knowledge of UD resources and tips about preparing for college. The visitors also said they appreciated the fact that many of the McNair Scholars graduated from some of the same high schools in which they are currently enrolled as UBMS students.


Saunders said that mentoring UBMS students was a priority initiative in the UD McNair Scholars Program’s recently awarded renewal grant, with the goal of increasing the amount of first-generation, low-income and underrepresented pipeline students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Having McNair Scholars serve as mentors to current high school students, especially those participating in STEM college preparation programs in Delaware, including the UBMS and the Forum to Advance Minorities in Engineering (FAME), will help achieve this goal, Saunders said. 

“We intend to match each of the UBMS students who attended the July 18 outreach event with a McNair mentor,” Saunders said. “During the academic year, the McNair Scholars will continue outreach efforts as part of their community engagement requirements, by mentoring pipeline STEM students and visiting selected local high schools as college preparation panelists.”  

TRIO programs at UD

The Upward Bound programs are part of the federal TRIO family of educational opportunity programs for students from low-income and first-generation college backgrounds. 

In addition to Upward Bound, UD also sponsors two TRIO programs for matriculated students: Student Support Services and McNair Scholars.

These programs work together to ensure that eligible UD students — such as those graduating from the Upward Bound programs — have the necessary resources and opportunities to succeed in college and enter graduate programs of their choice.

Article by Jerry Rhodes

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

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