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Student Transition Empowerment Program

The Student Transition Empowerment Program (STEP) is an initiative of the Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment (CCEE) created to enhance the recruitment, engagement and retention of first-generation college students accepted to George Mason University. Our mission is to empower students through academic skills, access to resources, community building, self-discovery, and the global citizenship needed to compete in today’s college environment and beyond.

To participate, students must be Virginia residents accepted and committed to attending George Mason University until graduation.

STEP is divided into two key components: STEP Summer and STEP Academic Year and Beyond.

STEP Summer:

Traditionally, STEP Summer is a six week residential program from mid-June to until the late July (of the summer prior to the student’s first fall semester) for selected, first-year George Mason University students. STEP students live on campus during the program (including weekends!), earn three college credits (one class), and build a support network of peers, faculty, and staff prior to the start of their freshman school year.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, STEP 2020 successfully pivoted to an all virtual experience. If summer instruction for Summer 2021 will be administered virtually, STEP Summer 2021 will be virtual in nature and will take place during Summer session F (July 12th, 2021 – August 13th,2021).

STEP Academic Year and Beyond:

STEP students who successfully transition from the summer portion continue on as STEP Scholars. STEP Scholars take University (UNIV) 100 together in the fall and participate in ongoing support and programmatic initiatives throughout their time at Mason. Completion of the program allows students to be eligible to apply for the STEP Scholarship

Application Requirements:

Students are eligible to apply to STEP if they meet the following criteria:

  • Accepted into and plan to attend George Mason University as an incoming first-time freshman for fall 2021;
  • Be a Virginia resident
  • Qualify for in-state tuition
  • Identifies as a first-generation college student based upon the following definition.
    • George Mason University defines a first-generation college student as someone whose parent(s)/legal guardian(s) applies to ONE of the following:
      • Completed a Bachelor’s Degree or community college outside of the United States
      • Highest level of education is from a community college
      • Did not complete a Bachelor’s Degree
        • Certifications are not considered equivalent to a degree

* If other members in your family (siblings, aunts, uncles, etc.) went to college before you, you are still considered a first-generation college student. They may be a great resource as you navigate your college journey.*

Application Process:

To apply, students should follow these steps:

  1. Complete the online application
  2. Have one letter of recommendation submitted by a teacher, counselor, or coach that speaks to your preparedness for the summer program

*Please note: The application will include the following essay questions.  It is recommended that you prepare your responses prior to beginning the application.  Please keep the responses to each question under 500 words.

  1. Why is obtaining a college degree important to you?
  2. How can the STEP program be beneficial to you in achieving this and other personal goals?
  3. Give an example of how you achieved an academic goal. Describe how you motivated yourself to accomplish this goal.
  4. Is there anything else you would like for us to consider in your application?


Application Deadlines:

STEP 2021 Application will become available in late December 2020

Priority Deadline: Tuesday, May 3rd, 2021 by 11:59 pm; Students who apply by this deadline receive priority consideration.

Final Deadline: Tuesday May 10th, 2021 by 11:59 pm; No applications or recommendations will be accepted after this date.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the benefits of participating in STEP?
A: STEP provides students with assistance in their transition to college including, academic preparation, retention, career exploration and empowerment. Once admitted, students receive continuous support through various activities and services.

  1. Students will be clustered into groups according to their majors and/or interests. They will be matched with Mentors who will serve as their social coordinator, tutor, and residence hall advisor— during the summer portion of the program.
  2. Students will meet with their assigned Faculty Advisor (Mason faculty/staff) for scheduled one-on-one appointments. They will discuss their academic/interpersonal advances and challenges.
  3. Students will have the opportunity to attend a number of career exploration
    workshops, network, and build their résumé.
  4. Students will benefit from workshops on topics such as, financial aid, leadership, study skills, time management, diversity, and community service.
  5. Because STEP is a multi-year program, students will establish a wide network of friends, staff, mentors and future associates.
  6. The numerous components of STEP will give students a head-start in the university community and provide essential resources to build upon their future endeavors.
  7. The memories that you build in the summer portion of STEP will leave a lasting impression during your time here at Mason and beyond.

Q: Is STEP over after the summer?
A: No. During the fall you will take UNIV 100 as a cohort. Additionally, there are STEP programs throughout your academic career at George Mason University to network with other STEP students. Also, all STEP students have regular meetings with CCEE professional staff for academic check-ins throughout their time at Mason.

Q: What is the difference between STEP and The Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment?
A: The Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment (CCEE) is the department that houses the STEP Program. STEP is one of the office’s largest initiatives.

Updated on Friday, Oct 15th, 2020