Nursing is a great career for those who want to help others and enjoy science. It can be quite rough when it comes to applying and entering a nursing program. Many nursing programs are very competitive and many nursing schools only accept a few selected students each semester, which all have to pass a rigorous set of standards.
We’ve contacted 10 experts that consists of Deans, instructors, and lecturers to give their advice on the best practices you should consider when applying to nursing school.
How To Get Into Nursing School
#1 Judith Fitzgerald Miller, PhD, RN, FAAN – Dean, University of Missouri School of Nursing
The best advice about how to get into a nursing school is to successfully complete the required prerequisites while in high school, excel with academics and have good answers to interview questions about why nursing. These answers might be a desire/passion: to serve others, to advocate for the vulnerable; to enhance the health and well-being of others; to enable families to grow and develop; to foster healthy communities; to address leading health problems such as mental health issues etc etc.
#2 Meredith Wallace Kazer, PhD, APRN, FAAN – Dean, Fairfield University School of Nursing
Nursing is as much a science as it is an art. Building a strong foundation in biology and chemistry is essential to success in any nursing program. Successful nursing applicants demonstrate that they’ve challenged themselves in these courses and done well.
#3 Judy A. Beal, DNSc, RN, FAAN – Dean, Simmons College School of Nursing and Health Sciences
My best advice is to excel in your science courses…Challenge yourself with AP science courses if offered.
#4 Barbara Broome, PhD, RN, FAAN – Dean, Kent State University College of Nursing
My best advice is to investigate the criteria for acceptance into the university and for admission into the nursing program. Then once admitted to the university, seek a mentor to help you navigate the programs and expectations. Success, in many cases, will depend on the GPA in the sciences. So work hard to achieve high grades and if you receive a low grade (C), check to see if the policy will permit a retake of the course and how that grade in calculated into the GPA.
#5 Anita G. Hufft, PhD, RN – Dean, Texas Woman’s University College of Nursing
1. Do your homework and read, read, read any resources that identify the requirements for admission so you can prepare yourself with the right coursework and meet all admission requirements.
2. Focus on all pre-requisite coursework and achieve high grades; this may mean slowing down a bit and taking fewer courses in order to meet academic and personal demands. Sometimes life can be overwhelming and students can underestimate the obligations that come with coursework, family, jobs, and their own personal needs.
3. Study and/or attend a prep session for the nurse entrance examination used by any program
4. Make sure that nursing is the career that is the best match for your interests and abilities. There are many academic majors and careers that allow students to pursue their desire to help people or to be involved in health care.
5. Access all available resources – career counselors, financial aid, academic advising… get really knowledgeable and access everything that can give you an academic advantage.
6. Apply to more than one nursing program using NursingCAS® – an online centralized application system that allows the student to upload data once and apply to multiple nursing programs at one time.
#6 Patricia (Patty) Ravert, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN-Dean and Professor, Brigham Young University College of Nursing
- Meet with a program counselor to help you understand the
requirements and process.
- Determine how the decision is made of who they accept into the program.
1. High school or college grades (all classes or certain classes)
b. Testing scores – which test and what is the cut-off score
c. Service and experience
d. Interview scores
e. Writing abilities – how is this accessed?
- Do the best you can in all the areas the program uses to determine who they will accept.
- Prepare for the Interview (if this part of the admission process)
a. Learn to give a 1-minute “elevator speech” about yourself…use it when the interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself.” Make eye contact and be confident.
b. Make a good first impression…make sure your clothing and appearance is appropriate; personal grooming and the way you dress are important. Use good posture. Be courteous and respectful to everyone you meet (please and thank you). Turn off your cell phone. Show interest in the program and a willingness to learn.
c. Use an appropriate, and simple email address…programs do not want to contact someone at SuperGoodLooking@hottie.com for an interview. This type of e-mail address is considered unprofessional.
- Meet with a program counselor to help you understand the
d. Be yourself and be prepared with a story or two to share your experience, skills, and desire to be a nurse. Be positive do not say anything bad about people or previous experiences (teachers or employers or other students).
- Follow the application process exactly as outlined.
- Make sure you meet all deadlines…extensions are rarely given.
- Wait to hear if you are accepted.
a . If accepted, celebrate!
b. If you are not accepted, make an appointment with a counselor and ask how you can strengthen your application.
#7 LaTashia Kiel, MSN, RN, CEN-Instructor of Clinical Nursing-University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing
There are so many people applying for nursing programs across the world. And while the need for nurses is high, the number of schools and places for clinical experiences remains a challenge. In order to set yourself apart from the other thousand students that have applied for nursing school, I suggest using every experience that you can to maximize your uniqueness on your application.
For example, I worked at a fast food restaurant in high school. This taught me customer service skills, responsibility, timeliness, cleanliness, and the value of food in relation to families and communities. That statement would appeal to the group chosen to review applications. Who knew that job at Burger King would get me accepted!
#8 Elizabeth Crooks, DNP, RN, CNE-Instructor-The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing
I sit on both undergraduate and graduate admissions committees. Most admissions decisions are made based on the following: rigor of the student’s course work, overall GPA, SAT/ACT scores, demonstration of the ability to persevere (success in sports, a long-term relationship with a service organization, employment, etc), references, and clarity of the personal statement.
Applications all begin to look a like after awhile with students who have similar transcripts, admissions exam scores, extracurricular activities, and references. That is why it is important to have a well-composed personal statement. The applicant should be able to fully answer the prompt, craft a compelling argument, and demonstrate that they know what professional nursing entails.
In addition, it is helpful if they have insight into the strengths that they would bring to the discipline. Simply wanting to help people or being impressed by the nurses who cared for their sick grandparent is not enough to convince the admissions committee that the student is a good fit for the program.
#9 Ann Deerhake MSN, RN, CNL, CCRN-Clinical Instructor of Practice-The Ohio State University College of Nursing
I think I would encourage future nursing students to work or volunteer within the healthcare setting in which they would like to practice in the future. Being able to speak to and understand entry-level nursing issues can give a student quite an advantage clinically, as well as assist them in their future learning. It is much easier to comprehend abstract nursing concepts when you possess some applicable healthcare experience.
#10 Jill Jordan-Lecturer-University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Nursing
- Be aware that nursing programs are very competitive with roughly about 50 openings per year and 2000 applicants.
- The applications for the BSN program are based on a point system which means that applicants will get more points for a higher GPA.
- The self statement is very important: Explain why you want to be a nurse. Everyone wants to help people and help them do well, but you will need to have a strong personal story as to why you want to become a nurse.
- You need to have good references. However, your references should not be from family or friends, but from a professor, volunteer manager (Red Cross, etc), or leadership (pres of club).
- It is also best to include a multi-cultural statement. This is something that shows that you can relate to other people from all over and speaking another language helps with your application.
- Aim to be competitive in the UCLA system. It is a driven and very fast-paced program, meaning that you WILL graduate in 4 years.
- The instructors are guides on how to find the information and give resources that you need to have to hustle in the program.
- Having volunteer work on your application is important. Your volunteer work should include something in the healthcare profession, candy stripers, or any other medical experience.
- UCLA does take transfer students. However, if you have below a 3.8 GPA when you graduate high school, try going to a smaller school for a few years, get good grades at, and then apply to the nursing program at UCLA. Only accept 10 transfer students per year, so if you are not accepted for transfer, keep trying and don’t give up.
- It is also a good idea to get prerequisites done before applying to the program if possible.
Nursing School Admission Resources
Are you hoping to enroll in a nursing school? If so, you may very well be required to take the HESI A2 or ATI TEAS 6 exam as part of the application process. On the links below, we’ll explain everything you need to know about these important exams.