4 reasons you can’t get into nursing school


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For many people, nursing is more than just a career—it’s an avocation. Perhaps you’ve known you wanted to work in the healing profession since you were little, taking care of dolls covered in Band-Aids.

Now, as you set out to make your dream job a reality, it’s time to enroll in nursing school. What a shock and a disappointment to find out that you’re not being accepted! If rejection letters are rolling in, don’t despair. Here are some of the reasons this might be happening—and what you can do about it.

1. “Good Enough” Grades
Are you satisfied with your 3.3 GPA? The schools you are trying to get into probably won’t be. They may require a higher GPA to even consider your application. Or they may assign you a lower ranking in the admissions consideration process that puts you at the back of the pack. Both of these things can effectively prevent you from getting into a program.

What can you do to boost your grade point average? Some prospective nursing students retake college courses to see if they can earn better grades. If you just need a slight boost, that strategy might work. However, if you are too far behind, you may be better served by figuring out why you are doing poorly. It could be a problem with your study habits or your ability to organize and manage your time. You need to figure out that stuff before you get into nursing school anyway, since the study requirements are just going to get more challenging.

Instead of spending semester after semester trying to raise your GPA, consider bypassing that issue entirely by applying to an ADN course at a vocational school. They will expect you to pass an entrance exam, but may not be picky about your previous grades. You won’t graduate with a degree if you go the trade school route, but you should be able to qualify to take the NCLEX (double check to make sure before you enroll).

2. Missing Prerequisites
Were your college days a blur between late-night cramming sessions and late-night parties? Double check to see whether you really did take the kind of required classes that most nursing schools expect. This generally includes:

  • Anatomy and physiology (1, 2 and sometimes 3)
  • English 101
  • Math (the specific course may not matter)
  • Psychology 101
  • Sociology 101

Additional requirements vary a lot by school and may include public speaking, health ethics, chemistry, biology, microbiology, nutrition, humanities, etc. Basically, they want you to know science that is applicable to humans and microbes, and how to communicate and deal with people. Be prepared to spend a semester catching up if you missed anything required for the schools you are applying to enter.

3. Shifting Test Requirements
Have you taken the TEAS IV, TEAS V, HESI A2 and GRE? There’s no telling which one(s) a nursing school will require before they even consider your application. There is no fully standardized testing process to qualify for nursing programs across the U.S. Instead, each school can set its own requirements—and they can change those requirements every year if they darned well feel like it. You may have worked hard to jump through one hoop only to find out that there are still more hurdles ahead. There are two ways to handle this:

  1. Only apply to schools that accept scores for the tests you’ve already taken.
  2. Take as many tests as you can so you’ll qualify for every school you apply to. Consider it good practice for learning the kind of concentration and determination you’ll need to pass the NCLEX!

4. Too Many Applicants
In a time of record shortages in the nursing labor force, it seems counterintuitive that the admissions process is so competitive. Unfortunately, there is also a very real shortage in the number of qualified nursing programs in this country. Plus, everyone knows the “common wisdom” that the job prospects are better for nursing grads than for graduates in many other fields. You may be one of hundreds of applicants vying for a few openings. That could mean you end up waiting two to three years just to get into the school of your choice. Or you might even find yourself relying on a lottery system and hoping your name gets picked out of a hat. Who would have thought that the future of your career might depend on something so random!

Try to make yourself stand out from the herd. Sometimes, this means treating your nursing school application like a job application. Follow up, try to get face time with decision makers, ask what you can do to be a more competitive candidate. Remember that even lottery-driven selection processes must be examined for fairness and inclusiveness. Make a case for why you bring something unique to the program.

If all else fails, consider relocating. Some nursing schools have more open spots available than others. A willingness to move to a different city or state can actually work in your favor if you’re looking for cheaper tuition or a more relaxed set of admissions requirements.

Finally, remember the most important advice of all: Don’t give up on your dream! If you have your heart set on becoming a nurse, all the hard work and waiting will be worth it.


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