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 learn how to get into nursing school. But getting accepted into the school of your choice isn’t always easy. 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.
- “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 prerequisite 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 program at a vocational school. They will expect you to pass an entrance exam, but they may not be picky about your grades in high school. 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).
- 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)
Math (the specific course may not matter)
Some nursing programs require 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.
Check your specific nursing program to make sure you have fulfilled all your requirements before sending in your application.
- Shifting Test Requirements
Have you taken the TEAS IV, TEAS V, HESI A2 and GRE? Most nurse programs require that you take at least one test of essential academic ability. 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:
If you’d rather avoid another grueling testing experience, only apply to schools that accept scores for the tests you’ve already taken.
Take as many tests as you can so you’ll qualify for as many nursing programs as possible. Consider it good practice for learning the kind of concentration and determination you’ll need to pass the NCLEX!
- 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!
The truth is some nursing schools are more competitive than others.
Urban areas with large population centers tend to have lots of nursing candidates, so consider moving to a less populated area to increase your chances of being accepted. These areas may have a hard time recruiting and retaining providers, so they may have more relaxed admissions standards.
Once you earn a degree, you can try applying for jobs all over the country. Rural areas tend to have a lot of job openings, but they don’t pay as much as those you’d find in Los Angeles or New York City. You might learn to love your small town as you pursue your career path.
- Standing Out in the Crowd
If there are too many applicants applying to your chosen program, try to make yourself stand out from the herd. Sometimes, this means treating your BSN program 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.
Make sure you have several strong letters of recommendation from respected figures, including your former teachers, employers, and mentors. Every aspect of your application should revolve around the nursing industry, including your essays and letters of recommendation. Emphasis the parts of yourself that would make a great caregiver, such as your appetite for knowledge, people skills, and experiences taking care of others.
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. Continue working on your application until you achieve your dream of becoming a registered nurse. We need as many healthcare providers as we can get as the national nursing shortage lingers on. Use this guide to learn how to get into nursing school without sacrificing your dream along the way.