Nursing School Prep

Four Tips for Getting into Nursing School

Nursing School PrepJune 17, 2016

You’ve decided to take the plunge and apply to nursing school, or to enroll in an online nursing program. Congratulations. You’ve decided on a career in nursing. You’re poised to embark on a career path with many challenges and hopefully even more rewards. So what can you do now, before it’s time to file that application, to better your chances of acceptance—and success? 

Let’s not sugarcoat it: Gaining acceptance to an accredited nursing program can be difficult. The career is in great demand, and competition for slots can be intense. Here are four things you can do to improve your chances of being accepted into a reputable nursing program. 

1. Keep Up the Good Grades

There’s far more to being a good nurse than being good at taking tests. But, unfortunately, tests, and grades, remain the shorthand standards by which most prospective students are judged. You won’t necessarily be expected to maintain a 4.0 GPA—most programs have a minimal cutoff of about 2.75 GPA for entry.

But the higher your grades the better your chances when it comes to competing with otherwise equally-qualified applicants. Give special consideration to science courses, too. Higher grades in hard sciences or higher mathematics, such as anatomy, biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, or statistics, can go a long way towards counterbalancing any low grades you may have earned in subjects of less interest to nursing admissions personnel. Few admissions counselors will hold it against you if you failed to earn above a C in philosophy, for example. But a C in biology could raise a red flag. From a medical educator’s perspective, struggling with Nietzsche is one thing. Struggling with a basic life science is another. 

2. Do Your Homework

It’s helpful to do your research. Not the assigned kind. The kind where you take initiative and research admissions policies and procedures at the institutions you’re interested in. Nursing programs often involve jumping through hoops not required by other majors or areas of study. Examples include background checks and/or drug testing.

Many require you to take the Health Education Systems Incorporated (HESI) exam, and to achieve at least a score of 75% in order to be considered for admission. The standardized exam provides an overview of your knowledge of core subjects, such as science, English and math. Scoring well on the exam is also a good indicator that you will do well on the NCLEX-RN exam, which you will eventually be required to pass, to obtain certification.

3. Hedge Your Bets

One way to improve your chance of acceptance to an accredited institution is to apply to multiple programs simultaneously. The more applications you submit, the greater your chances of being accepted to one or more programs. Programs can and do turn away potential students routinely. There are seldom enough open slots for every applicant. Improve your odds with tis simple maneuver.

4. Stay Motivated

The waiting game can drag on for semesters or even years before you gain acceptance to a suitable nursing program. Don’t lose your motivation to succeed if you don’t gain acceptance immediately. Perseverance and patience often pay off. Use this time to take steps to improve any factors that might be impeding your progression, such as less-than-great HESI scores, or a less-than-stellar GPA.