In most cases, prospective nursing students should plan for a full year in order to properly apply to nursing school. During this year, you can research schools that interest you, determine which schools you're interested in applying to, submit your applications, and await the schools' decisions.
This guide walks you through the steps you need to take before you apply, during the application cycle, and after you submit your application to the nursing schools of your choice.
Nursing School Timeline at a Glance
Staying organized and following a set of specific steps can help you apply to nursing school and increase your likelihood of acceptance. It typically takes at least several months to complete the entire process from start to finish. Here's what a typical application timeline looks like.
Complete Required Prerequisites for Nursing School
Collect Necessary Application Materials
Prepare For and Take the GRE
Apply to Desired Nursing School Programs
Continue Working or Volunteering as You Await Results
Prepare for Nursing Program Interviews
Receive Acceptance or Rejection Letter from Schools
Before You Apply to Nursing School
Make the nursing school application process simpler and more streamlined by following this preparation checklist. These steps ensure you're prepared to meet application requirements and prevent delays.
- Complete any and all prerequisite courses during undergraduate studies. Meeting with an advisor early can ensure a smooth application process.
- Research the different nursing programs you may want to enroll in. Deciding what program you want is an individual decision. Factors to consider include preferred learning style, future education and career goals, how long you want to spend in school, what specialties are offered, along with personal preferences on location, school culture, and extracurricular opportunities.
- Volunteer in nursing facilities to help boost your application's attractiveness. Field experience is not always a requirement, but volunteering in various nursing settings can help hone your preferred nursing interest.
- Take the GRE well before application time. Register for a few different dates to take your GRE. Because application deadlines vary from school to school, you can take the GRE at any point, so long as it's well before your application deadline.
- Obtain your transcripts. If you went to multiple schools before applying for nursing school, be sure to order and collect official transcripts from all colleges or universities you attended.
- Obtain your letters of recommendation. It's best to give mentors or professors a heads up well before the application date so they have plenty of time to write your letters of recommendation.
During the Nursing School Application Cycle
Once you've narrowed down the list of schools you want to apply to and have your materials in order, follow these steps to submit your application.
- Confirm the application deadline for the schools you're applying to. Dates and application cycles vary from school to school.
- Obtain applications and complete the application packets you receive in full. If you have questions about the application for a specific school, contact the school directly.
- Return application packet complete with GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and any other required items. Be sure letters of recommendation are addressed to individual schools.
- Continue to work and volunteer as you wait for results. You can also use this time to prepare for potential nursing school interviews. Check out this guide to internships and volunteer opportunities for pre-nursing students.
After you do these basic things, the NursingCAS will verify your application and release the information to the different schools, usually within about four weeks of receiving it.
The specific amount of time it will take them to review will vary, but applying for nursing school early will often help to ensure that your application is viewed more quickly and with a bit more detail. In other words, applying early is to your benefit.
After Applying to Nursing School
Once the application has been submitted, prepare for the interview and think about how you will pay for your nursing degree. Here are some resources and advice to help with this process.
- Nursing programs begin to interview potential students that have caught their eye. Most interviews are done in person, but virtual interviews may be conducted in certain circumstances. Researching programs before interviewing can help you be more prepared. Here are five tips from nurses on preparing for your nursing school interview.
- Once interviews have been completed, you'll have a short time to wait before hearing back from the school. Admission decision processes and timelines vary between nursing programs, but key dates and expectations are explained further below.
- If accepted, securing financial aid is key. Nursing school can be expensive, but there are several financial aid options available to students. Additionally, budgeting for nursing school can be made easier with tips and tools outlined in this guide.
Dates and When to Expect Application Results
Schools are all different, and that applies to their nursing application process as well. Each school may have different requirements and different timelines for applying. In general though, you can expect the following application cycles:
Helpful Resources for Pre-Nursing Students
Before you apply to nursing school and embark on a nursing career, it's smart to know exactly what you're getting into and how to make yourself stand out from the competition. To help you gather the information you need to start on the right track, check out these resources we've compiled for prospective nurses.
- Why Is Nursing School So Expensive?
- Budgeting for Nursing School
- How Much Does Nursing School Cost?
- Ask a Nurse: How Hard Is Nursing School?
- Preparing For Your Nursing Program Interview
Applying to Nursing School FAQ
What can I do to increase my chances of getting into nursing school?
Before applying, learn the admission requirements, and take steps to meet or exceed them. Take prerequisite courses, volunteer in the field, get required certifications, and talk to the admissions counselor about areas where you might improve your application. Be flexible about where you go to school, as some areas have a shortage of instructors and long waiting lists.
What should I know before applying to nursing school?
Before applying, clearly understand why you want to be a nurse and your career goals. This can help you choose the best program and articulate your passion in an admission essay or interview. Research program reputation. Look at the graduation rate, the NCLEX-RN pass rate, and accreditation status. Consider how the program aligns with your goals, and whether the course delivery methods fit your schedule and learning style.
What GPA do you need to get into nursing school?
GPA requirements vary by program. Most programs set the minimum threshold at a cumulative GPA of 2.5-3.0. Some programs require higher minimum grades in specific science and math courses, or within the final semesters of high school or previous college programs.
What do I do if I get rejected from nursing school?
Rejection is common and may be simply due to a lack of space in the program. Once the initial disappointment wears off, evaluate your application and work to correct deficiencies. Take, or retake, prerequisite courses to improve your GPA, gain experience by volunteering, and consider applying to different programs.
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