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Nursing School Application Checklist and Deadlines

Nalea Ko, MFA
Updated December 23, 2022
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Want your nursing school application to outshine the rest? Follow this checklist to make sure you submit your nursing school application by deadline.
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There may be a nursing shortage, but nursing schools turn away thousands of applicants for undergraduate and graduate programs.

Nursing schools rejected more than 80,000 candidates in 2020 because of a lack of faculty, clinical placement sites, and other resources, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Don’t risk rejection. Go into the nursing school application process without a plan.

Use our checklist to learn about common application requirements and deadlines not to miss.

Nursing School Timeline at a Glance

You have a better chance of getting into nursing school if you approach the application process systematically.

Applying to nursing school can take months, especially if you plan to apply to multiple schools. Each application looks different, but this is a breakdown of the general process:

Complete Required Prerequisites for Nursing School

Meet with an admissions advisor to discuss your goals and experience. You may need to complete specific prerequisite coursework; an advisor can provide guidance on how to meet application requirements.

Collect Necessary Application Materials

Expect to submit official transcripts from high school or previous college experience, test scores, and recommendation letters. A personal statement and a resume detailing work and volunteer experience will also be required.

Prepare For and Take the ACT or TEAS

Register to take the test well before the application deadline. Arrange to have your scores sent directly to your desired nursing programs.

Apply to Desired Nursing School Programs

Follow individual school instructions to apply. Many schools use NursingCAS, a centralized admission application that allows you to apply to multiple programs using a single application.

Continue Working or Volunteering as You Await Results

Application responses can take weeks, so continue working or volunteering to gain additional experience. If you aren’t already working in the field, look for new opportunities.

Prepare for Nursing Program Interviews

Understand your motivation and career goals, and be ready to articulate why a specific program is a good fit for you. Prepare to offer specific examples that demonstrate what makes you unique.

Receive Acceptance or Rejection Letter from Schools

If you are accepted, respond by the deadline to secure your spot. If you are rejected, but invited to reapply, evaluate your application to identify where you might improve.
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Before You Apply to Nursing School

If you plan on applying to many nursing schools, here’s the good news: you may be able to consolidate the application process. Most colleges have similar requirements.

Avoid any hiccups and follow these steps to get into nursing school.

  • Prior to entering nursing school, you need to complete prerequisites. Common prerequisites include anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and statistics. However, specific courses vary from school to school.
  • Shopping for nursing programs requires understanding what makes each one different. Factors such as timelines, cost, course offerings, and learning formats determine what nursing program suits you best.
    Nursing programs also offer different concentrations. Online nursing programs may feature asynchronous or synchronous coursework. If you opt for an in-person program, consider the school’s campus life, clubs, and resources.
  • It helps to gain volunteer experience prior to enrolling in nursing school. Not every nursing program requires work experience, but working in a clinical setting (even as a volunteer) can help you to understand what nursing areas on which to focus your studies.
  • Prospective nurses often must take entrance exams to test their aptitude and ability to complete a nursing program. Incoming students may need to take the SAT or ACT exam, and/or a nursing assessment like the National League for Nursing’s Pre-Admission Exam or the Nursing Entrance Test. Make sure you prepare and register for your exam well before the admission deadline.
  • Your application to a nursing school must include transcripts. Sometimes nursing programs allow you to submit unofficial transcripts with your online application and request official transcripts later. Either way, you’ll need to request and pay for transcripts either from your high school or other colleges.
  • You likely will need 1-3 letters of recommendation from your former teachers, professors, supervisors, or any other person who can speak to your character and passion for nursing. Ask them early. Schools may have recommenders upload letters or allow you to submit it with your application.

During the Nursing School Application Cycle

At this point in your journey, you should have a list of your top nursing school picks and the required materials to get admitted. To eliminate any surprises, double check common requirements to get your application ready:

  • Research school deadlines, organize dates, and set up reminders.
  • Submit your admissions application —often a multiple-page online form. Include supplemental materials, such as letters of recommendation, essays, transcripts, and entrance exam scores.
  • Pay application fees, often required before you submit your application. In some circumstances, this can be waived for eligible low-income students.
  • Nursing schools may require virtual or in-person interviews. Have a clear idea about why you went into nursing and where you see yourself working. You can also contact the nursing school and ask an admission counselor about what to expect during the interview.

After Applying to Nursing School

Nursing schools tend to require a written application and an interview, which they hold virtually or in person.

The admissions committee often requests interviews from promising applicants. This interim period is a good time to research the college and nursing school so you can be informed during your nursing school interview.

You can expect to answer interview questions about your strengths and weaknesses or why you want to pursue a career in nursing. That said, interviewers always ask unexpected questions.

To prepare for the unexpected, practice mock interviews with another nursing student or a friend.

This also serves as a good opportunity to think about how you will pay for your nursing degree. Accredited colleges allow you to get federal financial aid, including loans and grants.

Nursing students can also qualify for scholarships specifically for healthcare. Your financial aid office should offer additional information about scholarship awards and tips to budget for nursing school.

Helpful Resources for PreNursing Students

Applying to Nursing School FAQ

What can I do to increase my chances of getting into nursing school?

You can stand out as a nursing school applicant if you have a strong academic record, a love of nursing, completed prerequisites, volunteer and work experience, and meet all of the application requirements. Another way to increase your chances of getting into nurse school: apply to more than one college.

What should I know before applying to nursing school?

Find out the nursing school’s acceptance rate. This metric explains how many applicants get into nursing school each academic year and can give you an idea of your chances.

Before applying to nursing school, you should also understand your expectations as a nursing student, including clinical rotations and required background checks. Additionally, to become a nurse, you need to pass the NCLEX after graduation.

What GPA do you need to get into nursing school?

The GPA scores required for incoming nursing students vary by school and program. At a minimum, applicants for associate in nursing degrees must hold at a 2.5 GPA. It is not uncommon for more rigorous BSN programs to require a 3.2 or a 3.5 GPA for early admissions. Science scores may be particularly important.

What do I do if I get rejected from nursing school?

You should get a notification by email or letter by mail if you get rejected from nursing school. If you get rejected from nursing school, one route is to gain more experience in nursing as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) before you reapply. CNA programs take 4-12 weeks and often include an internship.

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Page last reviewed December 12, 2022

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