Being denied entry into a nursing program is not uncommon, even for good students. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that 75,587 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing schools in 2011 because there weren't enough teachers or classrooms to accommodate them. Only 41 percent of applicants to baccalaureate nursing programs in 2012 were accepted, according to the National League for Nursing. Some highly determined students reapply and are successful in gaining admission after enhancing their qualifications. Other students pursue a different career path.
Turn Weaknesses Into Strengths
Review the admission criteria of nursing schools you're considering. For example, University of Wisconsin-Madison looks at grades, difficulty of course work, previous healthcare experience, leadership activities and commitment to diversity. Brainstorm ways you can excel in each category, particularly in areas where your scores may have been low. Ask your adviser how your academic record compares to students enrolled in the nursing program. It is helpful to know the standards by which applicants are measured.
Improve Your Grades
A high grade point average gives you an advantage. Some students repeat classes in hopes of earning a higher grade, especially in required subjects like anatomy, microbiology and chemistry. City University of New York suggests that doing well in nursing prerequisite courses is a deciding factor in whether students are admitted to the nursing major. Some students apply to the CUNY nursing school two or three times before they are accepted. Tutoring is available on most campuses for students wanting to better their academic performance.
Gain Practical Experience
Because some nursing schools give preference to applicants with a healthcare background, your chances of being accepted into a nursing program may be increased through extensive paid or volunteer work in a medical setting, especially if your experience is limited. Working as a nursing aide shows you're committed to the healthcare profession. Many two-year schools offer nursing aide programs that teach basic nursing principles, which would further expand your skills.
Students who can relocate often apply to more than one school of nursing. If you don't meet the minimum requirements for a baccalaureate nursing program, you may want to enroll in a diploma or associate’s degree nursing program offered through a private school or community college. According to O*NET, 64 percent of nurses hold an associate’s degree in nursing compared to 29 percent of nurses with a bachelor’s degree.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 33 percent of the fastest growing occupations from 2010 to 2020 will be in healthcare due to the aging population. Math and science courses you completed as a pre-nursing major can count toward a bachelor’s degree in other health fields including gerontology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, medical technology and health education. In two years or less, you could complete a training program to become a paramedic, pharmacy technician, medical assistant or radiation therapist. Be open-minded to new possibilities.
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Nursing Faculty Shortage Fact Sheet
- National League for Nursing: Disposition to Basic RN Programs
- School of Nursing: University of Wisconsin-Madison
- City University of New York: Nursing FAQs
- O*NET: Summary Report for Registered Nurses
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Employment Projections
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: OOH: Healthcare Occupations
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