Is It Hard to Get Into Nursing School?

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Is it hard to get into nursing school? Yes, it can certainly be challenging to get accepted, as nurses need to have a strong academic background in order to deliver excellent patient care. Tips to improve your chances of acceptance include taking science classes and gaining practical experience.

woman looking at phone excited

Nurses not only enjoy meaningful work that makes a positive difference in their community, but they also generally enjoy strong employment prospects. If you feel called to pursue a nursing career and make it your life’s work to help others, earning a nursing degree is your first step.

If you already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or non-nursing college credits, you can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in an Accelerated BSN or ABSN program. Is it hard to get into nursing school? Yes, it certainly can be, but with a lot of hard work and persistence, you can pursue your dream career.

How Hard Is It to Get Into Nursing School?

Before planning the specifics of your intended career path, it is a good idea to become more familiar with what you can expect from nursing school. So, how hard is it to get into nursing school?

According to the National League for Nursing (NLN), the percentage of BSN programs that turned away qualified applicants increased by 2% from 2018 to 2020, often fueled by faculty shortages and a lack of clinical placement settings. The total number of qualified applicants rejected by BSN programs stood at 29% in 2020.

That statistic applies to qualified applicants to nursing school; it does not encompass the percentage of rejected non-qualified applicants. Nursing schools need to be highly selective about the students they admit.

nursing student holding a syringe

To that end, many nursing programs look for students with strong and consistent academic records. Although every institution maintains its own admissions requirements, nursing programs will generally also look for the following:

  • Favorable letters of recommendation
  • A well-written personal essay or statement, such as one that explains the applicant’s motivation to become a nurse
  • Demonstrated volunteer or work experience in the health care field or other evidence of the applicant’s commitment to health care

Putting together a highly competitive application package can improve your chances of being admitted to your preferred nursing school.

smiling nurse with backpack walking up stairs

This post explores 10 other ways you can prepare for nursing school.

Why Is It Hard to Get Into Nursing School?

Are you curious why getting into nursing school can be difficult? There are many good reasons for the competitive nature of nursing program admissions.

Rigorous Academic Requirements

First and foremost, nursing schools must ensure that each applicant they accept for admission can excel within an academically rigorous program. Earning a nursing degree is challenging, and students can expect demanding classes and long hours of studying.

Second, patients deserve nothing less than excellent medical care, as their outcomes and quality of life depend on it. Aspiring nurses must be capable of retaining vast amounts of clinical information so they can make informed patient care decisions at crucial moments.

Resource Limitations

Another reason why it is challenging to get into nursing school is that nursing school programs can only accommodate a certain number of students per year. The U.S. has a shortage of nurses, yet nursing programs can only graduate a predefined number of students yearly. It can be difficult to expand the capacity of a nursing program quickly to accommodate more students.

Rapid expansion is often impossible because nursing schools need highly qualified faculty, and nursing instructors are similarly in short supply. Furthermore, unlike a typical liberal arts program (e.g., history or English), nursing programs need specialized facilities, technology and equipment to educate their students. Students need access to nursing simulation technology, nursing manikins, lift beds, IVs and other equipment to learn and practice their clinical skills. All this equipment is expensive, so it is often impossible for a nursing program to expand quickly to meet enrollment demands.

PLU ABSN student holding IV

How to Get into Nursing School: 6 Effective Tips to Follow

Although many applicants do not get into nursing school, you should not let that discourage you from pursuing your dream of becoming a nurse. Nursing is a highly meaningful and worthwhile profession that will enable you to truly make a positive difference in your community. Plus, if you already have some non-nursing college credits, you can graduate in as few as 16 months with an ABSN program like the one at Pacific Lutheran University.

Although admission is never guaranteed, you can improve your chances of getting accepted into nursing school by following these six tips.

1. Build a Strong Academic Foundation

Your academic record is one of the most critical factors in determining your acceptance. If you are considering transferring to nursing school from a non-nursing college program, it is not too late to raise your grades. Identify your problem areas and seek help from a tutor when needed. Similarly, improve your study habits and time management skills, as you will need them to succeed in nursing school.

2. Take Science Classes

If you are a potential transfer student in a non-nursing program, this tip applies to you. Take as many science courses as possible, emphasizing biology and chemistry. A strong foundation in mathematics is also important for aspiring nurses. Many times, these types of classes are also prerequisites, so be sure to check what the prerequisites are for the program you are interested are.

3. Gain Some Practical Experience

Nursing schools prefer to admit applicants with experience in the health care field. Of course, since you are not yet a nurse, you cannot list nursing experience in your application package. However, you could work as a hospital volunteer or apply for an entry-level job in the health care field.

4. Identify Your Reason for Pursuing a Nursing Career

You will likely be asked why you want to become a nurse. You may need to write an application essay on this topic or be asked this question during a college admissions interview. Develop a thoughtful and honest response now to avoid fumbling for the right words later.

PLU nursing students standing in simulation lab

5. Take Your Time with the Essay

Even if you are an academically strong applicant, you can still expect plenty of competition for enrollment in nursing school. One effective way to stand out from the crowd is to craft a thoughtful, well-written application essay or personal statement that shares your unique voice and story.

6. Look for a Nursing School That Offers Admissions and Student Support Services

Getting into nursing school can be challenging, but the path can be more manageable when you choose the right school. Look for a nursing school that offers the following:

  • Exceptional admissions support via helpful admissions counselors
  • An accelerated path toward earning your BSN
  • A full-time, rigorous program that will challenge you to achieve new heights
  • A competitive minimum GPA for transfer students, as this indicates a high-quality nursing program

Although Pacific Lutheran University maintains competitive admissions standards, our friendly and helpful admissions counselors offer extensive support to aspiring nursing students. Speak with an admissions counselor today to find out if you are eligible to pursue your nursing degree at PLU. A minimum of 60 non-nursing college credits or a non-nursing bachelor’s degree is required for this rigorous, full-time Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, which enables our students to earn a nursing degree in as few as 16 months.