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Applying to Nursing School and Nursing Programs

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Applying to nursing school

Meeting your chosen college’s general entrance requirements is the first step toward a university or college degree in nursing.

Admission requirements may vary, but a high school diploma or equivalent is necessary. Most accredited colleges consider SAT scores along with high school grade point average. A strong preparatory class load in science and mathematics is generally preferred among nursing schools. Students may obtain specific admission information by writing to a school’s nursing department.

To apply to a nursing school, contact the admission offices of the colleges or universities you are interested in and request the appropriate application forms. With limited spaces in nursing schools, programs are competitive, and early submission of an application is recommended.

Accreditation of the nursing program

Accreditation of the nursing program is very important, and it should be considered on two levels -- the accreditation of the university or college and the accreditation of the nursing program itself. Accreditation is a voluntary process in which the school or the program asks for an external review of its programs, facilities, and faculty. For nursing programs, the review is performed by peers in nursing education to ensure program quality and integrity.

Baccalaureate nursing programs in the United States undergo two types of regular systematic reviews. First, the nursing school must be approved by the state board of nursing. This approval is necessary to ensure that the graduates of the program may sit for the licensing examinations offered through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. The second is accreditation administered by a nursing accreditation agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Although accreditation is a voluntary process, access to federal loans and scholarships requires it, and most graduate schools accept only students who have earned degrees from accredited schools. Further, accreditation ensures an ongoing process of quality improvement based on national standards. Canadian school of nursing programs are accredited by the Canadian Association of University Schools of Nursing, and the Canadian programs listed in this book must hold this accreditation. There are two recognized accreditation agencies for baccalaureate nursing programs in the United States: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC).

Focusing your education to ensure your acceptance to nursing school

Academic performance is not the sole basis of acceptance into the upper level of the nursing colleges. Admission officers also weigh such factors as student activities, employment, and references. Moreover, many require an interview and/or essay in which the nursing candidate offers a goal statement. This part of the admission process can be completed prior to a student’s entrance into the nursing college or university or prior to the student’s entrance into the school of nursing itself, depending on the program.

In the interview or essay, students may list career preferences and reasons for their choices. This allows admission officers to assess the goals of students and gain insights into their values, integrity, and honesty. One would expect that a goal statement from a student who is just entering college would be more general than that of a student who has had two years of pre-professional nursing studies. The more experienced student would be likely to have a more focused idea of what is to be gained by an education in nursing schools; there would be more evidence of the student’s values and the ways in which she or he relates them to the knowledge gained from pre-professional nursing classes.

by Linda K. Amos, Ed.D., RN, FAAN, Former Associate Vice President for Health Sciences Professor, University of Utah

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