By Kathleen Colduvell
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2012-2022 employment projections, nursing is among the top occupations with steady projected job growth through 2022. The workforce is anticipated to grow from approximately 2.71 million nurses in 2012 to 3.24 million in 2022. Furthermore, the Bureau expects the need for an additional 525,000 replacement nurses, which brings the total number of potential job openings for nurses to 1.05 million by 2022.
While there may be a nursing shortage, U.S. News & World Report states that nursing programs remain one of the most competitive programs in terms of gaining entry. As the nursing shortage continues, nursing programs remain selective as there are only a certain number of spots available. Here are a few helpful tips for applying to nursing programs. It is important to remember that each program may have specific requirements, so check the program's website or contact an admissions counselor with questions or concerns.
The main requirement for applying to nursing school is a high school diploma or GED. Most major universities require a minimum 3.0 GPA. The better the applicant’s GPA, the better the chances of getting into a top-notch program.
Students will be required to take either the SATs or TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills) depending on the university of their choice. Prospective applicants are encouraged to purchase study guides, take review courses, and seek out additional help if needed. Individuals should confirmwhich exam is required by the program of their choice.
Once ready to apply, applicants will need to submit an official transcript, standardized test scores, admission application, essays, and letters of recommendation. Most programs have an application fee; however, this is occasionally waived if a student applies during an official campus visit. Pay close attention to deadlines that are listed on the website and, if possible, submit the entire application early.
Applying early reinforces the applicant's commitment, as well as his or her eagerness to enter the program. Furthermore, early application gives admission counselors time to contact you if there is a need for supplemental information. Emory University's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing encourages applicants to make sure their resume is updated and includes all leadership activities, volunteer history, education and work history, and publications or presentations.
Not all universities require volunteer work, however it is encouraged by college admission counselors. Ideal prospective students should volunteer at a community clinic or hospital.
Volunteering not only gives an applicant experience and a view into the nursing profession, but it also looks good on an application. Furthermore, it allows students to know if nursing is the right career path with ample time to change plans if need be.
Students who wish to expand their volunteer resume can also join an organization such as the American Red Cross. While the majority of volunteers are needed internationally, the Red Cross does have local chapters with numerous volunteer opportunities.
One benefit of volunteering with this the Red Cross is that they allow volunteers to tailor their experience towards their nursing career goals. For example, if a volunteer is interested in child health, there are opportunities to work in daycare and school settings. According to the American Red Cross website, additional opportunities for nursing students include teaching first aid, assisting with local blood drives, and providing disaster response.
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Applicants that pass the initial screening process will schedule an interview with an admission counselor, as well as several key members of the department. This interview doesn't necessarily weed out candidates but it does allow a face to face interaction and an opportunity for students to explain why they would be a good fit for the program.
The interview is a chance for the applicant to sell themselves. Nursing program committee members want to know why a student would make a good nurse and be a positive representative of the program. Other important things to remember during the interview process is to know key facts about the program and the university; be up to date on current health stories, prepare by practicing mock interviews, and don't lie, evade, or embellish during the interview.
Many nursing programs receive more applications than the number of spots available. This can mean several things for a potential student: some programs have a waiting list which means that if another accepted student does not wish to attend that program, the school will open up spots to applicants on the waiting list. Other major universities will encourage students to take basic liberal arts and science classes and then transfer to the nursing program after their freshman or sophomore year. This might not seem ideal to some students, but it does provide additional opportunities within top-notch nursing programs. Students who wish to enter directly into a nursing program are encouraged to apply to multiple programs.
Kathleen Colduvell, originally with a degree in journalism, has worked in numerous hospitals over her eight years as a NICU nurse. Currently, she works at one of the leading children's hospitals in the country in the NICU, PICU, and CICU and working as a Certified Breastfeeding Consultant.
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Tips for Getting into Nursing School
Competition for entry is stiff. Use these tips from admissions officers to make your application stand out.
Given the nursing shortage, it's unfortunate that nursing schools reject many eager prospective nurses each year. In 2008, nearly 28,000 qualified applicants were turned away due to a shortage of faculty and resources, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
In Maryland, nursing schools are "bursting at the seams," says Tracy Jamison, director of admissions at the University of Maryland School of Nursing in Baltimore. At her school, the BSN program typically receives eight to nine applications for every one it can accept.
Even with this stiff competition, applicants can learn how to stand out with these tips from nursing-school admissions officers:
High Schoolers: Performance and Passion
High school applicants need to demonstrate strong academic performance. Grade point average (GPA) is more important than class rank, the significance of which varies depending on a school's class size. Holding a leadership position in a student organization, such as student government or band, makes a positive impression.
Some nursing schools also scrutinize attendance records. Too many tardies and absences raise a red flag. "We want students dedicated to coming here prepared to study," says Ann Schiele, PhD, RN, president and dean of Mount Carmel College of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio. "Nursing is a difficult curriculum built on the sciences."
Mount Carmel admissions officers also look for prospective students to show altruism. "It's part of our mission statement that every graduate must complete a minimum of 20 hours of community service," Schiele says. "We believe that every educated person should give back to the community they live in."
Community-service experience, such as candy striping or volunteering at a nursing home, also demonstrates that you have some knowledge of healthcare and a passion for nursing. You can also convey that passion (and showcase your writing ability) when answering the application essay on why you're interested in nursing.
Tip: Making positive, strong connections with your supervisor during volunteer work, especially in a healthcare setting, can yield a recommendation that carries more weight than one from a teacher.
LPNs: Show Patient-Care Skills
LPN applicants should demonstrate a solid foundation in nursing that's equally balanced between care and knowledge. "They have to be compassionate, and they have to be smart," says Maureen Creegan, EdD, RN, director and professor with the Division of Nursing at Dominican College in Orangeburg, New York, which has an advanced-standing program for LPNs.
Solid nursing skills are more important today than ever, with patients being discharged earlier and spending more time in home care. Candidates must demonstrate the communication skills needed to prepare patients for discharge and the managerial skills needed to coordinate aftercare with community nurses. Once admissions officers have screened a candidate's academic qualifications, they consider the caliber of his clinical experience; those with medical-surgical or experience in other hospital units have an edge.
Tip: Taking the National League for Nursing's Acceleration Challenge Exams (formerly the Mobility Profile II) can help LPNs receive advanced placement in RN or BSN programs. In New York state, LPNs can take the New York State LPN-to-RN Transition Course to validate their knowledge and help determine advanced placement.
Career Changers: Communication and Teamwork
For career changers, accelerated nursing programs offer quick entry into nursing. Because these programs are brief -- often 12 to 18 months -- and intense, admission tends to be ultra-competitive. Accelerated programs often look for at least a 2.7 or 3.0 undergraduate GPA, Creegan says.
But the admissions process "is not simply number crunching," she adds. Dominican's accelerated BSN program is a second baccalaureate program that attracts professionals with degrees in economics, biomedical engineering and other sciences. In addition to good grades and the required science courses, these nontraditional candidates must demonstrate strong communication skills and the ability to interact effectively with others.
At Mount Carmel, admissions officers look for leadership experience in college or community organizations. And admissions officers for four-year nursing programs look for candidates with analytical skills and the ability to think on their feet.
Tip: Start a dialogue with the accelerated-program admissions officer or advisor at the school you're considering. Learn what they're looking for and what you may need to do to obtain any missing qualifications.