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Tips for Registered Nurses Applying to Nursing School

January 15, 2021  |  Category: Nursing

A nursing student studies at her computer.

The growing demand for registered nurses who have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree will likely inspire nurses to go back to school in the coming years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts registered nurse jobs will grow by 7% between 2019 and 2029.

Registered nurses who have a diploma or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) can further build on their skills and knowledge by enrolling in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) program. With an RN-BSN degree, nurses have the opportunity to take on more responsibilities, including leadership roles, and earn higher salaries.

Nurses who are applying to nursing school can benefit from learning about enrollment requirements and the application process.

Requirements for Nursing School

Nurses who demonstrate a passion for the field and a commitment to their education are prime candidates for nursing programs. These programs can be highly competitive and often have high admission standards. Nursing instructors, class sizes, and clinical training locations are limited, so many programs can only accept candidates who stand out during the application process.

Although not all nursing programs have a GPA requirement, many do require a minimum of a 2.5 or 3.0 grade point average. Even if a nursing program doesn’t have this requirement, candidates who have higher GPAs can potentially be admitted over applicants with lower GPAs.

Individuals who are applying to nursing school after they’ve earned a few college credits may have to fulfill more prerequisites than those who’ve completed more postsecondary education. Another requirement may be taking an entrance exam, such as the National League for Nursing Pre-Admission Exam for Registered Nurses (NLN PAX-RN) or the Nurse Entrance Test (NET).

Tips for Nursing School Applicants

Following are tips about choosing an RN-BSN program and going through the application process. These can directly benefit individuals who are applying to nursing school.

1. Determine Career Goals

One of the most important decisions nurses should make revolves around their career goals. Exactly what are the goals? Is it to simply improve knowledge and skills, or work in facilities that require bachelor’s degrees? Are leadership positions, such as registered nurse supervisor or nurse manager, of interest?

It’s important for nurses to see how different programs meet their needs. Nurses should consider how their financial, family, and other goals intersect with career goals, so they can make the best plans for both the short and long term.

2. Research Programs of Interest

Prospective students should research the schools and programs that interest them to narrow their choices. They should explore accreditation, as well as the foundational curriculum and specialty courses. Other important factors to consider include tuition costs, availability of financial aid, program length and scheduling accommodations, and graduation rates.

Prospective students should supplement online research with direct feedback from friends or colleagues who have actually attended the nursing school. Also, degree candidates may wish to track the pros and cons of each researched school in a spreadsheet or some other document.

3. Complete Prerequisite Courses

Prospective nursing students should complete any prerequisites before applying. If they are enrolling in an RN-BSN program, they should review their transcripts to make sure they have completed and earned a passing grade in necessary classes. By proactively planning and completing prerequisite courses, prospective students will be ready for the application process. They should also plan to avoid taking coursework they’ve already completed in an ADN program.

4. Choose Reliable References

Most programs require letters of recommendation from previous nursing instructors or employers. Choosing references who can write about the student’s experience and capabilities is essential for establishing credibility. Previous employers or professors who know a student’s qualifications and dedication can be ideal references, particularly if they can speak to skills and experience that fit the specific program of interest. Nurses can also set themselves apart by writing their own career essay or statement of intent.

5. Apply Early

When the time comes to apply to nursing school, prospective students should be ready to submit a thorough application. Nursing programs inform applicants of the due date on their websites. Students should make a note of the deadline and submit the application as early as they can. Sometimes, programs wait until the application due date has passed before reviewing any applications; however, applying early can be advantageous for programs that respond within 4-12 weeks.

6. Submit a Complete Application

Registered nurses who are looking to enroll in an RN-BSN program must submit proof of their RN license and transcripts from previous nursing programs and colleges. They also need to submit their letters of recommendation and statement of intent. A sound strategy is to have a nursing colleague, or manager, or former professor review the application for accuracy and completeness before submission. Applicants who make it through the initial stage of the application process should also prepare for an in-person or virtual interview.

7. Visit Multiple Programs

Nurses who are seeking to continue their education should visit multiple programs to ensure the best fit. Visits may be virtual due to social distancing requirements in today’s climate. Applicants can also consider looking into online nursing programs that enable them to work at their own pace. Before visiting the schools, students should prepare a list of questions to ask admissions directors or tour guides. They should also take notes during or after the visits so they have all the important details when making a final decision.

Advantages of Returning to Nursing School

For practicing nurses, going back to nursing school offers many advantages. First, they can simply further their skills and expand their knowledge in key areas such as patient record management and healthcare reform.

Another benefit is the opportunity to develop a community of academic value. Nursing students can be mentored by educators who can encourage them throughout their program courses. Nursing students can also establish a supportive community among their peers as they advance their careers.

Statistics have shown nurses who have higher levels of education can increase their earnings. Nurses with more degrees, training, and experience are more likely to get hired in a variety of healthcare settings and more likely to move into leadership positions. Going back to school can help registered nurses be more competitive for open positions.

Learn More About Earning Your RN-BSN

Registered nurses who are seeking to become more job competitive should consider applying to nursing school and earning their RN-BSN. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) encourages nurses to “embrace lifelong learning” and “advance their education to the baccalaureate and higher degree levels.” By going back to nursing school, registered nurses demonstrate their commitment to the medical field and their careers.

The Online RN-BSN program at AdventHealth University Online offers a curriculum that helps position registered nurses for future success. Courses include Applied Pathopharmacology for RNs, Nursing Informatics for RNs, Leadership and Management in Nursing, Conceptual Foundations of Nursing Practice, and Community Health for RNs. The program can be completed in as little as one year.

Explore how an RN-BSN degree can help you achieve your career goals.

Recommended Readings

BSN vs MSN: What’s the Right Path for You?

RN vs BSN: Understanding the Difference

Role of Nurses During Disease Outbreaks


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice

American Nurse, “Tips for Applying to an Advanced-Degree Nursing Program”

ATI Nursing Education, “How to Get Into Nursing School”

The Balance Careers, “How to Get a Job as a Nurse”

The Balance Careers, “What Does a Registered Nurse (RN) Do?”

ProFellow, “5 Steps to Researching the Best Graduate Programs for Your Career Goals”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses  

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses