Curious how to get into nursing school? Nursing is becoming an increasingly popular choice, and with such a variety of different programs to choose from, you’re sure to find one that suits you. This also means competition to get into nursing school is increasing, from the best nursing schools to the easiest nursing schools to get into. In this blog, we’ll look at some nursing school stats, how to choose the right nursing school program, how to apply to nursing school and tips on how to stand out in your application!

>>Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here.<<

Listen to the blog!

Article Contents
12 min read

Competitive is Nursing School? How to Get Into Nursing School: First Steps How to Apply to Nursing School How to Get Into Nursing School: Application Timeline How to Get Into Nursing School and Stand Out on Your Application FAQs

How Competitive is Nursing School?

Nursing school is quite competitive, and the number of applications for nursing programs have been steadily rising in the last few years. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the average acceptance rates since there are many different program types and degree types, the admissions statistics tell us that getting into nursing school is tough.

Nursing school acceptance rates in the US hover at around 66%, and nursing school acceptance rates in Canada are around the same. While the average acceptance rate is higher than, say, medical school acceptance rates, you’ll have your work cut out for you if you want to get into nursing school.

Average Nursing School Acceptance Rate in the US

Once you’re accepted to a nursing program, the hard work is only beginning! How hard is nursing school? The rigor and intensity of a nursing school will depend on the degree you’re pursuing, but nonetheless your studies will be challenging. If you are committed to becoming a nurse and want to know how to get into nursing school, the first step is to figure out what your career goals are and choose the right nursing program for you.

How to Get Into Nursing School: First Steps

Before we jump into nursing school applications, here are the first initial steps you should take to get into nursing school. These will make the rest of your journey to nursing school much easier and more streamlined!

#1 Think about your why

Ahead of looking at different nursing school options, ask yourself why do you want to be a nurse? What are your career goals? What kind of nursing role do you see yourself taking on? Do you want to enter a nursing specialty or complete a nurse residency program?

If you’re a high school student who is considering enrolling in a bachelor of science in nursing program, it’s important to look at the potential nursing career paths you can take and which one is the right fit for you. You can save yourself some time and money by considering this ahead of time so you can chart your path to nursing before enrolling in a program.

For mature and non-traditional applicants to nursing programs, you should also think about what your career goals are and what you need to do to achieve them. For example, certified nursing assistants (CNA) and licensed practical nurses (LPN) who want to upgrade their education or become a registered nurse (RN) or even nurse practitioner (NP) can go back to school to get a 4-year degree.

#2 Choose the right program for you

Once you have a solid grasp of your “why” and what your nursing school career goals are, it’s time to explore the different nursing career paths and different types of nursing degrees.

There are many nursing roles within the hierarchy of the profession, from a CNA to a NP. Each of these positions requires an increasing level of training and education, so there are naturally many different types of educational programs, from LPN programs to nurse practitioner programs. You can also earn nursing degrees online through online nursing programs!

Here’s an overview of the different nursing programs out there:

  1. Certified Nursing Assistant Certificate or Diploma – A short diploma program that awards you a CNA certificate. CNAs assist LPNs and RNs with patient care, but cannot usually offer medical care without supervision.
  2. Licensed Practical Nurse Certificate or Diploma – This diploma program prepares you to take the nursing licensing exam and practice in your state. LPNs provide routine patient care.
  3. Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) – A 2-year program, usually completed at a community college that prepares you to take the registered nursing licensing exam. This is the quickest and cheapest way to become an RN, but your credentials will be less competitive on the job market.
  4. Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN) – A 4-year program completed at a university that prepares you to become an RN. Most employers prefer RNs who have 4 years of education instead of the 2-year associate degree.
  5. Master of Science in Nursing Degree (MSN) – A graduate nursing degree that prepares you to become a Nurse Practitioner or nursing specialist such as a nurse anesthetist or nurse midwife. NPs can sometimes prescribe medication or diagnose patients. They are usually working in more administrative roles.
  6. Doctoral Degree in Nursing (DNS, PhD, DNP or Ed.D) – A doctorate degree in nursing can include a Doctor of Nursing Science, a PhD, a Doctor of Nursing Practice or Doctor of Education in Nursing. These degrees are all suitable for nurses who want to take on research, administrative or educational roles in the profession or high-level clinical positions.

The program you choose will determine what certification level of nursing you can earn, your salary and job opportunities and how long nursing school is for you. For example, a CNA will have a lower salary and not as many job opportunities, but you’ll only be in school for a few weeks to a few months. Whereas earning your Doctor of Nursing Science degree will take several years of education and training, but you’ll be certified for higher job positions and have higher earning potential.

Nursing schools are also unique in that there are many “bridge programs” and accelerated nursing programs out there for nursing applicants who want to upgrade their education or jump to the next certification level.

#3 Explore funding options

Nursing school tuition, fees, application costs and testing costs can add up quickly, so it’s a good idea to start looking for funding options early. This can be through nursing school scholarships, student loans, awards and bursaries or savings.

Many nursing schools also have robust financial aid programs for students, to help you balance the cost of school and your other commitments and costs.

#4 Check admissions requirements

It’s vital to check the nursing school requirements before you start your applications. Certificate programs in nursing will have the less strict admission requirements, while a bachelor’s or master’s program will have stricter and more extensive requirements to fulfill. Many programs have a list of prerequisite courses you need to take, or ask for at least 1 year of clinical nursing experience.

Once you choose the type of program and which programs you’re applying to, look at the individual requirements of each program to make sure you check all the boxes.

#5 Apply early!

Finally, apply as early as possible ahead of the nursing school application deadline. This is because many of the top nursing schools use rolling admissions, meaning the admissions committee will evaluate your application as soon as it’s received. The earlier you apply, the better shot you have of securing an acceptance before all the limited spots in a nursing school program fill up. Nursing schools have very few seats and receive thousands of applications, so get yours in fast!

Get ready for nursing school interview questions!

How to Apply to Nursing School

To get into nursing school, you’ll next become familiar with the application process. Nursing schools in the US will either have their own application portal, available online, or use the NursingCAS application service. Over 250 nursing schools in the US use this service for unified applications, so it’s a good idea to get familiar with how it works.

For nursing schools in Canada, how you apply depends on which province the program is located in. Many certificate and undergraduate nursing programs can be applied to through unified services such as EducationPlannerBC or ApplyAlberta, but graduate nursing programs have unique applications through the school’s website. To apply to most nursing school programs in Ontario, you’ll use the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) service.

Although the specific requirements can vary from program to program and type of degree, here are the common nursing school requirements to prepare:

1. Education

To get into a CAN certificate program, LPN program or bachelor’s degree in nursing, you’ll need a high school diploma. For a master’s degree in nursing, you’ll need to have a completed bachelor’s degree, usually in nursing, with at least one year of clinical work experience.

You’ll need to order and send your official transcripts to nursing schools when you apply. Keep in mind that some nursing schools will have a minimum GPA requirement, usually 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. To be considered a competitive applicant, you should try to maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

2. Nursing school prerequisites

Nursing school programs often have a list of core course prerequisites you need to complete. Usually these are core courses in science and mathematics, but they can also include English or humanities and social sciences coursework. Some advanced coursework you might need to complete for a higher level degree would be anatomy, microbiology and physiology. Most nursing schools require you to maintain a minimum grade in your science coursework as well.

3. Standardized test scores

Standardized test scores are commonly required by nursing schools. There are 4 standardized tests you can expect to see on a nursing school application:

  • National League for Nursing Pre-Admission Exam (NLN PAX)
  • Nursing Entrance Test (NET)
  • Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS)
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Admission tests such as the NLN PAX and NET are more commonly required for LPN and RN programs, while the TEAS is more often used for CNA and LPN programs. The GRE is solely used for graduate nursing school admissions, so master’s degrees and doctorate degree programs.

4. CASPer test

Nursing schools need to assess your personal characteristics and suitability for nursing, so it is common for them to ask you to take the CASPer test. CASPer prep is essential to acing this test and demonstrating that you have the skills of an ideal nursing professional. Try some sample CASPer questions to understand how the test works and what to expect before you register for it.

5. Nursing school personal statement

Your nursing school personal statement or personal essay is your chance to share your “why nursing” and really make an impression on the admissions committee. In your personal statement, discuss how you came to choose nursing as a career, what your future goals are and how you have prepared yourself to become a nursing professional.

If you’re a mature student, check out some mature student nursing personal statement examples and tips to get started on this part of your application. Or you can consult some nursing essay writing services for help with this written assignment.

Here are some nursing school personal statement tips to help you!

6. Nursing school supplemental essays

More advanced nursing programs, such as master’s programs, accelerated or specialized nursing programs may ask you to write additional personal essays as part of your application.

These are designed to get to know you a little better as an applicant and give you a chance to showcase your experience and goals as a nurse. For example, the nursing reflective essay or “case that defined you as a nurse” essay are both written statements where you can share some of your most meaningful experiences as a nursing professional and your reasons for advancing your education and career.

7. Extracurriculars or volunteer experience

Many nursing schools prize extracurricular and volunteer experience in their applicants. These activities do not need to be directly related to nursing or even healthcare, but they help make you a more well-rounded applicant. Your extracurricular or volunteer experiences can be related to anything from sports, to community to arts and science.

Volunteer hours in particular can help your application stand out from the crowd, and there may even be a volunteer hours requirement for your application. Find volunteering opportunities with healthcare organizations like the Red Cross or local and community health organizations. You can even pursue volunteering on an international level by volunteering overseas.

8. Clinical experience

For a more advanced nursing degree or a bridge program, you may need a minimum amount of clinical experience. For instance, a master’s degree in nursing will usually require at least a year or two of direct clinical nursing experience.

You can highlight your experience on a nursing school application resume, summarizing your nursing career so far and your accomplishments.

9. Letters of recommendation

Nursing school recommendation letters can make a big difference on your application, since they speak to what others think of you and what your professional skills are. Most often, these are written by your supervisors and employers in the nursing field, i.e. supervising nurses, doctors and medical staff or administrators. Some schools may ask you to submit academic references as well. It’s important to identify and reach out to at least 3 recommendation letter writers early so they have plenty of time to write your letters for you!

10. Nursing school interview

Your nursing school interview is usually the last step of your evaluation before admissions decisions are made. This is a critical test of your communication ability and professional skills as a nurse.

You can expect a variety of different interview questions during a nursing school interview, from the common “tell me about yourself” to the more involved nursing school behavioral interview questions. Similar to the CASPer test, you might be asked to demonstrate your abilities with conflict scenario examples interview questions or critical thinking nursing interview questions.

It’s wise to review the different interview question types you’ll get during your nursing school interviews and practice with each of them beforehand.

How to Get Into Nursing School: Application Timeline

The NursingCAS application cycles opens in early August every year and closes on January 31 of the following year. This gives you a fairly small application window to complete and submit all your application materials, take any necessary tests and complete any prerequisites.

Your nursing school application timeline will vary depending on where you’re at in your schooling or nursing career and which application system you’re using, but we’ve included a general NursingCAS timeline guide for you next.

If you’re an undergraduate student and you plan to apply to a master’s in nursing program, start getting your application ready in the fall or winter of your junior year. If you’re not in school, give yourself about a year before the application deadline to get everything completed.

How to Get Into Nursing School and Stand Out on Your Application

For your best shot at getting into nursing school, you need to know how to stand out in a nursing school application. Nursing school programs have few seats to offer and receive MANY applicants. It’s imperative to rise above the crowd and catch the eye of admissions committees for the best shot of acceptance.

Here’s a few ways you can give your nursing school application a nice boost!

1. Gain a variety of experiences

Whether you’re a new grad or have years of nursing experience under your belt, pursuing diverse experiences is a must. Clinical experience is sometimes a requirement, but you should also look at potential extracurriculars, volunteering opportunities and different healthcare experience you can bring to your application. While it’s excellent if you’ve been a longtime nurse at your hospital, branch out a little with some volunteering for a local blood drive or join a community club or organization. While these aren’t direct evidence of your nursing experience, they still show that you have worked to develop yourself and your skills. Even if all your experiences are not directly related to nursing or healthcare, they can still add tremendous value to your application.

2. Demonstrate passion

Show that you have passion for nursing! This can come across in your personal statement, interview answers and nursing experience, but the key is to show, rather than tell. It’s one thing to say you are passionate about nursing and helping others, you need to PROVE it. Share real examples from your professional or personal life that solidify your reason for entering nursing or demonstrate who you are as a nursing professional. Think of the top 3 attributes that make you an excellent nurse or would make an excellent nurse and brainstorm specific examples of how you demonstrate those attributes and skills. Don’t be afraid to share these during your interview or in your personal statement!

3. Submit a cover letter or letter of intent

Another way to add something extra to your nursing school application is to use “optional” application additions, such as a nursing school application cover letter or nursing school letter of intent. While these are not required parts of your application, they are tools you can use to stand out and make yourself a memorable applicant. A cover letter is a brief way of introducing yourself and highlighting certain aspects of your candidacy for the admissions committee. A letter of intent is sent to your #1 choice of program to emphasize why they are your top choice and why you are committed to enrolling!

4. Be a good communicator

Communication is the foundation of a strong nursing applicant, both written and verbal. In all parts of your application, demonstrate that you have strong written communication skills in your essays and letters. In your nursing school resume or extracurriculars, emphasize your ability as a communicator in your various professional or volunteer roles. Ask your recommendation letter writers to emphasize your ability as a communicator, if you can. Finally, in your nursing school interview demonstrate that you are a strong verbal and non-verbal communicator as well. Practice your interview performance with a nursing school mock interview to sharpen your answers and address any body language or non-verbal tics you might have.


1. How hard is it to get into nursing school?

Nursing school in the US can be very competitive, with average acceptance rates falling around 66%. The competitiveness of a program depends on what degree is offered and the school, but overall nursing can be a tough program to get into. If you want expert help with your nursing school applications, there are nursing admissions consulting services available.

2. How hard is it to get into nursing school in Canada?

Nursing school in Canada can be just as competitive. Most programs have under 200 seats, with some programs having under 100 seats available, and there is a growing number of applications. 

3. What are the requirements for nursing?

Nursing school admission requirements can vary depending on the type of degree you are pursuing, but most will require a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree, standardized test scores, a personal statement or personal essay, recommendation letters and a nursing school interview. Some programs may also ask you to take the CASPer test.

4. How do you stand out on a nursing school application?

To stand out on a nursing school application you need more than high grades and good test scores. You’ll need to demonstrate that you have the ideal qualities and skills of a nurse, and that you have diverse and wide experiences in nursing and patient care. Most of all, show that you have passion for the nursing profession!

5. What GPA do you need for nursing school?

Most nursing schools set a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be admitted, however, because nursing schools can be so competitive, it’s best to have a GPA of 3.5 and above. Nursing school can be hard for students, so it's best to be academically prepared!

6. Do you need to take the MCAT for nursing school?

No, most nursing schools don’t require the MCAT. For bachelor’s degree nursing programs, you might be asked to take the SAT or ACT, while for graduate nursing programs the GRE is a more common requirement. Still other nursing schools might require you to take specialized nursing entrance exams such as the NLN PAX, the NET or the TEAS.

7. What is the fastest way to become a nurse?

The fastest way to become a nurse is to enroll in an accelerated nursing program, as these typically shorten the number of years of schooling you need to become an RN.

You can also enroll in a CNA diploma program or online LPN program to become a nursing assistant or licensed nurse, as these programs are usually very short. However, you will not have the same job opportunities as an RN or NP.

8. Is nursing school worth it?

If you are passionate about nursing and committed to a career in this field, nursing school can absolutely be worth it. Pursuing a more advanced degree, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing will be beneficial if you are interested in taking on more responsibility as a nursing professional, taking on a supervisory role, specializing within the field and earning more money. Ultimately, the type of nursing program that’s right for you will depend on your career goals and desired career path.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

Want more free tips? Subscribe to our channels for more free and useful content!




Apple Podcasts




Like our blog? Write for us! >>

Have a question? Ask our admissions experts below and we'll answer your questions!