You are going to be a nurse – it's what you want more than anything – so you have to consider nursing school acceptance rates in Canada.
Nursing is a terrific career, and now you get to realize this future for yourself. Nursing school admissions consulting will help a lot, but it is also critical that you research nursing schools and find out the best strategies for getting in, the requirements you’ll need to meet – or exceed – and how best to present yourself in your application process.
The Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing, or CASN, recognises dozens of schools and over a hundred programs for learning how to become a nurse in Canada. How are you going to sort this out, narrow down your choices, and find out where to even apply?
The critical thing is to know what kind of nurse you want to be and find a nursing program that suits you best. Match yourself and your needs to your institution, and you will find much greater success than if you go in without thinking, planning, or checking out all of the information possible.
What factors should you consider?
In this article, we are going to help you do just that. We will give you an overview of Canadian nursing schools, the grades that will get you accepted, and the best strategies, based on the most up-to-date data, for you to achieve your dreams.
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Nursing School Acceptance Rates in Canada and How to Choose the Best School for You
The CBC reports that it’s harder than ever to find a place at in a nursing program. University of Western Ontario (UWO) has spaces in their BScN program for 125 students, University of Prince Edward Island takes on just 70.
Tens of thousands of students will apply, and applications are going up.
The profession is very competitive right now.
Your response should be, of course, to have the highest grades and best application you can, but also consider an alternate path. Taking a registered practical nurse (RPN) course might give you a boost and let you practice as an RPN before becoming a registered nurse (RN). Consider your career goals, and the possibilities and opportunities you have available to you to get in.
Canada’s universities are supportive of Indigenous Canadian populations of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people. Nursing schools often have special admissions criteria for those who qualify for, and apply as, Indigenous students.
UWO, for instance, has four slots for Indigenous applicants who have not met academic criteria (two UWO, two Fanshawe). If you are an Indigenous student whose grades have suffered somewhat, this track can seriously help you out.
The University of Calgary has lower admission standards and an Indigenous Students Access Program – ISAP – to assist Indigenous learners.
Those are just two examples. Most universities have some program or standard shift to assist learners from Indigenous Canadian backgrounds.
You will need to be able to provide documentation or proof of your Indigenous status. This might be a government-issued ID like a secure certificate of Indian status (SCIS). Other acceptable forms of proof could be a letter from a Band Council. Each province and territory will have its own rules around proof of Indigenous status, and these rules will apply differently depending on whether you are First Nations, Metis, or Inuit.
Additionally, provincial governments often have funding or accommodations available for Indigenous students. Ontario, for instance, will cover a large portion of students’ costs if they are from an Indigenous background. So, regardless of the institution you are applying to, remember to check your province’s government sites for help outside of the institution itself.
Of all Canadian nursing programs, 56.2% offer distance education opportunities, either in part or in full. The world’s ability to provide distance education has increased greatly, and the need to utilize it has been very apparent in recent years.
McGill University offers an online BNI (Bachelor of Nursing Integrated) course, but keep in mind you need to apply specifically to this program. You can’t just transfer from the regular nursing program into the BNI, you need to specifically apply to it.
If you live in a remote region, and cannot afford to travel, or if you have obligations which would prevent moving or relocating, these courses can greatly assist you. Although, you should be aware that due to the practical, hands-on nature of clinical elements of the program, it cannot be all long-distance. With that said, McGill does try to find students clinical elements in their area.
Where are you going? Nursing schools are scattered across the country, and you might consider relocation to be an advantage or a disadvantage.
The majority of nursing schools are in Ontario and Quebec, in the centre-east of Canada. Alberta and British Columbia also have higher numbers, and are concentrated in the west. The Maritimes, prairies, and territories have the fewest options, so here is our first consideration:
Do you want to go to school locally? And, is that feasible? If you live in the Yukon territory, that’s impossible; the Yukon has no schools that offer a nursing program. So, for many students, applying out-of-province will be necessary, especially if you apply to more than one or two schools.
Still working on your nursing school letter of intent?
Canada is a bilingual country, with English and French as the official, national languages. With the majority of Canadians growing up with, and living their lives speaking, English, are there any programs out there for a Francophone Canuck?
The most obvious place to go for your French language needs is Quebec, of course. McGill University has bilingual options. While most of their courses are taught in English, they indicate that you can have examinations in French. French speakers will also find Quebec a good place to be, easy to communicate with the people of the province, including patients. In fact, McGill points out that having the French language will be a definite asset while doing clinical work.
Other schools in Quebec are even more immersive in the French language. The Universite de Montreal, for instance, requires students to understand French at a particular level for acceptance in the program.
The University of New Brunswick also has similar accommodations for bilingual students, and while – like McGill – their courses are not entirely in French, they provide a bilingual experience for students upon request.
In Manitoba, the Universite de Saint-Boniface has programs in French. Their nursing program, along with others do have some English requirements, so it won’t be 100% in French, but this program does have a strong French component.
If you require French, or would like to study in French, these are great programs for you. Others, like the University of Calgary, do not offer any French language component to their programs whatsoever.
Learning in French could even be a good experience for non-native French speakers. If you are working in Canada, there is a tremendous benefit to being able to speak both official languages, and gaining experience in an academic and working environment could be beneficial. So, these schools might be for you even without it being required. Obviously, this is assuming that you can reach the level of French language necessary to be accepted.
For international students, this also might open up options. If you are looking to study nursing in Canada, but come from a country where French is your first language, then these programs will provide you with excellent training in a language you can be comfortable learning in.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
Some nursing programs have special tracks or pathways for LPNs, licensed practical nurses, to become RNs, or registered nurses. LPNs are sometimes called RPNs, which stands for registered practical nurse, but though the terms are different, the job is the same.
The quick breakdown is that an RN has more responsibility, more career options, and more rewards. They will have a BScN, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, as opposed to the LPN’s graduating college or vocational school.
But, if you are looking to enter the workforce sooner than later, the two-year LPN program is perhaps more interesting than the four-year RN degree. This would allow you to start earning sooner, as well as gaining invaluable job experience quickly.
Several nursing schools, like the University of Cape Breton and Athabasca University, offer an LPN to RN pathway. This means that you could complete your study as an LPN, get into the workforce, and then continue on your journey to becoming an RN. Although holding down a job and studying for your RN will be a tremendous amount of work, if you are up for it you will keep your debts down and pay off school faster, particularly because LPN tuition is usually lower than tuition for an RN program.
As many places as you’ll find doctors, you’ll find nurses: surgery and operating rooms, ERs, general medicine floors, and on and on. Outside of hospitals, nurses are the main healthcare team member for nursing homes. Travel nurses combine medicinal care with globetrotting.
What does this mean for you?
It means that you can find a passion within nursing, whether you are practicing at a hospital or conducting research.
Knowing which sectors you’d like to work in will help you in the interview process in-particular, since you can show off a knowledge of your preferred area and potentially steer the interview to a place where you can talk about these preferred areas that are your passion. Passion shows through and will help you stand out in your nursing school application, not to mention showing you off as driven, focused, and committed. If you are accepted, these choice areas will also affect your course selection and which placements you try for.
Can you show the admissions board your preference in other ways? Yes! If you have volunteer experience at a seniors’ centre, for instance, show it off on a your nursing school application resume. If you are a frequent traveler already, finding a way to let the admissions committee know could give you a great “hook” for the interview and show off your travel nursing capabilities.
A final word on opportunities: nursing is a career path with a lot of growth potential. You could become an RN now and study for a Masters’ degree later, becoming a nurse practitioner or nurse educator – passing along your knowledge to the next generation of nurses.
Nursing School Academic Requirements in Canada
All schools have standards, and nursing schools are very competitive. While exact requirements vary, looking at different programs across the country reveals a certain standard.
Most schools have a minimum grade requirement that is lower than the recommend grade students must achieve to be competitive. For example, University of Western Ontario’s nursing program has a cutoff minimum of 65%, but recommends prospective students hit 80% to have a shot.
The University of Calgary doesn’t specifically give a minimum, but recommends a score in the low-90s, so the minimum is moot.
Generally-speaking, the minimum isn’t a number you should strive for. Consider this: do you want to do the minimum? Hit the minimum? Be a minimum student? Would you want to admit a minimum student or hire a minimum employee? Competition can be intimidating, but the reality is that these are not easy programs.
Time management is essential to any preparation and application process, so manage yours well to maximize your outcomes.
Most of the nursing programs in Canada require the completion of certain courses before they will grant entry. The exact course requirements change from institution to institution, but they usually share some similarities.
First, they almost all have an English requirement. Even the Universite de Saint-Boniface, a very French language-friendly institution, has English in the course prerequisites. Memorial University of Newfoundland doesn’t require English.
What most schools do want you to have, however, is a grounding in the sciences. Biology and Chemistry were the most-found courses required by these institutions, with Physics and Mathematics – often Applied Mathematics or Calculous – also frequently listed as prerequisites.
Are you preparing for your nursing school interview? Check out our tips!
The Universite de Saint-Boniface indicated a number of non-academic requirements for their nursing program. Among these requirements was a CPR certification.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is a necessary skill for any healthcare professional. While not listed as a prerequisite for many nursing programs, putting CPR on your application – whether on a CV or as part of some other documentation – will definitely improve your standing in the eyes and opinions of the admissions committee.
Any kind of first-aid training will look good on your application. These are skills that are absolutely needed by nurses on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
Volunteering will also let an admissions board see your potential and float you to the top of the applicant pile. Look for places where you will gain invaluable skills and experience for your future career while gaining a valuable boost to your profile.
The CASPer test is required by some, but not all, Canadian nursing programs. To give you an idea, Cape Breton University doesn’t need you to take the CASPer, but Memorial University of Newfoundland does.
The Snapshot extension is an additional component to the CASPer test to discern the communications capabilities of students. Again, some schools will need this application component, and others won’t. The University of Western Ontario asks for CASPer without the Snapshot extension, but Trinity Western University in British Columbia wants both.
What does this mean for you and your application? Well, it means that you should pick your top-choice schools first and find out what they need. If they want you to take the CASPer test, you’ll need to do some CASPer test prep. If it’s not required by any of your choices, save the studying time for something you do need, such as preparing your nursing school application cover letter, nursing school personal statement, or nursing school letter of intent.
Nursing School Interviews
Interviews are a major element in nursing programs, and should not be overlooked. Studying critical thinking nursing interview questions, for instance, will prepare you for one of the interview’s trickier aspects. Or, if you would rather, focus on a common nursing school interview questions, such as: the nursing school interview question, “Tell me about yourself.”
The best way to prepare for an interview is with a mock interview. The mock interview is like the real thing, and gives you direct experience with how the interview will transpire and how to answer questions and respond to stations. You will also learn how to handle the kind of anxiety that can grip interviewees.
With a myriad of choices, you can easily get overwhelmed by the abundance of selection. But, if you plan carefully, consider your options, and keep a tight focus on what kind of nurse you want to become, you can find the right Canadian nursing school for you.
1. Are international students welcome to apply to Canadian nursing programs?
Yes! Most institutions will readily accept international students.
Exact requirements might change, however, so watch out for your school’s specific prerequisites. Oftentimes, Canadian universities will require English language aptitude for acceptance, and this might be a requirement for foreign applicants.
With that said, international students can also find programs with assistance. For example, Mount Royal University offers an International Students Pathway that will help international students who don’t meet all of the necessary criteria for entry. Look for edges and advantages to help you out. You’re not alone out there!
2. What is the difference between an RN, and RPN, and an NP?
RN is a registered nurse.
RPN is a registered practical nurse, sometimes called a licenced practical nurse, or LPN.
NP is a nurse practitioner.
The fast way of thinking about them, from an educational perspective, is that an RPN is a college diploma, an RN is a bachelor’s degree, an NP is a masters degree.
All three are nurses, and any of the three can be a great career in and of themselves.
RPNs require the least training, but as a result they don’t have the same capabilities as many RNs do. That is not to say that they are “worth” less than an RN, just that the job has certain limitations placed on what they are allowed to do. These limitations vary from province to province. It would behoove you to look up those differences depending on what career start you’re looking for and where you will be practicing.
Nurse practitioners take things further than RNs, allowed to do everything an RN does, plus certain responsibilities and powers associated with MDs, such as being able to prescribe some medications. Again, like the RPN to RN allowances and restrictions, NPs’ exact legally allowed parameters vary from province to province.
3. If I study at a Canadian nursing program, can I work in the US? What about other countries?
Canada is part of the International Council of Nurses, along with over 120 other countries. Canadian nurses frequently work in the US, or further abroad. Travel nursing is a great opportunity for somebody to see the world and make a contribution to healthcare on a global scale.
4. How many nursing schools should I apply to?
We recommend that you apply to between eight and ten schools.
You want to cast a wide net so that you can have options, but not to cast so wide that you are stretched too thin when it comes to application time.
5. Do I need to speak both official languages, English and French, to get into these schools?
No. Most schools in Canada require, allow, or accommodate English language. Several offer support or partial French language courses or exams. A few will offer courses and programs exclusively or primarily in French, with English absent or as a less-used language. However, being bilingual can certainly give you a competitive edge when it comes to job searching and placements!
6. Do I need to know CPR?
Most nursing schools require it.
On the off-chance that your school doesn’t, it’s still an essential skill for nurses, and you should definitely learn CPR, along with as many other first aid skills as you can.
7. Can I take a compressed track for my nursing degree?
Yes. Some universities will offer you a compressed track that allows you to complete your nursing degree in three years instead of four. UWO, for instance, has such a program.
These programs often have different requirements. They are typically more demanding to match with the inevitable increased workload from the other tracks.
8. Can I use nursing as a stepping stone to becoming a doctor?
You can certainly translate nursing experience into a great background as a physician and go from nurse to doctor, but don’t think of it as a stepping stone.
Nursing is a complete and fulfilling career in and of itself, so thinking of it as subordinate to, or lesser-than, being a doctor is a big mistake.
Nurses deal with a lot of stigmas that make their jobs harder; definitely remember to respect them as an essential, unique element in the healthcare team system.
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