4 Reasons Nursing School Is So Competitive + 4 Tips to Make Your Application Stand Out

Featured Article | June 7, 2016 | By Danielle Lamarre-Smith, Director of Undergraduate Student Services, UB SON

We’ve all heard about the need for more nurses nationwide, so you may be asking yourself why it is so difficult to be accepted into a nursing program. If there is a nursing shortage, why aren’t colleges and universities graduating more nurses? As a higher education professional at the School of Nursing at the University at Buffalo, I can provide several reasons for the high level of competition in nursing schools.

4 Reasons Nursing School Is Competitive

1. Academic rigor and excellence.

There is a reason that nursing is consistently the most trusted profession. Nursing programs are training individuals to work a variety of clinical and research settings where the stakes are very high. They make critical decisions daily as leaders at the bedside and in academia, committed to best practice and the formulation of new knowledge – both essential to a patient’s health and wellbeing. Nurses have in-depth knowledge of biological and social sciences, with nursing students taking on heavy course loads in challenging subjects like microbiology, anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology in addition to their clinical experiences. The information nursing students learn has a critical impact on the lives of families, individuals and communities.

2. Clinical space.

Nursing schools rely on community partners, such as hospitals, to provide crucial hands-on clinical experience – and, these programs have limited student space. A small faculty to student ratio is ideal for training excellence – here at the University at Buffalo School of Nursing, our student-faculty ratio in the clinical setting is 8:1.

3. We want the best and brightest.

With a high number of candidates seeking nursing degrees, nursing schools are more selective when admitting students. This, coupled with the academic rigor expected in nursing education, necessitates that schools admit students with strong academic backgrounds – nursing students must be able to excel in the course work to apply it properly in the field. Nursing schools are also carefully considering student intention – they seek students who can demonstrate an understanding of the essence of the nursing profession and of the reality of the job and care they will be required to provide.

4. Nationwide faculty shortage.

Quality nursing faculty are key to providing quality nursing education. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there are several factors contributing to a nationwide shortage of nursing faculty:

  • Private sector clinical positions pay significantly more than faculty positions.
  • Nursing schools are not producing enough masters- and doctoral-prepared educators – ironically, thousands of qualified applicants are turned away from programs each year because of faculty shortages.
  • The average age of nursing faculty, coupled with the average retirement age for nursing faculty, means a large number of faculty are eligible for retirement each year. Filling those positions will be difficult, considering the insufficient pool of potential nurse educators (AACN, 2016).

4 Tips to Make Your Application Stand Out

1. Volunteer or shadow.

Volunteering or shadowing experiences at local hospitals or nursing homes, for example, will help you to determine whether nursing is the right fit and provide insight on the profession that may help you write your application essays.

2. Participate in research opportunities.

Participating in research can be rewarding and make a positive impact on your application. These are great opportunities for students to become involved in cutting-edge projects.

3. Join a club/organization or engage in other leadership opportunities.

Admissions committees generally look favorably on students who are involved in leadership roles both on and off campus, as this is a skill that is certainly transferable to the nursing profession. Get involved when you can!

4. Aim for excellence in your coursework.

Many schools monitor cumulative and major course GPAs, so it is essential that you start – and stay – well organized in your courses. I would also recommend that you seek assistance and tutoring if you are struggling through coursework. Waiting until receiving a low exam grade could be too late.

Learn more about undergraduate nursing programs offered at UB

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