5 Ways to Stand Out When Applying for Nursing Graduate Programs

Nursing students in a classroom.

-By Tanner Gelatt, Graduate Enrollment Coordinator, University at Buffalo School of Nursing

Gaining your graduate nursing degree will come with a host of benefits, including increased pay, more professional opportunities, a wider range of responsibilities, more autonomy in the profession and greater professional recognition. 

But deciding to go back to nursing school for your graduate degree can sometimes seem daunting. With so many different programs out there, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed before you even start to put your application together! 

With an increased demand for graduate educated nurses, it’s important to make your application stand out as much as possible. Here are some key tips that you can use when starting to put together your application.

1. Plan ahead

Each nursing program has strict open and close dates for its application, so be sure to look at those well in advance. Getting everything together for your application can take time. We require several different documents that will need to be submitted.

Be sure to know what you will need to submit for your program before you start to apply. It will make the process much easier if you know in advance what you need. Along with documents that you need to submit, all of our programs require three letters of recommendation to be sent directly to us -- which leads me to tip number two! 

2. Don’t pick just anyone to write a letter of recommendation

All of our programs require three letters of recommendation to be submitted on your behalf. These letters are digitally submitted directly to us. Make sure your recommenders know when the application is due. If we do not have all three letters by the deadline, you will not be considered for that cohort. 

When you decide on who will write these letters make sure they know that this is a competitive and professional program. The letters that they write can have a huge influence on whether our faculty will consider you for admission to our programs. Make sure that your recommenders can really speak to your ability. 

3. Look at your transcripts BEFORE you submit them

One of the biggest questions that I get from students is, “What transcripts are required?” To review your application, we need transcripts from all of the schools that you’ve attended at the collegiate level. We need official transcripts from the college where you earned your bachelor’s degree in nursing, along with  transcripts from your master’s degree program (in any area) if you have attended graduate school. We can use unofficial transcripts from any other school.

While unofficial transcripts can be easier to get, official transcripts are always better. Often unofficial transcripts can be missing some key information that would delay our review of your application materials. If they show your grades, when you took the course, how many credits you took at that school, and aren’t more than a few pages long, they’re most likely good to go; if you look at them and grades are missing, courses out of order or they just look incomplete, we won’t be able to use them and it will delay the application process until we can get clear transcripts. 

4. Double check everything

When you’re uploading your documents, make sure everything is correct. Use the same email address in your application that’s on your resume. Make sure your resume is complete and free of typos. Make sure you’ve submitted transcripts from all of your schools, not just the one where you obtained your bachelor’s degree in nursing. Graduate nursing programs are all very competitive and simple mistakes can greatly decrease your chances of getting a spot. 

5. If you are unsure about something, ask!

There is a lot of information students must navigate in the application process. If you aren’t sure about something, reach out to ask the question. It’s important that you have a very clear understanding of the program that you’re applying for. This is a big commitment, and you should thoroughly understand what is expected of you once you’re enrolled. We’re here to help you through this process. 

The application process may seem intimidating, but it will be a lot easier if you plan ahead, know what’s expected of you and ask questions!

Published December 4, 2020