Tips for a Successful Graduate Nursing Program Application

student smiling in classroom.

You're a dedicated and skilled nurse craving that next academic and professional challenge -- so you've decided to apply to graduate school. Need tips for putting your best foot forward on your application? UB SON Student Services Specialist Louiza Case offers her expert advice to prospective graduate nursing students who are considering that next big step in their careers.


1. Start the application as soon as possible.

The sooner you start the application, the more time you will have to really evaluate and refine your application materials. Plus, the sooner your application is complete, the sooner you’re able to interview for the program and the sooner you’ll know your admission decision.

2. List all of your achievements on your resume/CV.

This can include additional certification, nursing awards, workplace achievements and any of your undergraduate successes.

3. Take your time on your personal statement.

  • Fully answer the questions presented. Most colleges – including admissions staff at UB – look at the quality of your writing, not the quantity of paragraphs or pages.
  • Check your personal statement for grammatical errors, detail and clarity. Ask people you trust to read and edit your personal statement. This could be someone who has gone through a graduate nursing program, a previous professor, your work supervisor or even a coworker. All writing can benefit from a second set of eyes.

4. Choose your references wisely.

The question that I get the most often is, “Who do you think I should select as my references for my application?” Ask advanced practice nurses you know -- they’ve already been through graduate school and can attest to how successful they think you will be in a similar program. If you are applying to a DNP program in the family specialty, ask a family nurse practitioner. They can attest to whether they think you will be successful in that program and specialization.

5. Don’t wait until the last minute to take the GRE or MAT.

  • Take the time to study for the exam and prepare yourself. While this is only a portion of your application, your scores do factor into the admission decision. Utilize free online resources to help you study.
  • Explore both exams – there are differences, and you may find you test better with one over the other. Complete practices exams for each type to determine which test displays more of your strengths.  

6. Be yourself.

Your personal statement is a reflection of you and your motivations, strengths and experiences. It is crucial to be your genuine self both in your statement and your post-application interview, should you qualify. Make sure you express your true reasons for wanting an advanced practice degree and be your biggest advocate. 

Making the decision to continue your education at the graduate level is a big step, both personally and professionally. Researching required materials for each application will provide you with insight into the process and what the school is looking for in a student -- and will ultimately help you work smarter, not harder. Congratulations on your decision to start the next exciting path in your nursing career!