Applying to NP School: What You Need to Know

Now is the perfect time to advance your nursing degree and become a nurse practitioner. This profession is projected to grow 30% by the year 2030, faster than the average for all other healthcare occupations. And with the rise in remote learning, applying to NP school is now an option for even those with the busiest of schedules. 

Before applying to NP school, it is essential that you understand the specific school requirements for the degree program you are applying into. NP school requirements vary, and program admission requirements are not standardized.  

What prerequisites do you need for NP school?

The prerequisites to begin an NP program vary by school. However, the admissions process for each school is examined by accrediting agencies and must meet the requirements of the APRN Consensus Model. This is a regulatory document that defines the practice, titles, specialties, and roles of an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), which includes the NP. 

According to the APRN Consensus Model, and as part of the accreditation process, all APRN educational programs must undergo a pre-approval, pre-accreditation, or accreditation process prior to admitting students. The purpose of the pre-approval is to ensure two concepts. First, to warrant that students graduating from the program will be able to meet the education criteria necessary for national certification in the specified role and population focus and if these students are successfully certified, to guarantee eligibility for licensure to practice as the specified APRN. Second, to corroborate that programs will meet all educational standards prior to starting the program. The pre-approval, pre-accreditation or accreditation processes may vary across APRN roles.

Therefore, while there are several milestones throughout the graduate program that must be reached prior to sitting for the board certification exam to become an NP, the order in which the educational program chooses to achieve them might be different. The following are the absolute and conditional prerequisites to apply to an NP program.

Do you need an RN license for NP school?

Technically, the only absolute prerequisite for entrance to an NP program is an unencumbered RN license, which is achieved by passing the National Council Licensing Examination (NCLEX®). This is because many of the typical science courses (i.e. anatomy, physiology, microbiology) are completed prior to and throughout nursing school. However, most NP schools require all or some of the additional following prerequisites prior to entry to meet the accreditation process of the APRN Consensus Model. 

Bachelor’s Degree

Traditional programs require a Bachelors of Nursing prior to applying for NP school to earn a Master’s or Doctorate. However, some newer, combined, programs offer licensed Associate’s degree nurses an opportunity to earn their Bachelor’s and Master’s upon entrance to a single NP program. 

Experience Requirements

A common requirement of entrance to NP school is experience as an RN. Schools typically require one to two years, but some schools may require more or less

GPA Minimum

Another common requirement of entrance to NP school is a GPA minimum of 3.0. If the student does not have a GPA of 3.0, efforts can be made to raise her or his GPA prior to applying, such as, retaking previous coursework or taking new courses and achieving a higher grade. If retaking coursework is not a possibility for the student, taking the GRE, achieving additional certifications, volunteering, and being active on quality improvement projects within her or his place of employment are all ways to improve an application.

Should you take the GRE examination?

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is sometimes required for admission to an NP program. For some programs it is required for all applicants. For others, it is required for applicants who do not meet the minimum GPA requirements. Either way, obtaining a high score on the GRE can only benefit an applicant attempting entrance into NP school. 

Letters of Recommendation

One to three letters of recommendation are often required to apply to NP school. Admission committees use the letters to round out the applicant’s profile. Rather than only using objective data like a GPA or GRE score, letters of recommendation can offer what a student is really like at work and as a person. When applicants are selecting the letter authors, they should be sure to include people at work or past professors with whom they have developed strong relationships. Letters detailing specific instances of the applicant’s success or determination are more likely to grab the reader’s attention than a form letter written by an acquaintance. 

Your NP School Personal Statement

Most NP schools require a personal statement for their application. A “personal statement” can also be referred to as a “goal statement”, “biographical sketch,” or a “written explanation of goals,” amongst others. 

Schools want to know why the student is applying and why she or he believes they would make an appropriate candidate. The most important aspect of writing a personal statement is to follow the instructions on the application. Some universities are very specific in their topic and word count, while others are not, but either way, precisely following instructions reflects the comprehension of the applicant. 

Curriculum Vitae

Most NP program applications require an up-to-date résumé or curriculum vitae (CV). Either option provides the interviewer with a summary of the applicant’s education, work experience, and accomplishments. Résumés are typically shorter and more introductory than comprehensive CVs. 

As with any other components of the application to NP school, it is important to ensure the résumé or CV is edited for grammar and typos and the design of the document is professional and concise.  

The NP School Interview

Once the applicant has submitted all of the application documents and met the requirements to apply, she or he will often be summoned for an interview. Prior to the interview, it is important for the applicant to have a solid understanding of the program for which she or he is interviewing.

Additionally, the applicant should clearly understand the role of an NP. Some documents that will help the applicant prepare are as follows: Quality of Nurse Practitioner Practice, Scope of Practice for Nurse Practitioners, NP student resources from the AANP.

What if you do not get accepted into NP school?

If the applicant does not get accepted to her or his chosen program, or any programs she or he applied to, it is reasonable to research reasons why. 

If the denial comes as a surprise, the applicant should consider calling the admissions office and ask to speak to a guidance counselor for advice. Guidance counselors are accustomed to receiving these calls and are likely to offer program-specific advice. 

This is not the time to give up on your quest to become an NP. Use the application process as a learning experience to improve and try again. 

Looking for more advice on your journey through NP school and beyond? Download our free eBook, “The Complete Guide to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner.” Packed with tips from NPs who have been through it all, this eBook is designed to guide current and prospective NP students on their path to becoming a Nurse Practitioner. Download your free copy today!

Ms. LeVeck is a cardiovascular surgical intensive care unit Nurse Practitioner in the Midwest and is the writer and creator behind Nurse Abnormalities blog and brand. She can be found at @nurseabnormalities on Instagram.

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