What do Nursing Schools Look for in Applicants?

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Stand out to get into nursing school - nursing students in red scrubs

What do nursing schools look for in applicants? While the answer varies given all the nursing program options available today, there are some general qualities that can help you stand out and increase your odds of being accepted into a nursing program.

Below, we highlight six qualities nursing schools find favorable, explain why they’re important to your nursing education and offer tips for how to demonstrate those traits in the admissions process.

1. Prior educational success

Why it’s important: You must meet specific academic requirements to qualify for enrollment in nursing school, no matter where you apply. The University of the Incarnate Word’s 16-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing track requires students to have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree from an accredited university with a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA for all undergraduate coursework.

girl wearing nursing lab coat and taking notes - University of the Incarnate Word

While previous health care experience or a bachelor’s degree in a science discipline is not necessary to enroll in our ABSN program, you’ll need to achieve a proficient score on the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) and have completed the following prerequisite courses with a minimum 3.0 GPA for admission:

  • Anatomy and Physiology I with Lab
  • Anatomy and Physiology II with Lab
  • Introduction to Microbiology and Lab
  • Biological Chemistry for Health Professions
  • Biological Chemistry for Health Professions Lab
  • Introduction to Probability and Statistics
  • Introduction to Nutrition
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Lifespan Development

Your admissions counselor can help you determine which, if any, you need to take.

How you can show it: If you’re completing your first degree and are considering pursuing a second degree in nursing, the easiest way to demonstrate your prior educational success is to excel in your undergraduate degree courses and graduate with the highest GPA you can achieve.

A GPA that is slightly lower than the minimum necessary to qualify for enrollment may not necessarily disqualify you from enrollment eligibility. An additional way you can work to meet our academic requirements is going above and beyond in your prerequisite coursework.

2. Compassion

Why it’s important: Just as important as demonstrating academic aptitude is having emotional intelligence, or the ability to read situations and understand how to react appropriately. Compassion and empathy are both essential traits in nursing, as nurses need to be able to connect with patients from all types of backgrounds and circumstances to be able to do their work well.

UIW ABSN students and instructor in masks

In the UIW ABSN track, you can expect to have direct client/patient clinical experiences starting the first semester. Throughout the program, you will gain more than 900 hours of clinical experience, working alongside experienced registered nurses who know how to establish patient connections and trust.

How you can show it: Although by no means a requirement to gain acceptance into our ABSN track, volunteer or paid work in a hospital or healthcare setting can demonstrate your empathy for patients and their families. Even non-healthcare tasks like visiting residents at a nursing home or volunteer work can show how much you want to make a difference in the lives of others.

3. Communication skills

Why it’s important: Part of the application process for the UIW accelerated nursing track involves staying in contact with your admissions counselor. Your initial calls begin with communicating your desire to become a nurse as well as why you think you’d be a good fit for the program. Communication continues as the counselor checks in with you throughout the application process — from completing any prerequisite courses to submitting application materials by the deadlines for your target start date. If you have any questions or are struggling with any part of the process, don’t hesitate to reach out to your admissions counselor. They are here to help, but only know that you need help if you contact them or speak up.

Seeking assistance is an important success skill, because once you get into nursing school, you’ll be expected to communicate with patients, family members and staff. You’ll be talking with people who have different life experiences and cultural backgrounds, so solid communication skills will help you perform your job well.

How you can show it: Did you give presentations as part of your marketing career? Or was your first occupation teaching where you had to communicate complex concepts clearly to students? No matter your previous profession, you can use the communication skills you picked up along the way to your advantage when applying to nursing school. Your previous life experience will serve you well when you eventually begin interacting with patients and their families during clinical rotations.

4. Self-discipline

University of the Incarnate Word nursing students in practice ER

Why it’s important: Our ABSN track comprises four full-time semesters of rigorous nursing study, including online coursework, nursing skills and simulation labs, and clinical rotations in top healthcare facilities in and around San Antonio, including two of the most respected in Texas — CHRISTUS Health System and Methodist Healthcare System.

While how you study and work your way through our ABSN track may vary, in general we estimate you’ll need to dedicate a significant amount of time each week to your nursing education in order to be successful. It goes without saying that you’ll need a healthy dose of self-discipline and focus to make that happen.

How you can show it: Here is how you can pull from your prior life experiences to show you have what it takes to succeed in nursing school. For example, you could mention that you were involved in a competitive sport during your undergraduate years in your nursing school application and in conversations with your admissions counselor to demonstrate your self-discipline and focus.

5. Passion for nursing

Why it’s important: If you’re interested in applying to a second-degree BSN program, your admissions counselor will likely ask you why you want to enter the profession. It’s important to share your true passion and motivation for wanting to become a nurse. Doing so can serve to underscore to nursing schools your commitment to keeping up with the curriculum’s rigorous and fast-paced structure.

How you can show it: Were you inspired by volunteer work or current events on a mission trip, such as the COVID-19 Pandemic? Did a nurse make a lasting impression during a trying time while caring for a family member or friend? There is no one right answer to best demonstrate your passion for nursing.

6. Organizational skills

Why it’s important: You’ll be balancing multiple requirements and deadlines during this time, so it’s important to stay on top of all of them. Taking notes during your conversations with your admissions counselor and writing down all relevant deadlines for submitting your nursing application will help you you streamline the admissions process and feel confident throughout the process. This practice also prepares you for the eventual rigors of an accelerated nursing program.

How you can show it: You’ll need to submit various materials for your nursing school application. One way to ensure nothing falls through the cracks is to create a physical folder of all the information you receive from the program (fliers, brochures, financial aid information), as well as copies of everything you need to submit with your application, including:

  • Official academic transcripts for all schools attended
  • Proof of completion of all prerequisite courses
  • Proof of achieving a proficient score on the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS)
  • Completion of the Acknowledgement of Legal Requirement for RN Licensure document for the criminal background check

Start your nursing future now

Applying to nursing school takes a commitment to academic success and a passion for caring for others. Are you ready to start demonstrating you have what it takes to excel in a BSN program? Reach out to our admissions team today.