Thinking of Taking the NP Leap?

Are you thinking about going back to NP school but the entire application process seems overly complicated, and you’re just not sure where to start or what you will need?

You are not alone!

I almost didn’t apply to NP school because I felt overwhelmed by the application process. In order to make the process appear a bit more doable, I’ve compiled some tips I’ve learned through my application experience so you can avoid the mistakes I made.

When do I apply for NP school?

Typically programs start in the fall, and applications are due the previous December, however, some programs allow early admissions -- I would definitely take advantage of if they provide it!

There is nothing professors enjoy more than prepared, eager students.

What education do I need before applying?

Let's start out with what you will need in order to begin the application process. Do you have, or are you working towards a Bachelors degree in Nursing? How about a Bachelor's degree in something else? If so, you are on the right track! Traditionally, NP programs require a BSN (Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing). However, programs that will clump your nursing education and your NP education all in one are becoming more common with a Bachelor’s degree in nursing as a prerequisite. I had my BSN when I applied to NP school, so I am more familiar with the traditional path. I joined an accelerated nursing program, which I thought was a bit intense, so I’m not sure the combined BSN and NP program would be for me, but if you can learn like a sponge, go for it!

Do I Need Experience as a Registered Nurse?

This will completely depend on your program and personal preference. My FNP program required at least one year of RN experience prior to beginning clinical placements. Some programs require even more experience as an RN, and some have absolutely none at all. I have found my experience as a Registered Nurse to be hugely beneficial in both my NP program as well as my clinical practice. There are some things that you can only learn on the job. That being said, I have worked with some fantastic NPs that had very minimal RN experience, but they drew their skills from other areas of life that prepared them for practice.

Will I Need to Take Pre-Reqs?

Prerequisites will vary based on your program. I had to retake a college level statistics course (UGH!) because I needed to have one within 5 years. I have friends who did other programs that did not have this requirement. If you do not have a BSN, then you may have other prerequisites to complete such as anatomy, physiology, etc. If you do need to take some classes, I would highly recommend checking out your local community college as the classes are typically available online and are more affordable.

Start Ordering Transcripts–Early!

Every school will want to see your transcripts from your undergraduate degree. I would recommend requesting these early on in the process, as it can take awhile for the requests to go through. This was something I waited on, and my transcripts arrived the day of the deadline. Trust me, you don’t want that stress! In terms of GPA, most schools want you to have a 3.0 in your undergrad nursing classes. If you want to get a ballpark estimate of the average accepted GPA of the school you are applying to, check out their nursing website under the Admission FAQ’s . An example of Johns Hopkins is here (they require B- or higher).

But please don’t panic if your GPA isn’t sky high. I’ve spoken with many faculty who determine admissions and they do factor in work and life experiences. Make that admission essay SHINE with your accomplishments to get a leg up, especially if Microbiology killed your GPA like it did to mine.

Speaking of the Admission Essay...

You will always have to write an admission essay, and it will almost always want to know the same things about applicants.

Why are you doing this?

Why our school?

What makes you want to be this specific type of NP?

So start thinking about those answers now! Personally, I hate writing essays. So I dreaded this and put it off until the end, when I then panicked and ended up writing this tangential nonsense essay. Don’t be me! Start early. Also, don’t be afraid to brag about yourself a bit. It can be awkward to toot your own horn, but if there was ever a time to do so, it is now!

Other People Have to Brag About You Too

You are going to need some letters of recommendation. The types will depend on the program. Mine required three letters of recommendation from people who already held masters degrees. Find out what your programs may require and get scoping out your contacts! Supervisors are usually a good bet, as well as an experienced nurse or colleague you work with. You are going to want to give these people a good chunk of time to write these for you (notice a trend here?).

They are doing you a favor, so do them a favor and give them plenty of time and maybe a latte.

OK I gathered all this Information, Now What?

Once you have tackled the beast that is the NP school application, you are done for awhile! Schools typically reach out for interviews in the early Spring. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to gather your past immunization information as certain vaccines will be required. BLS and any other certification you have, including renewal dates will need to be added to your education file when you get accepted into a program.

Hopefully this gives you some clarity on the application process for NP school.

It may seem overwhelming, but with a few lists and lattes, you can do it!

Liz Russ, BSN, RN, MSN FNP Student

About the Author:
Liz is a Pediatric Cardiology Nurse and will be finishing up her FNP program in May 2018. She has worked as a nurse for over 5 years, and is very excited to begin her career as an NP. In her free time she enjoys being outdoors with her family and playing around on her Youtube Channel.

To find out more about advanced practice nursing and licensure, check out these NP resource websites:

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