Top 10 Reasons Nursing Schools Are Rejecting Applicants In 2024

9 Min Read Published April 20, 2023
Why do Nursing Schools Reject Applicants? Nurses Answer

Nursing school rejections are unavoidable for many reasons, given the high demand for places in nursing schools and the limited space available. 

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN),  80,521 qualified applications were not accepted at nursing schools due to a shortage of clinical sites,  resource constraints, and faculty in 2020. 

If you've been turned away from a nursing school, don't despair. You can still try to get accepted by improving your application and taking steps to make yourself more attractive as a candidate. Knowing what criteria nursing schools use to evaluate applications and how to make your application stand out from the crowd can increase your chances of getting into a good program. 

Read on to learn more about why nursing schools reject applicants and how to make sure your application is successful. With the right knowledge, effort, and preparation, you can increase your chances of getting into the nursing program of your dreams!

10 Reasons Why Schools Are Rejecting Candidates

There is significant variation in rejection rates across different nursing programs and schools. For instance, some of the most highly-regarded nursing schools in the US are known for their rigorous admissions processes and fierce competition, whereas other schools routinely accept all of their applicants.

For example, the nursing program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is so competitive that the school only has a 12% acceptance rate. However, there are other nursing programs that have a 100% acceptance rate (for students who meet admission requirements).

While specific reasons for rejection may vary depending on the nursing school and individual circumstances, here are the most common reasons why nursing schools may reject applicants:

1. Low GPA

Nursing school is incredibly challenging, and students are typically expected to maintain a specific GPA while in their program. Nursing programs also want to accept students they think will pass the NCLEX upon graduation. Applicants who do not meet their minimum academic standards, such as a low GPA or standardized test scores, may be rejected for the program.

2. Incomplete Application or Missing Requirements

Nursing schools typically have strict application deadlines and require various documents, such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. Failure to submit a complete application or missing required documents can result in rejection.

Completing your nursing school application can be overwhelming, but skipping steps may prevent you from getting into the program.

3. Limited Availability of Spots

One of the most common reasons for rejection is simply a lack of space. Nursing schools may receive many more applications than they have available spots and thus must be highly selective in their admissions process. In these cases, even qualified applicants may be rejected due to limited space.

4. Not Enough Faculty to Teach

In October 2022, the AACN conducted a Special Survey on Vacant Faculty Positions, which revealed that out of 909 nursing schools with baccalaureate and/or graduate programs across the United States (84.4% response rate), 2,166 full-time faculty vacancies were identified.

Karen Kesten, DNP, APRN, CCNS, CNE, CCRN-K, projected in her article in Nursing Outlook that by 2025, approximately one-third of nursing faculty in baccalaureate and graduate programs will retire. 

5. Low GPA in Prerequisite Courses

Even if your high school or prior college GPA was high, a low GPA in your prerequisites might indicate to the admissions committee that you do not have a strong foundation in the required coursework and, therefore, may struggle in the nursing program. 

Nursing programs require the completion of specific science prerequisite courses, such as anatomy and physiology, microbiology, biology, and chemistry. Applicants who perform poorly in these courses may appear less competitive and be more likely to be rejected.

6. A Negative Reference From a Previous Employer or Professor

As part of the application process, nursing schools may ask for references from previous employers or instructors. If a reference provides negative feedback about an applicant, the applicant may be less likely to be accepted. Make sure that your references will give you a glowing review when the nursing school admissions office contacts them!

7. Lack of Relevant Experience

Many nursing schools prefer applicants with prior healthcare experience, such as working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or volunteering in a hospital. Applicants without relevant experience may be less competitive and more likely to be rejected.

For example, nursing programs may receive applications from hundreds of students who have completed all the prerequisite courses and have a strong academic record. However, many fewer have relevant healthcare experience working directly with patients.

While most students' applications may meet the minimum admission requirements, the nursing program may have a preference for applicants with prior healthcare experience. The program may view healthcare experience as an indicator of the student's commitment to the field and ability to work in a clinical setting.

8. Low  Communication or Interpersonal Skills 

Nursing is a field that requires strong communication and interpersonal skills. A nursing program may evaluate applicants' communication and interpersonal skills through their application materials, such as personal statements, resumes, and the interview process. 

An applicant with a strong academic record and relevant healthcare experience may have all the required qualifications, but if they struggle to communicate effectively or interact appropriately with others, they may be viewed as less suitable for the nursing profession and be rejected from the program.

9. Failure to Meet Health or Immunization Requirements

Nursing programs require students to complete specific health and immunization requirements before starting their clinical rotations, which may include physical exams, vaccinations, and tests for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis. This is done to ensure the safety of the students, patients, and healthcare professionals who work in the clinical setting.

If a potential student states that they will not meet these requirements or is unable to provide proof of a required vaccination, they will likely be rejected from the program.

10. Negative Background Check or Drug Test

 Nursing programs typically require background checks and drug tests as part of the application process. Applicants who have a criminal history or test positive for drugs may be rejected.

Note: Admissions committees consider many factors when making admission decisions, including work experience, references, personal statements, and other factors. It's always a good idea to check with individual nursing programs to determine their specific admission requirements and how they evaluate applicants.

Why You Need to Choose an Accredited Nursing Program

With the reduction in available nursing spots at major universities, more non-accredited nursing programs are opening their doors. Unfortunately, they are not the solution to the nursing shortage. Non-accredited universities should be a HUGE red flag for prospective nursing students. Why? 

  • Students that graduate from programs that are not accredited, whether an ADN or BSN program, will NOT be able to sit for the NCLEX. This means you will NOT become a Registered Nurse.

Look out for these 2 red flags while you are researching nursing programs - they usually indicate that a program is not-accredited, 

  1. If the program is extremely cheap or extremely expensive. 
  2. The program promises completion in less than a year. 

There are two main accrediting bodies for nursing programs,

Make sure your school is accredited by at least one of these organizations!

8 Tips to Actually Get Into Nursing School

Getting into nursing school can be a challenging and competitive process. With limited spots available and a large pool of applicants, it's more important than ever to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack. Whether you're just starting your journey towards becoming a nurse or you've been rejected from nursing school in the past, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of acceptance. 

Here we will explore some tips and strategies that can help you stand out from the competition and increase your chances of getting accepted into an accredited nursing school. By following these tips and putting in the hard work, dedication, and perseverance, you can increase your chances of acceptance and take the first step toward achieving your dream of becoming a nurse!

1. Maintain a High GPA

GPA is used as a measure of an applicant's academic ability and potential for success in a rigorous nursing program. Since many nursing programs have competitive admissions processes, a high GPA can make you a more attractive candidate.

If your GPA isn’t as high as you would like, there are several strategies you can use to raise your GPA, such as:

  • Retake courses to improve your grade
  • Take additional courses
  • Seek academic support with tutoring or study groups

2. Gain Relevant Healthcare Experience

Many nursing schools look favorably upon applicants who have worked as CNAs or hospital volunteers. This experience demonstrates an applicant's commitment to the nursing profession and can provide a competitive edge in the admissions process. But if you have worked in any other relevant healthcare setting, make sure you add it to your resume.

3. Write a Strong Personal Statement

Your personal statement is your chance to highlight your strengths, motivations, and goals for pursuing a career in nursing - so make sure it shines! Make sure to highlight your relevant skills and experience and explain why you are a good fit for the program.

4. Have Strong Letters of Recommendation 

Letters of recommendation from professors, employers, or healthcare professionals can attest to your skills, work ethic, and potential as a nursing student and future nurse. 

5. Prepare for the Interview

If the nursing program requires an interview, practice common interview questions and be prepared to articulate why you are interested in nursing and why you are a strong candidate for the program.

Don’t just think about your answers; talk about them out loud. Rehearse in front of a close friend, nursing school peer, or even the bathroom mirror!

6. Meet all Admission Requirements

Make sure to carefully review the nursing program's admission requirements and ensure that you have the following: 

  • Met all the prerequisites
  • Submitted all required documents, and 
  • Completed any necessary testing or health requirements. 

It would be a shame to get rejected because you accidentally skipped an admission requirement.

7. Apply to multiple programs

Applying to multiple nursing programs can increase your chances of being accepted, especially if the programs have different admission requirements or criteria. It never hurts to have a few backup choices, just in case!

8. Don't Be Afraid to Stand Out

The most important thing a student can do when applying for nursing school is to make themselves stand out. Ask yourself,

  • What makes you unique? 
  • What makes your application different than everyone else? 
  • What do you have to offer the nursing program? 
  • Why do you want to be a nurse?
  • Do you have volunteer experience?

Be authentic. Don’t be generic. In your personal essay, explain why you want to be a nurse, who inspires you, and why do you deserve to be a part of their nursing program. Also, consider doing volunteer work in the healthcare industry. Become a candy striper at a local hospital or volunteer at a long-term care facility. It’s important to show nursing programs that you are invested in the healthcare industry and have the initiative to expand your knowledge even prior to nursing school. 


  • What GPA do you have to have to get into nursing school?
    • GPA requirements are set forth by the University that the nursing school is a part of. Generally, BSN programs will require a minimum of a 3.0 GPA, while an ADN program at a community college may only require a 2.5 GPA. 
  • What are the requirements to get into a nursing school?
    • The only requirement to apply to a traditional four-year nursing program is graduating from high school or earning your GED. All other requirements are part of the application process. These include, 
      • Successful completion of a high school diploma or GED
      • Minimum GPA
      • Admissions application
      • Personal essay
      • Personal interview
      • Teacher Recommendations
      • Volunteer experience (preferably in healthcare)
      • Application Fee
      • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) if applicable
      • Minimum SAT scores or TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills) (These will vary amongst Universities)
  • What do you do if you don’t get into nursing school?
    • It’s okay! If you were able to get into the University but not the specific nursing program - continue to take classes and reapply the following year. If you were unable to get into the University, apply to a local community college and take basic general education classes and then consider reapplying or applying to other programs the following year.
  • How quickly can you get a nursing degree?
    • A Bachelor of Science in Nursing  (BSN) degree can be earned either through a traditional four-year program OR in 12-18 months through an accelerated second-degree program. This is for students that already have a bachelor’s degree in another field. 
    • An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) can be earned in as little as two years through a community college or hospital-based program. 
  • Can you get into nursing school without prerequisites? 
    • No. If you have not graduated from high school and earned your diploma or the GED, then you will not be able to apply to nursing school.

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Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

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