August 23, 2019

Top 3 Reasons Nursing Schools Are Rejecting Applicants In 2019

Kathleen Gaines
By: Kathleen Gaines News and Education Editor, MSN, RN, BA, CBC

It is a well-known fact that there is a significant nursing shortage across the United States. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the nursing profession is projected to grow at least 15% between 2016 and 2026. This is much faster than the national average of other professions. 

The Bureau projects the need for an additional 203,700 new RNs each year through 2026 to fill newly created positions and to replace retiring nurses. This gap in supply and demand is being driven by several factors.

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  • 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. 
    • The GPA required to get into an Ivy League school nursing program such as the University of Pennsylvania may be different than the GPA needed to get into the University of Kansas’ nursing program. 
  • 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’s 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’s 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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3 Reasons Why Schools are Rejecting Candidates

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) some key findings related to the ongoing nursing shortage include, 

  • Dr. Peter Buerhaus and his colleagues addressed the accelerating rate of nursing retirements and projected that one million nurses will retire by 2030.
  • According to the 2012 “United States Registered Nurse Workforce Report Card and Shortage Forecast” reported that the shortage of nurses will spread across the country between 2009 and 2030. The shortage is expected to be worst in the South and the West.
  • The Institute of Medicine, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,  called for increasing the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses in the workforce to 80%. This puts an increased strain on nursing faculty. 

1. Retirement

A substantial portion of qualified nurses are reaching retirement at the same time, creating a sudden deficit that has been hard to fill. At the same time, Baby Boomers, which represent one of the largest generations, has increased demand on the healthcare system as they age and require additional medical care. 

  • The National Council of State Boards of Nursing and The Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers (2018) found that 50.9% of the RN workforce is 50 or older. 
  • The Health Resources and Services Administration projects that more than 1 million registered nurses will reach retirement age within the next 10 to 15 years.

2. Shortage of Nursing Faculty

While there was an increase of 3.7% in admission to baccalaureate nursing programs in 2018, there are still thousands of prospective nursing students being turned away each year. There is an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, and clinical preceptors. 

  • According to AACN’s report Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, U.S. nursing schools turned away 75,029 qualified applicants for the 2018-2019 academic year.
  • According to the 2018 Special Survey on Vacant Faculty Positions 1,715 faculty vacancies were identified. 
  • Faculty vacancy rate of 7.9%.
  • Needed creation of additional 138 faculty positions. 
  • 1/3 of current nursing faculty in BSN programs are expected to retire by 2025. 
  • The average salary of a nurse practitioner is $97,000 compared to an average salary of $78,575 for a nursing school assistant professor, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
  • Master’s and doctoral programs in nursing are not producing a large enough pool of potential nurse educators to meet the demand.
  • Higher compensation in clinical and private-sector settings is luring current and potential nurse educators away from teaching.
  • Faculty age continues to climb, narrowing the number of productive years educators teach.

3. Reduction in Available Spots

  • According to a CNN Business article, in 2018 Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan, reduced its accepted students from 80 to 64 students.
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Nursing receives 300-400 applications for the BSN program and accepts 104 students.
  • University of Central Florida had 489 applicants for 126 students in 2018. 

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Nursing Schools Acceptance Rate

  • University of Utah - 82%
  • East Carolina University- 62%
  • University of Kentucky - 67%
  • University of Northern Colorado - 89%
  • University of Maryland College Park - 47%
  • University of Washington - 59%
  • Ball State University - 61%
  • Western Kentucky University - 92%
  • Clemson University - 58%
  • Auburn University - 77%
  • Indiana University of Pennsylvania - 61%
  • Temple University - 67%
  • University of New Mexico - 65%
  • Richard Stockton College of New Jersey - 57%
  • Tennessee Technological University - 97%
  • Emporia State University - 72%
  • North Dakota State University - 84%
  • University of Massachusetts - 63%

Why Accreditation Matters?

With the reduction in available nursing spots at major Universities, more non-accredited nursing programs are opening its 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,

  • The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

The purpose of accreditation is to focus on the same standards and criteria across all nursing programs. This ensures that there is some level of sameness within the programs. The accreditation process ultimately improves the quality of nursing education and keeps the curriculum up to date on current trends in advances in nursing and healthcare.

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is an organization designed to support nursing education and ensure it is done in a safe, reliable, and consistent matter. According to the website, the purpose of the ACEN is as follows:

  • The ACEN is recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) as a specialized accrediting agency for nursing education programs located in the United States and its territories.
  • The ACEN is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) for nursing education programs in the United States and its territories as well as for international nursing education programs.
  • The ACEN accredits all types of nursing education programs, including clinical doctorate/DNP specialist certificate, master’s/post-master’s certificate, baccalaureate, associate, diploma, and practical nursing programs.
  • The ACEN accredited nursing education programs in secondary, postsecondary, and hospital-based governing organizations that offer certificates, diplomas, or degrees.
  • The ACEN serves as a Title IV-HEA Gatekeeper for some practical nursing programs and hospital-based nursing education programs eligible to participate in financial aid programs administered by the USDE or other federal agencies.

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is considered the voice of academic nursing in America and contributes to the overall safety of the public’s health. This accreditation committee supports the continuous self assessment of national programs to ensure quality education is delivered to all nursing students.  According to the website, the purpose of the CCNE is as follows:

  • To hold nursing programs accountable to the community of interest – the nursing profession, consumers, employers, higher education, students and their families, nurse residents – and to one another by ensuring that these programs have mission statements, goals, and outcomes that are appropriate to prepare individuals to fulfill their expected roles.
  • To evaluate the success of a nursing program in achieving its mission, goals, and expected outcomes.
  • To assess the extent to which a nursing program meets accreditation standards.
  • To inform the public of the purposes and values of accreditation and to identify nursing programs that meet accreditation standards.
  • To foster continuing improvement in nursing programs – and, thereby, in professional practice.

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Possible Solutions    

Some nursing schools are responding to this problem with creative solutions.

  • Expansion to new campuses and partnerships with local hospitals.
  • Second degree nursing programs for students that already have a bachelor’s degree in another field and have the needed prerequisites. 
  • Veterans who received medical training during their military career are eligible for bridge programs that give them credit for the training they have already received. 

While nursing schools face some real challenges, there is some good news: the number of qualified nursing applicants is on the rise. Even entry-level nursing positions provide competitive compensation that can support a family and with flexible hours, nurses can enjoy plenty of time off. The field also offers an attractive level of job security. With the current level of demand, nurses should have no trouble finding and retaining optimal employment. For those interested in the field, the biggest hurdle is simply getting into nursing school.

How To Get Into Nursing School in 5 Steps

  • Earn your high school diploma or GED.
  • Decide if you want to attend a four year traditional nursing program and earn your BSN or a community college and earn your ADN.
    • In 2010, The Institute of Medicine recommended that 80 percent of the nursing workforce have a baccalaureate degree (BSN) by 2020. If you decide to pursue an ADN, then you most likely will have to earn your BSN at a later date. 
  • Research Nursing School Admission Requirements
  • Apply to Nursing Programs and Prepare for Personal Interviews
  • Determine How to Finance Nursing School
    • Apply for financial aid, scholarships, grants, and student loans

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A scholarship is an award of financial aid to a student to further their education. This money does not have to be repaid. There are a variety of different types of scholarships. These include

  • Merit-based
  • Need-based
  • Athletic
  • Student-specific (gender, race, religion, family, and/or medical history)
  • Career-specific
  • College-specific


Grants are determined by financial need. They can be used to cover the cost of tuition, books, clinical uniforms and supplies, housing and educational supplies. When applying for grants they will inform how they are to be applied towards your education. The amount of money you are eligible to receive depends strictly on your financial situation.

Typically grants do not have to be repaid as long as you graduate nursing school in the allotted amount of time. If you were to drop out there can be incurred costs.

Student Loan

Unlike scholarships and grants, loans must be repaid. Loans incur interest, so you will ultimately repay more than the initial amount of the loan. The exact terms of the loan will depend on the lender and other factors. There are several types of student loans.

  • The most common loans are Federal Student Loans. Federal student loans are a great option for most students for the following reasons:
  • They don’t have to be paid back while you’re in school.
  • They charge lower interest than loans from private lenders.
  • If you’re having trouble paying back your loan, there are programs you can qualify for to assist you.
  • You don’t need any credit history to get a federal student loan.

Two other fairly common loans are direct subsidized loans and direct unsubsidized loans more commonly referred to as Stafford Loans. 

Direct Subsidized Loans

  • U.S. Department of Education loan
  • Must meet certain income requirements
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Government pays interest rate on loan while in schools
  • Pay back once graduated

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

  • U.S. Department of Education loan
  • Don’t have to meet income requirements
  • Student is responsible for accrued interest
  • Pay back once graduated

Federal Perkins Loan 

  • Very low-income students
  • Lender is the education institution
  • Meet income requirements
  • School must have funds available, limited monetary amounts

Private Student Loans

  • From banks and credit unions
  • Very high interest rates
  • Payments required while in school

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. 

Next Up: 2018 Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in Washington

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