Believe it or not, one of the hardest parts of nursing school and being a nursing student is getting into nursing school.

That statement alone probably isn’t all that surprising but what you probably haven’t heard about is there’s a lot of different criteria that can affect how difficult of a time you’re going to have to get in.

In this article, I’m going to talk about all of those things. How difficult getting into a nursing program is and the different factors that make it easier or more difficult.

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How Hard Is It to get into a Nursing Program?

Getting into nursing school is hard and can feel almost impossible. Difficult prerequisite classes, high GPA standards, tough entrance interviews, and exams are just some of the factors that can make getting into a nursing program challenging.

If you would like to find a nursing program (RN, BSN, ADN, LPN, etc.) click here to search for schools.

Factors that Make Getting Into a Program Difficult

1. Difficult Prerequisite Classes

One thing that makes nursing school so hard is the actual prerequisite classes you have to take.

If you haven’t taken any prerequisite courses for nursing school, you’re probably wondering how hard could those classes actually be. Well, let me tell you, they are hard. The prereqs are just what keeps so many students from ever getting close to nursing school.

It’s not even that the prereqs are impossible though it will feel like it while you’re taking some of them. It’s just that they’re time-consuming and very difficult.

For example, a common prerequisite course every nursing student has to take is human anatomy and human physiology.

Human anatomy and human physiology were some of the most challenging prerequisites I had to take for nursing school. At the same time, they were the two classes that caused so many pre-nursing students to abandon their hopes and dreams of becoming a nurse.

More Info
I go deeper into the prerequisite discussion in my articles about LPN prerequisites and RN prerequisites. Check out those articles for more information.

2. Choosing a Nursing Program

The nursing program you choose will make a difference in how difficult it will be to get into nursing school. By program, I’m not talking about the actual school (I’ll talk about that a little later), I’m referring to the degree program (BSN, ADN, LPN, etc.).

There are exceptions to this, but in general, getting into an LPN nursing program will be easier than an ADN program. With that said, getting into an ADN nursing program will be easier than getting into a BSN program.

There are various reasons for this, some of which I’ve touched on in other articles. In short, the easiest route to nursing school might be an LPN program, but unfortunately, it won’t give you as many options as the BSN nursing route.

Related: 10 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Nursing Program

Find Nursing Programs

Search our school database to find schools and get information on the programs that’s right for you. (Don’t worry, it’s fast and free!)

3. Tough GPA Requirements

This one is a given. The higher your GPA, the easier it will be to get into your nursing school of choice.

Some students only focus on their overall cumulative GPA, which does need to be good. But they overlook their science GPA.

Most nursing schools will break out some of your core science classes (like anatomy and physiology) that you were supposed to take and calculate that GPA separately to see how well you did on those core classes.

bsn vs adn vs lpn avg gpa needed
In general, you’ll need a higher GPA to get into a BSN program than you would need for an ADN program.

Different schools will have different expectations on what those GPAs should be. As stated before, the higher your GPA, the easier it will be to get into your preferred nursing school. This also includes degree choice as well (BSN vs. ADN)

Pro-Tip
Just because your GPA is low doesn’t mean all hope is lost. You do have options to get into nursing school with a low GPA.

I also breakdown in more detail what GPA is expected in nursing school. Check out those linked articles for those discussions.

4. Public vs. Private School

From what I’ve seen, you’re probably going to have an easier time getting into a private school than a public school.

I’m not saying that’s going to be the case for all private schools, nor am I saying that private schools don’t have standards because they do. Some have really high standards, even higher than some public schools. 

The reason why I say this is that there are some programs either because they’re “less prestigious” or they’re so expensive that as long as you’re able to afford the tuition (or be able to get enough loans) to cover the education, you’ll be admitted.

Let me repeat this just because it’s a private school doesn’t mean you don’t have to try or you won’t get rejected for subpar academic performance. It’s just that the high tuition cost makes it a huge barrier for many students, effectively decreasing their applicant pool—more on applicant pool below.

5. Good School vs Bad School

One thing you’ll notice about this list is that while I’m making several different points, all of them revolve around two primary things. They are your academic history and your school choice.

School choice is one you should focus on because even with a subpar academic history, your school choice can still give you many options.

One such thing you’ll have to note is that the better the program, the harder it’s going to be for you to get in. The reason is that students are generally trying to go to good programs.

One thing to note is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a “good school.” It could be a school in a good location. In general, anything that makes many students want to go to that school will make it harder for you to get accepted.

Pro-Tip
While there’s merit to going to a good school, so many students focus on “prestigious” schools.

The prestige of your nursing program doesn’t matter. You should focus on the program that will prepare you for boards and for life after nursing school.

There’s plenty of “non-prestigious” schools that are more than capable of doing that.

6. How Well You Do on General Entrance Hurdles

Most schools will have some entrance hurdles you’ll have to do. This varies from school to school, but some common entrance hurdles include interviews and entrance exams like the Test of Essential Academics Skills (TEAS).

Some schools may require you to write an essay or talk about extracurricular activities you’re involved in. 

Some of these entrance exams are going to be difficult. If you struggle with standardized testing, then any entrance exam will be difficult. If you’re shy and have traditionally struggled in interviews or you’ve never done a formal interview before, you could find that process daunting.

Not all schools require them, but it goes without saying that the better you do in these entrance hurdles, the more likely it is you’ll get into your school of choice.

Find Nursing Programs

Search our school database to find schools and get information on the programs that’s right for you. (Don’t worry, it’s fast and free!)

7. The Applicant Pool

The last but certainly not the least of the reasons that can significantly affect your ability to get into nursing school is how the overall applicant pool stacks up against you.

The applicant pool refers to the other students who are applying and trying to get into the same program you’re trying to get into during that application period.

This is important to be aware of because you’re directly competing against those other applicants for the limited spots available.

For example, what if you have average grades and you’re one of 100 pre-nursing students who apply to a nursing program with only 50 available spots? You can see real quick how that affects your chances.

I talk more about the applicant pool in the video above. Still, the main takeaway point is that while you can’t really control the applicant pool, a school gets for that year, you can do your part to either get to the top of the pack or by applying to multiple programs so you can hedge your bet.

Getting Into Nursing School is Just Hard

As you can see, many different things will try to stand in your way of getting into nursing school. While it can seem like it’s a lot (and in many ways it kind of is), know that it’s doable.

Many students before you have done it, and so can you. It will take hard work, but know that it’s worth it in the end for a profession that does so much good and has as much job security and options as nursing does.

Go here to start looking for nursing schools. Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below. Don’t forget to check out some of the other articles I have that can make getting into nursing school easier.

Have You Read Any of These Yet?

Frequently Asked Questions

For an ADN program, you’ll need a 2.5 cumulative GPA, and for a BSN program, you’ll need at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA. These are minimum requirements for many programs, and to be competitive, you’ll need a cumulative GPA much higher than what’s listed.

To increase your chances of getting into a nursing program, make sure to talk to an academic counselor and keep your cumulative GPA as high as possible (especially your science GPA) to increase your chances of getting into your program of choice.

Nursing school prerequisites are not harder than nursing school. That doesn’t mean the prereqs are easy, as many students quit the nursing track because the prerequisites are so difficult.

Limited nursing programs and a competitive applicant pool are just some of the reasons why getting into a nursing program is so difficult.