Easiest Nursing Schools to Get Into
Why Are Many Nursing Schools Not Easy to Get Into?
Easiest nursing schools to get into are hard to find. Despite of the surge in demand for nurses, many nursing schools are turning away students. This makes it harder to get into a quality nursing program than ever.
There are a few reasons for the uptick in the nursing industry. An aging population, more outpatient procedures and retiring registered nurses (RNs) to begin. As a result, by 2028, the nation will need 12% more RNs. And even more (26%) advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).
Yet in 2018, the AACN says nursing schools rejected 75,029 qualified applicants. Both from Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and nursing grad programs. The main reason is a lack of master’s and doctorate prepared faculty. But there’s also a shortage of clinical sites, classroom space, and budget.
These issues often force nursing schools to downsize their programs. And makes it more competitive to get into a nursing school. Even with a 3.5 GPA.
Easiest Nursing Schools to Get Into
We compiled a list of 34 of the easiest nursing schools to get into. It takes into account the most recent NCLEX pass rates and acceptance rates. You should note that the acceptance rates published are at the school level not the nursing program level.
|School||# of Nursing Students||% Admitted||Undergrad Tuition||RN NCLEX 1st Time Pass Rate||BSN NCLEX 1st Time Pass Rate|
Herzing University – Madison
The University of Texas at El Paso
Mississippi University for Women
University of Southern Mississippi
Brigham Young University – Idaho
California University of Pennsylvania
Western Kentucky University
Wichita State University
Maryville University of Saint Louis
West Coast University – Orange County
Wright State University Main Campus
University of Kentucky
University of Toledo
North Dakota State University Main Campus
University of Saint Francis – Fort Wayne
Gwynedd Mercy University
South Dakota State University
|Southwestern Oklahoma State University||229||92%||$14,235||N/A||88.37%|
University of Alabama at Birmingham
University of Kansas
Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health
University of Colorado Colorado Springs
University of Northern Colorado
Albany State University
Indiana State University
Illinois State University
Northern Kentucky University
How Do I Increase My Chances of Getting into Nursing School?
It may not be easy, but there are ways to improve the chances of getting into nursing school. Here are a few tips and suggestions to try out.
Clarify Your Personal Statement
Many nursing schools ask for an admissions essay. Or, you have to submit to an interview. For these things, you need to be able to explain why you want to become a nurse. What your goals are and any stories you have.
For example, you volunteer at blood drives or at a local hospital. Enrollment counselors often look for a well-rounded candidate. So, be clear, focused and make it personal as well as professional.
Review Admission Requirements
Each nursing school sets its own standards for admission. These also vary by degree level and program. And, may be lax at some schools and more detailed at others.
It is common for schools to set an acceptable GPA range, ask for SAT or ACT scores, and prerequisite courses. You may also need recommendation letters, written by a teacher, mentor or employer. A CPR certificate and up to date flu shot too. Review school standards against your own achievements. Then try to apply to ones that line up to boost the odds of getting an acceptance letter. For instance, if you have a 2.75 GPA, apply to schools with a 2.0 or 2.5 range to stand out.
Apply to Lesser Known Schools Too
Many lesser known schools have approval from their state board, and accreditation. But, being lesser known than popular ones, may get fewer applications.
If you meet the admissions requirements, they may be worth looking into. At the end of the day, getting accepted into a few schools means you can pick the perfect one for you.
Pursue a Nursing Degree Online
Many lesser known programs are available at online nursing schools. Often, these schools have state approval, national accreditation and high NCLEX pass rates too. Some online programs are available at traditional colleges. These may use a cohort model where you enter with the same group. Most also use video conferencing and a set schedule to foster interaction. But you won’t have to move which may make them an affordable option.
Other programs are from online schools with nursing programs. In these schools, classes are available on a learning management system (LMS). The LMS may feature discussion boards, Wiki, and other digital tools. You may also have the flexibility to set your own pace, study from wherever you have high speed internet and so on. As far as clinical and hands on experiences, each school handles them in their own way. So, it is important to speak with an administrator to get full details.
Are you open to some legwork? A self-starter? If so, many online programs have lax admissions requirements (E.g. GPA of 2.0). And again, applying to a broad pool of nursing schools may help you get into one.
Scout Locations and Cast a Wide Net
Your chances of getting into a nursing program may be higher in some states than in others. This may be because there are more nursing programs in that state. Or, a wider range of nursing jobs that need filling.
The schools may also have an open admissions policy making them accessible. Applying to schools in these states may increase your odds of getting into nursing school. Assess the school as well as the potential to land a job after you graduate.
A few states with the highest number of registered nurse jobs are:
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
- Rhode Island
Areas like New York, Florida, Michigan, Texas, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina also report high concentrations of RN jobs.
Start Preparing Before You Apply
Some nursing schools look at the whole candidate. Beyond your grades, they may want to see what kind of person you are and what type of nurse you would be. Things like volunteer work can help a professional resume stand out. Especially if in a health care setting.
Check out your local hospital, nearby camp, or emergency dept. Doing so may provide valuable experience. And, might help you form a professional network as you start your career.
NCLEX Exam Pass Rate
The NCLEX exam is the National Council Licensure Examination from the NCSBN. Or, National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The exam is a standardized test that every state board of nursing use. They do this to assess your skill level and determine whether to grant you a nursing license.
Depending on your goals, you may take one of two NCLEX exams. The NCLEX-RN if you aspire to become a registered nurse. Or, the NCLEX-PN if you are a graduate of a vocational or practical nursing program. You need to pass the NCLEX to earn licensure. It is a pass or fail outcome, so in an ideal scenario, you only take the test once.
If you fail, you have to wait 45 days before your next try and may take it up to 8 times in one year. This is expensive as you have to pay to take the test each time. That said, while you took many tests in nursing school, the NCLEX exam is different. As a practical exam, it tests clinical reasoning skills. So, while ideal to pass it first time around, many do not. To give you an idea, the 2019 national pass rate for first time NCLEX-RN exam takers is 88.18%. And the national pass rate for repeat test takers is 72.80%.
Top 5 States with the Highest NCLEX Exam Pass Rates
Statistics from 2019 have yet to be compiled. But as of 2018, the 5 states with the best pass rates for BSN programs are:
|State||RN to BSN Pass Rate %|
|District of Columbia||100%|
10 Tips for Passing the NCLEX on Your First Try
If you prepare for the NCLEX, it is possible to nail it on your first try. In 2019, 84,298 BSN students took the NCLEX exam and of them, 91.22% passed it the first time.
Here are ten tips to help you succeed as an NCLEX test taker.
1. Take the Test Seriously
Earning straight A’s in nursing school does not mean you will pass the NCLEX exam. Some nurses say you should spend at least 1 to 2 months studying for it. So, no cramming the night before.
2. Know What the NCLEX Covers
To be effective when you study, it is wise to know exactly what the exam covers. There are four main categories in the NCLEX -RN exam. Based on client care needs, these are:
- Safe and Effective Care Environment (infection control, case management etc.)
- Psychosocial Integrity (grief, loss, family dynamics etc.)
- Health Promotion and Maintenance (aging, high risk behaviors etc.)
- Physiological Integrity (risk, hygiene, nursing actions etc.)
3. Understand the NCLEX Format
The NCLEX test does not use pen and paper. Rather, it uses a computer and keyboard. Pen and paper exams give every student the same test, not so with the NCLEX. The NCLEX uses CAT format, or computerized adaptive testing. This means that no one exam is identical to another. In fact, the computer algorithm draws questions from a test bank. CAT targets items to each candidate’s ability. The computer stops giving questions when it is 95% sure that you are above or below the passing standard.
4. Figure Out Your Learning Style
For nursing school exams, maybe you reread, rewrote and recopied your class notes. You will want to do more than that for the NCLEX. The test is practical and tries to get you to think like a nurse. Not memorize statistics. Some people learn by listening, interacting or through visual means. So, depending on your style, you may want to use study groups, flash cards, watch videos or draw systems of the body on paper. These tools aim to connect you with the material. And, may engage you in a way that exercises your nurse decision skills.
5. Invest in Your Success
To bolster your test taking skills, you may want to invest in practice exam books. Or, enroll in a test prep class (E.g. Kaplan, UWorld etc.). Some of these services use 3D images, quizzes and questions that mimic the NCLEX format. They are guides, so look for one that fits your learning style.
6. Think Endurance, Not Speed
For the NCLEX-RN exam, you need to answer from 75 to 265 questions and have up to 6 hours to do so. And for the NCLEX-PN exam, there are from 85 to 205 questions. This makes the exam day more of a marathon than a sprint. Getting your head into the game may help you pace your energy. You can also plan to take the breaks offered during the test. There is usually a locker area at the test center so you can pack snacks, water and a sweater.
7. Practice Makes Perfect
A practice exam may grow your comfort level with test taking. But going through the motions of answering questions doesn’t always help you learn. When you get an answer wrong, look up the content topic to go over the right explanation. Also, make a note of any areas you get a few wrong answers in. Then focus your studies on these areas. If you stress out before, during and after exams, this is another reason to practice. Some people take at least one or two full online mock NCLEX exams to get into the rhythm.
8. Stick to Science
If you are a nursing aid or have experience working in a hospital setting, put this aside. It may cloud your test answering judgement. Even if what you did in this facility was safe and correct. For instance, you called the doctor right away or your intuition worked. The NCLEX is about proven, research and evidence-based approaches. So, stay in the moment with science and think of how to apply it to form your answer choice. Often, the correct answer is about putting the patient’s safety first. Are they breathing, choking, passed out? You should approach every question step by step and use deductive reasoning.
9. Prep for the Day of Ahead of Time
Think of exam day ahead of time. Try to get your beauty sleep the week before, eat and create a checklist. Things like planning your commute, putting gas in the car and setting a reliable alarm. You don’t want to be turned away for lack of the right ID either. If you are turned away, you will have to reregister and pay for the test again. There are rules about what ID each kind of test center accepts. You also want to ensure the ID you plan to take with you is valid (not expired).
10. Breathe and Believe
You graduated, got your approval to take the test and you scheduled the test at a perfect timeslot for you. It is OK to have a few gameday jitters. But now is also the time to exhale and believe you have what it takes to pass the NCLEX at first go.
Nursing Program Accreditation
At a basic level, accreditation is about quality control. So, one of the main indicators of a quality nursing program is accreditation status. Quality standards apply to both curriculum and teaching staff. They also help to set criteria for professionals seeking licensure or certification.
A main goal of accreditation in nursing is to set a common standard for all nursing programs through the US. This ensures nurses in each state perform duties with the same skills and know how. But there are a few levels and types of accreditation. You may find an accredited school. But that does not mean each nursing program within it is also accredited. But there are a few levels and types of accreditation. You may find an accredited school. But that does not mean each nursing program within it is also accredited.
What are the main accrediting bodies for nursing programs in the US?
National accreditation means that the program adheres to common standards of quality. Ones set by a US Department of Education (USDE) approved agency. The two main accrediting bodies of nursing programs in the US are the CCNE and the ACEN. Both agencies continue to evolve their process and refine their standards. Many people wonder whether CCNE or ACEN accreditation is better. One is not better than the other. But the two agencies differ in scope and set their own standards and review process.
Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
- Recognized by the USDE, the CCNE is the accrediting branch of the AACN. Or, American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Their goal is to improve the quality of nursing education and patient care. CCNE accredits nursing education programs of all levels in the United States. Bachelors, masters, doctoral, and certificate levels. It also includes programs that offer online and residency programs.
Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
- Both the USDE and Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognize the ACEN. The ACEN is older than the CCNE and went by another name. National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLN). The ACEN is an accrediting body for all types of nursing education. So, it accredits nursing education programs and schools, both postsecondary and higher degrees. ACEN also accredits programs which offer a certificate, diploma, or a professional degree. Like the DNP, masters, baccalaureate, associate, diploma, and practical nursing programs. Plus, those offered via online education and transition to practice (TTP) programs. There are other
Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME)
- ACME accredits basic certificate, graduate nurse-midwifery, direct entry midwifery, and pre-certification nurse-midwifery education programs. It also accredits these programs that offer online education.
Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA – NAEP)
- COA accredits schools and programs of nurse anesthesia at the post-master`s certificate, master`s, or doctoral degree levels. This includes the ones that that offer online education.
State Board of Nursing Approval
- State board approval allows the nursing program to operate. So, an accredited school still needs their state board to approve each program. You need to attend a state approved program to sit for the NCLEX exam. Also, to get a nursing license and practice nursing. It is worth pointing out that state approval and national accreditation are not the same. Nationally accredited schools also meet state board approval. Yet a school might be approved, but not accredited. The difference comes down to what accreditation offers to those who qualify. Like financial aid, using your credits, and vis a vis the job market.
5 Reasons Choosing an Accredited Nursing School Matters
- It is important that you make sure the nursing school you’ve been accepted to is accredited by proper agencies. Attending an accredited (vs non-accredited) nursing school matters for a few reasons.
- In an accredited school, you may apply for federal financial aid (E.g. Pell Grant)
- It may be easier to transfer schools. Accredited schools may refuse to accept credits from non-accredited programs
- You may want to earn a nursing graduate degree. Nursing grad schools want to see your college transcripts from an accredited school
- To build a career, become an RN and beyond. You can only take the NCLEX exam if you graduate from an accredited program
- For the job market, and to boost your chances of getting hired. Many employers prefer or only hire grads of accredited programs
What happens if you attend a non accredited nursing school?
- If you attend a non accredited program, it does not always mean the level of education is not subpar. You may still sit for the NCLEX exam and earn a license if your program has state approval.
- In this case, you might check out the nursing school’s pass rate for the NCLEX exam. This may give you the feedback you need to make a decision, as some schools have higher pass rates than others. You also want to weigh the possible benefits of choosing a CCNE or ACEN accredited program. Then make the choice that considers your financial situation, study and career goals.