How to Get Into Nursing School | Step-by-Step Guide + Stats

November 16, 2023
9 min read


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 11/16/23

Is getting into nursing school on your to-do list? Read on to learn how to get accepted into nursing school.

Nursing is one of the most popular fields in the United States, with nearly 4.2 million individuals identifying as registered nurses. The field, which is expected to grow by 6% each year, has never been more in demand and is a safe bet for those looking for a challenging role with job stability and a comfortable salary.

If you know that becoming a nurse is your calling, know that there are many steps to take on your path. Read on to learn how to get into nursing school. 

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Steps to Get Into Nursing School

There are many different pathways to becoming a nurse, but the first step always starts with nursing school. Before you make your decision to go to nursing school, you should ask yourself questions like:

  • "What kind of nurse do I want to be?"
  • "How much schooling do I want to endure?"
  • "What type of education do I already have?"

Asking yourself these questions will ensure that you are on the right path to whichever type of nurse you would like to become. It also saves you from making any changes to your education path down the line. 

Female nurse holding door open

Graduate High School or Get a General Equivalency Diploma

One of the fundamental prerequisites for pursuing a career in nursing is completing your high school education. 

To get into nursing school, you typically need to have a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a General Equivalency Diploma (GED). Completing high school or obtaining a GED is the first step on your journey to becoming a nurse.

Research Nursing Schools

Once you've fulfilled the high school education requirement, the next step is to research nursing schools. Nursing programs come in various formats, including diploma programs, associate's degree in nursing (ADN) programs, and bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs. 

Consider what kind of nurse you aspire to be and the level of education you're willing to pursue. Research different nursing schools to find the one that aligns with your goals, location preferences, and program offerings.

Fullfill All Requirements

Each nursing school may have specific prerequisites and requirements for admission. These requirements can include completing certain high school courses, meeting a minimum GPA, or taking standardized tests like the SAT or ACT. Some nursing programs also require the GRE for admission. 

Additionally, some schools may require you to complete certain prerequisite courses, such as biology or chemistry, before applying to their nursing program. Ensure you fulfill all the necessary prerequisites and requirements for the nursing schools you're interested in.

Fill out Necessary Documents and Apply

Once you've selected the nursing schools that suit your aspirations, it's time to start the application process. Gather all the required documents, which may include transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and an application fee. 

Pay close attention to application deadlines, as missing them can jeopardize your chances of admission. Carefully complete all application materials and submit them to your chosen nursing schools.

Pass the Interview

Some nursing programs may require you to pass an admission interview as part of the application process. The interview is an opportunity for the admissions committee to get to know you better and assess your suitability for the nursing program. 

Prepare for the interview by practicing common interview questions, researching the school, and showcasing your passion for nursing. A successful interview can greatly enhance your chances of gaining admission to your desired nursing school.

By following these steps and carefully planning your educational path, you can embark on your journey toward becoming a nurse and achieving your career goals.

Nursing School Prerequisites and Application Requirements

The prerequisites for nursing school differ greatly depending on the stream of nursing that you want to pursue. Regardless, you’ll have to have written your SAT or ACT before you apply.

Nursing schools also consider your high school GPA during admissions. The average GPA required for nursing school is 2.5-3.0, but this may change depending on the program and school you apply for.

In addition to your GPA and SAT scores, aspiring nurses should consider taking courses recommended for nursing school. These courses include advanced math and science courses in high school or a high school-equivalent secondary education. 

How to Get Accepted Into Nursing School: Increase Your Chances

Once you’ve decided that a career in nursing is in the cards for you, you may find yourself asking: “How hard is it to get into nursing school?”. You may also be wondering about what nursing school requirements you need to adhere to. 

Nurse hanging IV bag

Undoubtedly, nursing school is very competitive - and you’ll want to give yourself the best possible chance to stand out. Here are some ways to boost your chances of getting accepted:


Put your passion into practice by volunteering in the healthcare field. You can volunteer in healthcare establishments such as nursing homes, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and pop-up clinics. You can also explore any other community service initiatives that are not in the healthcare sector. 

Volunteer experience shows the admissions council at your prospective nursing school that you are serious and passionate about the field. It also shows that you care about people and the community, which is an essential quality for nurses. 

By putting in a couple of hours a week, you can also gain valuable experience that will supplement your learning while starting nursing school.

Volunteer experience isn’t always one of the prerequisites for nursing school admission for nursing school applicants–for some schools, volunteering is just recommended. With this said, volunteering will always boost your application regardless of the context. Ensure you research your prospective schools' admissions requirements for more information. 

Get a Letter of Recommendation

A plus side of volunteering in healthcare is that you build connections, which is excellent when the time comes to ask for letters of recommendation. They are not always required for specific programs, but it's highly recommended and is a great way to make you stand out from other applicants.

Your letter of recommendation should be written by a teacher, employer, mentor, or coach. Having someone in the medical field vouch for your passion and skills can be a significant factor in a successful nursing school application.

While asking for a letter of recommendation can be intimidating, its impact on your application is profound. Its purpose is to attest to your character and share why you would be an ideal candidate for nursing school–so having stellar letters of recommendation can have a meaningful impact on the strength of your application.

Choosing the Right Nursing Program

There are many different pathways to becoming a Nurse, depending on the type of education you may have or wish to receive and the amount of time you have to complete your studies. You’ll find the different options for nursing programs listed below.

Female nurse holding needle

Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN)

An associate's degree in nursing (ADN) is one of the quickest ways to become a registered nurse. Schooling for an ADN only lasts about 18 months to 2 years and is usually done at a community college. 

Receiving your ADN is a fantastic introduction to the nursing field, and given the relatively short training period, it's a cost and time-effective solution.

Throughout their workday, ADNs can expect to complete tasks like: 

  • Administering medication to patients 
  • Discussing symptoms and monitoring vital signs
  • Providing medical guidance and instruction where necessary.

The downside? Many hospitals prefer applicants to have a BSN, so hiring for ADNs is becoming less common. However, there are many "bridge" programs that allow you to fast-track your studies to receive a BSN or other nursing degrees if you already have an ADN.

If you're looking for a quick and cost-effective pathway to becoming a Registered Nurse, going for an ADN could be a great option!

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is the most common schooling route for prospective nurses - after all, 65.2% of all nurses in the United States have a BSN degree. Alongside the ADN, it's an alternative option for those who want to become Registered Nurses.

Compared to the ADN, the BSN is more comprehensive. It consists of four years of education instead of two and focuses on theory-based learning and critical thinking skills. Receiving a BSN allows for more opportunities within the nursing field, which can result in a higher-paying starting wage compared to those with an ADN. 

It can also lead to more leadership opportunities and is the most common first step of schooling for those who want to pursue a master's or a Ph.D. in nursing. 

Those with a BSN are responsible for tasks such as:

  • Examining patients and consulting about medical inquiries with them
  • Operating medical equipment
  • Performing diagnostic tests and communicating results to medical staff and patients

Those who enroll in and complete a BSN program can look forward to a more comprehensive education and a high starting wage.

Find Your Perfect BSN Program

Looking for the perfect BSN program can be a bit of a puzzle, right? Well, don't worry – our BSN Program Selection Quiz is here to simplify the process. All you have to do is answer a few easy questions. 

First, you'll pick your preferences like where you'd like to study and how long you want the program to be. Then, just share some academic info, and we'll do the rest, suggesting BSN programs that match your profile. 

Once you're done, you'll get a list of BSN options, complete with school names, locations, and key stats to help you compare them. If you need more help, you can retake the quiz or chat with one of our nursing admissions experts. We're here to make finding the right BSN program a breeze!

Licensed Practical Nurse

Becoming an LPN, otherwise known as a Licensed Practical Nurse, is a fantastic introduction to the nursing field and an easy way to test the waters to see if nursing is a good fit for you. 

LPNs are responsible for essential healthcare tasks, ensuring patients are comfortable. They are usually supervised by RNs and often work to assist them and other medical professionals with everyday tasks.

Schooling for LPN programs usually takes around a year to complete, so it's an ideal way to break into the field without breaking the bank when it comes to tuition. It's easy to receive more schooling once you've become an LPN, as there are many LPN - RN accelerated programs to consider.

Certified Nurses’ Assistant (CNA)

A great way to gain practical experience in the nursing field is by completing a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) program. A CNA provides medical care while working under the supervision of a Registered Nurse.

You are required to have a high school education to attend CNA training at a community college to become a CNA. Most state-regulated programs take 4 to 12 weeks and combine learning in the classroom with hands-on learning. 

Should you want to continue your nursing education, many ADN or BSN programs fast-track you through the program if you already have certain credits or experience in the field. 

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

If you’re looking for a more advanced nursing degree, consider pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing program (MSN). 

A Master of Science in Nursing awards students with an even more comprehensive nursing education and higher pay. Pursuing an MSN can lead to more advanced careers within the field, such as:

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Educator
  • Clinical Nurse Educator

While many different bridge programs allow you to complete an MSN in less time, the most common applicants are those with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). 

Obtaining an MSN will take around two years with a full course load and often comes with hefty tuition fees. However, there are many flexible options for schooling, such as part-time course offerings, which can allow you to juggle work and school if needed.

There are also various nursing scholarships available if a financial investment is holding you back from pursuing an advanced nursing degree. 

Not 100% sold yet? According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, only 14.9% of nurses nationwide held master’s degrees in 2020, and the demand for those with an MSN far outweighs the supply. Receiving an MSN will ensure job security and a very comfortable salary.

Doctoral Degree (Ph.D. or Doctor of Nurse Practitioner)

Ready to take your nursing career to the next level? A Doctoral degree in Nursing awards you the highest advanced nursing education possible. 

There are two pathways to receiving a doctoral degree in Nursing:

  • Ph.D. in Nursing: focuses more on research, curriculum development, and teaching other nurses in post-secondary institutions.
  • Doctor of Nurse Practitioner: provides a more comprehensive study on nursing best practices while utilizing cutting-edge research.  

Both programs require applicants to have, at minimum, a BSN, with many requiring an MSN. Each program can take around 4 to 6 years to complete, but those passionate and dedicated to the field of nursing will find the experience worth the investment.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Financial aid and scholarships are essential resources for nursing students, helping to alleviate the financial burden of education. Here's an overview of financial aid and scholarship options:

  • Federal Financial Aid: Initiating the process with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is crucial. Federal programs like the Pell Grant, subsidized or unsubsidized loans, and work-study opportunities are available for eligible nursing students.
  • State Assistance: Many states provide grants and scholarships tailored to nursing students. For instance, the California Student Aid Commission offers the Cal Grant for eligible California residents pursuing nursing degrees.
  • Institutional Scholarships: Nursing schools often offer their scholarships, which can be merit-based or need-based. The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, for example, provides the Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation based on academic excellence and a commitment to nursing innovation. 
  • Private Scholarships: Numerous private organizations and associations offer scholarships to nursing students. The Johnson & Johnson/AACN Minority Nurse Faculty Scholarship supports minority nursing students pursuing graduate education.
  • Military Options: Nursing students interested in military service can explore programs like the Army ROTC Nursing Scholarship or the Nurse Corps Scholarship Program, which provide financial support in exchange for service commitments.
  • Employer Support: Some employers, particularly healthcare facilities, offer tuition assistance or reimbursement for employees pursuing nursing degrees. For example, the Mayo Clinic Tuition Assistance Program provides eligible employees with financial support for educational expenses.
  • Loan Repayment Programs: The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program and state-based loan repayment/forgiveness programs offer assistance in exchange for service in underserved areas.
  • Online Scholarship Search Engines: Utilize online scholarship search engines like Fastweb,, and the College Board's Scholarship Search to discover a wide range of scholarship opportunities tailored to your profile, including scholarships for healthcare students pursuing careers in healthcare.

By tapping into these financial aid and scholarship resources, you can really take the financial burden off your shoulders when it comes to nursing school. 

This means you can focus more on your studies and your dreams of becoming a nurse without constantly worrying about the cost. It's a smart move for your education and your future career. 

Female nurse crossing arms and smiling

What Are the Most Popular Career Directions for Nurses?

Nursing is a versatile field with plenty of career options. Here are some of the most popular paths for nurses:

  • Registered Nurse (RN): RNs are the backbone of healthcare, providing direct patient care in various settings like hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities.
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP): NPs are advanced practice nurses who diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication. They often specialize in areas such as family medicine, pediatrics, or mental health.
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): CRNAs administer anesthesia during surgical procedures and collaborate with anesthesiologists.
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): CNSs are experts in specific nursing areas, offering advanced clinical care and serving as educators and consultants.
  • Nurse Midwife: Nurse midwives focus on women's health, offering prenatal, postpartum, and gynecological care, including delivering babies.
  • Nurse Educator: Nurse educators train and mentor future nurses in academic and clinical settings.
  • Nurse Administrator: Nurse administrators manage healthcare facilities and nursing departments, ensuring smooth operations.
  • Emergency Room (ER) Nurse: ER nurses provide immediate care to patients with acute injuries or illnesses.
  • Pediatric Nurse: Pediatric nurses specialize in caring for children and adolescents in various settings.
  • Oncology Nurse: Oncology nurses support and treat cancer patients through their journey.
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse: These nurses work with individuals facing mental health challenges, offering therapy and support.
  • Public Health Nurse: Public health nurses promote community well-being, often working in health departments and schools.
  • Travel Nurse: Travel nurses take short-term assignments in different locations, gaining diverse experiences.
  • Forensic Nurse: Forensic nurses assist in investigations of crimes like sexual assault and abuse.
  • Holistic Nurse: Holistic nurses consider physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health and healing in their care.

These career paths allow nurses to specialize and follow their interests within the field, making nursing a dynamic and rewarding profession with numerous opportunities for growth and impact.

Expected Salary for Nurses in the USA

Curious about how much nurses earn in the USA? We'll dive into the factors that impact nursing salaries and provide valuable insights into the earning potential within the field.

Degree Average Salary in the USA
RN $92,636
NP $122,537
CRNA $221,119
CNS $127,281
PHN $68,740
ERN $76,826
Nurse Midwife $109,947
Nurse Educator $96,328
Nurse Administrator $101,791
Pediatric Nurse $78,400
Oncology Nurse $145,762
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse $142,382
Travel Nurse $117,198
Forensic Nurse $70,069
Holistic Nurse $85,779

FAQs: Getting Into Nursing School

Getting into nursing school is the first step you’ll have to take in becoming a nurse. With the commitment required to be an RN, it’s only natural to have questions about what to expect. Below, we’ve listed some frequently asked questions about getting into nursing school that will provide some insight.

1. How Hard Is It To Get into Nursing School?

While getting into nursing school can be challenging, it's not impossible. You'll want to give yourself the best possible chance of acceptance by aiming for a high GPA, SAT score, and high grades within the required prerequisite math and science courses. 

Volunteering in the healthcare sector may also make you a more competitive applicant while simultaneously allowing you to build relationships in the field. These connections can help give you glowing letters of recommendation and may even benefit you after you graduate.

2. What Are the Requirements to Study Nursing?

While each school has different application requirements, the general requirements to study nursing are as follows:

For Master’s and Ph.D. programs, a BSN or MSN may be required.

3. How Do You Get Through to Nursing School?

Navigating nursing school can be challenging, but it's all about finding the right strategies. Being organized is key, as it saves you precious time. Make studying a regular habit to absorb information effectively, and don't forget self-care – it keeps you in top shape to conquer your nursing studies.

5. How to Get Into a Nursing School after High School?

To get into a nursing school after high school, you'll want to start by making sure you've excelled in science and math courses during your high school years. Then, research nursing programs to understand their specific admission requirements. 

Typically, you'll need to submit your high school transcripts, standardized test scores (like SAT or ACT), and perhaps letters of recommendation. Craft a compelling personal statement to showcase your passion for nursing, and don't forget to apply to multiple nursing schools to maximize your chances of acceptance.

6. How to Get Into a Nursing School after College?

If you're considering nursing after college, your path may vary a bit. Begin by earning a bachelor's degree in a related field such as biology or psychology. While in college, maintain a strong GPA, as nursing programs can be competitive. 

After graduating, explore accelerated nursing programs designed for individuals with a bachelor's degree in another discipline. These programs often require prerequisite courses like anatomy and physiology.

Apply to your preferred nursing programs and prepare for any necessary interviews. Your college background can be a valuable asset in your nursing school applications.

Get Into Nursing School With Inspira Advantage

Getting into nursing school can be challenging - but Inspira Advantage is here to help. 

With personalized and specific Nursing School Admissions consulting, you’ll be able to smoothly navigate your application for nursing school and get one step closer to making your dreams of becoming an RN a reality.

Once you’ve gone through each of these steps and made your way through nursing school, the NCLEX is your next step. Fortunately, our team of experts can set you up for success with personalized NCLEX test prep

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