News in Nursing

Why Are Nursing Schools Rejecting Qualified Applicants?

In the middle of a nursing shortage, some nursing schools are turning down qualified students left and right. Why?

Why Are Nursing Schools Rejecting Qualified Applicants?

There is a nursing shortage in the U.S., but schools are rejecting hundreds of competent applicants. Why is this happening? Well, there are definitely a few reasons. Class size and the need to hire more teachers to manage nursing programs, and clinical programs need to be expanded.

According to Robert Rosseter, spokesman for the Amerian Association of Colleges of Nursing, “There’s tremendous demand from hospitals and clinics to hire more nurses.” He said, “There’s tremendous demand from students who want to enter nursing programs, but schools are tapped out.”

By 2022, more than a million RNs need to be hired to fulfill the field's needs. And this is, one million more new nurses is besides the three million nurses already working in the U.S. Sounds like the profession is open, but over the course of the year, nursing schools rejected about 56,000 good applicants from undergraduate nursing courses.

Over ten years ago, nursing schools annually turned away about 30,000 students who have met admission requirements. According to the American Association of College of Nursing, many applicants graduated at the top of their class with a 3.5 PA or higher. However, the competition to get into a nursing school is intense.

There is a lack of openings in nursing programs in community colleges to undergraduate and graduate schools. Schools are also tightening their requirements. One nursing student, Kay, 35, is a qualified surgical technician and a proficient medical assistant. She has tried three times to get into a nursing program at her local community college. She has worked in health care since she was 21 and nursing is her passion.

Kay took the standardized admission test two times and applied to three community colleges. One school informed Kay they had 343 applicants and only 60 positions. Another school had 60 openings for over 252 applicants. Kay said, “Some programs won’t even consider you if you score less than 80% even if you meet all other criteria.” 

Jane Kirschling, dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing in Baltimore, says her school lets in new students twice a year. However, she says there are 200 applications and only 55 slots. Her school turns away one student for every student accepted.

Nursing has surged in popularity for several reasons:

  • Nursing offers an entry-level wage that will support a family.
  • Nursing provides flexibility and mobility. Some nurses can work a 12-hour shift and get several days off.
  • Nursing offers moves to different specialties or different locations. They aren’t locked into any specific location, specialty or employer.

Problems in Nursing Schools

Qualified nursing school teachers are hard to find. Right now the yearly national faculty vacancy rate is over 7 percent, and that equates to a teacher shortage of 1,565 teachers.

Nurses are leaving education positions due to salary. A nurse practitioner can make $97,000, and the median range for a nursing school assistant professor is $78,575. (These figures come from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners). What wage would you rather have?

Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan reduced its new admissions from 80 to 64 students last year. The move was in reply to a conclusion by the Michigan Board of Nursing to decrease the nursing student-to-faculty ratio for training in hospitals and clinics. The move was aimed to improve safety.

Nursing schools all over the country are taking similar steps. It used to be that up to ten nursing students per instructor could go to hospitals for clinical rotations. That number is now down to six students per rotation. There is not enough available clinical space to train students.

Possible Solutions

Nursing programs around the nation are thinking of ways to place more students in nursing programs. Tara Hulsey, Dean of West Virginia University’s School of Nursing, said, “ We’re expanding our program to new campuses, we’re looking at new models of partnering with hospitals to allow [their] nursing staff to [be able] to teach.”

Some nursing schools are looking for opportunities to offer accelerated programs and move students through the courses much faster. For example, veterans who have received medical training during their deployments can go into bridge programs that allow them to shift into nursing without having to start from the beginning or taking pre-entry courses.

Reasons You Can’t Get into Nursing School

Many students want to nurse because they want to work in a healing profession. It is a shock and disappointment to find that you have a difficult time getting accepted. Rejection letters stuff your mailbox, and you are confused. You quickly realize that it takes more than a love for medicine to make it into a nursing school.

One reason is the shortage of nursing school teachers and the absence of clinical openings for nurses in training. 

Other reasons include grades, prerequisites, changing test requirements, and too many applicants.

You can increase your chances of getting into a nursing school if you realize that higher GPAs are necessary. If you are only at a 3.3 GPA, you may be assigned a lower ranking in the admission process. Low GPAs will place you at the back of the pack.

The key is to boost your grade point average. Retake college courses to see if you can earn better grades. Determine if your problem is poor study habits or if you need to learn to manage your time.

You can also enter an ADN program at a vocational school. You will need to pass an entrance exam, but previous grades may not be an issue. You won’t graduate with a degree, but you can qualify to take the NCLEX and start nursing as an LPN. Getting into a nursing school that offers a degree may be easier if you have passed the NCLEX at an ADN school.

Nursing schools have prerequisites before they let you enter the program. These prerequisites will include anatomy and physiology, English 101, math, psychology, sociology and any other courses required by the school. You may need health ethics, chemistry, biology, and nutrition. Discover what prerequisites you need before applying.

Before nursing schools even consider taking your application, you will need to take the school’s required test. Each nursing school sets its requirements and changes these requirements whenever they want to. If you have taken the TEAS IV, TEA V, HESI A, and GRE or any combination of tests, check with the nursing school to see what test they accept and apply at that school.

Take as many tests as you can. Test-taking practice is good for learning the concentration you need to take the NCLEX.

Schools that have too many applicants is a definite problem. Admission is very competitive since there is a genuine shortage in the number of qualified nursing schools available. You may be one of the hundreds of applicants trying for very few openings. You might wait two or three years to get into a nursing school. There is also a lottery system and where you can only hope your name gets picked.

To cut down the competition, treat your nursing school application like a job application. Follow up your interview by asking for face time with the decision makers, ask what more you can do and remember that you need to bring something unique to the program.

You may want to consider moving to areas where nursing schools have more openings. Moving might work in your favor, and you could find cheaper tuition or a more relaxed set of admission requirements at a different school.

There is some good news on the nursing front. The number of qualified nursing applicants is rising. Entry-level positions are providing competitive compensation and a high level of job security. Because of the current level of demand, nurses will have no trouble finding and keeping optimal employment once they have finished nursing school.