Jump to content

I Want To Be A Nurse, But My Grades Aren't Competitive. Help!

Published

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

Do any options exist for people who want to be nurses, but have noncompetitive grade point averages and unremarkable test scores? If this describes you, keep reading to find out more information about the various options that may help you join the ranks of the nursing profession.

I Want To Be A Nurse, But My Grades Aren't Competitive. Help!

You really, really want to be a nurse. In fact, becoming a nurse might have been a lingering childhood dream of yours. Perhaps nursing was never a childhood dream, but you somehow came to the realization that you wanted to be a nurse in adulthood for a myriad of reasons. Maybe you believe you were 'called' to be a nurse by some higher power. For whatever reason, you have the burning desire to join our ranks and enter the nursing profession.

You continue to submit applications to local nursing programs year after year. The result is predictably the same: they continue to reject your applications, even though you meet the minimal requirements established by the schools. The various schools of nursing require applicants to have an overall 2.5 grade point average, a 2.75 GPA for prerequisite courses, a score of 77 on the TEAS V test, two letters of recommendation, and current immunization records. You're thinking, "I have a 3.1 overall, a 3.5 for my prerequisites, a 79 on the TEAS and the rest of the stuff they're asking of me. I've been applying for three years and no school will accept me. Why?"

Perhaps the schools in your local area are inundated with more competitive applications from students with 4.0 grade point averages and higher test scores. In some urban areas it is common for nursing programs to receive 500+ applications for about 60 available spaces. If you know of an applicant with lower grades who was accepted into the same nursing program that rejected you, maybe this person scored exceptionally well on the TEAS or received priority over you because they've applied to the same school for five years in a row. Yes, some schools grant priority to minimally qualified applicants who repeatedly apply.

Other schools operate on a randomized lottery style admission process whereby all minimally qualified candidates have their applications placed into the pool, and therefore, have the same chances of acceptance as every other student because the names are selected at random.

What can a student do to get the ball rolling? Are there any options for people with noncompetitive grade point averages and test scores who want to be nurses? Keep reading to find out more about the different options you have at your disposal.

Retake some courses to increase your GPA

This is the first option your should consider, especially if the schools that interest you will not penalize you for doing so. If you've earned any 'C' grades, you should focus on repeating these courses to earn 'A' grades the second time around. In many cases a higher GPA will make you a more competitive applicant on paper.

Consider completing a practical nursing program

Although some will disagree, the practical nursing program is more skills-based and hands-on than its counterparts. In addition, many PN programs pay little to no attention to previous college coursework and only require applicants to pass an entrance exam prior to enrollment. If you do reasonably well in practical nursing school, you are eligible to apply to LPN-to-ASN and LPN-to-BSN degree completion programs.

Look into private for-profit schools of nursing

This should be your very last resort, although many students travel down this route. Commercial investor-owned schools of nursing generally have more relaxed admissions requirements and have been known to accept applicants with noncompetitive grade point averages. If you are willing to pay the tremendously expensive tuition, private for-profit nursing programs might be a feasible option for you.

Commute to a school that has less-competitive admissions

I live in one of the largest metro areas in the US. Many students in this area will commute 100+ miles one-way to schools in rural areas because the admissions requirements are more lenient. For instance, my former coworker was accepted by the school of nursing at Tarleton State University with a 2.8 grade point average, but rejected by the University of Texas at Arlington. However, Tarleton State University was located in an outlying area 80 miles from her home, while UT Arlington was located five miles from home.

Relocate to a rural area that has schools with lenient admissions

Murray State College, a community college located in Tishomongo, Oklahoma, offers a nursing program with a relatively relaxed admissions process. For instance, a 2.0 is the minimum grade point average required, and the only prerequisite is the completion of a college level chemistry course with a grade of 'C' or higher. Of course, very few people want to live in rural Oklahoma, so the competition for admissions is virtually nonexistent.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a Registered Nurse.

224 Articles   27,608 Posts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

29 Comment(s)

Interesting article with good advice.

JBMmom, MSN

Specializes in Long term care; med-surg; critical care. Has 9 years experience.

I appreciate anyone that feels a strong and true passion for nursing, and I know that a nurse is far more than the sum of a GPA and some standardized tests. However, for those that truly struggle with certain aspects, I hope that they can objectively weigh the likelihood that an education in nursing will lead to success. Standardized tests continue- right through NCLEX, and while much of the material is not all that challenging in and of itself, the application of the material can be difficult. While their passion for nursing may make them shine in clinicals with their compassion and desire, clinicals are often a very small portion, if any, of the graded part of nursing school- leading back to the need to be prepared academically. I do wish success for anyone choosing this path, but sometimes desire alone isn't enough.

This is exactly what I did and what led me to the school I am now. I did all my prerequisites at a college in the city that I live. I had a 3.5 gpa and got an 89 on the HESI entrance exam. I did not get into the program. I applied to a school out of state, which is 30 mins from the city I live in....I got in and did not have to take an entrance exam. I am also at an advantage as I dont have other classes to take with my clinical. Im in my first clinical now. have three more to complete to graduate.

I appreciate anyone that feels a strong and true passion for nursing, and I know that a nurse is far more than the sum of a GPA and some standardized tests. However, for those that truly struggle with certain aspects, I hope that they can objectively weigh the likelihood that an education in nursing will lead to success. Standardized tests continue- right through NCLEX, and while much of the material is not all that challenging in and of itself, the application of the material can be difficult. While their passion for nursing may make them shine in clinicals with their compassion and desire, clinicals are often a very small portion, if any, of the graded part of nursing school- leading back to the need to be prepared academically. I do wish success for anyone choosing this path, but sometimes desire alone isn't enough.

That is a fact. You are absolutely correct.

Very helpful and practical.

MoshRN

Specializes in OB, Postpartum, Nursery. Has 2 years experience.

You can also write a letter explaining low grades if you were going through a difficult time. Just staple it to the top of your grades. At least they may understand your situation a bit more.

BeenThereDoneThat74, MSN, RN

Specializes in Pediatrics. Has 26 years experience.

I appreciate anyone that feels a strong and true passion for nursing' date=' and I know that a nurse is far more than the sum of a GPA and some standardized tests. However, for those that truly struggle with certain aspects, I hope that they can objectively weigh the likelihood that an education in nursing will lead to success. Standardized tests continue- right through NCLEX, and while much of the material is not all that challenging in and of itself, the application of the material can be difficult. While their passion for nursing may make them shine in clinicals with their compassion and desire, clinicals are often a very small portion, if any, of the graded part of nursing school- leading back to the need to be prepared academically. I do wish success for anyone choosing this path, but sometimes desire alone isn't enough.[/quote']

This is so true. There is no nice way to say it, but I think you did about the best someone possibly can. Desire is one of those things that seem to be very fashionable these days. The fact is, we all can't be whatever we want to be. I didn't want to be a nurse when I was growing up- my initial dream didn't pan out. But it all worked out for the best, so I can't complain.

But in my current position, I see the harsh reality of the journey for many, especially those who meet the minimum qualifications. Getting in is just the tip of the iceberg- passing every class (doing well really helps too), graduating,passing NCLEX, getting a job, and keeping a job- each one has it's own struggle. It could take years to get through all this, I feel like sometimes we are siting some people up for a huge disappointment. No matter how much a student "promises" us that if we jut let them in, they'll do great, it's not always in their control. Sorry to bring down the mood here 😁

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

The fact is, we all can't be whatever we want to be.

Although I am the writer of the original piece, I totally agree with you. If every single person who wanted to be a nurse actually made it past the finish line and became one, the value and prestige of being a nurse would plummet through the roof.

Not everyone is academically gifted, or else the word 'gifted' would lose its value if all people truly were. However, I feel that a person does not necessarily need to be academically gifted to get through the rigors of nursing school and NCLEX, although academic inclination helps greatly through the journey.

Many successful nurses have thrived with a combination of average intellect and hard work. The truth is that the majority of adults statistically fall into the average IQ range.

We all come to the table with drastically different academic preparation, intellect, and perseverance. Hard work and diligence can make up for the lack of prior academic preparedness in some cases, but in other instances the person will just never get it regardless of how many times the instructors explain the material.

But yes, you are certainly correct. Not everyone can be whatever they want to be.

BeenThereDoneThat74, MSN, RN

Specializes in Pediatrics. Has 26 years experience.

Not everyone is academically gifted, or else the word 'gifted' would lose its value if all people truly were. However, I feel that a person does not necessarily need to be academically gifted to get through the rigors of nursing school and NCLEX, although academic inclination helps greatly through the journey.

I do agree with this too. The problem is, is often difficult to discern who has this and who does not. I have been on admissions committees in more than one school, and have anectodals about students who had an extreme amount of drive, life experience, and common sense, with mediocre-fair grades who ended up doing well. And (more often then not) I've seen the opposite. I just wish we (as educators) could find an objective way to measure this early on. It would save a lot of students from torture and disappointment

Edited by ProfRN4

Another issue is that sure, you're accepted, you complete your theory, but have to be on waiting lists for clinical time. At one community college in MI i know there was a 2year wait. Some schools see the almighty dollar and start cranking students through theory, but don't have room at local hospitals to have adequate timely space for clinicals.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

I have been on admissions committees in more than one school, and have anectodals about students who had an extreme amount of drive, life experience, and common sense, with mediocre-fair grades who ended up doing well.
Yes. My best friend is an example of this. She's definitely not academically gifted (2.6 grade point average, score of 18 on the ACT, score of 750 on the GRE), but she's managed to earn three degrees and carve out a successful career as a nurse manager.

In spite of the low grades and test scores, she's full of common sense and strives for better things.

Thanks for the advice about taking more courses that is what I am going to do

You are so right when you say desire is not enough. A big part of Nursing is common sense and there are nurse's who have none. I am by no means brushing aside the grades that are needed; your patients deserve the best that you can give them. This is where honesty comes in. You need to know when you go to work that you have the skills and knowledge to handle all and any situations that may arise.A code, a fall, a seizure, an actively dying patient,the patient who was just told her daughter died,and the son or daughter who feels if they leave their parent's bedside they will die alone. I don't know a nurse who doesn't believe in GOD because if you think your success is by you alone--then you are alone.

Thank you so much for writing such a motivational article :) I am going through the same path as u guys r explaining. I am done with all my pre-req & other recommended courses but couldn't pass my Hesi :( I am sitting for HESI again this May & counting my blessings so I can apply for this spring semester :)

Natasha, CNA, LVN

Specializes in Psych. Has 1 years experience.

Great article and very informative in regards of looking into rural areas. I have been out of high school for 10 years and having trouble with mathematics on timed test. I used to love math in high school and realized that my motivation and determination needs to be top notch. Do letter of recommendations help with admissions in anyway?

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

Do letter of recommendations help with admissions in anyway?
Letters of recommendation help only a little bit. An applicant needs good grades and acceptable test scores, which are weighted far higher than a recommendation letter.

Natasha, CNA, LVN

Specializes in Psych. Has 1 years experience.

i see. do you have any math books for the tabe test to recommend?