UCSF School of Nursing: What does the 2011 #4 School of Nursing in the U.S. look for in applicants to their nursing programs?

The University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing was founded in 1907 and ever since has been a top tier name in nursing academics and research. The UCSF School of Nursing is recognized as one of the best nursing schools in the country. US News and World Report ranked the UCSF School of Nursing #4 in the country. Being ranked number 4 in the country in 2011 and consistently in the top 10 in previous years, gives UCSF a chance to see the best of the best nursing school applicants.

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Wouldn’t it be great to know what nursing schools like UCSF look at most closely when evaluating applicants to their programs? With this information you would know what it takes to be most competitive for the number 4 nursing school in the country and that information would be applicable to most every other school of nursing in the country, with some variations taken into account.

Megan McDrew, Graduate Recruiter and Outreach Coordinator at the UCSF School of Nursing, is what you would consider an expert in the area of nursing school admission requirements. Megan shared her advice for those students and second-degree candidates preparing for and applying to the UCSF School of Nursing.

The Direct Entry Master’s program at UCSF called the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) is very popular according to McDrew and therefore extremely competitive. This program is designed for college students, those already holding a baccalaureate degree in another field and those already holding a master’s in another field like education or business. In fact, a master’s degree in business or education can be beneficial.

What does the admission committee look for in a candidate and how much do they weigh each criteria?

Top 4 Admission Criteria

1) The number 1 criteria they evaluate applicants on is their Grade Point Average or G.P.A. pre-bachelor’s and current college students changing majors should consider this their primary focus. Applicants to the UCSF School of Nursing average a 3.4 G.P.A. Megan advises that an applicant should have a G.P.A. over 3.0 for any nursing school.

If you are a second-degree BSN or Direct Entry Master’s candidates with a low G.P.A., you may have to consider going to a community college to start. There you will want to “blow out” the prerequisite science classes with a 4.0 G.P.A.

The GRE is also an admission requirement at the UCSF School of Nursing. The GRE scores for applicants to the Master’s programs are in the 500-700 range.

2) The number 2 most heavily weighted criteria is a strong performance in the sciences. Biology, anatomy, physiology, statistics, psychology and nutrition are required prerequisites for the MEPN program at UCSF. Other nursing schools may have other prerequisite classes like chemistry, physics and pathophysiology. As was mentioned earlier, if you do not have strong grades you may want to consider going to a community college to take them and earn a 4.0. If you are not a strong performer in these subjects, Megan recommends you get a tutor and become a strong performer.

3) Paid and unpaid work experience is weighted number 3 on the priority list. Most nursing schools value work experience as it demonstrates a professional commitment to a job. Megan shares that UCSF favors people who work, go to school, volunteer, hold leadership positions and are part of a nursing club or organization versus someone who just goes to school. They like the well-rounded candidate.

Volunteering is just as important to the student as it is to the school. Volunteering in a nursing environment or a health care related environment allows the volunteer to assess if this will be the right career fit. Gaining a sense of whether or not the field of nursing is right for you before entering a nursing program is very valuable considering the large commitment of money and time the student will be investing. Really, it’s not just the student. Megan points out that the nursing school also invests a significant amount of time and money on the student. This is why volunteer experience is rated so high on the list. The school wants people who know what they want.

In addition to work experience, Megan adds that older applicants with research experience or publications to their name are highly regarded during the admission process.

4) Number 4 on the list is Letters of Recommendation. Letters of recommendation are difficult. You need to find the right person and make sure the letter covers all the aspects of you that you want shared with the nursing school you are applying to. Megan’s advice is to find someone to write the letter of recommendation who knows you well so that the content of the letter reflects you, all you have done, and all you have to offer. She also shares that a longer letter is better than short letter. Again, someone that knows you well will be able to write a lot about you.

In the end UCSF School of Nursing considers G.P.A. the most important criteria for admission. Most nursing schools are the same in this regard. It has been proven time and again that there is a strong link between prior G.P.A. and success in nursing school. Megan stresses that there will not be much opportunity to change your G.P.A. or poor performance in a class. Unfortunately, those applicants who have already completed a baccalaureate program with a suboptimal G.P.A. below 3.0 will have a difficult time being competitive for a spot in a nursing program. Reaching out to high school students and current college students with ambitions to go to nursing school, Megan emphasizes how important it is to focus on exceptional grades and to be part of something like a nursing club.

Even by following these recommendations, there is no guarantee that you will be accepted to nursing school. It is an extremely competitive field right now and you will need to work hard to differentiate yourself from other applicants.

(Source: Megan McDrew, Graduate Recruiter and Outreach Coordinator at the UCSF School of Nursing)