Common Nursing Application Mistakes

Staff Writer
May 3, 2022

There are few things dreaded more in life than the college application. Of course, in the end, applying to nursing school is worth it. You’re following your dreams to become a registered nurse, but the process itself can be daunting — so much so that hundreds of applications go unfinished every year. We also know that of the thousands of submitted nursing school applications in Utah, many common mistakes go unnoticed, meaning that plenty of qualified, passionate candidates don’t get into an RN program.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way! By knowing what to do, and by avoiding these common mistakes when you apply to nursing school, you’ll not only get your application in with time to spare, you’ll also ace it.

1. Not prepping for the in-person interview: Your first impression

Some schools require a personal statement with a nursing school application, some, like Joyce, require an in-person interview in lieu of an essay, and some require both. Before the words “in-person interview” put you off, you should realize the benefits of this process! If you’re not the most skilled writer, an in-person nursing school interview will nicely supplement (or thankfully replace) a personal statement where every word and comma matters.

Also, interviews are a great way for you to see if the program fits your personality, lifestyle, and career trajectory. It’s not as scary as your first job interview, but it’s important to treat it with the same level of respect and preparation as you would if you were gaining employment from it. Because, in a sense, you will, someday!

Your first impression on nursing school administrators can make a lasting effect on your career, meaning you definitely want to nail it. Here are some basic etiquette rules you’ll want to master before the interview begins that can help you stand out from the rest. If you’ve ever had a job interview, some of these will look familiar. The same principles apply here, as well.

  • Dress up. You shouldn’t wear your best tails or evening gown, but you do need to look the part of a future healthcare professional. What you wear has a big impact on your first impression. Switch the t-shirt and jeans out for some business casual wear. Don’t wear a heavy fragrance, and tone down any flashy makeup or hairstyles.
  • Arrive on time. Better yet, arrive a little early. Nursing admissions consultants are a busy bunch, so don’t make them wait on you.
  • Know the power of the handshake. Seal the deal with a good handshake. Pay attention to your posture and eye contact. It can take people around three seconds to form an opinion about you, so make those first few seconds count!
  • Leave all non-essentials behind. Try and keep your personal items to a minimum. It’s OK to leave your applications materials behind (the school should already have a copy), unless the application counselor tells you otherwise.

Related Resource: 5 Tips for Going Back to School Later in Life

2. Not prepping for the in-person interview: The meeting

If your nursing school application does not require a personal statement, your interview is the time to let your personality sparkle. It’s also time for the interviewer to get to know you, the skills you have, and what would make you a great nurse. During the interview at Joyce, we discuss the applicant’s personal and professional goals, objectives, and motivations for applying to our program. Because our nursing program in Draper is such a huge commitment, we make sure to talk about that, too. No two interviews will be the same, but there are a few universal ways to prepare yourself.

  • Prep, prep, prep. Know what kinds of questions the interviewer might ask you. There are several sites out there with sample preparation questions to get yourself ready. Ask a friend or family member to test you on common ones, and practice your responses in a mirror. Not planning your responses ahead of time will show during your interview.
  • Don’t go in blind. Do your research on the school and program. Read about other nursing schools in Utah to educate yourself about what makes each program unique. We’re in the Information Age, so there is no excuse for not doing your homework!
  • Have some questions handy. This is the perfect time to ask any questions you have about the program or application process that aren’t readily available on the website or in an information packet. Asking thoughtful questions also lets the counselor know you’ve done you’re research and you’re a serious nursing school candidate. Bring a note card with you if you need a reminder.
  • Be honest. Nursing school isn’t for the faint of heart. Make sure you’re presenting yourself and your intentions for being a nurse in an honest way. Also, if you have any red flags on your application or transcript, be upfront about them.
  • Do some soul searching. Becoming a registered nurse takes passion, dedication, and work. “I’ve always wanted to be a nurse” is valid, but telling the admissions consultant why you want to be a registered nurse through an anecdote or a personal story is much more powerful.
  • Be yourself. You’re the next amazing nurse the admission consultant is looking for. Like the previous point, be genuine, and be confident that you’re there for the right reasons; let those reasons and your passion shine through!

To top off a great interview, drop a handwritten thank-you note in mail or at the front desk, or send an email to your application consultant. It might seem old-fashioned, but the thank-you note goes a long way in showing gratitude for your interviewer’s time and effort in helping your achieve your goals.

Related Resource: 5 Things to Emphasize During Your First Nursing Job Interview

3. Not preparing for the entrance exam

Along with an in-person interview and/or personal statement, you’ll need to take and pass a standardized entrance exam. These tests are meant to assess your math, science, and reading abilities. Like any other exam, not giving yourself enough time to study and plan ahead of time can hurt your chances of doing well.

First, identify which test you need to take. If this information isn’t available on the school’s website, ask the admissions office or consultant. When you know which test is applicable to you, invest in a practice booklet. Review the booklet and take any and all practice tests you can get your hands on.

Taking practices tests will give you a good idea of where you stand and what subjects you need to focus on. After you determine which subject needs a little work: study, study, study! Each person’s study style is different. Some do fine at home, but others need a neutral space with little to no distractions, like the library. Find the spot that’s right for you, and dig in. Work on your weakest subject by doing at least 20 practice problems from your test booklet. For the questions you get wrong, review the answers, and make yourself some flashcards. Quiz yourself on the questions you get stuck on until you know the answers inside and out. If you need a personal tutor or want to take a prep course, contact the admissions office at your school and see if they have any recommendations.

The week before your exam, make sure you are getting plenty of rest, especially the night before. On the day of, eat a nutritious breakfast and leave all your stress at the door — you’ve done all your prep work, and it’s time to put all your knowledge to the test.

Related Resource: The Best Advice for Applying to Nursing School Again

4. Not preparing nursing school application materials in time

Waiting until the last minute to turn in your application materials is a recipe for disaster. Because there are many steps you need to take in order to complete the entire process, procrastinating on your nursing school application can cause undue stress and anxiety, mistakes can easily go unnoticed, or, in the worst case scenario, your application will be incomplete.

As soon as you know which nursing school is right for you, review its application requirements, deadlines, and start dates. Start the process as soon as possible. If you’re waiting on a diploma, follow up with your high school or any other institution to make sure they sent it to you or the school you’re applying to. If required, do the same with letters of recommendation. (Note: Remember to be courteous. The people recommending you are doing you a favor!) Schedule all exams well ahead of time, so you have ample time to study and get your test scores in before the deadline. Write a few drafts of your personal statement (if applicable) and have it edited by trusted friends or family members. Be prepared for your in-person interview.

After you’ve compiled all your materials and sent them off, follow up with the admissions office a few weeks after the deadline. (Note: In some cases, it might take the office a while to file everything, so don’t be distressed if this is the case.)

After you receive confirmation that your materials are in, sit back and relax: It might be the last time you can before the madness of nursing school begins!

Interested in applying to Joyce’s nursing program? Visit our admissions page to check out our requirements.


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