How Hard is it to Get into Nursing School – 13 Biggest Challenges & How to Overcome Them

Discover the 13 major challenges aspiring nurses face when trying to get into nursing school. This comprehensive guide provides practical tips and strategies to overcome these obstacles and pave your way to a rewarding nursing career.

How Hard is it to Get into Nursing School – 13 Biggest Challenges & How to Overcome Them

Becoming a nurse is a noble pursuit, but gaining admission into nursing school can be a formidable challenge. Aspiring nurses often encounter various hurdles on their journey. In this article, we will delve into the ten comprehensive reasons why it is hard to get into nursing school, and provide actionable strategies to overcome them.

13 Biggest Challenges of getting into nursing school & How to Overcome Them

1.      Intense Competition:

The intense competition in getting into nursing school means that there are a lot of students who want to become nurses, but the number of available spots in nursing programs is limited. This makes it hard for each individual applicant to secure a spot.

The Challenge: Due to the limited number of seats, nursing schools can be very selective. They often look for the most qualified candidates with strong academic records, relevant experience, and a genuine commitment to nursing.

Ways to Overcome:

  • Academic Excellence: Maintain a high GPA by dedicating time and effort to your studies.
  • Gain Relevant Experience: Volunteer or work in healthcare settings.
  • Show Passion for Nursing: Clearly express your genuine interest in nursing in your personal statement or interview.
  • Apply Widely: Don’t limit your applications to just a few schools.
  • Seek Letters of Recommendation from Relevant Sources

2.      Academic Rigor:

Nursing programs have a rigorous academic curriculum. This means the coursework, assignments, and exams are quite demanding. Students need to grasp complex medical concepts, understand healthcare procedures, and apply critical thinking skills effectively.

The Challenge It Faces:

This challenge can be daunting for aspiring nursing students, especially if they haven’t had prior exposure to advanced science and healthcare-related subjects. It requires a significant level of dedication and study time to excel in these courses.

Ways of Overcoming It:

  • Effective Time Management: Create a structured study schedule that allocates sufficient time for each subject.
  • Utilize Academic Resources: Take advantage of tutoring services, study groups, and online resources.
  • Seek Clarification: Don’t hesitate to ask instructors or peers for clarification on challenging topics.

3.      Limited Admissions:

The challenge arises from the high demand for nursing education. Many individuals are eager to pursue a career in nursing due to its rewarding nature and the increasing need for healthcare professionals. However, the number of available slots in nursing schools is limited. This leads to fierce competition among applicants, making it harder for everyone to secure a spot.

Ways of Overcoming:

  • Apply to Multiple Schools: Casting a wide net by applying to various nursing schools increases your chances of acceptance.
  • Early Application: Submitting applications early can be advantageous. It demonstrates your eagerness and may give you an edge in the selection process.
  • Consider Alternate Programs: Exploring alternative pathways, such as community college nursing programs or online options, can be a viable option if traditional programs have limited availability.
  • Demonstrate Commitment: Showcase your genuine passion for nursing through your application. Highlight relevant experiences, volunteer work, and any certifications or courses you’ve completed.

4.      Entrance Exams:

Entrance exams are standardized tests that nursing schools use to evaluate the readiness of applicants. These exams assess a wide range of knowledge and skills relevant to nursing, such as math, science, reading comprehension, and critical thinking. The challenge here is that these tests can be quite demanding and require comprehensive preparation.

Why It’s Challenging:

  • Content Coverage: Entrance exams cover a lot of material, and test-takers need a solid understanding of various subjects.
  • Competitive Scores: Nursing schools often set high score expectations, increasing the pressure to perform well.
  • Time Pressure: These exams are timed, which can be stressful for test-takers who struggle with time management.
  • Test Anxiety: The importance of these exams can lead to anxiety, affecting performance.

Overcoming the Challenge:

  • Study Resources: Utilize study guides, textbooks, and online resources specifically designed for nursing entrance exams. These materials break down the content and provide practice questions.
  • Practice Exams: Take practice exams to get used to the format and time constraints. This helps build confidence and identifies weak areas for improvement.
  • Study Groups: Collaborate with peers to review material together. Discussing concepts and solving problems as a group can enhance understanding.
  • Professional Tutoring: Consider working with a professional tutor who specializes in nursing entrance exams. They can provide personalized guidance and strategies.
  • Time Management: Develop a study schedule that allocates sufficient time to cover all subjects. This prevents last-minute cramming and reduces stress.
  • Stress Reduction Techniques: Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, to manage test anxiety and stay calm during the exam.

5.      Clinical Experience:

When applying to nursing school, having clinical experience is often a requirement or an advantage. It means that schools prefer candidates who have spent time working or volunteering in healthcare settings like hospitals, clinics, or nursing homes. This experience helps students understand what nursing is really like and proves their commitment to the field.

Overcoming the Challenge:

  • Volunteering: Consider volunteering at a local hospital or clinic. Volunteering allows you to gain exposure to healthcare environments and interact with patients and healthcare professionals.
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Medical Assistant (MA): Becoming a CNA or MA can provide valuable hands-on experience. These roles involve assisting nurses and doctors with patient care, which is highly relevant to nursing.
  • Internships: Some schools or healthcare facilities offer internships for aspiring nurses. These programs provide structured clinical experience and often prioritize nursing school applicants.
  • Shadowing: Spend time shadowing a nurse. This involves observing a nurse during their work shifts, allowing you to see the daily responsibilities of a nurse up close.
  • Community Service: Engage in community service programs related to healthcare. This not only provides experience but also demonstrates your commitment to helping others.

6.      Strong Recommendations:

This challenge arises because nursing schools want to ensure that students they admit are dedicated, competent, and well-suited for the demanding nature of nursing. To assess this, they often request letters of recommendation from teachers, healthcare professionals, or employers who can vouch for the applicant’s character, work ethic, and suitability for nursing studies.

How Hard is it to Get into Nursing School – 13 Biggest Challenges & How to Overcome Them

Overcoming the Challenge:

  • Build Positive Relationships: Actively engage with professors, supervisors, or mentors who can write your recommendation.
  • Demonstrate Dedication and Competence: Show initiative and dedication in any relevant roles or experiences.
  • Seek out Professional Development Opportunities: Attend workshops, seminars, or training sessions related to healthcare or nursing.
  • Communicate Clearly and Respectfully: Maintain open and respectful communication with professors, supervisors, and colleagues.

7.      Effective Personal Statement:

The challenge arises from the need to stand out among other applicants. Nursing schools receive many applications, so it’s important to craft a statement that grabs the attention of the admissions committee.

Overcoming the Challenge:

  • Showcase Your Passion: Share personal experiences or stories that highlight your genuine interest in nursing. Explain why you are drawn to the profession and how you plan to make a positive impact.
  • Highlight Unique Strengths: Identify specific strengths or qualities that make you a strong candidate. These could be qualities like empathy, problem-solving skills, or a strong work ethic.
  • Demonstrate Commitment: Discuss any relevant experiences, such as volunteering or coursework, that demonstrate your dedication to healthcare and nursing.
  • Be Genuine and Authentic: Write in your own voice. Avoid using overly complex language or trying to sound like someone you’re not. Admissions committees value authenticity.
  • Tailor to the Program: Research the specific nursing program and mention why you believe it’s the right fit for you. Highlight any unique aspects of the program that align with your goals.

8.      Financial Constraints:

This challenge arises from the fact that attending nursing school can be expensive, including costs such as tuition fees, textbooks, uniforms, and other educational materials.

Overcoming this challenge involves finding ways to manage and alleviate the financial burden. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Scholarships and Grants:

Seek out scholarships and grants specifically designed for nursing students. These are funds that do not need to be repaid and can significantly offset educational expenses.

  • Financial Aid Programs:

Explore various financial aid programs offered by government agencies, educational institutions, and private organizations. This may include loans, work-study opportunities, and other forms of financial assistance.

  • Part-Time Employment:

Consider working part-time while attending nursing school. This can provide a source of income to help cover expenses and reduce the need for loans or other forms of financial aid.

  • Online Courses and Flexible Programs:

Look for nursing programs that offer online courses or flexible scheduling options. These alternatives may allow you to continue working while pursuing your education, helping to alleviate financial strain.

  • Budgeting and Financial Planning:

Develop a budget that outlines your expenses and income. This can help you manage your finances more effectively and identify areas where you can cut costs.

9.      Time Management:

Time management is about using your time wisely to balance different responsibilities and tasks. In the context of getting into nursing school, it means efficiently allocating time for studying, attending classes, completing assignments, and possibly working or tending to personal commitments. This can be especially challenging because nursing programs often have demanding schedules and requirements.

Why It’s Challenging:

  • Rigorous Curriculum: Nursing school involves a lot of coursework and clinical hours. It can be overwhelming to keep up with lectures, readings, and practical training.
  • Clinical Rotations: These are hands-on experiences in healthcare settings. Coordinating these with classes and personal obligations can be complex.
  • Personal Commitments: Many students have jobs, families, or other responsibilities. Balancing these with the demands of nursing school requires careful planning.
  • Self-Care: It’s crucial to find time for relaxation, exercise, and sleep. Neglecting self-care can lead to burnout and reduced performance.

Ways to Overcome It:

  • Prioritize and Plan: Create a detailed schedule that allocates specific time blocks for studying, classes, clinicals, and personal activities.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Break down big tasks into smaller, manageable chunks. Focus on completing one thing at a time.
  • Use Time Management Tools: Utilize calendars, apps, or planners to help organize your schedule and set reminders for important deadlines.
  • Avoid Procrastination: Identify and minimize time-wasting activities. Stay focused during study sessions and use breaks efficiently.
  • Seek Support and Delegate:
  1. Family and Friends: Communicate your commitments and ask for their understanding and support.
  2. Peer Study Groups: Collaborate with classmates to share the workload and learn from each other.

10.  Adapting to Rigorous Curriculum:

This means dealing with the demanding coursework and learning complex medical concepts. The challenge arises because nursing programs cover a wide range of subjects like anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and more, which can be quite intense.

To overcome this challenge, students can employ several strategies.

  • They can form study groups to learn from each other and discuss difficult topics.
  • Seeking out tutoring services or online resources can provide additional support.
  • Additionally, managing time effectively and setting aside dedicated study periods can help grasp and retain the complex material.
  • Finally, seeking clarification from professors or clinical instructors when facing difficulty is a proactive way to ensure comprehension.

11.  Addressing Background Checks:

When it comes to entering nursing school, one challenge is dealing with background checks. This means that schools want to make sure that students have a clean and trustworthy history. They check for things like any legal issues or previous problems that might affect a student’s ability to provide safe and responsible care.

The Challenge it Faces:

The challenge with background checks is that some students might have had past issues, like minor legal troubles or mistakes. These might show up on a background check and make it harder to get into nursing school.

Ways of Overcoming It:

  • Honesty and Transparency:

It’s important to be honest about any past issues. If there were problems, explain them truthfully in your application. Nursing schools appreciate honesty.

  • Seek Legal Advice if Necessary:

If you had legal issues in the past, it might be helpful to talk to a lawyer. They can give advice on how to handle the situation and what steps you can take to address it.

  • Show Growth and Accountability:

If you’ve made mistakes in the past, show how you’ve grown and taken responsibility for them. This could include participating in community service or counseling.

  • Highlight Strengths and Commitment:

Emphasize your dedication to becoming a nurse and your strong qualities that make you a trustworthy and reliable candidate.

12.  Meeting Health Requirements:

Nursing schools, along with the clinical sites where students gain hands-on experience, have health standards in place to ensure the safety and well-being of both students and patients. These requirements typically encompass immunizations, health screenings, and sometimes specific health tests or checks.

The Challenge:

For some students, meeting these health requirements can be a hurdle. It may be due to various factors, such as incomplete immunization records, underlying health conditions, or financial constraints for necessary health tests.

Ways to Overcome It:

  • Early Planning and Research:

Start the process early. Look into the health requirements of the nursing program you’re interested in. This can help you identify any potential gaps or areas where you may need to take action.

  • Consult Healthcare Providers:

Speak with your healthcare provider or a clinic about the required vaccinations and health screenings. They can guide you on what is needed and ensure you’re up to date.

  • Financial Considerations:

If cost is a concern, explore options like community health clinics or low-cost health services in your area. Some schools may also offer resources or assistance for meeting these requirements.

  • Addressing Health Conditions:

If you have a health condition, communicate with your healthcare provider and the nursing school. They can work together to determine if accommodations or alternative approaches can be made.

  • Timely Completion:

Ensure that all required health checks and screenings are completed well in advance of the deadline. This prevents any last-minute rush or potential delays in your admission process.

13.  Emotional Resilience:

The challenge arises from the potential stress and emotional strain that can come with witnessing illness or providing care in high-pressure situations. This may cause doubts or emotional exhaustion for some aspiring nurses.

How Hard is it to Get into Nursing School – 13 Biggest Challenges & How to Overcome Them

Ways to Overcome:

  • Seek Support:

Engage with peers, mentors, or counseling services to discuss your feelings. Sharing and receiving support can help alleviate emotional burden.

  • Practice Self-Care:

Prioritize activities that promote mental well-being, such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies. Taking care of your own emotional health is crucial for resilience.

  • Stress Management Techniques:

Learn and apply stress-relief methods like deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or journaling. These techniques can provide emotional relief.

  • Reflect and Process:

Take time to reflect on your experiences and process your emotions. Writing in a journal or discussing with a trusted confidant can be helpful.

  • Build Coping Mechanisms:

Develop healthy coping strategies, like setting boundaries, taking breaks, and seeking moments of relaxation. These mechanisms help maintain emotional stability.


Getting into nursing school is undoubtedly a challenging endeavor, but with determination, strategic planning, and a commitment to excellence, it is entirely achievable. Overcoming these obstacles not only demonstrates your dedication to the profession but also prepares you for the rigors of a rewarding nursing career.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Is it essential to have healthcare experience before applying to nursing school?

Yes, healthcare experience is highly valued by nursing schools. It provides insight into the field and demonstrates your commitment to healthcare.

2. What can I do if my GPA doesn’t meet the nursing school’s requirements?

Consider retaking courses to improve your GPA or explore schools with slightly more lenient admissions criteria. Additionally, focus on excelling in prerequisite courses.

3. How can I stand out in my personal statement?

Craft a personal statement that showcases your passion for nursing, highlights your unique strengths, and outlines your contributions to the healthcare field.

4. Are there alternative paths to becoming a nurse if I can’t get into a traditional nursing program?

Yes, alternative pathways like community college programs, accelerated nursing programs, or online nursing degrees can be viable options.

5. What resources are available to help with entrance exams?

Utilize comprehensive study guides, practice exams, and consider professional tutoring services to prepare for nursing school entrance exams.

6. How can I manage the financial costs of nursing education?

Explore scholarships, grants, and financial aid options. Additionally, consider part-time work or online courses to supplement your income while studying nursing.