What Do Nursing Schools Look for in Applicants?

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Marquette nursing students sitting in hallway

You are ready to start applying to nursing schools, but before you fill out an application, there are a few things you should know that can help you stand out. What do nursing schools look for in applicants? Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to apply and set yourself apart as a candidate for Marquette’s second-degree Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program.

What do nursing schools look for in applicants at a program like Marquette’s? Here are some qualifications Marquette looks for in potential Direct Entry MSN students. Showing the admissions committee how you possess these qualities can help with getting into nursing school.

1. Education

Because the Direct Entry MSN program in Pleasant Prairie is a second-degree option, in order to be considered as a potential student you must meet the educational background necessary. To apply to Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program you must:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline
  • Have a minimum undergraduate cumulative GPA of at least 3.0
  • Complete all prerequisite courses with a competitive grade

Once you apply to the Direct Entry MSN program, you will be assigned an admissions adviser who will work one-on-one with you to determine if your past credits and GPA meet Marquette University’s eligibility requirements. Your adviser will also determine which, if any, prerequisites you may need to take before beginning the program.

If you have questions about these admissions requirements, be sure to ask your admissions adviser, as they have your best interest in mind and want to help you submit the most competitive nursing application possible.

Why It’s Important

Your prior education allows you to be eligible for an accelerated path to an MSN rather than a traditional route to earning an MSN, which requires much more time. Accelerated programs apply your non-nursing education toward the general education requirements of your degree.

two nursing students at table studying

Your prior education allows you to focus solely on the nursing curriculum during the Direct Entry MSN program. Once you successfully complete your prerequisites, you can apply to the Direct Entry MSN program and, upon acceptance, graduate with an MSN in less than 21 months.

How You Can Show It

Showing your education is simple, and you can do this through your official academic transcripts. Remember to provide transcripts to Marquette before the application deadline.

2. Drive

For many potential students, the goal to pursue a career in nursing begins with deciding what motivates them to excel. For example, Direct Entry MSN graduate Rachel Davis says she was driven to become a nurse practitioner.

“I want to precept for other nursing students and eventually teach incoming nursing students,” she says. “Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program allowed me to take the first step toward furthering my education, so I can apply for an NP program after graduation.”

Why It’s Important

The drive you bring to the program will help you stay motivated to keep up with the curriculum’s rigorous and fast-paced structure. It will also help you plan your future. Passion for nursing is essential to succeed in this career. Having a strong drive will ensure that you give your patients the best care while achieving your professional goals.

How You Can Show It

As you build a professional relationship with your admissions adviser, you’ll want to share your true passion and motivation for wanting to become a nurse. You will also be required to include a written goals statement as part of your application. This goals statement should reflect your future plans and what you hope to achieve with an MSN degree from Marquette.

3. Organization

Another quality that helps with getting into nursing school is organization. This includes keeping track of responsibilities, managing your schedule, presenting yourself professionally and completing your admissions package in a timely fashion.

Why It’s Important

Applying to Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program requires you to be extremely organized so you can stay on top of all the various requirements and deadlines. You’ll have a lot of pieces to package together for your application, including your official academic transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Being organized during the admissions process is also a great way to prepare for the rigors of the program. Start implementing the organizational habits that will serve you well throughout nursing school.

How You Can Show It

Your adviser will be there to guide you through the process, but there are some simple things you can do to make it go smoothly. Some examples include:

  • Taking notes while speaking to your admissions adviser
  • Bookmarking all email exchanges
  • Keeping all your physical information in one place (e.g., notes or informational flyers)

Important information, such as when your application is due or which prerequisites you need to complete, should always be easy to reference, so organization is key.

4. Adaptability

Marquette University seeks applicants who can adapt to diverse environments and work well with others. This adaptability is key to managing the diverse responsibilities of a Marquette nursing student. You’ll need to adapt to the unique demands of nursing coursework, nursing labs and clinical rotations. Additionally, adaptability comes into play when you become a nurse, and having this skill will help you manage your patients more effectively.

Two Marquette students examining a simulation manikin

Why It’s Important

Not only does adaptability help you navigate coursework, nursing labs and clinical rotations you’ll experience during the Direct Entry MSN program, but it also sets you up for your career. As a master’s-prepared nurse, you’ll be expected to work with a variety of healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, physical therapists, physicians and other nurses to coordinate safe, quality patient care. Additionally, on a regular basis you’ll need to adapt to changing patient needs and respond to situations that you didn’t expect.

How You Can Show It

As you apply to the Direct Entry MSN program, come prepared for any requirements that may come your way. For example, if you possess a non-nursing Bachelor of Science degree, the science courses you took during your undergraduate experience may count toward your prerequisites so you can start your nursing school journey sooner. By contrast, if you possess a Bachelor of Arts degree, you may need to take more science-focused prerequisites before you can begin. Display adaptability with your admissions adviser, adjusting course as needed without complaint.

5. Empathy

If you thrive on human connection and helping others and have the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you may be a great fit for Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program. During the program, you’ll gain valuable clinical experience where you will be able to connect with patients from all walks of life.

Why It’s Important

Empathy is the basis of the nursing profession. At the heart of patient care is an empathetic heart. As you support people going through health challenges, you’ll need to walk in their shoes and show understanding of what they’re experiencing. The best nurses are the ones who show each patient that they truly care.

How You Can Show It

During the admissions process, you can demonstrate empathy by sharing about work or volunteer experiences where you have served others. Include these stories in conversations with your admissions adviser and in written application materials.

Within the first semester of the Direct Entry MSN program, you’ll practice empathy during clinical rotations, where you’ll work alongside seasoned nurses and staff. These individuals know the language of empathy extremely well, so be sure to take notes and carefully observe how they establish a connection and sense of trust with their patients.

6. Leadership

Leadership is an essential quality of Marquette nurses. Being able to effectively lead will ensure you’re prepared for the career ahead of you, especially if entering a management or advanced practice nursing role is your goal.

Why It’s Important

As a master’s-prepared nurse, you’ll be expected to showcase leadership skills as soon as you begin your career. Additionally, an MSN will give you the educational foundation required to specialize in advanced nursing roles in the future, like adult acute care or pediatric primary care (which you can earn through Marquette’s post-master’s certificate programs).

How You Can Show It

Before applying to the program, think hard about the unique leadership qualities you possess that will help you stand out from other nursing school applicants. Make sure your ability to lead is evident in your application. For example, if you were the captain of your college basketball team or a manager in your prior career, include these experiences in your nursing school application.

a marquette student listening to a simulation manikin's heartbeat

7. Accountability

Accountability is another of the essential qualities that will help with getting into nursing school. This skill will make it possible to succeed in the Direct Entry MSN program, and it will then help you care for your patients effectively upon starting your nursing career.

Why It’s Important

The Direct Entry MSN program combines coursework with hands-on experience. If you choose the Pleasant Prairie site with online coursework, students will need to remain focused and motivated in order to stay on schedule and complete assignments. Professors are highly engaged with students, providing a high level of support and often open to meet and discuss issues individually. However, students will need to complete the necessary work and be open to asking for assistance when needed.

While there are staff and faculty in place who you can contact by email or phone, it is up to you to have the discipline to study and prepare for exams on your own, outside of a classroom. Students who enroll in the Marquette DE-MSN program option in Milwaukee will attend classes on campus on a set schedule in a traditional learning format.

How You Can Show It

The admissions committee can notice your accountability in a few ways. First, good grades on your transcripts show your past academic accountability. Additionally, mention your past extracurricular and work experiences. For example, handling previous extracurricular activities or having previous full-time employment.

8. Patient-Oriented Values

Marquette also looks for applicants whose goals and values align with the mission statement. Marquette University’s mission includes a commitment to truth, the discovery and sharing of knowledge, the fostering of personal and professional excellence, and the development of leadership expressed in service to others.

In this educational environment, Marquette hopes to educate and develop nurses who display unique characteristics including leadership at all levels, highly developed critical thinking skills, advocating for others, a commitment to cura personalis (care for the whole person), and a passion for social justice.

Why It’s Important

Shared values mean you’ll get a well-rounded education that’s aligned with the type of nurse you hope to be. Not only will you learn technical nursing skills, but you’ll also learn how to carry yourself as a nurse and how to serve your community most effectively and compassionately.

How You Can Show It

Throughout your nursing school application as well as during your discussions with your admissions adviser, indicate your reasons for pursuing nursing. Share about the values that are important to you and how you feel Marquette could help strengthen those values.

A Quick Overview of the Direct Entry MSN Program

Designed with career changers in mind, Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program offers two programs — a traditional on-campus program in Milwaukee and a hybrid (online and hands-on) program in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. Both programs put your non-nursing bachelor’s degree to work, allowing you to seamlessly transition into a nursing career in five semesters or less than 21 months.

The Direct Entry MSN program in Pleasant Prairie embraces a blended learning model that combines online coursework, in-person skills labs and simulations, and in-hospital clinical rotations. The curriculum teaches you how to think critically and gives you the confidence needed to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which is required to practice as a nurse. Marquette’s dedicated staff and faculty will support you each step of the way and provide innovative and relevant learning experiences to ensure your success.

Are You Ready to Begin?

After asking, “What do nursing schools look for in applicants,” now you know the qualities nursing schools like Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program look for in applicants. Your next step is to get in touch with an adviser to find out more about the program and if you could be a fit.

If you think you have what it takes to become a registered nurse through Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program, contact an admissions adviser to begin the admissions process today.