Let’s be honest. Having a low GPA isn’t exactly ideal if you are thinking about applying to a nurse practitioner program. Starting a step behind other candidates doesn’t really give you the application edge you were hoping for. However, all is not lost if your undergraduate GPA is lacking. With a little time and a lot of hard work, you can prove to NP program admissions faculty that you’re worth considering for acceptance to the NP program of your choice.
Some NP programs require that applicants meet or exceed a specific GPA requirement, usually 3.0 or above. Other schools use GPA to measure academic performance and compare applicants to one another. If your GPA isn’t stellar, or you don’t meet stated requirements, try these tactics can help you overcome past blunders and present an application worth consideration.
Take Advantage of the Time You Have Left
If your GPA is low haven’t yet graduated from your undergraduate program, take advantage of the time you have left in school. Aim for the best grades possible in the courses you have remaining, focusing especially on those that pertain to your your future career as a nurse practitioner. Consider re-taking any courses in which your performance was particularly poor, especially those that are foundational to nursing. NP programs admissions faculty will notice the upswing in your grades and make note of the turn-around.
No time to study? Drop those extracurricular activities. As much as being social chair of your sorority, singing in your school’s choir and volunteering at the local hospital look good on your resume, your GPA is more important when it comes to graduate program admissions. So, hit the books and drop the extra stuff.
Enroll in Additional Courses
If you don’t have much time left in your undergraduate program, or graduated long ago, don’t worry, there’s still hope. Enrolling in a few graduate level classes as a non-degree student can help you prove your renewed commitment to education. In this case, attending a university with at least some prestige is helpful. A noteworthy performance at a respected university will speak more highly of your skills than achieving good marks at a local community college. Consider enrolling in two to four courses to prove you can perform well at the graduate level.
Before enrolling in additional courses, speak to the NP program directors for the schools where you will be applying. They can give you some advice on which additional courses would look best on your application. If you can’t speak to a program director about your decision, take fundamental classes like writing or statistics. These provide more value and look more attractive on your application than obscure classes like “Tattoos in Popular American Culture” (yes, this class actually exists).
Crush the GRE
The GRE gives nurse practitioner programs a standardized way to compare candidates. Acing the GRE will prove you have the brain power to excel in an NP program. While a good score on the GRE can help make up for a low GPA, it isn’t a substitute. Also, many NP programs don’t look at GRE scores so taking the test will only pad your application at some institutions.
Work on Your Writing Skills
Good writing skills are a must for any graduate level program. Even though you are applying to a nurse practitioner program, not for a PhD in English, schools want to know you can write academically. Spend extra time on your application essays editing them to perfection so admissions faculty have a sample of your best work. Consider taking a graduate level writing course as one of the ways to boost your GPA.
Distinguish Yourself Professionally and Academically
Many prospective nurse practitioners go back to school later in life. If you have worked as a nurse for years and made a mark professionally, this will go far in helping supplement your application in spite of a low GPA. If you have worked as a charge nurse, completed specialized training or published academically, include this in your application package. NP programs understand that we aren’t always as motivated early in life and a strong professional presence can help overshadow earlier indiscretions.
If you have a low GPA, including an addendum to your application as an explanation can help address the issue. Perhaps you got mono as an undergrad which totally drug down your grades. Or, maybe a family emergency hampered your performance. Remember, make explanations, not excuses for your poor performance. Most importantly, point to the recent steps you have taken to demonstrate your potential for success in a nurse practitioner program.
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