By Shabnam Sabur, ThriveAP Contributor
When I was applying for nurse practitioner school I remember thinking I had plenty of time for writing essays, taking the GRE, and getting my letters of recommendation, but before I knew it applications were due. While I firmly believe I perform better under pressure, I wish I had allotted more time to figuring out a plan to minimize my own stress. I can tell you from experience that there’s plenty of time for that in grad school!
Based on my own hurried application experience, here’s a more manageable NP school application timeline to follow:
January-February: Start thinking about what kind of program you’d like to apply for. Do you learn better online, in a physical classroom, or with a hybrid approach? Do you want to attend school in state or would you be willing to move? Full-time or part-time and will you be working during the program? Most importantly, what specialty interests you? NPs are becoming more specialized and there are programs available for anything from emergency to neonatal to palliative care and the list goes on. Coming up with a list of your must-haves for your future school will help you to narrow your list of applications.
March: Job shadow NPs in specialty areas to find your niche. Following an APRN will not only help you decide what area you’re interested in but will also give you something to talk about in application essays. You also want to start resume building. This would be a good time to join professional organizations, get certifications, and do volunteer work. Research schools and programs and figure out what prerequisites you still need. Start thinking about who you want to ask for letters of recommendation.
April: Speak with program directors on the phone and ask to set up a visit with an in person meeting and tour of the school. Set aside a time to speak with students that are currently in that program during your visit. Some schools do offer a full schedule of events when you are asked to come in to interview but it might be a good idea to know if the school is right for you before applying. And, everyone’s favorite, start studying for the GRE!
May-June: Take the GRE for the first time. Write up a resume and ask for guidance from a friend, family member, or former professor on what edits to make. Ask supervisors, former professors, volunteer coordinators, etc if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation when the time comes. Asking far in advance will give them time to prepare and keep the idea in the back of their mind.
July-August: Take the GRE for a second time. Start filling out applications. Request official transcripts from your previous educational institution. Start writing up rough drafts of personal statements and essays. Send out requests through online application systems for letters of recommendation and give a specific date (before the application is actually due) for the letters to be submitted.
September-November: Finalize essays and ask others to read and critique them. Submit your applications. Write thank you notes and consider giving a small token of appreciation to those that helped you with your application process. I gave gift cards to the mentors that wrote me letters of recommendation.
December: Cross your fingers and hope for the best!
What do you wish you had known about the NP program application process?