The Scoop on Nursing School Waitlists

There’s nothing quite like the anticipation (and anxiety) of waiting to see if you got accepted into the nursing program of your choice. We’ve all played the waiting game at some point, the one where you check your e-mail or the online admissions site obsessively, and you take a sudden renewed interest in snail mail in the hopes of seeing a fat packet with the university seal.

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Nursing School Wait Lists

But what about that third option that happens to so many students: more waiting? What if you’re waitlisted for your nursing program?

With the demand for nurses skyrocketing across the country, the demand for nursing education has followed suit. Unfortunately, the capacity of our nation’s nursing programs has not. With many programs still only admitting a select group of students once a year, being waitlisted for nursing school is increasingly common. So what do you do next?

Don’t Give Up

First, don’t assume that being waitlisted is the same as being denied admission. It’s not. Most admissions offices are playing a complex numbers game, balancing their desire for the most qualified students with finite financial aid budgets and certain expectations around “melt” (or how many accepted students will end up declining their offers of admission for various reasons). Many times, the difference in actual qualifications between an admitted student and a waitlisted student is miniscule. So it’s important not to give up or assume you weren’t good enough. A lot can change between the day admissions letters go out and the day classes actually start.

Show Your Commitment

There are also things you can do to enhance your chances of getting in off a waitlist. I have some personal experience here: my husband was crushed when he got waitlisted at his first-choice prestigious business school, but his M.B.A. from that same school now hangs on our wall. What did he do? He wrote to the school again as soon as he received the waitlist letter, reiterating why he was a perfect fit for their program and why their program was a perfect fit for his academic interests and career goals. He added new letters of recommendation to his application—not from professors or co-workers, but from students he knew who were already in the program who could testify that he, too, had what it took to succeed there. In short, he demonstrated commitment. He convinced the university that if they accepted him, he was a sure bet to enroll and complete the program.

Move On, If Necessary

Granted, sometimes there’s nothing you can do, and the waitlist letter never does turn into an offer of admission. Hopefully you’ve applied to more than one school and have a backup plan, but what if you don’t? Does that mean you need to give up your dream of becoming a nurse, or at the very least defer it for another year and go through the whole application process again? Not necessarily.

Many prestigious colleges and universities now offer Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs (ABSN programs) that feature rolling admissions, multiple start dates each calendar year and the chance to earn your nursing degree in an accelerated timeframe, thanks to some of the coursework being offered online. Moreover, such programs are typically taught by many of the same faculty that teach the school’s traditional nursing programs, and they offer the same breadth of hands-on clinical experience. And if you’ve already completed the necessary prerequisites for nursing school, you may be able to start an ABSN program within a matter of weeks and become an RN less than 18 months later.

In short, if nursing is your passion, don’t put your future on hold or take no for an answer. With some planning, some creativity and some flexibility, you can green-light your new career and get what you’re really been waiting for: that “yes” from the admissions office.

If you are looking specifically for a nursing program that doesn’t have a wait list here is a list – Nursing Schools Without Wait a List.