Nursing students currently face a more competitive application process for admission into nursing school due to an increased number of applicants for fall 2021.
The cancellation of Harding’s study abroad programs the past few semesters caused many students that had planned to be a semester behind to now apply to nursing school on schedule, making this semester’s application class larger than normal.
“We’re only allowed a limited number of slots,” Greg Brooks, assistant dean of student affairs for Carr College of Nursing, said. “If we could take more nurses we would — the world needs more nurses. We’re limited, though, in how many places we can send students for clinical.”
The application includes background checks, reference letters and academic records, according to sophomore Kayla Cesone.
“I didn’t realize how competitive it was going to be,” sophomore Jaylee Poindexter said. “I definitely could have worked on my grades my freshman year.”
If students do not get in initially, they have a few options: transfer to another school’s nursing program, retake classes for a better chance or take a semester off.
“They also have conditional admission, so you take some classes from nursing school, and then you’re also retaking some other classes from pre-nursing,” Cesone said.
These options come with their own challenges, however.
“It affects your scholarships,” Poindexter said. “If you’re a semester behind, your academic scholarships run out before you’re done.”
The Carr College of Nursing is not the only program on campus with a very competitive application process. According to Angela Sivia, admissions director for Harding’s Physician Assistant (PA) program, the program can only accept 36 students a year, while it receives around 700 applications.
“In the U.S., there’s 267 PA schools,” Sivia said. “So by default, every school is getting hundreds of applications — but they can only take so many.”
Providing clinical sites is also a challenge for the program.
“You have to be really intentional about developing those sites and maintaining them so that you can provide that clinical piece of the training,” Mary Madill, program director, said.
According to the World Health Organization, there is a global shortage of nurses. At the same time, according to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, U.S. nursing schools turned away over 80,000 qualified applicants for the 2019-2020 year — mostly attributed to a shortage of nurse educators. PAs are also under high demand, having been listed as number one in the top 100 best jobs of 2021.
Harding’s PA program has a five-year, first-time pass rate of 95% for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam, and the Carr College of Nursing is ranked first in the state with a 100% passing rate for the National Council Licensure Examination.