15 Tips to Get into Top RN To BSN Programs

Written By: Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA

Are you a registered nurse with an associate degree considering going back to school? Do you want to expand your role but do not feel a graduate nursing program is the right move for you at this time? If so, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a great option. You may have thought of becoming a baccalaureate-prepared registered nurse but ask, "Can someone tell me how to get into a top RN to BSN program?”

If that sounds like you, then you have found the right article because I can answer that question! I am a nurse with almost three decades of experience teaching nursing and allied health and recruiting students, and I feel I can give you some solid tips on what to do to get into the right program. As you continue reading, I will share 15 tips to get into top RN to BSN programs and elaborate on their importance. I will also share some common mistakes nursing applicants make and give you advice on avoiding them to help improve your chances of receiving an admission offer to a top program.


Although acceptance rates for nursing programs in the United States average about 66%, the process to get into a top RN To BSN program can be competitive. The size of the school, the number of available seats in each new class, available faculty, and the applicant pool can impact whether you get into a program. The good news is there are several things you can do to make your application more appealing and improve your chances of admission.


Getting into a top RN To BSN program can feel challenging, especially if you do not know what to expect. Admission teams typically use a holistic approach to reviewing and selecting applicants. Although each school’s admission criteria may vary, admission teams look for specific things in candidates. The following are five of the main things they look for in prospective students.

1. Solid Academic History:

When applying to get into a top RN to BSN program, you must submit official transcripts from each post-secondary school you have ever attended. Admission teams review your grades carefully. Most RN to BSN programs require candidates to have a minimum 3.0 grade point average from their previous nursing program. However, this requirement may vary from one school to another. Keep in mind that schools may receive hundreds of applications for each admission period. Therefore, the higher your GPA, the better your chances of getting an admission offer.

2. Excellent Communication Skills:

As nurses, we communicate with patients, family members, doctors, and other members of the interdisciplinary team daily. Admissions and program faculty understand the importance of effective communication to help promote positive nurse-patient and team relationships. Good communication is key in ensuring a smooth transition of care from one shift to another and in educating patients and their loved ones. In addition to writing an admissions essay and personal statement, you may be asked to participate in an admissions interview. The way you present yourself in both written and spoken words will reflect how well you will communicate with patients, peers, and staff.

3. A True Passion for the Nursing Profession:

As a nurse with nearly 30 years of experience, I can tell you if you chose a nursing career simply because you want a job with good pay, you would probably end up unhappy. Do not get me wrong; you can earn a good income as a nurse. However, there are other jobs that pay more and require less of you physically, emotionally, and mentally. Admission faculty understand this and know that true success in nursing requires a genuine passion for the job and the profession.

4. A History of Clinical Competence and Professionalism:

RN to BSN programs are designed to build upon your previous nursing degree. To succeed, you need a solid knowledge and skills base. Highlighting your work history as a registered nurse is a great way to show clinical competence. Additionally, a good track record of professionalism in your nursing practice shows admissions teams you know how to conduct yourself properly when providing care and collaborating with your team members, which is essential.

5. Leadership Experience:

As a baccalaureate-prepared nurse, you will step into more of a leadership role in nursing. Admission teams realize leadership skills do not develop overnight, but they must be cultivated. If you have leadership experience, it is a big plus and can help improve your chance of getting into top RN to BSN programs. Although leadership experience in nursing is great, demonstrating leadership in any role can be helpful. Perhaps you led a committee or organized a charity, school, or church event. Anything you can do to show your willingness to take on projects and assume leadership responsibilities will make you stand out in the application process.


(The following 15 tips will help you in your pursuit of getting into one of the top RN To BSN programs in the nation.)

TIP #1: Give Yourself Credit Where Credit Is Due

I do not know about you, but I am often my own worst critic. It is often easier for me to recognize the good that others have done and applaud their accomplishments than to take credit for things I have done. The truth is, though, that when you are applying to get into a top RN To BSN program, you are the best source for information that allows admission faculty to get to know you. You do not need to be conceited or oversell yourself, but pointing out your accomplishments and strengths is an excellent way to show them who you are. If you received recognition, an award, or a promotion, find a way to incorporate information about it in your admission essay, personal statement, or interview, if possible.

TIP #2: Consider Earning a Certification

Some people mistakenly think that specialty certifications are only for advanced practice registered nurses, which is incorrect. Although registered nurses are not required to choose a specialty concentration or get certified in a certain area, doing so is an excellent way to demonstrate your commitment to the profession. If you are interested in a patient population or field of nursing, you can pursue a certification focused on that interest. A few examples of certifications include Advanced HIV/AIDS Certified Registered Nurse, Certified Asthma Educator, Certified Breast Care Nurse, and Certified Perioperative Nurse.

TIP #3: Write an Excellent Personal Statement/Admission Essay

Part of the process of getting into a top RN To BSN program is submitting an admission essay or personal statement. Admission teams will read your submitted work before deciding to invite you for an interview. Your essay or statement should be well-written and reflect your reasons for wanting to earn a BSN and how you feel the school and program is the right choice to help you achieve your goals. Explain where you want to be in five years, ten years, or longer and how becoming a baccalaureate-prepared RN will make it possible to accomplish the things you want. Your statement should be compelling enough that it makes the admission team want to meet you and get to know you better.

TIP #4: Complete Required Prerequisites

If you are determined to get into a top RN To BSN program, verify the prerequisite requirements before applying and ensure you complete them. If the admission criteria for the school you wish to attend include prerequisite courses you did not take in your associate nursing program, consider registering for and completing the classes before applying. Completing prerequisites could have a two-fold benefit. First, you will meet the criteria for completing the classes. Second, you could improve your overall GPA, which could make you a more favorable candidate among others in the applicant pool.

TIP #5: Apply to Schools that Have More than One Start Date

Some nursing programs offer only one start date each year, limiting the number of students who can begin the program. You may find that there is more competition for a spot in these programs. To help increase your chance of getting into a top RN to BSN program, apply to schools that offer two or more start dates each academic year. By doing so, even if you miss the cut-off for one start date, you could make it into the next one.

TIP #6: Apply to Multiple Programs

I remember when I began applying for nursing school (many years ago). At first, I had my heart set on attending a college less than an hour from my home. The program was highly ranked, and I had friends who were going to the same college. My guidance counselor advised me not to limit myself but to apply to several schools, and I did. I was accepted to my first-choice school but ultimately ended up going to another school in another state because I received a scholarship there.

I realize this is not always the case for everyone, but had I limited myself to applying only to my first choice, I would have missed out on a full scholarship. So, I encourage you to do your research and find at least four or five schools that interest you and apply to each of them.

TIP #7: Weigh your options between campus-based, hybrid, and online classes

Some schools offer their programs in a mixture of formats. For example, one school may offer the same program in an online or hybrid format or give you the option of attending classes on campus. If you are comfortable with any style of learning, you could increase your chance of getting into a good RN To BSN program by applying to schools that have multiple delivery options. By doing this, if in-person classes have reached capacity, you may still have the choice of enrolling in classes online.

TIP #8: Go to School Events, Such as an Open House or Prospective Student Workshop

Another great way to get the attention of program faculty and admission teams is to show up at school events and meet people. If the nursing department has a table or booth set up, stop by and introduce yourself to faculty and staff. Ask for business cards and brochures and express your interest in the program. Remember, anyone can make a phone call, but when you make an effort to show up in person, the chance of being remembered by staff is much higher.

TIP #9: Be Persistent

Admission into a top RN To BSN program can be competitive. Some schools receive hundreds of applications each year. It can feel discouraging when you think of the number of candidates seeking a spot in a program, but the key is to be persistent. Keep your goals in front of you and keep applying and following up until you get accepted.

TIP #10: Get to Know the School/Program

As you research RN to BSN program options, take the time to get to know important things about the school and the program. For example, review the program outcomes and goals listed on the school's website. Check out faculty profiles to learn about who teaches at the school. Find out how the program ranks, the program's retention rate, and the employment rate of graduates who complete the program. All these factors are important so you can ensure you apply to a school prepared to help you succeed.

Additionally, knowing details about the school, faculty, and program is an excellent way for you to demonstrate your interest. Admission faculty and program directors like candidates who show an interest in their school or program. Be prepared to answer questions about why you chose this school to earn your degree, how you think the school can help you achieve your goals, and why you feel you are a good candidate for the program.

TIP #11: Apply Early!

Another way to help improve your chance of getting into a top RN to BSN program is to apply early. All programs have an application deadline, and most have a priority deadline. If possible, try to apply before the priority deadline. Having your application turned in early means admission faculty have a chance to review your credentials and academic history before other applicants. It could mean the difference between you being admitted or being wait-listed.

TIP #12: Make sure your application is complete and error-free

As a former admissions coordinator and nursing instructor, I can tell you that one of the fastest ways to have your application rejected is for it to be incomplete or full of errors. When you apply to get into top RN to BSN programs, take your time filling out your application and gathering all the necessary supplemental documents. Proofread everything and consider having someone else go over your application packet, as well. It is much easier to catch mistakes before submitting your application and fix them than to worry about what happens when you turn in incomplete or inaccurate forms.

TIP #13: Get Excellent Recommendation Letters

One of the admission criteria for BSN programs is to provide letters of recommendation. Choose people to provide your recommendation wisely. Former nursing supervisors or administrators and previous nursing instructors are excellent candidates for letters of recommendation. The key to finding the right person to prepare your references is to ask individuals with a degree equal to or higher than the one you plan to pursue.

For example, if you are trying to get into top RN to BSN programs, you should ask registered nurses with at least a baccalaureate degree, although master’s- or doctoral-prepared nurses are preferred. The letters should speak to your strengths, your dedication, and your likelihood of success in the program. Make sure all letters include accurate contact information for the author.

TIP #14: Get Work Experience

If you want to get into a top RN to BSN program, make sure you have work experience as a registered nurse. All BSN programs may not require work experience. However, having some experience shows your dedication to the profession and is an excellent way to highlight your skills. When admission teams review your application and see that you have experience working as a registered nurse already, it will pique their interest in you because it becomes evident that you really want this career.

TIP #15: Highlight What Makes You Unique and How It Affects Your Role in Nursing

Nurses come from all walks of life, and we each have our own unique qualities. Know what makes you different and use that to demonstrate why you are a good fit for the program. For instance, if you are from a small town or enjoy working with underserved populations, an RN to BSN school that offers clinical rotations in rural or underserved areas could see you as someone who will relate well with the patient population of clinical practicums. If you have been a preceptor in your previous nursing role, a program associated with a teaching hospital could find you an appealing candidate. It is one thing to be conceited about your uniqueness and something altogether different to recognize that your unique qualities can benefit others and use them to leverage an opportunity to get into your chosen program.


No matter how many of the “right steps” you follow to earn admission into a top RN to BSN program, the simplest mistakes can stop you in your tracks! Some of the most common mistakes that could ruin your chance of getting into a top program include the following.

MISTAKE #1: Turning your application in late

All nursing programs including RN to BSN programs have deadlines for admission for a reason. If your paperwork and supporting documents are not available for review on time, you could be wait-listed or worse... have your application rejected altogether. This is one of the most common mistakes and one of the most easily avoidable. Make a note of priority deadlines when you research programs, and be sure to submit your application and other documents as early as possible.

MISTAKE #2: Being Dishonest or “Sugar-Coating” Things

We all want people to like us, and that is especially true when applying to a nursing program. You want the admission faculty, the program director, and academic advisors to look at you and think, "Wow!" However, they need to form an opinion of you based on the truth, not a made-up version of you or your experiences. If you are asked a difficult question in your interview or on your application, be honest. If there is something you feel could tarnish the admission team’s perspective of you, ask for an opportunity to elaborate and explain instead of making up a story or embellishing the facts. Somehow, the truth always comes out, and it is always better for it to come from you first.

MISTAKE #3: Turning in an Incomplete Application

No matter how early you turn in your application, if it is incomplete, it will be rejected. Take time to review your application checklist to ensure all supporting documents are available and up to date. Update your resume and curriculum vitae. Be sure your letters of recommendation have been recently prepared and are dated properly. The time it takes to go through your application and verify completeness could make the difference between whether you do or do not get into a top RN to BSN program.

MISTAKE #4: Refusing Required Immunizations

Medical clearance and the requirement to be immunized have been a topic of controversy for years, and opinions have been even more heated since the occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The truth is, while some schools may offer immunization waivers to students based on cultural or religious beliefs, healthcare facilities have the right to refuse students who have not been immunized. Your decision to be immunized or not is your right, but it does not change the fact that you may not be allowed to participate in clinical practicums without doing so. What’s worse is without completing your required practicum, you will not graduate from the RN to BSN program. So, consider your options carefully if immunizations are something you prefer to avoid.

MISTAKE #5: Failing to Prepare for Your Admission Interview

After the admissions team reviews your application, transcripts, and other documents, the final step in the process is usually to participate in an admission interview. Once you make it to the interview phase, you will meet with program faculty either face-to-face or in an online format. You should prepare as if you were going to an interview for a job. Dress professionally, be on time, and be courteous. Review possible interview questions and practice answering them. Also, think of a few questions you would like to ask the interviewers, as this gives a sense of your genuine interest in the RN to BSN program.


If you are a registered nurse with plans for a long-term career in nursing, it is natural to consider ways to further your education and move up the ladder of the profession. As you seek the right program, talking to experienced nurses or nursing schools to get information about how to get into a top RN to BSN program is an excellent first step.

In this article, I shared 15 tips to get into top RN to BSN programs and gave some insight about things to avoid throughout the application process. You can take these steps and begin your journey to earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Remember, nursing is an amazing career with unlimited opportunities to grow and advance, and we need dedicated nurses like you to help further the profession!


1. When Is The Application Deadline For Top RN To BSN Programs?

Application deadlines for getting into top RN to BSN programs vary based on the school's designated start dates. Most deadlines are at least two months before the scheduled start date. However, it is important to verify deadlines with each school that interests you.

2. What Are The Admission Requirements For Top RN To BSN Programs?

Admission criteria for RN to BSN programs typically include having an associate degree in nursing and an active, unrestricted RN license with a cumulative nursing GPA of 3.0 or higher and completing prerequisite coursework. You will be asked to submit supplemental documents like a professional resume, admission essay, and letters of recommendation, as well.

3. What Is The Average GPA Of Students Who Get Into Top RN To BSN Programs?

The average GPA for students who get into top RN to BSN programs is 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.

4. Can I Get Into A Top RN To BSN Program With A Low GPA?

It may be possible to get into a top RN to BSN program with a GPA lower than the recommended average. However, keep in mind that the application process can be competitive, and the higher your average, the better your chances of admission.

5. How Important Is Experience When Trying To Get Into A Top RN To BSN Program?

Not all RN to BSN programs require work experience to be admitted. However, if you have relevant work experience, it can make you a more attractive candidate and could improve your chances of getting into a top RN to BSN program.

6. Can I Get Into A Top RN To BSN Program Without Extracurriculars?

It is possible to get into a top RN to BSN program without extracurriculars. If you have extracurriculars, though, be sure to include them on your resume.

7. Is There An Interview For Admission Into Top RN To BSN Programs?

Many RN to BSN programs require candidates to participate in an admissions interview as the final step in the application process.

8. What Is The Admission Rate For Top RN To BSN Programs?

The admission rate to RN-to-BSN programs is about 66% in the US.

9. Is There A Waiting List For Top RN To BSN Programs?

Some RN to BSN programs have a waiting list. Whether there is a waiting list typically depends on the number of available staff, clinical sites, and preceptors.

10. Will Applying Early Increase My Chances Of Admission Into Top RN To BSN Programs?

Submitting your application early puts you ahead of other applicants, which can help increase your chance of getting into top RN to BSN programs.

Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).