10 Tips for Getting into a Good DNP School

Written By: Amy K. Cooney RN, BSN, SCRN

If you are interested in becoming a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), then the obvious next step will be to know how to get into a good DNP school. Well, there is no surprise in knowing that the process of obtaining admission into a good DNP school can be challenging and requires some serious hard work. But if you are prepared before you apply, you have a better chance of success at getting into a good DNP school.

After researching several different DNP programs across the country, I have developed a list of ten tips that can help improve your chances of getting into a good DNP school.

How to Get Into a Good DNP School?

(The following 10 tips will help you to get into a good DNP school.)

1. First and foremost, be prepared to commit to a DNP program.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommends that good DNP programs consist of 3 calendar years, or 36 months of full-time study (4 years in the traditional academic calendar). However, it is up to the college and the state board of nursing or accrediting body to dictate the length and credit hours of a DNP program. Generally, a good DNP program entails rigorous training and a competitive academic environment, so, be realistic about your ability to commit the time if you want to be a successful doctoral student.

2. Research well about different DNP programs and the specializations they offer.

The US News World Report has a list of DNP Schools by rank. These rankings are based on 14 indicators, including faculty credentials, student to faculty ratio, and completion rate. Well, this can be a good starting point to shortlisting good DNP programs. Also, there are a variety of specializations to choose from, depending on your practice goals. Get to know the specializations each of these programs offer and whether they fit into your larger picture of pursuing a DNP in your preferred area of interest. By preparing a list, you will be better prepared about application deadlines. This means you can start the admission process as soon as possible, and in an environment that is supposed to be highly competitive, the sooner the better.

3. Give yourself plenty of time to review all the admission requirements

Every DNP program reviews applications differently. If you want to get into a prestigious DNP program, make sure you understand every component of the admission requirements before you submit your application.

4. Ensure you earn a high GPA.

If you already have an MSN, your odds of getting into a prestigious Doctor of Nursing Practice school are better if you have a GPA of 3.4 or greater. Some schools will allow you to petition to have your transcript reviewed and may approve admission if you do not meet the requirement.

5. Have documentation of your clinical experience.

Many states have BSN to DNP programs, but if you already have an MSN, most programs require documentation of advanced practice hours. Be prepared to complete 500 clinical hours for post master’s students, or 1000 post-BSN hours, that is, if you don’t have an MSN.

6. Collect at least 3 letters of reference from clinical leaders.

Getting into a prestigious DNP school is not an easy process. Letters of reference may be a deciding factor in a competitive program. Ask the reference writer for specifics in their letter, focus on clinical strengths and organizational skills. If you have specific accomplishments, you would like mentioned, ask the person who helped you get there to write a reference.

7. Have a vision and prepare a compelling personal goals statement.

Having a vision and goal for the future is vital to succeeding in getting into a good Doctor of Nursing Practice program. Ensure your statement not only clearly defines your personal & professional goals and vision but is also well written and is free from any errors. In addition, be prepared to describe your vision in the interview process.

8. Consider what you will do for your “Capstone” project before you begin.

Find out what the school you are looking at requires for the final DNP project. If you want to get into a top Doctor of Nursing Practice school, there will likely be an interview, and this may be asked during the admission process. Formats and completion times of capstones vary widely between programs, so do your homework once you have selected your top school choices!

9. Gain a deeper understanding of evidence-based practices.

If you understand the process of ranking evidence and how research influences evidence-based practices, you will be ahead of the competition. If you are working in a hospital that has a research club or a journal club, join it. Take Institutional Review Board (IRB) training, which teaches all the requirements for conducting human research. It is something you earn continuing education credits for, and you can add it to your resume. If you are trying to get into a good Doctor of Nursing Practice program, this will be a benefit.

10. Dress professionally when appearing for the interview.

A professional appearance will serve you well. Ensure you create a confident first impression with the interviewer and your dress can either add or take away from the overall impact you intend to leave. Jeans and T-shirts might be comfortable, but they make you appear too casual for the serious process of getting into a prestigious Doctor of Nursing program.

Final Thoughts

Make sure you are ready to give your application process the commitment it requires; A thorough application will demonstrate you are well organized and committed to the program.

Have a vision you can share with the admissions team. Be enthusiastic about your goals.

Get all your transcripts and paperwork in order before you apply. Don’t wait until the last minute to ask for references!

What it boils down to is this; DNP School is hard, getting into a good DNP school is even harder! But if you use my “10 tips for getting into a good DNP school”, the process might be a little easier to navigate and a lot less stressful!

Amy K. Cooney RN, BSN, SCRN
Amy has been a registered nurse for 35 years. She has had multiple specialties throughout her career. She has been ANCC certified in Medical Surgical Nursing and Nursing Professional Development.