How Hard Is It To Get Into NP School? (11 Reasons Why It’s So Difficult)

Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Have you ever dreamed of earning your advanced degree? Did you ever think to yourself, “I would love to be an NP” Ok so let’s do it! So, the first step in obtaining your dream would be getting into NP school. Wait, let me guess, you just realized it may be challenging to get into an NP program. Well, rest easy; I will help you answer that burning question, how hard is it to get into NP school? I have compiled a concise list of the 11 reasons why it’s so difficult to get into a nurse practitioner school. Once you have learned these 11 reasons, you will find that you will feel so much more confident in the application process.

How Hard Is It To Get Into NP School?

When answering the question of how hard it is to get into NP school, I first want to remind you that as an NP, you have a tremendous responsibility because you are making significant decisions about a person's life. So now that I said that, yes, NP school is hard to get into if you do not have the right qualifications.


Following are the 11 reasons why it’s so difficult to get into a nurse practitioner school.

1. You will need to have a high enough GPA

In order to be accepted into a nurse practitioner program, most colleges and universities will require that you have a GPA of 3.0 or better. This is the chosen GPA because a 3.0 GPA has been shown to be an indicator of a student's long-term potential and performance as a student in the program. Universities and colleges want to admit students who will succeed.

2. Your performance in your undergraduate nursing courses counts

When you are applying to a Nurse practitioner school, your performance in your undergraduate coursework matters. Now hold on; I am not talking about how you performed in your basket weaving course; I’m talking about your Nursing and science courses. Nursing and science courses can be challenging, and by you performing well in these courses, it shows that you are capable of successfully completing the hard work it takes to excel in a nurse practitioner program.

3. Not having enough experience

Applicants who are applying to a nurse practitioner program need to have enough experience working as a registered nurse. I know what you are thinking; what does that mean? Well, many nurse practitioner programs out there generally require that students have at least one year of experience practicing as a registered nurse before pursuing their advanced degree. This experience that you will gain as a nurse during your career will help you become a stronger NP. You will have the opportunity to take what you have learned in theory in nursing school and translate that to your own practice.

4. Not having the right experience

Another reason that some people may find it hard to get into Nurse practitioner school is that they may not have the right experience. I know, I know I just told you about not having enough experience, but yes, you also need to have the right experience. Having the right experience essentially means that if you want to pursue your dream of being a pediatric nurse practitioner, you should have some pediatric nursing experience at the undergraduate level. If you do not have the type of nursing experience in the specialty you want to pursue as an NP, maybe now is the time to start thinking about how to get it.

5. Not a high enough GRE score

The GRE or the Graduate Record Examination. The GRE exam will show your command of basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis as well as your college-level vocabulary. More importantly, it measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material, think critically, and solve problems. Verbal and Quantitative sections of the GRE are scored between 130–170, and the average person will score around 150-152. The Analytical Writing section of the GRE is scored between 0 and 6 in half-point increments; the average person will score somewhere approximately 3.5.

6. Not having a personal essay that is up to par

Many nurse practitioner programs will want you to meet the requirement of submitting your personal essay. One reason it may be so difficult for some people to be accepted into an NP program is that their essay falls short of what was asked of them. First and foremost, you must follow the directions of what the program is asking from you in terms of writing. You also want to make sure that you let the admissions board know that you understand the nurse practitioner's role. Also, please, please, please, do yourself a favor and do not forget to edit and spell check the document.

7. Graduate program acceptance rate

A university’s acceptance rate into a nurse practitioner program is definitely a reason why it’s so difficult to get into a nurse practitioner school. Let me explain. In 2019 the average acceptance rate among the 223 nursing master's programs ranked by U.S. News was 68.2%. The 10 most selective schools admitted less than 26% of their applicants, and the average acceptance rate for these programs was 19.3%. That sounds pretty competitive.

8. Your interview

Most nurse practitioner programs require that you complete an interview before acceptance. This is one of the methods used to filter out applicants. During the interview process, you will be asked about your education and job experiences. This is how these programs will judge how you will succeed in their program.

9. Your prerequisite courses are too old

Nurse practitioner programs are looking for you to be able to dive right on in day one of the program start. You will find that many programs require that your prerequisite foundation courses, such as anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and microbiology, to name a few are more current or within the last 5 years.

10. It matters where you work

Nurse practitioner programs are looking to accept candidates that have a strong work background. Essentially what this means is that they want to see that you have worked in environments that enable you to use critical thinking and areas that will allow independent decision-making. Nurses who have worked in the emergency room, intensive care environments, and public health seem to do better in a nurse practitioner program.

11. Other experiences

Candidates who have leadership experience, who participate in committees, or who have even been chosen as employee of the month is a plus in the application process. Candidates with these qualities are very appealing to nurse practitioner programs. Not having these qualities as a nurse practitioner applicant is one reason why it’s so hard to get into a nurse practitioner school. Let's think about it; if I have two candidates that are precisely the same in every way except for the fact that one is a charge nurse in a 50 Bedded ICU, I would accept this candidate over the other. As a nurse practitioner, you need to possess these qualities, such as leadership and committee involvement, in order to succeed.

The Bottom Line

So, how hard is it to get into NP school? Well, that is all going to depend on what qualifications you already have. I listed the 11 reasons why it’s so difficult to get into nurse practitioner school, and if you do not already have these qualifications, the good news for you is that you can achieve these things. Armed with the list, you can earn and gain some of these attributes that the academics department is looking for. You can still achieve your dream of being a nurse practitioner!

Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.