So you’ve decided to go to nursing school (YAY!)
But now you’ve gotta get in, and things can be a bit daunting… The essays, letters of recommendation, prerequisite courses, the GRE (if you’re applying to a master’s program). The letters of recommendation are kinda out of your control (besides wisely choosing appropriate people to write them). The GRE and GPA will appear as a number on your application. But your essay is a chance to get personal, make an impression, and really sell yourself to the admissions team.
I applied to six graduate schools for my MSN and learned a lot throughout the process. These are the guidelines I followed and it landed me a spot at Vanderbilt University, a top FNP school. Follow these tips and I am confident you will have a kick-ass essay that the admissions team is sure to remember.
Don’t skimp on the intro
Introductions are always the hardest part of an essay for me to write. Don’t stress if you’re in the same boat. Sometimes it’s easier to starting writing the body and then the “Ah-ha” moment will come to you on how to start it. But if there is one thing you DON’T do – don’t skimp on the introduction! If you had ONE paragraph to submit as your admissions essay, what would it say? This is essentially how your introduction should read. It needs to be powerful, it needs to hook the reader in, and it needs to give them enough information to (probably) know right away whether they want to you in their program or not. This is a first impression. Use it to your advantage!
Avoid cliché quotes
On that note… Writers often times want to begin an essay with a quote. Unfortunately, this is overdone and may get you a massive eye-roll by the reader. As wonderful that, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” is by Ghandi, it may end up being more of a snooze-fest for the reader than an impact-statement. And not because it isn’t a powerful quote (I actually have “be the change” tattooed on my wrist in Ghandi’s handwriting…), but because it’s overused and abused!
Instead, if you’re dying to use a quote, think of one from a family member or mentor. Or REALLY dig deep and use one that the reader probably has never heard before. The point is to leave the reader thinking, “Wow, that was a damn good quote”, not “Ugh, again???”
If you find yourself Googling “nursing quotes” or “unique inspirational quotes”, STOP! There’s gotta be a better way. I didn’t start me essay with a quote, I told a story instead! I won’t post my entire essay on here because I think that reading others’ essays only makes it harder to write your own… But the very first sentence of my essay went like this:
I had never met anyone who died and came back to life. But this patient had, and he vividly remembered it…
Use this time for introspection and reflection. Learn something about yourself in the process. Figure out what your real strength are and share these with the reader. Struggling? Talk with friends, family, and close coworkers to see what they think your strengths are. Take the time to really sit and think about why you want to be a nurse and why you make a phenomenal caretaker. The more genuine and human you can be throughout your essay, the more powerful and appealing it will be for the reader.
Give them something to remember
Get personal! Bear in mind that whoever is reading your essay has been doing this all day and probably has another two weeks of it ahead of them. When they’re done reading all 100+ essays, how will they
remember you? Are you the guy/girl who spent six months in rural South America delivering babies? Did you start a global health non-profit at your undergrad university? Or maybe you had the loved one who passed away from cystic fibrosis and you can share how your life changed. Take what makes you and your path to nursing unique and highlight that in your essay.
End on a positive note
Dig deep, give them something to remember, and then end on a positive note. By positive I don’t necessarily mean happy. If you decide to tell a touching story, it’s OK to not have a happy ending. But add in some positive perspective that will leave the reader inspired! Everyone goes through their own version of hardships in life, so find a way to turn your trial into a triumph. (Hey, finding your dream career out of it is a triumph in itself!)
Answer all of the questions. All. Of. Them.
I mean it! Do not skip any questions or requests from the admissions criteria. It would be such a shame to put all this hard work in but be thrown out of the running due to laziness or confusion. If you have a question about what they’re looking for – ask them! Email the admissions office, call an admissions advisor, but do not leave anything out. Everything they ask of you has good reasoning behind it.
Take your time and EDIT!!!
Last but definitely not least, take your time in writing your essays and edit edit edit! Give yourself two weeks minimum to write each essay. It’s important to have time to sleep on it, think of new ideas, and not pressure yourself to get it done in one weekend. Find a good friend, family member, or utilize the writing center at school to edit for you. It’s essential to get another set of eyes on your writing to catch silly spelling and grammar errors you may have missed.
Good luck and let me know if you have questions! I’m happy to help!