Should I apply to a top notch grad school with less than stellar grades?
January 16, 2006 3:31 PM   Subscribe

GradSchoolFilter: After a lot of soul searching, I've decided I want to change careers. I think I'd like to become a Nurse Practioner. I've already registered for a few prerequisites and will begin classes in a few weeks. The problem is, although I went to a top-notch school for my undergrad degree, I have less than stellar grades - about B- average.

I really didn't apply myself and had a lot of emotional things happening that distracted me from my studies. I graduated 10 years ago and am a different person than I was then; more focused, more responsible, etc. I'm a very good test taker (over 1400 SATs, and expect to do very well on the GRE). Will the top nursing programs consider me if I pull a 4.0 average in the six prerequisites I have to fulfill? How competitive are nursing programs in general? I live in NYC, so my top pick would be Columbia - do I realistically have a shot, or should I save the application fee and skip it. Does it really matter where I go to school, as long as I pass the licensing exam?
posted by discokitty to Education (6 answers total)
Well, judging from the number of ads I see here in Canada from US employers seeking to hire Canadian nurses, I'd say it doesn't matter where you went to school. However, I'm not a nurse.

If nursing school is like other programs, your recent experience, recent school work, GRE and references will count for more than grades you got 10 years ago.
posted by acoutu at 3:46 PM on January 16, 2006

If your school really is/was top-notch (i.e. Ivy League or Stanford) and you manage to score in the 700s on all three parts of the GRE, you shouldn't have a big problem. School name can compensate for GPA a bit, and the prestige of a really high GRE compensates as well. Do well in your classes, take the GRE now so you know where you stand, and start a dialog with the admissions office as soon as you can. You definitely have a shot if you work the system well.
posted by dness2 at 3:51 PM on January 16, 2006

I can't speak to the competitiveness of nursing progams in general, but I would suggest that if you're looking for specific information about the competitiveness of a program, you contact the school directly. If you speak to someone involved with admissions of a grad program you want to take, they will usually tell you how many applications they receive versus how many spots are available. And they should also be able to tell you the minimum averages of those accepted the year before. You may even want to ask how your maturity and years of work experience might factor into your application's probability of success. Personally, though, I would say no matter what their answers you should go ahead and apply wherever it is you want to go. You never know. Good luck!
posted by Idiot Mittens at 3:55 PM on January 16, 2006

IIRC, in many places, mature (as someone who's actually done stuff for a while and returning to school) students are considered for enrollment under slightly different criteria.

Good luck!
posted by PurplePorpoise at 4:37 PM on January 16, 2006

About ten years ago, I was in exactly your position. I did really well in my prerequisite classes and on the GRE. I was accepted to Columbia and completed their Nurse Practitioner program. I am sure you have a great shot at getting in. I know they look for motivated people with diverse life experience. Email me if you have other questions about Columbia or being a nurse practitioner. Good luck!
posted by peeps! at 6:23 PM on January 16, 2006

I went to a state university and had a C average. Several years later, I decided I wanted to go to graduate school. I applied to a competitive program in a highly-regarded private university on a whim, not really thinking I had a shot.

Well, not only did I get in, they gave me a scholarship. It turns out that (for this school at least), if you have been out of college for more than 5 years, they consider you a "non-traditional student" and essentially ignore your grades (their website says that students in this program have an average of 3.5 college GPA and I was way below that).

But a caveat: I assumed that since I was older, I would "do better" in grad school than undergrad. I was wrong. Grad school was just like undergrad, only harder, and I hated it. I dropped out after one semester.
posted by clarissajoy at 7:58 AM on January 18, 2006

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