can you become a nurse with bad grades

Can You Become a Nurse with Bad Grades?

Yes, you absolutely can! If you’re thinking you can’t be a nurse without straight As and a 4.0 GPA, you can’t be more wrong. Nursing schools are very competitive, but your grades aren’t the only thing you need to have a successful nursing career. Being a nurse is multifaceted, and that’s why most nursing programs opt for candidates with a well-rounded profile.

You can create a compelling application, highlighting your communication skills, empathy, work ethic, and even prior experience, that can get you selected for a program. So, don’t be discouraged with your grades, as there are several ways you can still pursue your nursing dream. Here are some options you can explore to get started on your nursing journey!

Explore different types of nursing programs

All nursing programs don’t have the same requirements. While a BSN program can require a higher GPA, an ADN program can have GPA requirements as low as 2.0. Either way, you’ll still qualify for the NCLEX. It’s true that BSN programs can offer higher pay and greater opportunities but you can also gain workforce entry through an ADN program and later opt for an ADN/RN to BSN bridge program.

Some programs also don’t consider your actual GPA but rather a ‘nursing’ GPA. That is, they only consider your GPA on the basis of subjects that would count as your prerequisite courses. Some programs also follow a point system where nursing-specific subjects are given a higher weightage, so a lower grade in others has a lower chance of affecting your application.

Consider community colleges

Community colleges often have less stringent GPA requirements compared to universities. What’s more, they’re also much cheaper. If you’re worried about the quality of education, don’t be because nursing programs need to meet strict standards to qualify for accreditation. So make sure your chosen program is accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), or the Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA).

Also, make sure that your credits are transferrable. This is important if you’re going to do a 2+2, or complete your core courses in a community college and switch to a nursing program in a university later on. You can also try looking up community colleges that have partnership programs with big universities, as it can give you an upper hand if you want to transfer your credits.

Apply for entry-level nursing roles

You can try your hand at entry-level roles and opt to become a CNA or LVN and work your way up. CNA programs are only 4-12 weeks and you can join the workforce after passing your certification exam and getting your license. LVN programs are a bit longer and can take up to one year to complete. These entry-level jobs can equip you with valuable clinical experience. You also get the chance to hone your soft skills and familiarize yourself with the work environment.

If you don’t want to take on a full-time position, you can still try volunteering at a local hospital. You can interact with nurses to learn more about different aspects of the profession. You can also try shadowing a nurse or talk to nurse managers to find out how you can get more involved. Who knows, you might even find a mentor to guide you through your nursing journey. These prior nursing experiences can a huge plus point on a college application. Interacting with nurses and other healthcare professionals can also help you build important networking connections, which can be beneficial in the long run.

Do well in prerequisite courses and exams

Nursing programs require you to take a set of prerequisites before beginning your degree. While some can count your high school courses to fulfill nursing prerequisites, most programs require you to take college-level courses. Every program has varying requirements, but some of the most common prerequisite courses include:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Lifespan: Growth and Development
  • Nutrition
  • Psychology
  • Maths
  • English

Some nursing programs also require you to submit your SAT and TEAS scores. Doing well in these exams and securing good grades in your prerequisites can help you improve your chances of getting selected for a program. Taking these general education courses in a community college can help you save money as well.

Seek advice from a counselor

Nursing schools receive thousands of applications, and not all candidates who are applying are 100% certain of the process. That’s why schools have designated counselors who can help out students by guiding them through the program requirements and process. Reaching out to a counselor can be a great idea, especially when it comes to prerequisite courses and transferring credits. If you decide to opt for the 2+2 way, make sure you ask the respective nursing school counselor if your chosen prerequisites will be compatible with the program you want to transfer to later. If they don’t, you might have to end up taking the same course later in university.

Find good references

Recommendations letters serve an important function in your nursing school application. They are not only important for portraying you as a capable individual who has the potential to become a proficient nurse, but they also show how others believe you’ll be well suited to the role. That’s why it is important to find someone who knows you well, is in a position to make an impact with their words, and can vouch for your passion for nursing. The best choices could be your supervisor ( in case you have been working in nursing or a related field), a mentor, or a teacher.

Also read: Top 5 In-Demand Allied Health Jobs

Final thoughts

Poor academic performance or bad grades can be disheartening, especially in a fiercely competitive field like nursing. However, it’s essential not to lose hope. In today’s climate of widespread shortages in healthcare personnel, your dedication and commitment to nursing hold significant weight.  

By dedicating yourself and putting in your best effort, you can still strive towards your dream career in nursing. Your average or subpar grades don’t automatically equate to rejection; it’s crucial to afford yourself a chance before counting yourself out. The key is to showcase your capabilities and give it your all. 


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