How to Write an Excellent NP School Personal Statement
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“Try not to rush this statement. We recommend taking some time to reflect on your nursing career accomplishments, as well as situations that perhaps were learning situations that did not end favorably. Use these to reflect on your motivation and priorities and how they apply to the topic that the school has provided.”
Dr. Doreen Rogers, DNS, RN, CCRN, CNE, Assistant Professor of Nursing & Graduate Nursing Program Director at Utica University
Anyone who’s ever applied to a nurse practitioner program knows two things: careers in nursing are in high demand and graduate school admissions are competitive. Nurse practitioner careers are one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States; in fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) predicts that 121,400 new NP jobs will be added to the economy between 2020 and 2030—a 45 percent increase.
So why are nurse practitioner admissions so competitive? A shortage of qualified nursing teaching faculty and an increasing number of retiring nurses are some possible reasons, according to CNN.
Despite these admissions barriers, a nationwide shortage of doctors is poised to restrict patients’ access to care. To address this problem, states are beginning to expand the scope of practice laws for nurse practitioners. The U.S. News & World Report shows that 22 states, the District of Columbia, and the Veterans Health Administration removed practice authority limitations for NPs, which resulted in expanded healthcare and decreased costs.
One thing is sure: applicants for nursing practitioner programs must put together flawless applications to rank high with an admissions committee. In addition, an aspiring nurse practitioner who wants to stand out and make a solid first impression needs to write an excellent nurse practitioner (NP) school personal statement.
To help out hard-working nurses who spend more time seeing patients than practicing academic writing skills, here are some tips for writing an excellent nurse practitioner (NP) school personal statement.
Follow the Five-Paragraph Essay Format
Drexel University has a video featuring several tips for writing a personal essay for admissions committees. The video recommends applicants organize their statements in a five-paragraph essay format and write no more than 500 words.
- First paragraph: Make an immediate impact in your introduction
- Second paragraph: Explain what attracted you to the program and field
- Third paragraph: Compare your short- and long-term goals with the program goals
- Fourth paragraph: Share your skills, experiences, and characteristics
- Fifth paragraph: Conclude by summarizing your five-paragraph essay
Drexel University also offers a downloadable infographic to illustrate what admissions committees are looking for in an applicant’s essay.
Write an Impactful Introduction
Pretty Nurse Ashley, a registered nurse who documented her experience getting into Vanderbilt University’s top-ranked nurse practitioner program, emphasizes the importance of an impactful introduction in a personal statement in her YouTube video:
That first sentence needs to be something spectacular, something that’s going to pull them in, so it needs to be very creative and something that’s going to get their attention. With your personal statement, you want to stand out from the other applicants. You want to create a story, create a vivid picture of who you are.
At a time when nursing schools are sending thousands of rejection letters to qualified applicants, Pretty Nurse Ashley’s advice to make a strong introduction is solid advice to help an applicant open their statement with what makes them unique.
Do Your Homework: Advice From an NP Career Coach
Renee Dahring is a nurse practitioner career coach, past president of the Minnesota chapter of the APRN Coalition, and a nursing university instructor with extensive experience in recruitment and admissions for nurse practitioner programs. When applying to NP schools, Ms. Dahring recommends that nurse practitioner applicants do their homework in three areas.
Show Your Commitment to Finish
Dahring said, “Every university wants its students to finish, especially in a nurse practitioner program. If you drop out, your spot in the NP cohort is empty. Mostly we like to know: ‘Have people thought this decision through?’”
In other words, when an NP program admission committee decides to admit a student, they are investing in that person to finish the program. Therefore, if it seems like a risky investment, they will not want to admit that individual.
Connect Your Career Goals to the NP Program’s Mission
“Understand what the program’s goals and missions are and align your personal statement with them. . .Also, consider the mission of the educational institution; most have a dedication to the underserved, but that will vary from place to place,” Dahring advised.
Addressing a program’s or an institution’s mission statement directly in a personal essay can catch the attention of an admission committee. They want to ensure that a person is a strong fit for their specific program. It’s also a benefit for applicants to be familiar with a school’s objectives and guiding philosophy, as it can help ensure that a program is the right fit for them.
Demonstrate Your Understanding of NP Scope of Practice Laws
Dahring also stated, “The other important thing is to have a really good understanding of the NP Scope of Practice Laws. . .You should have a clear idea of what you are allowed and not allowed to do in the states where you apply for NP school and intend to work as a nurse practitioner.”
NPs can practice more independently in some states than others—and a solid understanding of these regional nuances can inform one’s essay.
Take Time to Communicate Clearly
Above all, take the time to write and edit well. Admissions committees read through hundreds of personal statements, so communicating concisely and clearly can increase an applicant’s chances of admission to an NP program.
Dr. Doreen Rogers is an assistant professor of nursing and the graduate nursing program director at Utica University in New York. She advises applicants to use their best writing skills:
Remember, your personal statement is an opportunity for you to convey what motivates you and discuss your priorities as a healthcare professional while extending them to your future career as a nurse practitioner. Some aspects that are exceptionally important are the use of appropriate grammar, spelling, word selection, and sentence structure (including an introductory paragraph, transition sentences in between paragraphs, and a conclusion that ties everything together).
Dr. Rogers also recommended taking the time to communicate clearly: “Try not to rush this statement. Instead, we recommend taking some time to reflect on your nursing career accomplishments, as well as situations that perhaps were learning situations that did not end favorably. Use these to reflect on your motivation and priorities and how they apply to the topic that the school has provided.”
Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. A dedicated Ashtanga yoga practitioner, Rachel is interested in exploring the nuanced philosophical aspects of contemplative physical practices and how they apply in daily life. She writes about this topic among others on her blog (Instagram: @racheldrummondyoga).