Do Grades Matter in Nursing School? Find Out!

Written by Brandon L.
August 21, 202316 min read

Do grades matter in nursing school? This question bothers many aspiring nurses so take comfort in this if you are one of them.

Nursing school is challenging, from asking for admission to sitting for the NCLEX exams and other certification examinations.

Technically, the nursing school features a demanding credit load, and some students stack challenging courses to fast-track their degrees. So, it's common to have a bad semester where you barely did well in class. This may make you wonder whether the grades are really important.

The truth of the matter is grades matter, but not always. Grades don't predict your success as a nurse, but they are still important. So keep on reading to learn more.

When Do Nursing Grades Matter?

Getting good grades in nursing school matters more if you want to earn a scholarship, get student discounts, increase your lifetime earnings, get reasonable job offers and appointments, and scale the career ladder.

You should do your best to earn good grades for many reasons. Let's explore why you need to ensure that your nursing grades soar higher.

Good grades Help You Earn a Scholarship Opportunities

If you don't come from a well-off family and think you will benefit immensely from scholarships, grants, or aid, then getting good grades is the first step.

Huge student debts can negatively affect your future, even in the nursing industry. Imagine caring for patients, and all your earnings go towards clearing loans, and that alone will depress you. Colleges and other non-governmental funding bodies always look at grades when deciding who to award education funding to among the potential candidates.

Those already on scholarships understand that any grade slip-up will result in disqualification. Therefore, you need to do anything within your right to score higher grades in nursing school.

Good Student Discounts

Your tuition funds are not the only thing you will benefit from with good grades. Many auto insurance companies offer student discounts, which means that if you have a good GPA, your insurance might cost you less.

Some food and movie stores also offer discounted prices to those with good grades. This could save you lots of money in nursing school, especially when you want to relax after a tiring day. Indeed, working hard still gets rewarded in the highly competitive and fast-paced world.

High GPA Influences Your Lifetime Earnings

A study released by the University of Michigan Law School shows that those with good grades earn good money years after graduation. The same applies to nursing. Most of the highest-earning nurse practitioners have scored well and managed to get a nursing degree, such as Associate Degree in Nursing, BSN, MSN, or DNP. The study attributed this to strong analytical skills, craftiness, and good work habits, among top performers. Check out nursing salary by State (USA) to get a hint about what to expect if you qualify with a higher GPA. The higher you scale up the academic ladder regarding nursing education attainment, the likelier it is for you to earn higher.

Good Grades Influence Job Appointments

An employer may look at your grades when considering you for a nursing position. In addition, when applying for residency programs or internships with a large pool of applicants, employers may use grades to disqualify candidates. Employment agencies may put this in their job descriptions in many of these instances.

If you have a strong GPA, you can list it in your resume.

By extension, a good GPA will also earn you an internship or practicum opportunity in a healthcare facility such as a Magnet Hospital.

With the qualifications set higher and stiff competition, a higher GPA might make you be selected for an internship. You will also enjoy shadowing your mentor in the workplace because they are sure you are sharp.

Also, some healthcare facilities may consider you for better clinical rotations if you have a higher GPA.

Why Don't Nursing Grades Matter?

On the flip side, high GPAs don't necessarily determine the skills of a good nurse. For example, an article from the Minority Nurse shows that several things determine a nurse's competency besides good grades. So, when don't nursing grades matter?

Grades Aren't a Reflection of Intelligence

While high GPAs are impressive on paper, it doesn't determine your intelligence. Most students strive to attain good grades without emphasizing comprehension, and as a result, most students will spend time cramming instead of learning authentically.

Most Students Believe Good Grades Determine their Worth

A 2002 study found out that most college students based their esteem on grades showing clearly that bad performance results in mental health issues. In addition, the pressure to succeed often results in sleep deprivation, anxiety, and, other times, self-harm.

Some Students Overthink

Because of the high stress that the program itself brings, grades count a lot among students. So it's no wonder that most of them, despite knowing how to solve a problem, overthink and talk themselves out of the correct answer.

Different Learning Style

Some students prefer hands-on learning experiences, which is why they do better in patient care than academic processes. After finishing school and getting a job, they excel more than they did in school.

Grades don't always show how well a student converses with the material taught in school. And, they certainly don't indicate the student's success in their career.

How Important Are Nursing School Grades for Your Future?

When considering pursuing a nursing career, you should always strive to get As in all your classes. However, if you have been getting low grades since high school, you should consider attending a community college. This will not only allow you to learn and earn general education courses but also help you pursue education for less cost.

There is no minimum GPA requirement for getting into a community college. As long as you have a high school diploma, you can attend.

Keep in mind also that getting into a nursing school will depend on the following factors:

Getting into a nursing school is a highly challenging endeavor since the programs are highly competitive. The grading system is one of the most used means of selecting who should and shouldn't be. In other words, nursing GPAs indicate your long-term commitment and performance in the nursing program.

GPA requirements vary from one school to another. Most schools require a 2.5 for an ADN or an average of 3.0 GPA to accept students into a BSN program. These are bare minimum grades, so aim for a higher GPA to increase your chances of getting into a program of choice.

Some nursing schools have strict GPAs and won't accept anyone below what they have set in their requirements. On the other hand, schools like Duke and John Hopkins put more weight on grades since they are competitive and only allow admission of a few applicants.

If a school has room for only 100 applicants, and your grade is less than that of these applicants, you will miss out.

Some schools take students with low GPAs of between 2.0 and 2.5. Just do a quick online search of which schools can accept students with low GPAs.

Do Hospitals Look at Nursing School Grades?

When looking for a job with a low GPA, you may wonder whether hospitals or healthcare facilities generally focus on grades. They rarely do, especially now that there is an acute nursing shortage. Nevertheless, some hospitals, especially the Magnet Hospitals, will insist on your nursing school grades and performance in the nursing certification exams.

It's unheard of that a hiring panel may turn you down because you have a grade of C on your transcript.

The hiring institution will primarily focus on the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination). NCLEX shows that you have a license to practice and enough nursing knowledge to execute your job in the healthcare industry.

Most hospitals are more interested in your collaboration skills, how you will care for patients, and how well you work with others than your grades.

Employers will care more about your skills than grades, so if you have a part-time job or contributed your skills in healthcare while in nursing school, this should be a good thing.

How to Increase Your Chance of Getting Into Nursing School Without High GPA?

If you are worried about getting into nursing school because of your low GPA, the following options will improve your chances.

Take Additional Coursework

If there are non-nursing programs that can improve your grades, then it's high time you retake them. The school's policy will determine whether your new grade can replace the bad grade or be averaged together.

Also, if you miss some prerequisite courses, you should take them to improve your GPA.

You can also take Utica's Prerequisite Priority (PREP) program, which helps you to take your prerequisite courses online. The benefit of this is that you can seamlessly transfer your credits to another nursing program and take the course online.

Prerequisites are classes that should be completed before enrolling in any program to ensure that you have the necessary background knowledge in nursing-related programs. Some of these classes include Humans anatomy, microbiology, physiology, psychology, statistics, sociology, and chemistry, among others.

Pass an Entrance Exam

Besides prerequisite courses or stellar grades, some colleges will require you to do an entrance exam. Even though they make the admission process more stressful, they are an excellent way to show that students have the necessary skills or potential to do better in a nursing program. In addition, there are entry tests designed for aspiring nurses, like the NLN PAX, NET, and TEAS.

Apply to Multiple Programs

You will find getting into a BSN program more challenging than an ADN one. Similarly, getting into an ADN program will be more complex than an LPN program. To increase your chances of getting into a nursing school, only apply to a program you qualify for. For instance, apply for ADN programs if your GPA doesn't meet the threshold for A BSN program.

If you get admission into the AND program and set your sight for the BSN, you can work as you attend a bridging program. As you do this, ensure you prepare adequately for the interview when you receive an invitation. Also, don't forget to include all the relevant references if you were asked to. Most students fail to get accepted because of an incomplete application letter. You can consider the accelerated nursing programs offered online so that you can manage your work load and study from anywhere you wish. 

Start from the Bottom

There are other educational pathways you can consider if you don't meet the grade requirements for nursing schools. You can start from the bottom as a medical assistant, Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA), or EMT and work your way up. Besides building your resume, it will allow you to work side-by-side with healthcare professionals and show your dedication to the healthcare industry. CNA is one of the best bridges to nursing, and it only takes a few months before you earn the certificate.

Community Service and Volunteer

Nothing looks good on your resume, like volunteering work. Besides this, it is also an opportunity to gain much-needed experience in the nursing industry. Check the hospitals around you for volunteering opportunities; it doesn't matter whether it is paid or unpaid. Hospitals are constantly looking for an extra helping hand. This can either be in the emergency department, elderly, or childcare.

Apply to Multiple Schools

Since nursing schools are competitive, applying to a school with a large pool of candidates while your grades are low isn't a great idea. On the other hand, since there is no way to know which school has a large pool of applicants, applying to multiple schools will increase your chances of attending a nursing school.

Take the General Education

General education classes in your community can help you get into nursing school. What's more, you can transfer these classes as prerequisites to the desired program. Besides this, they also raise your GPA, making your transcripts look more attractive to the nursing school.

Talk with a Counselor

Nursing schools receive a lot of applications each year, and counselors are ready to help students increase their chances of getting in and pursuing their dream programs. You should schedule an appointment with the school's counselor and discuss your interest in pursuing a nursing program at the school.

You should also consider writing a letter to the school's administration asking about an interview. Check with the school faculty or director of your desired program to see what advice they can offer you about getting into it. They may also recommend courses that can bring your GPA up and are transferable to the said school. Taking the initiative to ask will show that you are highly motivated and interested, which could boost your chances of getting into the school.

Add a Statement Letter

Most nursing schools need a statement letter accompanying your application declaring your intention to join the school. Even though the statement is just a formality, it's an opportunity to show your commitment even with a low GPA.

Ensure you are honest in the statement letter and show what led to you getting a low GPA. This could be because you got sick or had a family issue that affected your performance in school. The point is to do your best to show that you are interested in pursuing nursing despite all the challenges you have been through.

Consider Private Nursing Schools

Getting into a private nursing school is easier, even with a low GPA. They also rarely have a waitlist, but the major disadvantage is that they are expensive, but you will still be entitled to scholarships or student loans.

Please note that CCNE or ACEN accredits your chosen school; otherwise, getting employment after graduation will be an uphill climb.

Consider Moving to Another Geographical Location

If the school of your choice hasn't been accepted because of your low grade, it doesn't mean another one will reject you. The problem is some of these schools may be in another town or city far away from home.

Remember that you will likely be charged out-of-state tuition, but you can easily compensate for this with grants or financial aid.

 Is Nursing School Hard to Pass?

Getting into a nursing school is not the only challenge you must conquer; once you have been accepted, the real challenges begin. There is a reason why there is a 20% national dropout.

The following are some challenges you will experience in nursing school when trying to get a high GPA.

Studying A lot

You have to cover a lot in nursing school to be authorized to treat and care for patients. You must learn many facts, new terminology, complicated medical concepts, and practical skills. All these require you to spend time memorizing them every day. This is why nursing may seem challenging to some students.

Most people equate good nursing grades with providing safer patient care which is why students are highly encouraged to get good grades.

Experiencing Burnout

Burnout is not a new concept in nursing schools since there is a lot of material to cover and concepts to memorize. Burnout can be either physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion resulting in decreased motivation. As a result, those affected constantly feel stressed and unable to cope with their studies.

Since you have to study all the time, leaving no time for yourself, you risk experiencing burnout. The good thing is there are several things they can do to prevent this, such as managing time and leaving time for themselves.

After you have completed your nursing studies, you have to deal with the NCLEX exam, which is also a challenging exam that determines your future as a nurse. NCLEX is a comprehensive test that takes at most six hours to complete.

Final Word

Even though rejection from nursing school due to bad grades can make you give up or question your choices in life, don't give up. You can do several things to boost your skills and experience as you wait for another round of intake.

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Even though it may take a few months or years, you can achieve your dreams of becoming a nurse if you are determined. Remember also that grades are not everything in nursing school; the most important thing is passing the NCLEX exams.

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