Guide to Enrolling In an Online Nurse Practitioner Program
Deciding on an online nurse practitioner program is just the first step of the journey. Getting that acceptance letter and figuring out how to pay for your program should be your next goal. Our tips below will help you through the application process and lay out your best options for paying for your online NP education. Having a plan for each of these important steps will help you transition into your program as smoothly as possible.
Nurses who are serious about applying for an online nurse practitioner program need to know how to apply for school – don’t let something silly such as forgetting to pay a fee or dropping the ball on requesting transcripts keep you from achieving your dreams. The process begins with researching schools and examining the application process.
Each institution and program has specific prerequisites. In order to receive an acceptance letter, students may need to have a specific GPA, type of licensure, or score on an entrance exam. Prerequisites vary based on the institution, program level, and specialization.
For example, applicants for an MSN program may need to hold a BSN from an accredited institution and have at least a year of clinical experience. Students may need to submit their resume or CV as well as sealed official transcripts from all other schools they have attended. Programs may also require written statements, letters of reference, interviews, and video essays.
Some programs may allow provisional acceptance for students. This means that institutions grant approval based on the fulfillment of prerequisites during the student’s first semester in school. In some cases, an MSN program may admit an RN with a bachelor’s degree in a separate field, but this student may have to take additional coursework. If you don’t meet all the requirements for your school of choice, it may be worth looking into whether provisional acceptance is an option for you.
Prospective students should be as thorough as possible when filling out the application. Some tips to make the process easier include:
- Pay attention to application periods and deadlines – you will want to be sure you have the application completely filled out, all fees paid, and all required documents delivered to the school within the application period and before the deadline passes
- Prepare a professional resume, ask for recommendation letters, and request official transcripts ahead of time
- Five weeks before the application, start requesting transcripts and references if required
- The application will also likely come with a fee – be sure you don’t forget to submit payment for any fees associated with the application
Filling out the application can be direct and straightforward, but nurses who want to stand out in the process can go above and beyond by:
Shadowing a Nurse Practitioner
Shadowing your favorite nurse practitioner for a few days can help you stand apart from other students. First, you can reference the time you spent shadowing your NP in your application. This shows how serious and determined you are. Second, your NP can write a recommendation on your behalf to really make your application shine.
Everyone loves seeing worthy extracurricular actions, like volunteering. While this may not be required, it certainly catches the attention of admissions officers. Plus, it’ll give you relevant and valuable experience while you plan out your career and get your application ready.
Most schools require personal essays or a written statement of goals as part of the application process. Students should use these essays to describe their strengths and the skills they can bring to the program, as well as why they are pursuing this program in the first place.
Take your time and be thoughtful with personal essays and goal statements. Make sure you have caught any grammar or spelling mistakes, and consider having a friend or colleague proofread it for you. A few drafts may be needed before you land on the final version, so allow yourself plenty of time for these written requirements.
If a school requires an interview with a faculty member (either in person or via phone/video chat), prospective students should prepare. It is important to search for questions commonly asked during these interviews and prepare answers based on personal experience.
Tips for standing apart during your interview:
- Be confident. Nurses should be able to display reliability, stability, and confidence at all times. Your interviewer will be able to pick up nervous habits and mannerisms. It may help to practice in front of a mirror or with friends until you feel secure.
- Be assertive. Interviews are a great opportunity to showcase your kindness, compassion, and strength of will. Make eye contact and answer questions with cheer and friendliness.
- Communicate effectively. Nurses need to be able to communicate with other healthcare professionals and patients. Patients lose their faith in their nurse when their nurse seems to be unsure, ends each statement like a question, and doesn’t take control of a situation.
- Don’t rush the interview process. Prospective students should take their time and answer all questions thoughtfully. This is your opportunity to show the faculty that you will be an asset to their program.
- Be professional. Like a job interview, show up on time (or better yet – early!), wear professional clothing, and have copies of your resume and references on hand. If you are doing a phone or video interview, be sure that your surroundings are appropriate and quiet, and that your technology (phone, computer, internet, etc.) is working properly. Prepare any questions you may have for the faculty regarding the program – this is also your chance to interview them to be sure the program is the right fit for you.
Acceptance and denial letters generally arrive faster than they once did, and are often delivered electronically instead of via a mailed letter. In many cases, these letters arrive in just a couple of weeks – most schools will have information on when their acceptance letters are sent on their website. For those who receive a denial, it is often worth asking about waitlist options and examining any missing prerequisites or exam scores – some schools may offer provisional acceptance if the student can complete the missing courses or exam within the first few semesters of the program.
Many students still need some form of financial assistance to get through an online nurse practitioner program. Fortunately, students have access to scholarships, loans, grants, and other financing options. Having an idea of your online program’s costs will help you plan out the best way to pay for it without going broke.
Scholarships are available for those entering NP programs, including those available solely online. Typically, scholarships are reserved for those pursuing a degree-based program. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners, for example, offers scholarships for students pursuing an NP education at a variety of degree levels.
Some organizations require students to write an essay to obtain a scholarship, while other prizes are merit-based and take into consideration grades and academic achievements.
Loans can be a good option for some students. Private and federal student loans are both available, and each has different benefits. For example, federal loans may come with loan forgiveness in the future, and these loans also come with varying options of repayment.
Student loans have some downsides. You may find yourself in a position where paying back these loans can be a struggle, especially if you have loans from a previous BSN or MSN. It’s a good idea to consider all the pros and cons of loans (including comparing interest rates) before deciding on this option.
Grants are like scholarships in that you do not have to pay them back. Grants are often given by organizations, trusts, and other entities, sometimes to groups and other organizations. Individual students can also apply for grants.
Some students opt to pay cash upfront or set up a payment plan with the institution itself. This helps students avoid loans, including interest. Students can pay upfront for their education and not have to worry about debt in the future.
Paying with cash can have some downsides. For example, some schools that allow students to set up payment plans will charge a fee. Of course, paying now rather than later also means that most students need to work while going to school and doing their clinical hours for the program.
Certain employers may provide various programs to help nursing students advance their careers. Tuition reimbursement helps those who want to continue their education while working. Employers benefit when their nurses go to school to further their education, so many are willing to reimburse tuition for prospective NPs. If your employer offers tuition reimbursement, be sure to collect all the information and stipulations on this option before you move forward with it, as some employers will require you to commit to working for them for a certain period of time upon completion of the program – or risk having to pay back the tuition yourself. Being clear about the rules will help you avoid any surprises down the line.