Applying to Nursing School Gets Easier

October 21st, 2011


By , BSN, RN

Finding a seat in a nursing school is getting a little easier. This week the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) announced more than 100 schools of nursing are now part of NursingCAS, the country's only centralized application service for applying to RN programs.

Nursing joins the ranks of medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and other health professions, offering students a convenient way to apply to multiple schools with a single online application. The degrees available are varied. Potential students can use NursingCAS to apply to diploma, associate degree, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral programs.

There is a nominal fee to use the service, but ultimately it saves money, time and effort for the student looking for a space. NursingCAS reduces the burden of applying to multiple schools by eliminating the need for duplicate application data, letters of reference, and other admissions materials.

To make the process even easier, students can check the status of their application in real time and may access dedicated customer service support and guidance throughout the application process.

Plenty of Options and Growing

NursingCAS launched last year, and there are now 104 schools in 36 states taking part. They include a mix of academic health centers, liberal arts-focused schools, public and private institutions, religiously affiliated schools, a community college, and a hospital-based RN program.

“Nursing schools nationwide are benefiting from the efficiencies gained by NursingCAS, which is helping to standardize the entry process into careers in nursing,” said AACN President Kathleen Potempa. “Nursing schools, even those inundated by applications, appreciate having real time access to prescreened, verified applicant data while reaching a diverse student applicant pool, which is essential to meeting annual recruitment goals.”

NursingCAS serves as an important mechanism for addressing the nationwide nursing shortage by helping schools maximize enrollment. According to the AACN, each year more than 14,000 vacant seats are available in schools offering baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs. Institutions using this online service can now announce when they have program space available. And, they can make these announcements at any time during the application cycle. This is key to accommodating more prospective students.

For those programs already at maximum capacity in terms of applications, NursingCAS provides some much-needed relief by offering a convenient way to verify transcript information while providing an array of online tools and customer support services needed to alleviate the administrative burdens faced by admission offices.

Schools participating in NursingCAS also enjoy access to a larger, more diverse applicant pool. In NursingCAS’s first year of operation, 36% of applications were submitted by students from minority backgrounds, and 14.8% were from men. By comparison, minority RNs account for only 16.8% of the workforce, and only 6.6% of RNs are men. NursingCAS may be the key to bringing much needed diversity into the nursing student population.

Service Innovations

Since the launch of NursingCAS in March 2010, several new features have been added to address requests and issues raised by participating schools. These innovations include the ability for applicants to enter a state or school specific unique identification number into the application; upload documents into the applicant portal; make notes on the applicant’s record; schedule, track, and assign applicant interviews; and contact in-progress and undelivered applicants.

In an effort to increase transcript verification time, a new scanning system was implemented in September 2011 to accelerate the process and improve quality. In response to concerns about students needing to manually input coursework into the online application, a new fee-based service will be implemented in November 2011 for students wishing to have staff enter transcript information on their behalf.

As a benefit for students applying through NursingCAS, applicants can now upload a copy of their CV or resume and submit school and program specific personal statements through the application to their designated programs. First-year applicants also have the ability to re-apply and carry their online application information over to the current cycle.

So with thousands of students on waiting lists for nursing schools across the country, NursingCAS may be a great option for finding that much sought after spot. If you are open to moving somewhere new, or considering a school not previously on your list, NursingCAS may be the key to becoming a registered nurse sooner rather than later.

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