There are many pieces to the nursing school application, including your GPA, standardized test scores, personal statement, list of experiences, letters of recommendation, and biographical information. Use the navigation below to explore each aspect of preparing for nursing school.

What is a nurse?

Becoming a nurse


Standardized tests

Pre-Nursing Experiences

Applying to nursing programs

Personal Statements
Letters of Recommendation
Choosing Schools

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Nurse?

  • "Nursing is the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, facilitation of healing, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations."

- American Nursing Association, What is nursing?

  • Nurses play a variety of critical roles on the health care team depending on their education, experience, and training. According to the American Nursing Association, nurses' responsibilities include:
    • Performing physical exams and health histories
    • Providing health promotion, counseling and education
    • Administering medications, wound care, and numerous other personalized interventions
    • Interpreting patient information and make critical decisions about needed actions
    • Coordinating care, in collaboration with a wide array of healthcare professionals
    • Directing and supervising care delivered by other healthcare personnel like LPNs and nurse aides
    • Conducting research in support of improved practice and patient outcomes

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Becoming a nurse

Breakdown of Nursing Licenses and Degrees

Nursing Profession at a Glance

ABSN. ELMSN. RN. NP. CNA. What do these acronyms mean?
Use this chart to see the different types of nurses and the nursing degrees. 

Nursing is a very diverse health profession, both academically and professionally. There is not one path to becoming a nurse. Asking yourself the following questions may help you navigate the many paths after graduating UC Davis. 

    • Are you passionate about assisting patients at the bedside?
    • Do you see yourself working within a specific department or community?
    • Are you interested in collaborating with physicians and other medical professionals to diagnose patients and determine plan of care?

Here is just one example of how a UC Davis graduate might become a nurse:

  1. Obtain bachelor's degree from UC Davis in something other than nursing. 
  2. Complete a pre-licensure nursing program
    1. Accelerated Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (ABSN): for students who want a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing; prepare students to take the NCLEX-RN and become a Registered Nurse; typically 12-18 months 
      1. ABSN Programs in California (PDF)
      2. ABSN Programs in the U.S. (PDF)
    2. Entry-Level Master's of Science in Nursing (ELMSN): for students who want a graduate degree in nursing; typically 2-4 years; students complete baccalaureate-level coursework and take the NCLEX-RN in the first year; can also include specialty or Advanced Practice Registered Nursing tracks (may also be called Master's Entry Program in Nursing)
      1. ELMSN / MEPN Programs in California (PDF)
      2. ELMSN / MEPN Programs in the U.S. (PDF)
  3. Enter workforce as a licensed nurse. 
  4. Optional: Pursue further education in nursing, including a Master's degree, Post-Master's Certificate Program, or Doctor of Nursing Practice.

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Nursing Prerequisites

Myth: If I'm going to get a C- in a class, I should intentionally get a D or F in that class in order to retake it for a better grade.

Fact: Do not fail a class on purpose in order to retake it for a better grade. Even though the lower grade will not be included in your UC Davis GPA, it will remain on your transcript and most centralized applications will count that first grade into your application GPA.

Additionally, the health profession schools will still see it. It is better to have a C- in the course and improve through other courses in the same discipline than to take a D or F.

Most health professional schools require all prerequisites to be completed with a C or higher. Although you cannot repeat the C- at UC Davis, you will need to repeat it somewhere else either over a summer or after graduation.

If you need to discuss this or any other academic difficulty futher, please make an appointment with a staff advisor. 

Nursing School Prerequisites at UC Davis

Most schools require:

  • General Chemistry (CHE 2AB)
  • Physiology w/ Lab (NPB 101 or NPB 110ABC, NPB 101L)*
  • Human Anatomy w/ Lab (EXB 106 & EXB 106L)
  • Microbiology w/Lab (MIC 102, MIC 103L or 104L)*
  • Statistics (STA 13 or STA 100)*

Some schools may also require:

  • Organic Chemistry (CHE 8AB)
  • Nutrition (NUT 10)
  • Lifespan Human Development (HDE 100ABC)**
  • Psychology (PSC 1)
  • Oral Communication (CMN 1, CMN 5, or CMN 120)
  • English and/or Written Communication (UWP courses)
  • Sociology (SOC 1) or Anthropology (ANT 2)
  • Philosophy (PHI 5 or PHI 15)

See the ABSN and ELMSN Prerequisite Charts for sample lists of nursing programs and their requirements.

*Check your major requirements before choosing classes.

Note: The above courses are only suggested, not absolute. 

**Developmental Psychology (PSC 140) does not satisfy this requirement because it doesn’t cover the entire human lifespan from birth until death. See community college equivalents for HDE 100ABC.

See the UC Davis Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing prerequisite courses for the Master's Entry Program in Nursing.

  • You can choose any major and apply to nursing school. If you choose a non-science major, you still have to take the science prerequisites. Always cross-check your major requirements and the medical school requirements when choosing classes.
  • HPA recommends that pre-nursing students maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0, although many nursing schools and programs will have GPA averages above this minimum.
  • Each nursing school has different prerequisites. Check each school's prerequisites before applying. 
  • Complete all of your prerequisite courses for a letter grade - DO NOT take any of them P/NP.

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Standardized Tests

Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS)
  • required by some ABSN programs. 
  • composed of four sections:
    • Reading
    • Math
    • Science
    • English & Language Usage
  • 209 minutes long. 
  • about $90. 
  • HPA recommends students complete the following coursework before taking the TEAS:

Register for the TEAS

Health Education Systems Incorporated (HESI)
  • required by some ABSN and ELMSN programs.
  • composed of seven tests:
    • Reading Comprehension
    • Vocabulary & General Knowledge
    • Grammar
    • Basic Math Skills
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Anatomy & Physiology
    • Personality Profile
    • Learning Style
    • Critical Thinking

HPA recommends students complete the following coursework before taking the HESI A2:

Register for the HESI A2.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
  • required by some ELMSN/MEPN programs.
  • available on a continuous basis throughout the year. Find test centers and seat availability
  • about $160.
  • composed of three sections:
    • Verbal Reasoning
    • Quantitative Reasoning
    • Analytical Writing

Register for the GRE.

Students planning to apply to ABSN programs should take the TEAS and/or HESI, while students planning to apply to ELMSN/MEPN programs should take the GRE and/or HESI. Check each school you plan on applying to in order to see what standardized test is required.  

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Pre-Nursing Experiences

Myth: I can do a lot of meaningful experiences to make up for a weaker GPA.

Fact:  Having many meaningful activities will NOT make up for a low GPA.

You must focus on your grades during your undergraduate years, earn at least a 3.0, and then begin adding experiences. You can always take a year or two off after graduation to gain more experience. It is better to graduate from UC Davis with a higher GPA and less experiences than lots of experiences but a low GPA. 

Nursing Club at UC Davis

Student organizations are a great way to obtain health experience and network with peers and professionals. 

Nursing Club on Facebook

Nursing Club Website

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Applying to Nursing School

NursingCAS Screenshot

Visit NursingCAS today to start your application.

  • NursingCAS is a centralized application service that is used by some nursing programs. Some schools will have you participate in NursingCAS and will also have you complete an application through their own internal graduate school applications, while other programs do not use NursingCAS at all. 
    • NursingCAS is open almost year-round (the 2016-2017 cycle opened on August 25, 2016 and will close on August 15, 2017).
  • Each school has its own deadline. HPA recommends that you submit each application no later than 4 weeks before the school's deadline. 
  • Want to see what the application looks like? Try this Interactive NursingCAS Application.
Personal Statements
  • Unlike some other health professions, each nursing school you apply to will have its own personal statement. You might see these essays referred to as "Statement of Purpose" or "Statement of Intent."
  • While each school will have its own prompt, in general you should be prepared to answer the following questions:
    • Why do you want to pursue nursing?
    • Why do you want to pursue nursing at this school?
    • What are your career goals?
  • If you apply to an ELMSN program that includes a specialty, you will also have to explain why you are pursing that specialty. 
  • Most essays are less than 500 words. 
  • The personal statement is your first chance to provide nursing school admissions committees with subjective information about your qualifications and your reasons for choosing this particular career. In other words, the personal statement is your initial opportunity to present yourself as an interesting and unique applicant who deserves a closer look.
  • In NursingCAS, you will designate each of your experiences as one of the following categories:
    • Employment
    • Patient / Health care experience
    • Community enrichment
  • You will also have the opportunity to include Awards, Honors, Licensure, and Certifications. 
  • You will have 600 characters to describe each experience. 
  • Your experiences are a critical part of your application that demonstrate competencies and the things you care about in life. HPA recommends that you have an advisor look over your Experiences section before you submit your application. Schedule an appointment here.
Letters of Recommendation (aka References)
  • If a school uses NursingCAS, then you will create a "Recommendation Request" in the Supporting Materials section of the application. Your letter writers will upload your LOR themselves within NursingCAS or will send them to the school itself, depending on the school's instructions. 
  • You should strive to attain 2 letters from science faculty and at least one letter from a professional experience outside of school. 
Deciding Where to Apply
  • There are a variety of factors that go into choosing which nursing programs to apply to, including degree awarded, location, environment (i.e. urban), tuition, class size, focus or mission statement, etc. Spend some time researching schools online and create a spreadsheet that tracks the factors most important to you. HPA also recommends meeting with an advisor to discuss your school list.
  • Learn more about ABSN and ELMSN programs in California. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I satisfy the English requirement for nursing school?

Lower and upper division English (ENL), UWP, and Comparative Literature (COM) courses will satisfy the English requirement for nursing schools unless otherwise stated on a nursing school's website. You may also take similar classes at a community college. 

Note: Testing out of the upper division UWP course requirement via the Upper Division Composition Exam (UDCE) for graduation does not count towards the nursing school requirement. 

Many pre-health students take UWP 104F (see course description here). This is a great option because in this class you will produce a personal statement draft. Consider waiting to take UWP 104F until your junior or senior year, or closer to when you will submit your application.

Which classes count towards the science GPA?

You can find which classes are calculated in your science GPA in NursingCAS here.

To calculate your science GPA, pull up your Academic Record in OASIS. Along the left side of the course list you will see boxes next to each course. Check off the boxes for the courses you wish to be included in the GPA calculation on the right side of the page.

Can I study abroad?

Studying abroad is a wonderful experience that we encourage you to pursue. It is a valuable experience that provides the opportunity for growth in both maturity and cultural awareness.

You should not study abroad because you are pre-health in an effort to make your application stand out. You should study abroad because you want to gain the experience.

If your study abroad program was through UC Davis Study Abroad or UC Education Abroad (UCEAP), then your coursework will be on your official UC Davis transcript and fullfil prerequisites. If you studied abroad directly through a foreign institution, then your coursework will be on a "foreign transcript," which most health professional schools do not accept. 

Can I just transfer from UC Davis to a school that has a B.S.N.?

Theoretically, yes. Some schools, such as Sacramento State University, will accept transfer students into their four-year B.S.N. However, this usually requires you to complete many prerequisites before doing so. These programs are very impacted and it can be difficult to transfer.  

What's the difference between ABSN and ELMSN?

ABSN (Accelerated BSN) programs are typically 12-18 months long and are ideal for students who are looking for the fastest route to R.N. licensure. R.N.s with an ABSN have the ability to work as staff nurses in various departments. 

ELMSN/MEPN (Entry-Level Master's in Nursing/Master's Entry Program in Nursing) programs are typically 2-3 years long and are ideal for students who are interested in leadership opportunities in various departments and wish to become expert, advanced practice nurses at the bedside. 

What's the difference between a P.A. and an N.P.?

Physician assistants (P.A.s) have completed a Master's in Physician Assistant Studies (or something similar), are licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision, offer primary and specialty care, and are able to practice across many departments. 

Nurse practioners (N.P.s) have completed a Master's in Nursing (or higher) and are licensed to practice nursing often independent of physician supervision.

What's the best major for pre-nursing students?

There is no one major that's best for pre-nursing students. You should choose a major that interests you and one that you will excel in. Whether you're a music major or a biochemistry major, you still need to complete the prerequisite coursework for nursing school. 

When should I start writing my personal statement?

The personal statement should be a reflective, well-polished document. You can create your first draft as soon as you want. The more time you give yourself to get feedback and revise the better. Health Professions Advising advisors are happy to read your essay and give you feedback, but please make the appointment at least a month before your deadline.

Please bring a printed draft of your personal statement to appointments and drop-in advising.