Update: HPA is excited to now offer services virtually and in person. In person services are available by appointment only. HPA is available via phone, (530) 752 - 6435, and email,, from Monday - Thursday, 10 am - 5 pm and Friday 10 am - 2 pm. Most Fall Quarter events will be held virtually via Zoom.

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.

The Basics

  • 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 healthcare team depending on their education, experience and training. According to the American Nursing Association, a nurse's 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

  • Becoming a Nurse

  • 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?

    There are two main routes to becoming a nurse.
    Diagram of the different pathways to nursing after getting bachelor's from UC Davis, such as ABSN program or ELMSN program.

    Here is just one example of how a UC Davis graduate might become a nurse:
         1. Obtain a bachelor's degree from UC Davis in something other than nursing.
         2. Complete a pre-licensure nursing program.
              - 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
    ABSN Programs in California (PDF)
                    + ABSN Programs in the U.S. (PDF)
              - 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
    ELMSN/MEPN Programs in California (PDF)
                    + 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.

    Breakdown of Nursing Licenses & Degrees

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

    * If you aren't sure what path to take after UC Davis, consider scheduling an appointment with an advisor.

  • Nursing School Prerequisites
  • To prepare academically as a pre-nursing student, you'll need to take nursing school prerequisites and coursework to prepare for the TEAS or HESI. School prerequisites and exam prep coursework overlap but are not the same. Exam prep coursework must be done before you take the exam and prioritized over non-exam prerequisites. 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 required by most schools. Always cross-check your major requirements and the nursing school requirements when choosing classes.

    Nursing School Prerequisites Courses to Take at UC Davis
    Most schools require  
    General Chemistry CHE 2AB or CHE4AB
    Physiology with Lab NPB 101/NPB 101L OR NPB 110C/NPB 101L 
    Human Anatomy with Lab

    EXB 106/106L  OR CHA 101/101L

    Microbiology with Lab MIC 102/103L
    Statistics STA 13 OR STA 100*
    Some schools may also require  
    Organic Chemistry CHE 8AB


    NUT 10 & 11**

    Lifespan Human Development*** HDE 100ABC
    Psychology PSC 1
    Oral Communication CMN 1 OR CMN 5 OR CMN 120
    English and/or Written Communication UWP Courses
    Sociology or Anthropology SOC 1 OR ANT 2

    PHI 5 OR PHI 15

    * Check your major requirements before choosing classes.
    **Please note if a nursing school requires Nutrition, NUT 10 may or may not fulfill the unit requirement. Students are recommended to take NUT 10 and NUT 11 if they are planning to fulfill the requirement at Davis.

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

    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 our community college course charts for  Microbiology, and Anatomy & Physiology.

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

    Tips for completing prerequisites

    - 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 nursing 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 prerequisites courses for a letter grade - DO NOT take any of them P/NP.

  • Standardized Tests
  • Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS)

    Health Education Systems Incorporated (HESI)

    Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

    Required for    
    Some ABSN programs Some ABSN and ELMSN programs Some ELMSN/MEPN programs




    English & Language Usage

    Reading Comprehension

    Vocabulary & General Knowledge


    Basic Math Skills



    Anatomy & Physiology

    Personality Profile

    Learning Style

    Critical Thinking

    Verbal Reasoning

    Quantitative Reasoning

    Analytical Writing

    Recommended coursework    

    Biology (BIS 2A)

    Chemistry (CHE 2A)

    Physiology (NPB 101 or NPB 110ABC)

    An English composition or writing course (ENL 3, UWP 1, etc.)

    Learn more about what's on the TEAS.

    Biology (BIS 2A)

    Chemistry (CHE 2A)

    Physiology (NPB 101 or NPB 110ABC)

    Anatomy (EXB 106)

    An English composition or writing course (ENL 3, UWP 1, etc.)

    Learn more about what's on the HESI A2.

    $92 $40-60 $160
    Register for the TEAS Register for the HESI A2. Register for the GRE.


  • Pre-Nursing Experiences
  • To explore the field of nursing, all pre-nursing students should be involved in clinical experiences. Some examples of clinical experience include:
         - Health-Related Internships (HRIs)

         - Student-Run Clinics
    Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
    Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
    Medical Assistant (MA)
    Phlebotomy Technician
         - Medical Translator
         - Caretaker

    Not all of your experiences need to be clinical. Choose experiences that are meaningful to you and think outside the box! Here are some good places to start looking for pre-nursing experiences at UC Davis:
         - Health Related Internships through the Internship and Career Center (ICC)
         - Opportunities to publish and present research through the Undergraduate Research Center
         - Participate in the Emergency Medicine Research Associate Program (EMRAP)
         - Intern through the UC Davis Emergency Medicine Xperience
         - Become an EMT
         - Global Health Internships through Study Abroad
         - Health Internships through the Washington Program
         - Volunteering for the UC Davis Pre-Health Conference
         - Completing community service using the ICC Community Service Database
         - Join a Pre-Health related club or other student organizations through the Center for Student Involvement
         - Volunteer at a Student Run Clinic

    HPA recommends that you first build a strong GPA and gradually build up your experiences. This may require that you take a year or two after graduating to work in a clinical setting, but it is better to apply with a strong GPA and take more time than to apply right after graduating with many hours but a weak GPA.

Applying to Nursing School

  • NursingCAS
  • 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, and closes for a week in the Fall.

    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 a "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 pursuing 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.
  • Experiences
  • 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. 

Pre-Nursing 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 the 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 -in advising.