Overview of the Profession

Learn about Nursing and the many educational pathways into healthcare’s largest profession: https://www.nursingcas.org/a-career-in-nursing/.  Most UCLA students who are not seeking their BSN will either pursue a Master’s or a second Bachelor’s.  Look for Master’s (Entry-Level) Nursing programs (master’s degrees that do not require a BSN) and Accelerated BSN programs (to receive a BSN in addition to your current Bachelor’s).

Registered Nurse (RN) Profession Overviews:

Course Requirements

To see which UCLA courses satisfy the most common course requirements, refer to the UCLA Pre-Health Requirements Worksheet, found here.

Meet with an academic advisor at UCLA for advice on course planning for nursing school.

Do I have to be a specific major to apply to nursing school?

A: NO. Nursing School applicants come from a wide variety or majors. However, Accelerated BSN programs and Entry-Level MSN programs typically require the completion of nursing prerequisites prior to admission, and many of these are courses that science majors are taking. In fact, biology is the most common undergraduate major of students in many of the nursing programs. If you wish to become a registered nurse (RN), you can enroll in many different educational programs from the diploma to doctoral level. However, all will culminate with the NCLEX-RN exam.

Centralized Application System

Look up the specific schools you wish to apply to!

NursingCAS is the centralized application service for nursing, which enables prospective students to easily research and apply to participating nursing schools with one online application. NursingCAS simplifies the admissions process and acts as a “one stop shop” for applying to nursing schools. This is important considering there are over 1000 colleges and universities that offer nursing programs at the doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s, and associate degree level. Whether you want to become a nurse or advance your career in nursing through education, it’s important to understand your options.


The first step is to create an account. Search through the list of participating schools, select programs of interest, and complete your application. Each program sets their own admissions criteria; for example, official/unofficial transcripts, references, and other materials. Use the program pages on NursingCAS to gather more information– including pre-requisite coursework, GPA minimums, documents needed, tests required, fees, prior degrees, etc. Requirements vary greatly by school and program! NursingCAS helps aggregate this information for you to make the process a little less overwhelming.


Schools are all different, and that applies to their nursing application process as well. Each school may have different requirements and different timelines for applying. But the following information should serve as a good guide for what you can expect.

Before You Apply:

These are all things you’ll need to do before you apply to nursing school. The specific timeline for them will vary, but it’s important to start early.

  • Complete any and all prerequisite courses during undergraduate studies.
  • Research the different nursing programs you may want to enroll in
  • Volunteer in nursing facilities to help boost your application’s attractiveness.
  • Take the GRE well before application time
  • Obtain your transcripts
  • Obtain your letters of recommendation

During the Application Cycle:

  • Confirm the application deadline for the schools you’re applying to
  • Obtain applications and complete the application packets you receive in full
  • Return application packet, complete with GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and any other required items.
  • Continue to work and volunteer as you wait results

After you do these basic things, the NursingCAS will verify your application and release the information to the different schools, usually within about four weeks of receiving it. The specific amount of time it will take them to review will vary, but applying early will often help to ensure that your application is viewed more quickly and with a bit more detail. In other words, applying early is in your benefit.

After Application:

  • Some nursing programs will begin to interview potential students.
  • Once interviews have been completed, you’ll will start hearing back from schools.

All in all it’s a fairly simple process. In most cases you should plan for a full year in order to properly apply, including the time it takes to investigate each school, determine which ones you’re interested in applying to, submitting your application, and awaiting their decisions. Usually you can expect a few additional points to hold true. They are:

  • Schools that begin their program in June will usually have a fall or winter deadline for application. This will vary, but is a good rule of thumb.
  • Similarly, you can usually expect to receive an acceptance or rejection letter in December to January for programs that begin in June.
  • So, applying in the fall, receiving the application board’s decision in winter, and starting school in late spring or early summer is usually the norm and what you should expect to occur.

For more information go to:

Entrance Exam

Along with a strong GPA, many nursing schools require an entrance exam to prove that you can successfully complete the program. There are many different types of tests you might take, and what’s required depends on your program and the level of your degree. You may need to take a test exclusively for nurses, a general exam like the GRE, or maybe even one of both. If you’re interested in starting a nursing program, read on to learn more about the commonly used entrance exams and what you might expect go to: https://www.allnursingschools.com/how-to-get-into-nursing-school/entrance-exams/#nursing

Letters of Recommendation

Do I need Letters of Recommendations (LOR)? How many?

A: It is common for nursing schools’ admissions offices to require one or more recommendation letters as part of the application. These may also be referred to as “professional references” or “academic references”. The recommendation letter is a critical piece of the overall picture from an admissions team’s perspective, and failing to give it sufficient attention can mean the difference between the “yes” list and the “no” or “wait” list. Programs may have different criteria when it comes to LOR’s. Make sure you research each of the programs you are planning to apply to thoroughly before you start gathering your letters.

Who should I ask for Letters of Recommendations?

A: Your “letter writers” need to be able to speak to your actions and abilities in a professional context—at work, as a volunteer, in a caretaker role, as an organizer or team leader, etc. Similarly, academic references need to be able to speak to some intellectual undertaking you’ve been involved in. Your brother, your roommate, your best friend’s mom, your hair stylist… these do not count as references. Remember, your recommendation letters, along with your personal essay, are the only way for the admissions team to get a glimpse of your personality beyond the numbers. They are what make you human, what allow the decision-makers to relate to you, and what help signal whether or not you’ll make a good nurse. A great letter is one that provides a window into how you behaved in a professional or academic situation, and how that behavior is linked to your success in a nursing program.

For additional guidance and UCLA resources for asking for letters of recommendation, visit the Prepare to Apply section of this website.

Personal Statement

For guidance and UCLA resources for writing a personal statement, please visit the Prepare to Apply section of this website.

Choosing Schools & Programs

The NursingCAS School Directory  is a searchable database that provides information on the nation’s nursing programs.  To access complete information about programs including admissions criteria, you must create a NursingCAS account.

Deciding which nursing programs to apply to and attend is a complex and highly individualized process. Visit the Prepare to Apply section of this website for considerations that may help you with these decisions.

Gain Experience

Nursing schools encourage or require applicants to have volunteer or paid experience related to nursing. Having work or volunteer experience in a healthcare setting may be an important factor in the admissions process. If you don’t have work or volunteer experience related to nursing, you may want to contact your selected schools’ admission offices to determine what other experiences they might accept that will adequately demonstrate your knowledge of and commitment to the profession.

Nursing Related Student Organizations at UCLA:

Shadowing: Shadowing a nurse is one of the best ways to get exposure to the nursing field. While nursing programs may not “require” shadowing experience as part of their application process, job shadowing is one of the best ways to determine if a career in nursing is the right fit for you. It gives you a chance to spend a day or two on the job to see how nurses go about their daily tasks.  You’ll be able to see how nurses work with various types of patients and conditions, and experience how a medical team works together. See Gain Experience for additional guidance on finding shadowing opportunities.

Volunteer Work: Another great way to gain exposure to the field is through volunteer opportunities in various settings such as hospitals, free clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, hospices, community health organizations and nonprofit organizations.

Employment: Working in a medical field is a great way to gain pre-nursing experience and also earn money. You can get healthcare experience by being a (not an exhaustive list):

  • Medical Assistant (MA)
  • Emergency medical technician (EMT) or Paramedic
  • Medic or Medical Corpsman
  • Peace Corps Volunteer
  • Emergency Room Technician
  • Surgical Tech
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Search for healthcare-related opportunities on Handshake. 

Visit the Gain Experience page of this website for more ideas on how to gain clinical, research, leadership, and/or community service experience that can help you clarify your goals, develop your skills, and demonstrate your commitment to healthcare.

Helpful Websites