If you're a current or prospective UC Santa Cruz student interesting in pursuing nursing, start here!

Jump to:

Overview of Nursing Education Routes:

  1. Overview:
    • Individuals entering the nursing profession may choose between four educational routes, all of which include the RN licensure. To determine which degree option is right for you, consider your career goals and advancement opportunities, the cost and time it will take to complete the program(s), and your likelihood of admission. Due to the demand for nurses, many educational programs are oversubscribed or “impacted”; many have waiting lists for enrollment. 
    • AS/ADN - the Associate’s Degree in Nursing can lead to RN licensure and is obtained at the community college level in programs lasting 1-2 years. Though faster and cheaper than a bachelor’s degree, career options with the associate’s degree are limited and the BSN or higher is becoming the expected degree for nurses.
    • BSN - The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is currently the most desired degree for employment. Students who wish to earn a degree at UCSC before studying to become a nurse can attend “accelerated” or “second” BSN programs for students who already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree (see below for more information). UCSC students who wish to pursue careers in nursing without receiving two undergraduate degrees should consider transferring to an undergraduate institution which offers the BSN. Transferring can be difficult because many schools have heavily impacted nursing programs, and transfer requirements can vary greatly between schools. If you wish to follow this path, speak with admissions representatives from schools you are interested in transferring to in order to learn more. 
      • California BSN programs accepting transfer students:
        • Various California State Universities
        • Pt. Loma Nazarene
        • Loma Linda University
        • Samuel Merritt University
        • University of San Francisco 
    • MSN - The Master’s of Science in Nursing degree is typically required for the advanced practice nursing roles. The MSN can be earned in 1-2 years after obtaining a BSN or can be obtained in a “direct entry” MSN program for students with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. Direct-entry master’s programs can prepare students to earn their RN in 12 months and then require another 1-3 years of education and training depending on specialty area. 
      • Most direct-entry MSN programs lead to a master’s degree in general nursing. Additional certification may be required after the general master’s to obtain a specialized advanced practice nursing role. While some direct-entry programs can lead directly to an advanced practice role, the lack of nursing experience these graduates have after going directly from a non-nursing bachelor’s to a direct-entry APN master’s can make employment at the advanced level difficult. 
    • DNP or PhD - Nursing Doctorate programs are designed to prepare students for advanced clinical roles as well as research, management and nursing education. The DNP can be earned after the BSN or MSN. Programs can last 1-4 years. The DNP is expected to become the standard for advanced practice nurses by 2015. Master’s and doctoral-level programs are most appropriate for students with a clear idea of their long-term nursing interests. 
  2. Accelerated/Second BSN programs:
    • There are 231 Accelerated/Second BSN programs in the United States and 13 in California.
    • These programs are specifically for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field (non-nursing degree). 
    • Accelerated BSN programs last 12-18 months and provide the fastest route to a BSN for individuals who already hold a non-nursing degree.
    • Accelerated/Second BSN programs 
  3. Direct-entry MSN programs:
    • There are 65 Direct-Entry MSN programs in the United States and 14 in California. 
    • Direct-entry MSN programs are available specifically for individuals who hold a bachelor's or higher degree in another field (non-nursing degrees).
    • MSN degree programs usually last 2 years.
    • Direct-Entry MSN programs

Back to Top

Prerequisites for Acc. BSN & MSN programs

Nursing programs are unique and each may have different admission requirements.  You should carefully review the website and admission materials of each school to which you plan to apply.  Though they vary, the table below lists the common nursing requirements. Keep in mind that many of these classes require general biology and general chemistry. Any of these courses can be taken at a community college instead of at UCSC.

*Courses not offered at UCSC may be taken at a community college

Course Subject

# Quarters

UCSC courses sequences most students use to fulfill requirements

Human Anatomy

Nearly all schools require 1 quarter of human anatomy, with laboratory METX 135/L
Human Physiology Nearly all schools require 1 quarter of human physiology, with laboratory BIOL 130/L
Microbiology Nearly all schools require 1 quarter of microbiology, with laboratory METX 119/L
Statistics Nearly all schools require 1 quarter of statistics AMS 5 or 7/L
English Composition Nearly all schools require 2-3 quarters of English Composition

Courses that satisfy the Core Course (C1) and Composition (C2) requirement at UCSC will fulfill two quarters of the schools English coursework requirements.  An additional course in Writing or Literature will usually satisfy the remaining quarter*.

*Save your course syllabi incase any schools express concern that you did not complete their English requirement

Social Science Some schools require introductory courses in sociology and cultural anthropology Socy 1 and/or Anthro 2
Psychology Nearly all schools require at least 1 course in introductory psychology, and some schools require courses in developmental/ lifespan psychology and abnormal psychology Psych 1, Psych 10 and/or Psych 170
Public Speaking A lot of schools require 1 course in public speaking, speech, and/or communications *Not usually offered at UCSC
Nutrition Some schools require one course in nutrition *Not usually offered at UCSC

Back to Top

Application Process Timeline:

  1. The application cycle for BSN/MSN programs varies significantly for each school. Check each schools websites or contact their admissions department to learn more about their application timeline. 
  2. Research each program you wish to apply to before submitting your application. 
    • Admission requirements 
    • Which, if any, admission test is required. 
    • Prerequisites coursework 
    • Deadlines 
    • Amount and preferences for letters of recommendations 
  3. Consider these factors when deciding upon where to apply: 
    • Option for a Acc. BSN or MSN degree
    • Location
    • Cost
    • Size
    • Licensure exam passage rates
    • Faculty interests and reputation
    • Job placement history of program graduates. 
    • Talk with recent nursing graduates, as well as ask nurse employers about various programs’ strengths and weaknesses. 

As an example, check out the UCSF School of Nursing Admission Presentation to see what types of programs they offer, and how to apply: 

Back to Top

Admission Exam:

  1. Overview of Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS):
    • Only some U.S. nursing schools require applicants to submit TEAS exam scores. 
    • 3 hour and 48 minute standardized multiple-choice computerized-based exam.
    • Scores are available 48 hours after completion of the test. 
    • Sections
      • Math - 45 questions covering whole numbers, metric conversions, fractions, decimals, algebraic equations, percentages, and ratios/proportions. This section lasts 56 minutes. 
      • Reading - 40 questions covering paragraph comprehension, comprehension of longer passages, and making inferences and coming to conclusions. This section lasts 50 minutes. 
      • Science - 30 questions covering science reasoning, science knowledge, biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, basic physical principles, and general science. This section lasts 38 minutes. 
      • Language - 55 questions and covers punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, contextual words, and spelling. This section lasts 65 minutes 
  2. Overview of Graduate Record Exam (GRE): 
    • Some nursing programs require applicants to submit a GRE score. 
    • Approximately 4 hour standardized multiple-choice computerized-based exam. 
    • Scores are usually available 10 to 15 days after completion of the exam. 
    • No GRE scores older than five years will be accepted. 
    • Sections 
      • Verbal Reasoning - Measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences and recognize relationships among words and concepts. 
      • Quantitative Reasoning - Measures problem-solving ability, focusing on basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis. 
      • Analytical Writing - Measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills, specifically your ability to articulate and support complex ideas clearly and effectively. 
    • Score:
      • The Verbal and Quantitative reasoning sections are out of 800 points, for a maximum score of 1600. 
      • The Analytical writing section is out of 6.0 
      • The maximum score is a 1600 with a 6.0 AWA. 
  3. When should students take the TEAS/GRE?:
    • You should take the TEAS/GRE well in advance of applying to nursing school but definitely at least one year prior to your intended start date. 
    • If students want to go straight into nursing school, they will need to take the GRE/TEAS the summer of their junior year.
    • Students should take the GRE/TEAS when they can do their best.
      • After they have completed coursework covered on the test. 
      • If they can be preparing for the GRE/TEAS and be taking courses, and do well in both, then they should do that.
      • If the student will compromise their grades and/or score by doing both at the same time, the student should prepare for the GRE/TEAS during the summer or after they have graduated. 
  4. Dates for exam:
    • GRE - Offered daily 
    • TEAS – TBA 

Back to Top

Additional Requirements:

  1. Some schools require a minimum 100 hours as a volunteer in health care setting observing registered nurse in their job. 

Back to Top


  1. Analyzing Your Previous Application:
    • To be a successful re-applicant, you should carefully analyze your previous application to determine if there were any factors in your control that might have contributed to your non-acceptance. Common problem areas for candidates include:
      • Low overall or science GPA;
      • Low admission exam score(s);
      • Low grades in key classes;
      • Declining GPA;
      • prerequisites not met;
      • Inadequate clinical or community experience;
      • Commitment to helping people not evident
      • Poor interview preparation
      • Weak interpersonal communication skills;
      • Poor application essay;
      • Weak, inappropriate or absent reference letters;
      • Unclear goals;
      • Lack of motivation;
      • Late application;
      • Incomplete secondary applications;
      • Limited extracurricular achievements;
      • Light course loads. 
    • Conduct an appraisal of your assets and liability; where possible, try to compensate for any weaknesses by developing related strengths. The strategy of school selection is also critical to your success. Applying to enough schools which match your GPA and GRE/TEAS scores is very important. Also, try to obtain the mean GPA and GRE/TEAS scores for each school in which you are interested, and also any preferences for state residents. Sometimes, however, even students who seem to do everything right aren't admitted. 
    • Before deciding to reapply, it’s important to have accurate current data on admissions so that you can make a realistic assessment of your chances for acceptance. At the very least, if you haven't already done so, try to obtain the mean GPA and GRE/TEAS scores for each school in which you are interested, and also any preferences for state residents. 
    • Occasionally, students who seemed competitive may have received one or two interviews only, and may not have been admitted, or were merely wait-listed at a school or two without being subsequently admitted. You might gather some useful information your application by phoning admissions offices to inquire about the admission committee’s decision not to accept you, to receive feedback about your application and interview, to seek advice on how your application may be improved, and whether or not to reapply.
  2. Strengthening your application:
    • It may not be wise use of time and financial resources to reapply until you have become a stronger candidate. Sometimes only one acute problem needs rectifying; in other cases many areas should be strengthened to be a well-rounded, generally competitive candidate. Following your analysis described above, you could consider the following strategies:
      • Retake the GRE/TEAS
      • Increase the breadth and depth of your nursing or community experience
      • Take on a leadership role in a service organization
      • Get strong, recent letters of reference
      • Update the application essay
      • Strengthen your interpersonal, communication, reading and writing skills
      • Establish residency in another state
      • Reapply early in the filling period 
    • Sometimes additional courses (especially upper division or graduate level science courses) are necessary to demonstrate that you have the academic potential to succeed in medical school. If you applied at the end of your junior year, perhaps your final year’s grades will strengthen your record upon reapplication. There are also post-baccalaureate pre-health programs designed to help enhance your GPA and prepare you for acceptance, in addition to such problems for underrepresented or disadvantaged students. And there is the possibility of a graduate degree in science, a master’s program in public health, etc. However, taking more classes or pursuing an advanced degree may not be enough to increase your chances of admission. Other experiences or strategies may be needed as well. 

Back to Top

Important Websites:

Back to Top