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Nursing School Application Process (UPDATED! courtesy of a MDE student)

Hi, everyone!

The application process for Columbia's MDE/DNP program has changed dramatically since I applied. Columbia has added a video and timed writing component to the application which I did not have when I applied. Times are changing! Recently, I met a newly minted MDE student who offered to type out a blog post describing their application process. Since I'm basically a dinosaur now, I thought it would be a great idea to share their expertise in this evolving application process.

So, without further ado, below are stats and comments from a brand new MDE student documenting their nursing application process ---

Cumulative GPA: 3.65/4.00

GRE: A little under 50th percentile verbal, a little under 50th percentile quantitative, a little over 80th percentile writing

  • Strong clinical experience, strong leadership experience, moderate research experience, moderate volunteering experience

  • When I started this journey to become a family nurse practitioner, I was very fortunate to have people by my side who were well-versed in these programs. Within all of these resources, Meagan’s blog was instrumental in helping me narrow down my options and allowed for me to better tailor my applications to the schools that mattered most to me. For all of her blog posts, and for the ones that come, I will be forever grateful. In the spirit of giving back and in community, I thought I would share my experiences on the application process, as well as my success and setbacks with certain programs.

Just as Meagan reiterated in her post a little under a year ago, you are more than your grades and your GRE scores. Do not let your opportunities be dictated by your academic/testing scores, but rather empower yourself with experiences that will allow for you to stand out amongst a crowd. How have your experiences been instrumental to your journey to become a nurse or nurse practitioner? Beyond your resume and transcript, what in your life has committed you to the field of nursing? There will always be a million people with perfect GRE scores and a 4.0 GPA, but no one will have a story like yours, always remember that!


I began my application in early-August, which primarily began with obtaining essay prompts for the programs that I wanted to apply to. It is NEVER too early to start your essay. I can confidently say that I have more than 20-30 drafts of my essay on my laptop, with different edits and suggestions from my peers. My biggest tip for the personal statement is to have a lot of people read your paper and offer suggestions! The more people read your essay, the more polished and legible it will be. I had over a dozen people read my personal statement, all of whom were writers/editors that I respected and admired. What came out of that factory of red ink and scribbles was an emotional, yet riveting essay that I knew would convey my passion for the field of nursing. I was very happy with my essay, and I received many compliments on its depth and cohesion from admissions officers.

The next hurdle for me was letters of recommendations (LORs). I made it a point to email all of the schools that I was going to apply to, to ask them what letters of recommendation they preferred. While some schools preferred a range of LORs from different environments/settings, some schools wanted me to only have academic LORs to prove my competency in a graduate school setting. It is beyond important to ensure that you are meeting the criteria that is being asked of you from the programs you’re applying to. You don’t want to discredit your own application in any way, shape or form! I was fortunate enough to have many professors, employers and mentors who were willing to write me LORs. I always made it a point to ask if they were willing to write me a STRONG, POSITIVE letter of recommendation. If they are unable to do so, do not hesitate to find another writer. I also let my LOR writers know months in advance, and I made sure to keep tabs on their progress to ensure they didn’t fall behind. On a side note, always give gratitude to your LOR writers, their faith in you is what will propel you to bigger and better things! I send them periodic emails to update them on my endeavors, and I hope to also send them all a small gift to thank them for their generosity and time.


After most of my applications had been submitted, it quickly became the waiting game. If I could go back during that time, I would remind myself that neither crowns nor chains define who you are. Your successes and failures are not interpretations of who you are or who you become, they are what you make of them. The first two programs that I heard back from were from Emory University and the University of Southern Maine, with a waitlist and a flat rejection. At that point, I questioned my confidence in my application materials, and began to think that there was some fundamental flaw in my application that I did not catch. In the deepest depth of my sadness and confusion, I do remember telling myself that this failure or setback would not determine where I would go, and I refused to let it impact the work I was doing. Both of these admissions notifications came to me during the school day (via email), and I would always want to just skip class and cry at home alone. But it takes strength to just pull through the day, and that’s what we all need to do. Do not let the bad days define our future, do not let them spill over into the work that you do! After my final semester came to a close, many schools began posting their admissions decisions, with both good and not-so-good news, but it is always important to remind myself that an acceptance or rejection is not indicative of your success in the field of nursing and who you are as a person!

In the end, I decided to attend Columbia University’s MDE/DNP Program. The decision was firmly based on multiple qualities that I was considering. Firstly, Columbia is an ivy-league institution, the prestige of the school is well known throughout the country, and I was almost certain that the resources and opportunities given to Columbia students would be beneficial down the road. The second reason I chose Columbia was the location of the school. New York City is a very diverse place to be, and I knew that the care that I would learn and deliver would ensure that I could care for all populations. I was also fascinated with the idea of living in New York City, and I knew that it would be a good place for me to grow and learn a lot about myself. Lastly, Columbia was the only program (I knew) that conferred both a masters and doctorate degree in nursing. With a doctorate being the new (unimplemented) standard for nurse practitioners, I knew that this would ensure I would not have issues with job security down the road and that I would be equally qualified for positions as my future peers. Collectively, all signs pointed to Columbia University, and I am very happy with my decision to attend this institution.


If I could encapsulate this journey into one word, I would choose tumultuous. Through drafts of unfinished essays, transcript request forms and waitlist and rejections notifications, the journey to apply to graduate school was hard, but well-worth the fight. I had many people by my side to endure the lows of my journey and to celebrate the highs of my success, and I do believe I owe them so much in this journey onwards. So, for any budding nurse/nurse practitioner, start early, plan ahead, stay humble, and always take care of yourself. This process was not intended to be easy, giving yourself extra time to complete the application grants you some leeway and freedom to not overstress and burn out. Sending you all luck and love for the years to come.


For anyone who would like to personally email this MDE student with further questions, feel free to email



Meagan + Guest Writer

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