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How to request letters of recommendation for nursing school

How to request letters of recommendation for nursing school

Medical students reviewing a draft of their letter of recommendation.

Congratulations on your decision to go back to school to get another nursing degree! It’s a big life move and we know it’s not one that’s made lightly. But now that you’ve made your decision, you have to complete your applications. A common requirement of nursing school applicants is to provide one or more letters of recommendation from someone who can attest to your ability to complete the program and pursue a career in the field of nursing. How do you decide who to ask? What if you haven’t been to school in a long time? What if you took a break from nursing and now are getting back into the workforce? We have advice for all of these situations and more.

Getting started on your application

The first step you need to take in your plan for applying to nursing school is to read closely through all the requirements of your various nursing school applications. While some schools may be ok with your recommendations coming from anyone, others will require you to supply at least one letter to come from a previous faculty member or supervisor. You should also determine the maximum number of letters you require in order to plan on how many people to ask. It can be helpful to create a timeline or set due dates for yourself so that you make sure you get all of your application tasks done on time and also leave ample time for your letter writers to do their part.

Who should you ask for letters of recommendation for nursing school?

In most cases letters of recommendation for nursing school can come from your:

  • Current and former supervisors
  • Former professors or instructors
  • Current and former coworkers

In some cases a personal reference like a mentor could be applicable.

You’re looking for someone who can attest to your:

  • Commitment to nursing
  • Practical knowledge of the field
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Ability to successfully complete the program–especially as an online learner
  • Assets as a student to the institution

Think about your letters of recommendation as backing up or providing validation for the information you’ve given in your other application materials like your resume or personal statement. If you’re submitting more than one letter of reference for your nursing program, consider the different perspectives each writer could provide. For example your coworker could be well-meaning but not make a convincing argument for why you’ll be a good online student, but a former professor (whether their class was online or in-person) certainly could.

Prepare your letter writers

Once you’ve selected the individuals whom you’d like to have write your letters, reach out to them with a politely-worded request. Depending on your relationship with each writer you might want to ask in person, over the phone or via an email. Make sure to provide information about the program and why you’re taking it, your admissions timeline, instructions for the writer to submit their letter and what skills or experiences you’d like them to speak to. It might be a good idea to give a former professor examples of papers you wrote or projects you completed in their class, or provide a supervisor with a list of professional accomplishments you want them to illustrate in their letter. Always include a copy of your resume and a link to the program’s website or a one-pager describing the program for your writers to reference.

What should your letters of recommendation say about you?

Consider the traits the school you’re applying to puts value on through their mission statement, partnerships, website, and other promotional materials. Does the university dedicate a lot of resources to health equity projects? Is the nursing program focused on research? Are you planning to enroll in a certain specialization? Advise your recommendation writers to position you within their letters as a student fitting those criteria and having relevant interests or career goals.

Considerations for common situations:

  • For individuals returning to the nursing field after a break: Advise your recommendation letter writers speak to your prior experience but also your excitement and motivation to get back to nursing. They might also include relevant details about what you were doing in the interim whether it was caring for children or another family member, volunteering, or working in another capacity that strengthened your understanding of health care, your problem-solving skills, and so on.
  • For individuals who haven’t been to school in a long time: While you may not have a close relationship with a college professor from your previous school experience, you could still get a recommendation from the nurse education coordinator at your work. You may also have a supervisor who can speak to your consistent demonstration of a desire to learn and improve your skills through CEUs and other opportunities.
  • For individuals with limited professional nursing experience: Education is a clear and common path to professional development for nurses, so it’s not totally unusual to continue your academic journey even early on in your career. Make sure you have at least one recommender who can speak to your professional experience and maybe explain why you’re eager to get back to school. Also consider if this is really the time to go back to school. On top of licensure, nursing schools require a certain number of CEUs and/or hours of clinical practice experience for application so make sure you meet those requirements before applying.

Keeping things on track

As you’re working through the application process, use a checklist to make sure you’ve completed the necessary tasks. Make a timeline and keep important dates on your calendar. You should also schedule reminders to check in with your letter writers to make sure they’re on-schedule and have everything they need. Last but not least: write thank you notes for each writer once they’ve submitted your letters of recommendation.

Ready to start your application to nursing school?

Don’t wait to get in touch with your writers! While you can complete the other parts of the application on your own, your letters of recommendation require other people to generously spend their time helping you. You can find all the information you need about Oklahoma City University’s online RN-BSN and online MSN programs at our website but you can also reach out to an Admissions Advisor for more information and to get help with completing your application.

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