Question: Are There Online MSN Programs That Do Not Require the GRE for Admission?

Answer: Yes, there are online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs that do not require applicants to submit scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or any other standardized tests. There are also programs that require the GRE or MAT (Miller Analogies Test) but that will waive this requirement for applicants based on prior academic performance or professional experience. Depending on the program, applicants who have a cumulative undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.0, 3.25, or 3.5 or higher may receive a GRE/MAT waiver, and applicant who hold a master’s degree or who have several years of professional experience may also be eligible for a waiver. Registered Nurses (RNs) who are considering online MSN programs should examine program admissions policies carefully to determine whether or not prospective programs require standardized test scores.

Online MSN Program Admissions Criteria

Applicants to online MSN programs are generally required to submit a variety of materials designed to help admissions boards determine their professional qualifications and academic preparedness for a master’s-level curriculum in nursing. Specific requirements and criteria vary by school and by program, but most schools that offer online MSN programs require applicants to hold a valid and unencumbered, state-issued RN license and either a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, or an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or nursing diploma. Some programs may also prefer or require applicants to have one or more years of practice experience as an RN, and the amount and type of work experience required may vary by MSN specialization. For example, a school may require applicants to its online MSN in Nursing Administration program to have at least one year of full-time nursing experience, while applicants to an MSN program with a Nurse Practitioner (NP) or an Advance Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) specialization may require a minimum of two years of full-time nursing experience.

Undergraduate education requirements also vary by program type. There are online MSN programs designed to accommodate RNs who have met one of the following academic benchmarks: a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program accredited by the National League for Nursing’s Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE); a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field from a regionally accredited college or university with relevant coursework in areas integral to nursing, such as biology, health science, and statistics; or an ADN from a program accredited by the ACEN or CCNE with additional bachelor’s-level coursework that may be completed as part of an MSN bridge program or through a bachelor’s degree completion program. Some programs have a minimum undergraduate GPA requirement for admissions, which is typically set at 2.5 or higher on a four-point scale. Admissions boards may calculate cumulative GPA from all undergraduate-level coursework or just from courses within the nursing major. Applicants who hold a master’s degree may be exempt from GPA requirements, or admissions boards may take into account the applicant’s master’s program GPA.

In addition to academic transcripts, some program use scores from the GRE or MAT as part of the admissions decision process. However, standardized test scores are just one of the tools used by admissions boards to assess applicants, and many online MSN programs do not require the GRE or MAT. Applicants to these programs may be required to submit one or more of the following: a short personal statement (one or two pages); two or three letters of recommendation from clinical supervisors, college instructors, and/or academic advisors; written answers to one or more essay questions; and/or a current résumé or CV. Once those materials have been received, some admissions boards will request a short videoconference interview with qualified candidates.

The list below provides a snapshot of some of the materials that applicants to online MSN programs may be required to submit:

  • Sealed official transcripts from all post-secondary academic work, including associate, bachelors, and master’s degree programs.
  • A copy of the applicant’s RN license.
  • Two or three letters of recommendation.
  • A personal statement.
  • Answers to one or more essay questions.
  • An up-to-date résumé/CV.
  • GRE or MAT scores.

GRE/MAT Waiver Policies

As noted above, many online MSN programs do not require the submission of standardized test scores, and some programs that do require the GRE/MAT will provide students who meet certain qualifications with a waiver. GRE and MAT waivers are generally extended on a case-by-case basis to applicants who have demonstrated prior academic excellence by achieving a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a four-point scale, although some programs may require a 3.25 or 3.5 GPA for candidates seeking a waiver. Some programs may also extend waivers to applicants who hold a master’s degree in a field other than nursing and to those who have worked as an RN for a significant amount of time, typically two or more years.

Policies regarding the GRE and other admissions criteria vary by program, so it is important for applicants to examine a program’s admissions requirements carefully prior to submitting an application. Graduate programs typically require applicants who may be eligible for a GRE waiver to submit a waiver application. GRE waivers are not guaranteed, so applicants should be prepared to submit standardized test scores if the waiver is not granted.

Examples of Online MSN Programs That Offer GRE Waivers

The University of Pittsburgh’s School of Nursing offers an online MSN with a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) specialization. In addition to holding a BSN degree and RN licensure, applicants to the program must have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. While the program does require applicants to submit GRE scores along with three letters of recommendation and a personal goals statement of at least 500 words, applicants who have an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or higher can apply for a GRE waiver.

In contrast, Gonzaga University offers an online MSN with a Health Systems Leadership specialization that requires applicants to hold an RN license and a bachelor’s degree but not a BSN degree. Applicants with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree may be required to take up to four foundational nursing courses prior to enrolling in the core MSN program coursework. Gonzaga requires applicants to have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher and does not require those applicants to submit GRE scores. However, the school will accept applications from RNs with a GPA below 3.0 if the applicant provides an explanation for the lower GPA and submits GRE or MAT test scores.

Georgetown University has an online MSN program with four NP specializations that requires applicants to have a BSN degree, an RN license, and a grade of C or better in a college-level statistic course. Applicants to the Georgetown program must submit college transcripts, a professional résumé, a written personal statement, and three letters of recommendation, but the program does not require the GRE or scores from any other standardized test.

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