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Nursing Students: GPA Matters

Nursing grades do count.

Your grades do matter. Many nurses will tell you that they don’t.

You’ve probably heard some of these nurses: “I’ve gotten LOTS of jobs, and they never asked about my GPA” they scoff, rolling their eyes.

or “You passed the NCLEX, didn’t you? That’s what’s important”.

They aren’t lying. They are out of touch with today’s newly graduated nurse in today’s job market. Most likely, they were hired at a long-ago time in history known as the Everyone Gets Hired Decade or “If you have a pulse, you get the job”. New grads used to be wined and dined and had their pick of hospitals. 

These nurses got jobs easily, but they never learned the skills of successful interviewing, or how to construct a compelling resume and cover letter. They didn’t need to. So that takes their advice from not helpful to harmful. 

They never had to compete for their first job. But you do. If your goal is landing a coveted position in a residency program, you have to wonder “What would make me stand out and be competitive in a homogeneous crowd of equally non-experienced new nurses?”  

Your GPA, for one. Also extracurricular activites, such as volunteering in the community, or serving as an officer in the Student Nurses Association. 

Hospitals have to find a way to narrow down the sea of applicants to the 12, 15, or 20 who will be awarded a coveted position in their biannual residency program. They can do this any way they like, as long as they don’t outwardly violate federal discrimination in employment laws. Some hospitals narrow down applicants by using a point system. Volunteering may gain you a point. A GPA over 3.5 can earn you a point. An impressive essay may put you over the top. Whoever has the most points wins a spot.

Melanie skated along in nursing school and ended up with a 2.8 GPA. She eventually ended up in ICU at a major hospital, but only after she worked in a SNF and then a rural clinic, about 2 years behind her classmates.

Most of you are self-motivated enough that you are already getting your best grades. Your motivation comes from within, and this article is not for you. But some of you prefer to be content with just passing. After your all-important first job in nursing, then it’s true, your GPA or where you graduated from doesn’t matter, unless you apply to graduate school. Having a reliable work history does, and having a BSN does.

Bottom line- if you are still in school, keep your grades up. You won’t regret giving it your all.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

Author “Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job..and your next!”

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Come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth career column at for all kinds of entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question

About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

6 Comments on Nursing Students: GPA Matters

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