7 Tips for Writing the Perfect Family Nurse Practitioner Essay
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Updated April 20, 2022 · 5 Min Read
A good essay is key to getting admitted to an MSN program. Learn how to write an excellent nurse practitioner personal statement with these tips.
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If you are pursuing a career as a family nurse practitioner, you will likely be required to submit a personal essay. Your nurse practitioner personal statement explains why you want to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP) and is an important step in the graduate nursing program application process.
What you say in your nurse practitioner essay should tell the admissions committee who you are as a person and why you will make an effective and ethical nurse practitioner.
When answering the section on "why I want to be a nurse practitioner," your response may come easily. Others might struggle with putting their reasons into words in an original and clear way. This guide will show you how to convey who you are and why you make an excellent candidate.
1. Be Specific
When you receive your essay questions, you will notice that they are reasonably generic. What the university is looking for, however, is how you turn that into something specific.
Don't just outline your overall feelings about a full topic. Instead, go into detail and use specific examples from your personal experience that truly demonstrate your capabilities. Not only is this a better way of answering the question, but it also means your essay will be far more interesting. It will properly showcase your personality, which is a very important part of nursing.
2. Be Concise
Always remember that you are writing an essay and not the next great saga. Oftentimes, there will be a word count limit. However, if there isn't, you shouldn't write every little detail you come up with. What matters is that the information is complete and doesn't go off-topic. Stick to the guidelines provided, as they have been given for a good reason (one of them is to test you on how well you can follow instructions). You must be concrete in your answers.
Admissions committees must get through dozens or hundreds of applications. If your nurse practitioner essay is too long, they'll likely lose focus. In addition, nursing requires concise communication in daily work. If you come across as taking a long time to get to the point, this may leave an unprofessional impression.
3. Demonstrate Your Passion and Commitment
When you describe why you want to be a nurse practitioner, your passion and commitment should leap off the page and make the admissions committee excited to offer you a place. They should see you as the kind of student and colleague that they want to represent their school. You can do this by making sure that your nurse practitioner essay:
- Shows how your experience and education motivate you
- Describes specific motivators, such as mentors, experiences with nurses, or even experiences as a patient
- Shows that you are committed to all aspects of nursing, including patient care, collaboration, cultural competence , and continual learning and improvement
- Clearly summarizes these elements to match your background and passion to the school's culture, as well as to nursing
Avoid clichés or general statements about why nursing is important. They already know that. What they don't know — what you have to tell them — is why your passion will make you an excellent FNP.
4. Tell a Story
Storytelling is the most powerful and memorable form of communication. The stories we've lived shape who we are. Leverage the power of storytelling in your nurse practitioner essay.
- Choose the right story and apply it to nursing. It doesn't have to be about nursing specifically, but it needs to apply to nursing. Talk about instances where you've demonstrated teamwork, perseverance, crisis response skills, or communication successes.
- Start with a vivid hook that makes the reader want to know what happens next.
- Use clear language that helps the reader understand and identify with the choices you made.
- Make stories about more than just yourself. Nursing is a team practice, and if you write as though you're the only important character in the story, it can seem arrogant or self-involved.
- Show empathy. Empathy doesn't mean having a lot of feelings or dwelling on them. It means understanding others and meeting them where they are.
- Customize your nurse practitioner essay to the program. What values does the school hold? How does the school site describe learning, teachers, and current students? Make these values and priorities stand out in your writing.
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5. highlight your strengths.
Your essay is an opportunity for you to show what you are made of. Highlight all the things that are good about you, such as your education, your career, your background, and other experiences. Perhaps you have done volunteer work, or you have already been employed in the medical field. It is always a good idea to give some examples of the experiences you have had to demonstrate why you are good at what you do and why you want to become an FNP.
When highlighting these strengths, it is best to be specific and include examples. For instance, saying you are hardworking may sound like a good trait to focus on, but it could be more impactful to provide a specific example of how you have worked hard during your career. This will add credibility to your essay and reinforce your claims.
6. Keep it Professional
You want your nurse practitioner personal statement to be memorable, but only in the right way. Keep your tone professional and individual. Think of your essay as though you were a stranger reading it. Would you want the person who wrote this essay to be in charge of your or a loved one's care?
Never make a colleague or patient look bad in your nurse practitioner essay. This is a surefire way to get rejected, as it comes across as unprofessional, unfair, and potentially unethical. While a sense of humor is invaluable for a nurse practitioner, humor is very difficult to convey to an audience you don't know.
Avoid exaggerating, even for dramatic effect. While exaggerating might improve the story, obvious exaggeration will cast doubt on your professional judgment.
Lastly, don't use foul language in your nurse practitioner essay. Just like humor, while many nurses use it as a coping method, they are careful about their intended audience.
7. Edit Again and Again
Finally, once you have completed your essay, proofread it. After that, give it to someone else to proofread and then edit it once more yourself. Spelling errors, typos, and layout problems are certain to have your application denied because they show a lack of attention to detail. Share your essay with as many people as possible and ask for their suggestions and edits before you finally submit it.
Remember that the faculty members of the FNP program you are applying for also look at how well you can write. Clear communication will be an important skill for successful FNPs. Hence, you must make sure that your essay is well-reviewed and well-written. This is also why you should start developing your essay as early as possible, as this is not a job that can be rushed.
Putting Pen to Paper
Think of your nurse practitioner essay as a way to show who you are, to reflect what is most important to you, and why you will be an excellent FNP.
If you're not sure where to start, try having a conversation with a friend who is a good listener and have them ask you questions about why you want to be a nurse practitioner. Ask them to probe into what you say and tell you when something comes across as especially meaningful or significant.
Begin by writing anything at all about "why I want to be a nurse practitioner." Turn your inner editor off. For this first step, the goal is quantity, not quality. Either as you keep writing or when you review it later, you'll usually find something valuable you can use.
A few final tips:
- Start early. Even if you're not sure when you'll want to earn your MSN, you can start keeping notes now. Once you know when you want to apply, outlining your nurse practitioner essay months ahead will pay off.
- Ask a variety of people to review your writing. Different people bring different perspectives.
- Think of it not just as an essay but as a chance for reflection. This is another reason to start early, since this kind of reflection can bring new insights that you'll want to use.
- Remember that the better your nurse practitioner personal statement reflects you, the better the decision the committee can make. Be your best self, but be yourself.
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How to Write an Excellent NP School Personal Statement
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“Try not to rush this statement. We recommend taking some time to reflect on your nursing career accomplishments, as well as situations that perhaps were learning situations that did not end favorably. Use these to reflect on your motivation and priorities and how they apply to the topic that the school has provided.”
Dr. Doreen Rogers, DNS, RN, CCRN, CNE, Assistant Professor of Nursing & Graduate Nursing Program Director at Utica University
Anyone who’s ever applied to a nurse practitioner program knows two things: careers in nursing are in high demand and graduate school admissions are competitive. Nurse practitioner careers are one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States; in fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) predicts that 121,400 new NP jobs will be added to the economy between 2020 and 2030—a 45 percent increase.
So why are nurse practitioner admissions so competitive? A shortage of qualified nursing teaching faculty and an increasing number of retiring nurses are some possible reasons, according to CNN .
Despite these admissions barriers, a nationwide shortage of doctors is poised to restrict patients’ access to care. To address this problem, states are beginning to expand the scope of practice laws for nurse practitioners. The U.S. News & World Report shows that 22 states, the District of Columbia, and the Veterans Health Administration removed practice authority limitations for NPs, which resulted in expanded healthcare and decreased costs.
One thing is sure: applicants for nursing practitioner programs must put together flawless applications to rank high with an admissions committee. In addition, an aspiring nurse practitioner who wants to stand out and make a solid first impression needs to write an excellent nurse practitioner (NP) school personal statement.
To help out hard-working nurses who spend more time seeing patients than practicing academic writing skills, here are some tips for writing an excellent nurse practitioner (NP) school personal statement.
Follow the Five-Paragraph Essay Format
Drexel University has a video featuring several tips for writing a personal essay for admissions committees. The video recommends applicants organize their statements in a five-paragraph essay format and write no more than 500 words.
- First paragraph: Make an immediate impact in your introduction
- Second paragraph: Explain what attracted you to the program and field
- Third paragraph: Compare your short- and long-term goals with the program goals
- Fourth paragraph: Share your skills, experiences, and characteristics
- Fifth paragraph: Conclude by summarizing your five-paragraph essay
Drexel University also offers a downloadable infographic to illustrate what admissions committees are looking for in an applicant’s essay.
Write an Impactful Introduction
Pretty Nurse Ashley , a registered nurse who documented her experience getting into Vanderbilt University’s top-ranked nurse practitioner program, emphasizes the importance of an impactful introduction in a personal statement in her YouTube video:
That first sentence needs to be something spectacular, something that’s going to pull them in, so it needs to be very creative and something that’s going to get their attention. With your personal statement, you want to stand out from the other applicants. You want to create a story, create a vivid picture of who you are.
At a time when nursing schools are sending thousands of rejection letters to qualified applicants, Pretty Nurse Ashley’s advice to make a strong introduction is solid advice to help an applicant open their statement with what makes them unique.
Do Your Homework: Advice From an NP Career Coach
Renee Dahring is a nurse practitioner career coach , past president of the Minnesota chapter of the APRN Coalition, and a nursing university instructor with extensive experience in recruitment and admissions for nurse practitioner programs. When applying to NP schools, Ms. Dahring recommends that nurse practitioner applicants do their homework in three areas.
Show Your Commitment to Finish
Dahring said, “Every university wants its students to finish, especially in a nurse practitioner program. If you drop out, your spot in the NP cohort is empty. Mostly we like to know: ‘Have people thought this decision through?’”
In other words, when an NP program admission committee decides to admit a student, they are investing in that person to finish the program. Therefore, if it seems like a risky investment, they will not want to admit that individual.
Connect Your Career Goals to the NP Program’s Mission
“Understand what the program’s goals and missions are and align your personal statement with them. . .Also, consider the mission of the educational institution; most have a dedication to the underserved, but that will vary from place to place,” Dahring advised.
Addressing a program’s or an institution’s mission statement directly in a personal essay can catch the attention of an admission committee. They want to ensure that a person is a strong fit for their specific program. It’s also a benefit for applicants to be familiar with a school’s objectives and guiding philosophy, as it can help ensure that a program is the right fit for them.
Demonstrate Your Understanding of NP Scope of Practice Laws
Dahring also stated, “The other important thing is to have a really good understanding of the NP Scope of Practice Laws. . .You should have a clear idea of what you are allowed and not allowed to do in the states where you apply for NP school and intend to work as a nurse practitioner.”
NPs can practice more independently in some states than others—and a solid understanding of these regional nuances can inform one’s essay.
Take Time to Communicate Clearly
Above all, take the time to write and edit well. Admissions committees read through hundreds of personal statements, so communicating concisely and clearly can increase an applicant’s chances of admission to an NP program.
Dr. Doreen Rogers is an assistant professor of nursing and the graduate nursing program director at Utica University in New York. She advises applicants to use their best writing skills:
Remember, your personal statement is an opportunity for you to convey what motivates you and discuss your priorities as a healthcare professional while extending them to your future career as a nurse practitioner. Some aspects that are exceptionally important are the use of appropriate grammar, spelling, word selection, and sentence structure (including an introductory paragraph, transition sentences in between paragraphs, and a conclusion that ties everything together).
Dr. Rogers also recommended taking the time to communicate clearly: “Try not to rush this statement. Instead, we recommend taking some time to reflect on your nursing career accomplishments, as well as situations that perhaps were learning situations that did not end favorably. Use these to reflect on your motivation and priorities and how they apply to the topic that the school has provided.”
Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. A dedicated Ashtanga yoga practitioner, Rachel is interested in exploring the nuanced philosophical aspects of contemplative physical practices and how they apply in daily life. She writes about this topic among others on her blog (Instagram: @racheldrummondyoga).
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Download the thriveap guide for more information, 9 tips for writing the perfect np program application essay.
While many NP program application deadlines are still months away, now is the perfect, stress-free time to start getting your application materials together. Filling out endless amounts of personal information, gathering transcripts and requesting letters of recommendations is easy. The application essay? Not so much.
We all hate responding to the types of questions NP program applications typically ask. “Why do you want to become a nurse practitioner?” and “Talk about a time you overcame a challenge” can be difficult questions to answer…eloquently at least. Responding by saying you want to become an NP “so you can make decent money and aren’t sure what else to do with your life” isn’t going to cut it.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make sure your admissions essays are top notch.
- Get Specific – Most application essay questions are generic. This doesn’t mean your response should follow suit. Rather than describing how you feel about a topic, give details. Outline a specific example from your own personal experience. This makes your essay more interesting and memorable while highlighting your experience and personality.
- Keep it Simple – Admissions staff want to read an essay, not a novel. Avoid verbosity keeping your essay simple and succinct but complete. Make sure to stick to specified length guidelines. They are there for a reason.
- Understand the Role of a Nurse Practitioner -NP program faculty want to know that you understand the role of nurse practitioners . Make sure you accurately present the NP profession in your essay responses. If you aren’t quite sure what an NP does, job shadow an NP or two for a day to learn more about the career before applying.
- Be Concrete -Even if you aren’t 100% sure what your future holds, explain your future plans and goals as if they are set in stone. Saying you “might” do this or you “hope” to do that isn’t as powerful as saying you “will”.
- Keep Your Essay Appropriately Personal – Many essay topics ask you to explain a time you overcame an obstacle or hardship in life. If your life’s major challenge has been extremely personal, choose something else to discuss in your essay. Don’t mention your marriage woes or your teen’s problems with the law to admissions staff. Instead, choose something career or volunteer related (but not trivial) even if it isn’t actually your life’s most insurmountable obstacle.
- Follow Directions – Yes, you learned this in kindergarden but some of us still have trouble sticking to guidelines. If a school asks for an essay written in APA format, for example, make sure you exhaustively research APA requirements and format your essay appropriately.
- Brag a Little -Application essays are your chance to shine . Highlight your career, education and experience. If you have volunteered extensively or worked in the medical field, share examples of your experiences and how they have helped shape your interest in becoming a nurse practitioner.
- Stick with Facts Over Characteristics -When describing yourself in your application essay, examples and facts speak louder than description. Anyone can say, for example, they are hardworking. If you can describe your involvement in multiple nursing organizations while raising a family and working full-time in the ICU, however, this proves your industrious character.
- Edit, Edit, Edit -Nothing ruins an application essay like typos and misspellings. Look over your essay multiple times continuing to refine your work. Then, share it with family, friends and colleagues asking for feedback. The more eyes you have read your essays before submitting your application, the better.
NP program faculty are looking at your essays as samples of your writing ability. Start your application essays early making sure you have enough time to review them thoroughly. You wouldn’t want a poorly written writing sample to hurt your chances of admission.
Questions about your NP program application essay? Ask other NP’s their opinions by commenting below.
You Might Also Like: A Sneak Peak Into the World of NP Program Admissions
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Nurse Practitioner Program, Admission Essay Example
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It is, I must confess, virtually impossible for me to convey why I am pursuing the Nurse Practitioner program, simply because doing so would require a distancing of everything that I am. Identifying actual reasons and motivations is difficult when the matter in question goes to personal essence. Being a skilled Nurse Practitioner is more than a goal for me; it translates to my becoming the person I feel I must be. That said, I can offer a more pragmatic, and hopefully more useful, rationale: what you offer is the best in the field and, in committing to it, I will be nearer to attaining that state of being for myself. I am keenly aware of the demands of the profession, and this awareness compels me to pursue the highest degree of education available. Having done my homework, I then apply for this graduate course.
In regard to career goals, I am both optimistic and exceedingly open. In a sense, obtaining my degree will be a culmination of the most important goal, in that working as a Nurse Practitioner in any environment will fulfill my dream. I cannot even generally indicate at this point where I would seek to practice, simply because I believe that the education I receive will introduce me to new possibilities and avenues as yet unknown to me. Wherever my career takes me, I will be looking to be challenged, and encouraged to reach beyond my abilities. I am also committed to working in a situation in which my learning never ceases, as I believe that real learning for a nurse is not a process that is ever completed. Whether it lies ion technical proficiency or in developing talents in perception and caring for patients, there is always something to take in, and than translate into nursing.
If there is anything specific I would wish to communicate to the program director, it is the scope of my interest and the degree of my commitment. I am intelligent, dedicated, and my calling to the profession fuels my dedication. Very simply, there is no attribute of myself I am not eager to invest in the field, for only by giving so fully of myself can I hope to attain my dream, and be the Nurse Practitioner I so desire to be.
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