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Program competition a bitter pill to swallow

Kristen Lott / Lantern photographer

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The deadline for students applying to fill one of 166 highly competitive spots in the Ohio State College of Nursing bachelor program is quickly approaching.

About 600 undergraduate students applied to the school last year with the same amount of spots available, making the acceptance rate a mere 30 percent, said Shauntae Yankasky, academic adviser in the college of nursing.

The same amount of students are expected to apply this year by the deadline, Feb. 1, Yankasky said. Among them is second-year Chelsea Cochrane.

While the majority of applicants are first-years hoping to start in the College of Nursing as second-years, Cochrane is applying to the college as a second-year.

After starting out as a pre-med student, she said she realized medical school wasn’t for her.

“My personality is better suited for being a nurse,” Cochrane said. “I want to be with patients and kind of take care of them.”

Despite her passion for patient care, Cochrane still has to be accepted to the college.

“I’m really nervous. Especially about the grade point part,” she said.

The minimum pre-requisite GPA required to be considered for acceptance is a 3.2, yet the average GPA of admitted students last year was a 3.7, Yankasky said.

Sandy Cody, associate dean of student affairs in the college of nursing, said the high-caliber pool of applicants is part of what makes the admissions process so competitive.

“Often times these students have been real academic stars in their own high school,” Cody said. “But once they get into this larger pool, we end up turning away people who really look like academic superstars because we just don’t have enough openings.”

In addition to academics, the college also looks closely at three essay prompts included in the application.

Cody said the essays can be a significant source of stress for applicants, but they are necessary to set students apart from one another.

“They’re tough,” Cody said, “but they have to be so that we can pull out the very best students for this program.”

Sarah Svoboda, a third-year in nursing, said she remembers the stress of filling out the application, especially the essays.

“I spent weeks on my essays,” Svoboda said. “I had about 16 or 17 people read them and make sure they were decent.”

With a 30 percent acceptance rate, being turned away from the program is a very real possibility, one that Yankasky said students should be prepared for.

“It’s very difficult to receive bad news and we’re always prepared and ready to kind of walk students through what the next step should be,” she said.

The next step is what the College of Nursing calls “Plan B,” a plan of action that pre-nursing students are required to put together in case they are not accepted.

“Plan B” can consist of many things, Yankasky said, including re-applying the following year, applying to other majors at OSU and even applying to other nursing programs.

Cochrane said if she is not accepted, she will probably apply to the nursing programs at Walsh University and Kent State University, both in Ohio.

Svoboda said she probably would have studied dietetics at OSU had she not gotten in to the program.

A shortage in faculty is part of what is keeping the college from accepting more students, something Cody said they would love to do.

“There simply aren’t enough nursing faculty to teach all of the qualified students that we get who apply to the program,” Cody said.

This problem isn’t exclusive to OSU.

Cody said there is a shortage of nursing faculty nationwide, with less than 1 percent of registered nurses having a doctorate degree and less than 10 percent having a master’s degree.

While Cody said turning so many students away is a “frustrating” and “painful” situation for faculty, the students who are accepted to the program are exceptional.

“They’re different from other students,” Cody said. “They come in here with a real passion … and they feel like they have a calling to be a nurse. They’re not going to ever be happy unless they can become a nurse.”

Their drive makes working with nursing students “very gratifying,” Cody said.

Svoboda still remembers the excitement of checking the status of her application online and finding that she had been accepted.

“It was unbelievable,” she said. “I took a picture with my phone and called my mom. It was the most exciting day ever.”

Svoboda advised students to be realistic when applying to the college.

“Take it seriously and have your back-up plan because there’s a good chance you’re not going to get in,” she said.

There’s good news too, Svoboda said.

“But if you do get in, you need to know it’s going to be really difficult and really worth it because it’s a great experience,” Svoboda said.

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