Tips for Acing the Holistic DNP Admissions Process

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Holistic interviews help nursing schools improve diversity and long-term student success.

Registered nurses (RNs) seeking enrollment in the leading doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree programs may be asked interview questions – either online or in person – or to write a goal statement as part of the admissions process. While prospective student interviews are nothing new for admissions to advanced nursing programs, a growing number of schools are using them as part of a holistic review process for potential students.

The holistic review process looks at student experiences, abilities and viewpoints as well as academic achievements for acceptance to nursing school. DNP school interview questions are not intended to trip up prospective students, but instead to provide administrators and school leaders with valuable information about the student’s contributions to the field. One study, by the Urban Universities for HEALTH, said holistic interviews allow nursing schools to achieve greater diversity and improve long-term student success.

“With the growing recognition that standardized test scores and GPAs do not capture the breadth of experiences and personal qualities that an applicant brings to the university and the profession, many universities have begun to incorporate ‘holistic review’ into the admission process, with the goal of admitting a diverse body of students that will not only excel academically, but will also have the qualities needed for success in the current work environment,” the organization said in its study, “Holistic Admissions in the Health Professions: Findings From A National Survey.”

Indeed, the holistic review has been implemented at DNP nursing schools nationwide, including at the leading online DNP programs. These reviews provide better insights when enrolling new students and developing DNP curriculum. For RNs seeking DNP degrees, answering the questions in a professionally and honestly.

DNP School Interviews and Questions

When nursing schools ask applicants to answer questions for admissions, the school administrators are usually working to determine if the student would be a good fit for the program. As part of the holistic interview process, administrators want to know more about the applicants than just their grades.

“Holistic admissions review is defined as a flexible, individualized way of assessing how an applicant will fare as a student and as a future professional and member of society,” Greer Glazer, Ph.D., RN, et al., said in “Holistic Admissions in Nursing: We Can Do This.” “Under a holistic admissions review process, the admissions team considers a student’s life experiences and personal qualities alongside traditional measures of academic achievement such as grades and test scores.”

To implement the holistic approach to admissions, nursing schools typically look at student attributes, experiences and academic achievements to determine what best coincides with the school’s goals and missions, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) said.

The AACN said students should be prepared to share this kind of information to determine a holistic fit:

  • Life experiences that have influenced an interest in nursing
  • Personal strengths, skills and aptitudes that will contribute to a continued career in nursing
  • Personal academic challenges and successes that have affected overall goals
  • Obstacles encountered while achieving career goals

In addition, the AACN suggests nursing schools establish a list of characteristics and social/geographic factors as determinates for program admissions.

In some cases, applicants are expected to write goal statements, or personal statements, based on specific information. For example, at Duquesne University, RNs applying for the online DNP program are asked to provide a two- to three-page statement with responses based on the AACN’s Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice. The statement is expected to include this information:

  • Reasons for pursuing a DNP, including professional plans and career goals
  • DNP project ideas or topics
  • Past experiences in an area of interest or career goals
  • Information about past achievements in nursing including professional organization memberships, nominations, certifications, scholarly publications and others

Duquesne University online DNP program applicants are also required to meet the university’s technical standards for nursing school admission, which include:

General abilities

Students should possess functional use of natural senses (vision, touch, hearing, and others) to utilize as part of nursing practice.

Observational abilities

Students should be able to observe patients holistically to assess injuries and illnesses.

Communication skills

Students should be able to communicate and understand verbal and non-verbal cues to translate information.

Essentials to Ace the DNP Admissions Process

Some DNP programs also ask applicants for a face-to-face interview, either in person or online. Regardless of how schools garner information from students (via goal statements or personal interviews), students should be prepared to demonstrate an understanding of:

  • Personal strengths, weaknesses, motivations and aspirations
  • Reasons for wanting to become a DNP-educated nurse
  • Reasons for choosing a specific DNP program or school

Prospective students should always remain positive and enthusiastic and maintain direct eye contact during in-person (or video chat) interviews., a leading employment website, also said students should consider meetings as an opportunity.

“It’s normal to be nervous, but take heart: The purpose of most nursing school interviews (whether they’re a required or optional part of the admissions process) is generally not to weed out applicants, but to provide for a face-to-face, two-way exchange of information about the particular program and how an applicant would fit in,” said in “Seven Tips to Ace Your Nursing School Interview.”

At Duquesne University, prospective DNP students must hold either a BSN or an MSN. They can have both, or have a BSN along with a master’s in another field, or an MSN with a non-nursing undergraduate degree. They also need a minimum 3.0 grade point average and need to provide three academic and professional letters of reference

About Duquesne University’s Online DNP Program

Duquesne University’s online DNP program prepares graduates to assume leadership roles in policy and decision-making to impact healthcare needs across communities. Duquesne University’s DNP curriculum builds on existing knowledge for a comprehensive education that boosts leadership skills.

The program offers concentrations in nursing education, transcultural nursing and forensic nursing. Students also have an opportunity to participate in one of three residency experiences: academic writing, leadership or overseas. For more information, visit Duquesne University’s online DNP program website.




Holistic Admissions in the Health Professions Findings From A National Survey: Urban Universities for HEALTH

How Can Implement Holistic Review at My Nursing School?: AACN

Online Programs Admission and Application Requirements: Duquesne University

School of Nursing Technical Standards: Duquesne University

Seven Tips to Ace Your Nursing School Interview: Monster