Essay drop doesn’t change chances for nursing hopefuls

Alaina Burt

Alaina Burt

Getting into the nursing program at SDSU has gotten one step easier. Or has it?

In October 2004, the admissions committee for the nursing program decided to drop the essay portion of the application process.

“The committee wanted to make sure that the application process was fair to every student submitting an application,” said Gloria Craig with the Nursing Student Services Department.

The nursing department cited several different reasons for the elimination of the application program. For starters, the prerequisites for the nursing program include a solid general education core of English, Speech and Math.

“He or she has already mastered writing skills in English Composition and will have additional opportunities for writing in the nursing research papers,” said Roberta Olson, dean of the nursing program.

Another reason for eliminating the essay portion of the application is because of academic integrity. Applicants may have had assistance from others in writing the essay.

“It could be someone else’s work,” said Venita Winterboer, advisor for the Nursing Student Association. “On paper, it might not be very reflective of the student’s personality.”

Finally, there is a great deal of subjectivity that goes into grading an essay. Though the admissions committee utilized a rubric for scoring, there was concern for inter-rater reliability.

Since the essay portion has been dropped, where has the focus of the application gone? A common misbelief is that the applications are based solely on grade point average (GPA).

Craig explained it as a points system based on several factors, not solely reflecting GPA. Points are awarded for prerequisite classes that are in-progress, completed prerequisite classes and the number of times an application has been submitted. Students lose points if there are Ds and Fs on transcripts.

“The scores were evaluated with and without the essays, it was determined that the same students would have been admitted even without the essay,” said Craig.

The new application process was implemented immediately. Students admitted into the Spring 2005 nursing program did not have to complete the essay portion of the application. Students’ feelings are mixed about the new application process.

Karli Threadgold, a senior nursing major from Madison, can see the reasoning behind moving away from writing an essay to admitting applicants based on academic performance.

“I see their point in not doing an essay because it’s become so competitive,” she said.

The demand for nurses has grown over the years. Sixty-four students are admitted into the nursing program every spring and fall at SDSU. For every three applicants, only one student enters the program.

However, Threadgold said, grades are not the only factor of good nurse.

“I don’t think grades should base whether someone is going to be a good nurse or not,” she said.

Becka Manshiem, a sophomore nursing major from Brookings, applied to the program under the new application procedures. To her, the loss of the essay portion of the application only meant that applying was less time-consuming.

“I didn’t really care either way, GPA-wise or not, because I had worked hard to get to where I was,” she said.

Some feel that the best change to the application process would be the addition of an interview process, similar to what pharmacy applicants face.

“I understand why they took (essays) out, but if they could do an interview that would be the best,” Threadgold said.

Manshiem agrees.

“GPA shouldn’t mean everything. As nurses, we work with people and we need to know how to communicate,” Manshiem added.

Perhaps these requests will be met. The admissions committee meets on a continual basis to improve the quality of students admitted into the nursing program.

The bottom line is, both professors and students realize that there needs to be a blend of knowledge and people skills.

“The most successful nursing graduates are those who have excellent critical thinking skills from the science courses and an effective level of interpersonal skills in communication and interaction with a variety of people,” Olson said.

#1.885375:2068441241.jpg:nursing.jpg:Sophomore Brad Wiesner practices doing transfers with fellow nursing student sophomore Justin Tuntland.: