How to Tackle Typical Nursing School Interview Questions

How to Tackle Typical Nursing School Interview Questions

By far one of the most defining moments on your journey to becoming a nurse is your nursing school interview. For many young professionals, their nursing school interview is one of their first ever professional interviews, which can make the process even more nerve wracking. Rest assured, you can do this.
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Sophia M.

  ·  

November 10, 2021

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The exciting part about interviewing for nursing school is that it gives you the opportunity to show your potential professors more of who you are as a person, rather than defining yourself solely by your grade point average or test scores. With the right amount of intention, practice, and preparation, you can tackle your nursing school interview like a pro. Here’s a little more information about my experience and what you might expect along the way.

The Most Common Nursing School Interview Questions

The reality is that you will never be able to predict exactly what they’ll ask you in your nursing school interview and there is a good chance that even with great preparation, you will still get thrown a wild card of a question. This is why it is so important not to use all of your preparation time memorizing responses to common nursing school questions. Practicing nursing school interview questions is a beneficial way to prepare that should not be overlooked, but it is only one piece of the puzzle.

Here are some examples of common nursing school interview questions:

1. Why do you want to be a nurse?

One seemingly obvious question that you may be asked in your interview is what led you to the decision to become a nurse. Interviewers ask this question for a number of reasons, but they mainly want to know that you are in it for the right reasons. They have to be selective when deciding who gets into the program and who doesn’t, so they want to make sure they are choosing individuals who are driven and are willing to put in the necessary work.

Just a little hint, if your answer to this question is that you want a high income, job security, or to use your nursing degree as a stepping stone into graduate school, you might not be who they are looking for.

2. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

This question is also common. Again, this can be a way for interviewers to ensure that you aren’t wanting to rush off to graduate school. It can also be a way for them to further get to know you and your goals. If you have any ideas of a nursing specialty that you’d like to shoot for — such as working in the ICU, labor and delivery, or the operating room — this is a great opportunity to mention that goal. Your answer doesn’t even have to be directly related to nursing, you could talk about family or travel goals. Whatever answer feels the most authentic to you is always the best answer. 

3. What sets you apart from the other applicants of this program?

As you’ve likely already realized, nursing school is incredibly selective. There will often be a lot more applicants than there are available places in the program, which can make the selection process difficult for those who are in charge of it. For this reason, they will want to know what sets each applicant apart from the rest. Take some time to consider what unique qualities you have to offer. Ask yourself some of the following questions: What experiences in your life have led you to this point? What defines you? What personal values matter most to you? What motivates you to keep going when things get tough?

4. Tell us about a time when your integrity was tested.

There is a good chance that you will be asked some type of question about integrity. As a nurse, you will literally hold lives in your hands. There is plenty of room for error as a nurse, and even newer nurses have a lot of autonomy. Your interviewers need to know that you have a strong sense of integrity and that you genuinely care about doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. Try to think of a time when your integrity was tested or when you showed a strong sense of integrity. Reflect on this moment and remember as many details from it as possible so that discussing it isn’t too difficult. 

5. How do you handle stress?

In case you weren’t aware, nursing is an incredibly stressful field of work, and the stress of being a nurse begins very early on in your career. Your future professors need to know that you can handle the fast-paced, high pressure environment that your nursing program will involve. They want to know that you are willing to make sacrifices and go outside of your comfort zone to work hard to make this career happen for yourself. Hopefully, you’re someone who copes well with stress. Take some time to consider what makes you feel good when you are stressed, how you approach highly stressful situations, and specific stressful situations you have faced recently.

How to Prepare for a Nursing School Interview

When it comes to answering nursing school questions, there really are no right or wrong answers, which can make preparing a little difficult. It is important to review some practice questions and get an idea of what it feels like to answer questions on the spot, but you don’t want to use all of your time and energy memorizing your answers to practice questions. Here’s why.

First of all, you do not want your answers to sound rehearsed. You want to sound authentic and relatable, not robotic. Secondly, you could be asked completely different questions from the ones you reviewed, so if you spend all your time memorizing your answers to those questions, you likely will have a hard time answering other questions that are thrown your way. So, spend some time reviewing questions, but not all of your time. Here are a few additional tips:

Try to do a mock interview

Your university might offer some helpful resources such as mock interviews. I was lucky enough to be able to complete a mock interview through my university. This gave me practice with a group interview setting, helped me learn how to dress professionally for an interview, and boosted my confidence. I personally think that mock interviews are helpful for anyone to do, even if you have plenty of experience with interviewing. If you don’t have any in-person resources available to you, you can complete a virtual mock interview through a resource such as InterviewBuddy.

Spend some time getting to know yourself

The better you know yourself going into your interview, the better you can articulate what sets you apart from the other candidates. The main goal of most interviewers is to get to know the candidates well enough to best select who gets admitted into the program. When you’re going through practice questions, review your hypothetical answers with the goal of finding an underlying theme about what sets you apart. 

Prepare a question

Another valuable piece of advice is to prepare a question (or two) to ask at the end of your interview. In my interview preparation time, preparing a question for the end of the interview was emphasized. Most interviews will include a time at the end for the interviewees to ask any questions they have about the program, the university, or the nursing field as a whole. Having a question prepared can show genuine interest and engagement in the interview and can help further set you apart from the others.

An empty notepad with pens

My Experience Interviewing for Nursing School

My nursing school interview was a group style interview with four other interviewees. We were interviewed by three professors who represented the program and one experienced nurse from the community. The interviewers took turns asking the group questions, and they asked a total of four questions. I actually felt entirely prepared for all of the questions that were asked, but I wouldn’t say that this is the norm. At the end we were given some time to ask questions of our own, and ironically I went against the advice I’d been given and did not ask a question. I walked out feeling like I had nailed the questions, but I also felt a lack of confidence because I was one of the only interviewees who didn’t ask a question.

Preparing for a group interview

Group interviews are a unique process that not everyone has experience with. There was no planned order in which the interviewees would answer questions, so it was up to us to jump in and start answering in whatever order we preferred. It is important to show initiative when answering questions in a group setting but not appear so eager that you talk over the other participants. You want to be respectful, yet proactive. 

I would suggest being the first to answer one question, and then try to answer somewhere in the middle for the rest. Don’t look at the other interviewees as competition, look at them as your equals — you are in this together after all — and trust me, that respect will show through and your interviewers will appreciate it. Teamwork is a big part of being a nurse and of getting through nursing school, so now is a great time to start acting like a team player.

Sophia

Sophia M.

My name is Sophia. I am a Registered Nurse with experience working as a floor nurse on a Renal Care Unit and Hematology/Oncology Unit.

Further Reading

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Note-taking is not one-size-fits all, so I’ve outlined some tips for taking notes in nursing school and considerations that can help you pinpoint the note-taking method that will work best for you.

Going to Nursing School at 30 – It’s Not Too Late!

Switching careers after the age of 30 is often seen as an unorthodox choice. Yet, it is a surprisingly common one in nursing. As someone who will not become an RN before 34, I can shed some light on the practicalities and emotions that come with joining nursing as an older adult.

A Day in the Life of a Nursing Student

As someone who has completed both a B.A. and a full-time nursing program, I won’t hesitate to say it: being a student nurse is significantly more demanding than pursuing a regular undergraduate degree.

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