How to Get Into a Nursing Degree at a UK University

Two Methods:Choosing a universityApplication process and interviews

This guide will help with the selection and application processes to gain a place on a Nursing degree programme at the university, specifically aimed at students wishing to study in the UK.

Method 1
Choosing a university

  1. 1
    Firstly, you need to select the universities you would like to apply to and decide what it is that you want from your university. You need to consider:
    • The location of the university. Is it easy for you to travel home should you feel homesick? Do you want to be in a city or in the country (the nursing experiences you have will be affected by this)? How are the public transport links to the nearest hospitals and health clinics?
    • The size of the university.
    • Accommodation available. Do you want to live with just nursing students? Will you rent privately after the first year? Do you want to live in flats or halls of residence? How many people would you be willing to share a bathroom/kitchen with? Is the accommodation in a safe location?
    • Structure of the course. Whilst all nursing courses are required to have a 50/50 split between placement and theory, some universities have fewer, longer placement blocks, and others have more short placements.
    • Assignments. How often will you be assessed by the university? How many essays and exams should you expect? Will you have to revise or complete assignments while on placements?
  2. 2
    Once you have decided what qualities of a university would suit you best, you need to research the different universities. One way of doing this is by attending a UCAS Convention. These are held annually across the UK. Most universities will have prospectuses and a representative there, so you can ask any questions you have about the course. There are also seminars held during these events which give advice about completing your UCAS application. Another useful resource is the use of a HEAP guide. Most school and college libraries will contain one of these as they are very expensive to buy. These list all of the universities which run nursing courses in the order of grade requirements. This will aid you in looking at realistic options considering your predicted grades. Don't be afraid to apply to universities somewhat above or below your predictions - it's good to push yourself and also to have a safety net.
  3. 3
    Once you have a list of several universities that appeal to you, arrange to attend an open day. Many universities require booking in advance. This is particularly useful as it allows you to ask specific questions to the lecturers and tutors. You can also assess the learning environments - be sure to see the clinical skills areas and lecture theatres. You should also be sure to spend some time looking at the accommodation on offer, and also have a wander around the town or city. Remember that you will have to live there for most of the year, and you need to be happy with the location and quality of the shops, nightclubs, culture etc.

Method 2
Application process and interviews

  1. 1
    In order to present yourself as a well-rounded applicant, you may wish to consider the following:
    • Volunteering. This does not have to be within a hospital or care setting (although this is useful). Any volunteering which shows that you are a compassionate and caring individual will impress admissions tutors. Examples could include working at RSPCA shelters, with disabled adults or children, at homeless shelters, food banks, with the girl guides. Try to get as many different experiences as possible.
    • Work experience. Try contacting local hospitals, health clinics, care homes etc to ask if you could attend for a week or even a couple of days of work experience. Even if this is sitting in an office doing admin work, it will still give you an insight into the workings of the organisation.
    • Taking extra short courses. Sites such as Coursera have free online healthcare courses delivered in a university-style format and run by universities worldwide.
    • Reading nursing books and journals. Finding something through a course or volunteering that particularly interested you and researching it is an important skill to have. Choose a particular topic and read about it. Look in publications such as the Nursing Standard to get inspiration from current events in nursing.
  2. 2
    Your next step is to create your UCAS personal statement. Avoid listing your characteristics. This is a good example of how you can expand your points: 'Volunteering in my local homeless shelter this summer has increased my awareness of the different factors which can result in a person living in poverty and having a poor quality of life. Research published in X, by Y, concluded that prejudice towards patients is still apparent in hospitals in the UK. It is, therefore, vital for nurses to be non-judgemental when delivering care, which I hope my time at the shelter will help me to demonstrate.' Always make sure to link your experiences to the qualities you have developed in that situation, and then remember to explicitly show that you are aware why this is an important skill for a nurse to possess. Another example would be: 'After reading the July 26th edition of the Nursing Standard, I was particularly interested in an article which-which scrutinised the Liverpool Care Pathway. Research at my college library showed that the Liverpool Care Pathway had been the subject of 12 complaints of abuse and negligence. It is important that nurses are vigilant in reporting cases of negligence and that these are investigated fully, and also that nurses assess the most recent evidence to ensure that they are aware of the best practice to use'. This example clearly demonstrates that the applicant is keen to learn more about current issues and will take initiative and can complete basic research, but shows this in a way that is much more professional and interesting.
  3. 3
    Get your personal statement reviewed. Ask your parents and teachers to look at your personal statement and suggest improvements. Most colleges have a system in place to ensure that your personal statement is reviewed by a relevant staff member. You can also go to The Student Room which has a team of Personal Statement Helpers - people who are already on a nursing degree and who will suggest changes in grammar, structure and content for free. This is particularly useful because these people have been trained and approved, and have undergone the UCAS application recently.
  4. 4
    Hopefully you will receive an invitation to attend an interview. Tips for interviews:
    • Be aware of a handful of current issues. Read the Nursing Standard for ideas.
    • Dress smartly and professionally. It is better to be overdressed than looking scruffy (avoid jeans, trainers etc). It doesn't matter what the other applicants dress like or what they think of you - you only need to impress the admissions tutors by being professional in your appearance.
    • Don't be afraid to speak up in group interviews. You need to stand out, but remember to let others speak. It's also important to show that you are a good listener.
    • Don't be afraid to (respectfully) disagree with another applicant in group interviews, as long as you can back up your point with solid reasoning.
    • Remember to consider all sides of the story when completing a situation task. Consider how a condition would affect a patient's social and family life, work and money as well as direct symptoms such as pain.
    • If you have a maths test, ensure that you can do basic multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction with and without a calculator. Practice unit conversions and also working with fractions.
    • If you have a one on one interview and suffer from nerves, consider questions you may be asked and mentally prepare answers. Popular questions include: Why do you want to be a nurse? Why do you want to study at this university? What is the most important quality for a nurse to have?
    • Be sure to be confident and smile! Body language is very important.


  • Careful selection of universities is vital in giving yourself the best chance of gaining a place.


  • Considering the rise in tuition fees in the UK, nursing courses are extremely over-subscribed (as they are funded by the NHS). Competition for places is fierce and it is important not to be disheartened if you are unsuccessful. Taking a gap year to volunteer or work in a care setting while gaining extra qualifications will enhance your application for the next UCAS cycle.
  • Do not copy information to use in your personal statement. UCAS uses advanced plagiarism software and this could result in your application being cancelled.

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Categories: Applying for Tertiary Education