10 Best Online Master’s in Nursing Programs for a Low GPA

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Updated: February 28, 2024, Reading time: 18 minutes

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While the General Point Average (GPA) admission requirement differs between Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) online programs, the best programs usually have a 3.0 minimum cumulative GPA on an undergraduate bachelor’s degree. The 3.0 GPA is equivalent to a B grade or an 83%-86% grade, considered the national average in the United States for nursing programs.

While a 3.0 GPA sounds too high, it isn’t so considering that nursing as a profession is widely considered a STEM field – the Bureau of Labor Statistics, academia and industry agree on this matter – and, thus, aspiring nursing professionals must possess proficient skills in science, technology and math.

But what if your undergraduate cumulative GPA is less than 3.0, yet you want to earn the prestigious MSN degree for career advancement or career shift purposes? Well, here are 10 of the best online MSN programs that will consider applicants with less than a 3.0 GPA, usually 2.0 to 2.5 (equivalent to a C grade).

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Common Reasons for Accepting Applicants with Low GPAs into MSN Programs

We want to emphasize that online MSN programs that consider applicants with low GPAs aren’t inferior to programs with 3.0 GPAs as part of their admissions requirements! Every MSN online program featured here is offered by regionally accredited institutions, meaning these universities meet the standards of quality set by the US Department of Education and the state board for nursing programs.

Most of these online MSN programs are also accredited by professional nursing organizations, meaning their curriculum, learning outcomes, and program outcomes meet professional industry standards.

But, these online MSN programs consider applicants with low undergraduate GPAs because of their holistic admissions process. Instead of accepting students based on their grades alone, these nursing programs consider the wide range of factors for student success at the graduate level.

Applicants are then evaluated based on their:

Indeed, these online MSN programs value relevant professional work experiences that demonstrate a strong knowledge base and practical skills more than past academic performance! After all, grades aren’t the be-all and end-all in real-world situations – it’s determination, resourcefulness and resilience.

These online programs also strive for diversity and inclusivity in their student and alumni body by looking beyond grades in their admissions criteria. Applicants from diverse backgrounds, particularly individuals whose personal challenges contributed to their average academic performance in their undergraduate studies yet demonstrated resilience, are welcome to demonstrate their suitability in these competitive nursing programs.

The shortage of qualified candidates for nursing programs is also an oft-cited reason for a low GPA requirement. By being more flexible in their grading criteria, online MSN programs can attract more applicants and address the shortage of nurses in the United States.

Indeed, many online programs welcome career shifters, meaning applicants with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or in non-nursing jobs who want to enter the nursing profession with a master’s degree. There are also bridge programs that enable students with lower GPAs the opportunity to improve their academic standing and gain new nursing knowledge and skills before their official admission into the master’s degree program.

Effective Strategies for Getting Accepted into MSN Programs With Low GPA

While a low GPA may seem like a difficult challenge when applying to MSN programs, it shouldn’t be! The key is to adopt a proactive and strategic approach during the application and admission process. We suggest these steps to overcome the GPA challenge and boost your chances of being accepted into your dream MSN online program.

In the end, you should do your best to highlight that, indeed, your low GPA was a temporary setback and you’re passionate about moving forward and onward toward success.

Best Online Master's in Nursing Programs for a Low GPA - fact

Effective Tips for Finding the Right MSN Program for You

With several online Master’s in Nursing programs available for applicants with low GPAs, it can also be a challenge to choose the best one for you! Here are a few strategies to overcome it.

You should also look into the overall reputation of the online master’s in nursing programs you’re considering. Testimonials, feedback and reviews from students and alumni are valuable in this regard.

Best Online MSN Programs with A Low GPA Requirement

Saint Xavier University

Saint Xavier University

The beauty of the online Master of Science in Nursing program offered by Saint Xavier University (SXU) is its equal emphasis on healthcare and business skills. Such a combination enables students and graduates the immediately applications of their learnings in their respective workplaces, a classroom-to-workplace applicability that contributes to their value as employees, 

Applicants are considered qualified if they have a bachelor’s degree in nursing from a CCNE- or ACEN-accredited program and at least a 3.0 GPA. But, applicants with less than 3.0 GPA – at least 2.8 GPA – may be accepted on a conditional basis depending on the strength of their application. 

Other application requirements include: 

Applicants may be asked to provide a writing sample and undergo an interview for further evaluation.

Once accepted, students complete online courses but may also be required to complete an on-campus two-day intensive during their stay. Time-to-completion is as few as 2.5 years, but the rigorous curriculum isn’t for the slacker – students complete between 35 and 47 credits depending on their chosen track:

Saint Xavier University, a private Roman Catholic university with regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), is a Center of Excellence (COE) in Nursing Education and with CCNE accreditation.

Benedictine University

Benedictine University

The Master of Science in Nursing online program offered by Benedictine University features a rigorous curriculum with a strong emphasis on organizational leadership, healthcare technologies, and evidence-based practice. Students prepare for successful careers as effective, ethical and culturally aware leaders in the healthcare industry. 

Applicants must have obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an institution that’s regionally accredited and with at least a 2.75 GPA. Benedictine adopts a holistic admissions process and, thus, will consider the information contained in these application documents: 

Applicants must be proficient in email use, word processing applications, and library online searches to succeed in the online program. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and accepted students can choose from three start dates – January, May, and August. 

Note that students complete the online program completely online, meaning there’s no on-campus residency requirement. However, students are required to demonstrate their nursing competence through a two-course practicum requirement. 

Students choose from two concentrations: 

Benedictine University, a private Roman Catholic university with regional accreditation from HLC, takes pride in its CCNE-accredited online master’s degree in the nursing program.

Walden University

Walden University

The online Master of Science in Nursing program at Walden University welcomes empowered registered nurses with ambitious career advancement plans. The rigorous curriculum emphasizes health outcomes improvement and advancement of health equity, both of which are vital in the current healthcare industry. 

Applicants with a strong chance of admission are individuals with: 

Other application documents include a completed online application form and official transcripts. 

Walden offers students the choice between course-based and Tempo Learning depending on their preferred learning format and style, available budget, and preferred guidance. In course-based learning, students learn with their peers with a set schedule and deadlines under the guidance of faculty members in every course; payment is by course.

In Tempo Learning, students set their own pace of study as well as control their cost and time-to-completion with faculty and coach support provided only when requested; payment is through a three-month subscription. 

Students choose from several specializations and specialty practices, making Walden among the few universities that offer a wide range of choices, namely:  

Walden University, a private online for-profit university owned by Adtalem Global Education, is regionally accredited by HLC. The nursing programs have CCNE accreditation, and Walden has partnerships with The Daisy Foundation and the National League for Nursing, among others. 

Utica University

Utica University

The online Master of Science in Nursing Education at Utica University produces the next generation of nurse educators whose passion for the nursing profession can become an inspiration to their future students. Applicants with at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA on their bachelor’s degree in nursing are welcome, but applicants with lower GPAs may be accepted based on the department’s discretion. 

For applicants with lower GPAs, the following requirements are a must for a holistic evaluation: 

Applicants must also complete a statistics course and a health assessment course with a B grade or higher, as well as a background check. 

Once admitted, students complete a 42-credit curriculum consisting of 14 courses. Core courses include public health, nursing leadership, and healthcare quality improvement, while concentration courses are in advanced pathophysiology, pharmacology, and health assessment and diagnostic reasoning, among others. 

Utica University is a private university with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MECHE) regional accreditation, and its nursing programs have CCNE accreditation.

Western Governors University

Western Governors University

There are several benefits to completing the Master of Science in Nursing Leadership and Management (RN-to-MSN) offered by Western Governors University! You will gain hands-on clinical practice experiences through virtual reality and real-time simulations, as well as earn the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ) HQ Principles certificate. 

Note that it’s an online RN-to-MSN bridge program and, thus, applicants must meet the following requirements to be considered for admission: 

The curriculum consists of two parts – the bachelor’s degree in nursing part with a strong emphasis on current nursing practice, and the master’s degree in nursing component, with a robust focus on leadership theories, healthcare management, and strategic planning. 

Students complete the Nursing Leadership and Management Capstone course as part of their culminating requirements. The program also requires the completion of a criminal background check and immunizations before their clinical placement. 

WGU uses a competency-based approach, meaning nursing students progress through the rigorous curriculum by demonstrating their mastery of the content in every course. This is done through papers, projects and tests, among other forms of assessments. 

Other online MSN programs offered by WGU are: 

The private, non-profit online school WGU has a Northwest Commission on Colleges & Universities regional accredited. Its Leavitt School of Health has CCNE accreditation.

Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global

The respected online Master of Science in Nursing program at Purdue Global prepares students for leadership roles in the nursing profession. Students develop their expertise in a wide range of healthcare-related practices, from organizational leadership to information technology, as well as prepare for success in industry certification exams. 

Applicants to the MSN program must meet the general admission requirements and the program-specific requirements to be considered for admission. 

Once admitted, students gain new knowledge and skills through intensive courses in advanced nursing roles, advanced evidenced-based practices, and health promotion, among others. The number of credits varies depending on the concentration chosen, namely: 

Earning a master’s degree at Purdue Global is easier on the pockets, too, thanks to generous financial aid options. Transfer credits combined with federal aid, military tuition reduction, and corporate partner benefits result in significant cost reductions. 

Purdue University Global, Inc., a public online university, offers academic programs for working professionals accredited by the HLC. The MSN program is accredited by the CCNE.

Xavier University

Xavier University

Earning the online Master of Science in Nursing degree from Xavier University opens career advancement opportunities in and beyond the healthcare industry. Students can also earn post-master’s certificates here for more career advancement. 

Applicants will be considered for admission if they meet the following admission requirements: 

Documentation application requirements include: 

Xavier has a holistic admission process that takes into account an applicant’s demonstration of potential success in the graduate program, among other factors. 

Depending on the track chosen, accepted students can start in: 

Students complete 37 credits and can earn the graduate degree in 2-3 years. 

Xavier University, a private Jesuit university with regional accreditation by the HLC, offers its CCNE-accredited and Ohio Board of Nursing-approved MSN online program with student diversity and success in mind.

University of Texas at Arlington

University of Texas at Arlington

The accelerated online Master of Science Nursing with  Concentration in Nursing Administration program at the University of Texas at Arlington prepares ambitious registered nurses for successful careers in nursing management, thanks to a rigorous curriculum emphasizing core competencies in nursing leadership and management. 

Applicants must undergo the selective admissions process of the College of Nursing and Health Innovation. The application requirements include: 

Students complete 12 courses, some of which require the completion of clinical applications and a capstone community partnering project. Courses are delivered in a blended learning format. 

The University of Texas at Arlington, a public research university with Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) regional accreditation, proudly offers its CCNE-accredited nursing programs.

Cumberland University

Cumberland University

The online Master of Science in Nursing with a Concentration in Nurse Educator program emphasizes effective teaching strategies based on sound theories and current practices in nursing education. Students learn the best methods in curriculum development, content delivery, and assessments of nursing education programs. 

Applicants must possess the following credentials to be considered for admission in good standing: 

Students can start either in the fall or spring semester. While classes are asynchronous, students must log in three times a week, a minimum. The curriculum consists of 36 credits with core courses in nursing theoretical foundations, nursing research, advanced pharmacology, and more. 

Cumberland University, a private university, is regionally accredited by SACSCOC.

University of Illinois Chicago

University of Illinois Chicago

The hybrid Master of Science in Nursing for Registered Nurses program offered by the UIC prepares students for career advancement opportunities in the nursing profession, particularly as complex care coordinators. Applicants will receive full consideration if they meet the following criteria: 

Students can enroll on a full-time or part-time basis with time-to-completion ranging between one and two years for the 34-credit program. Note that students with a BSN degree are directly enrolled in the MSN program, while students with non-nursing baccalaureate degrees must complete additional courses in the MSN Transition Program. 

The University of Illinois Chicago, a public research university with regional accreditation from HLC, takes pride in its CCNE-accredited nursing programs in its College of Nursing.

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