Getting into Your Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Program: An Admissions Guide

Ready to break into the nursing industry? Discover what it takes to gain admissions to an LPN program and find out if you’re ready to apply.

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Kyra Sutherland

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Kyra Sutherland has been a freelance writer since 2017 and enjoys infusing her work with her passion for education. When she isn’t writing she can be found building her backyard garden, experimenting in the kitchen, or chasing her two energetic boys and their feisty cat. You can find out more about Kyra on her blog No Nightlights.

last updated

01/18/2022

If you’re thinking about applying to radiology tech programs, you likely probably already know the many vital roles these professionals play. Not

To help meet the ever-increasing need for healthcare workers, you can get your foot in the door relatively quickly by becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN). After gaining admission to one of these programs, most students spend less than a year meeting all the necessary requirements. But before you can start this in-demand career, you’ll first need to actually get accepted into a training program.

Unsurprisingly, admission requirements vary from school to school and program to program. Some may set prerequisites at the outset, while others may incorporate them into the curriculum. By knowing what to expect early in the process, you can adequately prepare and avoid feeling overwhelmed when submitting multiple applications requiring different components. Keep reading to learn about general and program-specific admission requirements, what admissions panelists want to see from top candidates, and where to get help along the way.

General Admissions Requirements

When it comes to general admission requirements, these are the expectations set by the school at large for any student that attends at that institution. That said, some schools now use a decentralized approach for admissions: this means students apply directly to the department housing their chosen program rather than the school itself. If that’s the case, you may be able to bypass some of the components listed in this section. But if your school requires you to meet general admission standards before then applying to the LPN program, pay attention to common requirements below. By understanding how this process works, you’ll feel more confident navigating the various admissions pathways.

Licensed Practical Nurse Diploma & Associate Programs

Before you apply to an LPN certificate program, you’ll first need to gain admittance into the college. Many LPN programs are offered through technical and community colleges whose admissions process is simpler and easier than those at a larger school or university. We cover typical admissions requirements for community colleges below.

Community College Requirements

Many community colleges have an open enrollment policy, which means that almost anyone is accepted as long as they have a high school diploma or GED. However, there may be more applicants than available spots, so pay attention to admission dates and deadlines. Schools with limited space might require a minimum GPA of 3.0, verifiable in the official transcripts you’ll also need to submit. Most schools also ask for your scores from exams like the SAT or ACT, which help determine if you’re ready for college-level courses. Though not all community colleges have this requirement, be prepared to take placement tests like the Accuplacer if a college-prep test score is not required.

Lining Up the Finances

The cost of earning your LPN certificate depends on the school and how many credits make up the LPN program. In general, expect an LPN program to cost $4,000-$9,000. This typically covers fees and supplies needed for the duration of the program, which is usually less than a year. Associate degree programs for practical nursing are uncommon, but if you run across one you can expect it to cost more since the program would require general education courses in addition to program-specific courses to fill the requirements for a two-year degree.

Instead of stressing about the cost of an LPN program, look into all the financial aid options available. Your school will likely have scholarships for students in need as well as tuition payment plans and work-study options. In addition to financial aid through the school, fill out the FAFSA application each year to help your school determine which students need the most financial support. The FAFSA will also inform you if you are eligible for government grants or loan opportunities.

Identifying Your Prerequisites

Typically, there aren’t specific courses required for general admission into a community or technical college. A high school diploma or completed GED is usually sufficient. If a college-prep test like the SAT or ACT isn’t part of the school’s admission requirements, students should be prepared to take placement tests to determine if they’ll need to take remedial classes in math or English before moving on to college-level courses.

Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) Program Admissions Requirements

Once you’re admitted to a school, it’s time to apply to its licensed practical nursing (LPN) program. Keep in mind that just because you are accepted to the school does not mean you’ll automatically be accepted into its LPN program. LPN admissions are more detailed and competitive than most schools’ general admissions and typically require more information from the student. Prepare to meet the LPN admission requirements discussed below.

Requirements for a Diploma in Licensed Practical Nursing

Every LPN program you run across is different, but most have similar admission requirements. Especially for programs in the healthcare field, you’ll find these common requirements.

Background Check/Drug Screen

Most schools require their students to pass a background check and/or drug screening before being allowed to continue with the program. You’ll likely have to pay for this testing yourself.

Completed Application Form

Once admitted to a school, you’ll probably need to fill out another application form for the specific program you want to pursue. This application will likely ask for your personal information again even though you submitted this with your application for the school. It will also ask for program-specific information, like that regarding prerequisites and undergraduate coursework information, and for your signature confirming the accuracy of the information provided. Be sure to write legibly, if applicable, and turn all required information in on time for your best chance at being accepted.

CPR Certification

CPR certification is a common requirement for LPN admissions. Most programs want students CPR certified before admission and require students to keep this certification up to date throughout the program.

Current Healthcare Certification

Many LPN programs want students with some exposure to the medical field, and many require current licensure as part of the admissions process. Some LPN programs require students to be certified nursing assistants (CNAs), emergency medical technicians (EMTs), surgical technicians, paramedics, or respiratory therapists. Not all programs accept all these certifications or require any of them. Check with your specific program to see which ones it accepts or if it even has this requirement.

Current Personal Health Insurance

Some schools and programs require you to have your own health insurance to cover any medical needs you may have throughout the program.

Immunizations & Physical Examination

As an LPN and even during your training, you’ll encounter people in a variety of healthcare settings. For this reason, every LPN program will likely require you have updated immunization records as well as a satisfactory physical exam showing you are prepared and capable to work in the nursing field.

Mandatory Information Session

Many LPN programs want prospective students to have an idea of what they’re getting into before going through the application process. Often, an introductory video is available on the program’s admission page, or there will be the option to sign up for a live webinar where you can learn more about the program and its admissions process.

Minimum GPA

During the school’s admission process, you may not run across a minimum GPA requirement. However, you’ll likely need a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be accepted into an LPN program.

Nursing Aptitude Test

Most LPN programs build upon the assumption that students have a certain level of academic skill and even some nursing knowledge. To help confirm this, they may require scores from tests like the TEAS, Kaplan Nursing Admissions test, PSB nursing aptitude tests, or another similar exam before they’ll admit you into their LPN program.

Personal Essay

A personal essay is a great way for LPN faculty and staff to get to know students applying to their program. This essay is especially important with highly-competitive programs to help admissions staff determine if students are good fits for the program.

Prerequisite Courses

Listed below are the most common prerequisite courses for LPN programs. Usually, only two or three are required per program, and you must earn a “C” or better in each. Be sure to check which prerequisite courses apply to the program you are trying to get into.

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology I & II
  • Introductory Psychology
  • Growth and Development/Human Structure and Function
  • Nutrition
  • English Composition
  • Medical Terminology
  • Human Biology
  • Intro to Pharmacology
  • Computational Skills for Allied Health
  • Microbiology
  • Math

Requirements for an Associate in Licensed Practical Nursing

Few schools offer an associate degree in licensed practical nursing, opting instead to offer LPN certificates or diplomas with the option to transition to an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). However, if you run across a two-year LPN degree, the admission requirements will likely be the same or similar to those listed above for certificate programs.

Other Things to Think About

There are a lot of elements to keep track of when applying to a college and its LPN program. In addition to the above, be aware of a school’s transfer credit policy and its accreditation status before you begin the admissions process and certainly before you enroll.

Transfer Credits

College credits earned in or after high school could count as transfer credits and save you time and money if the LPN program you are applying to accepts them. Some schools and/or programs do not have a transfer credit policy. However, if you have courses you think could transfer and take the place of a specific LPN course, reach out directly to the practical nursing department chair to check. You’ll need to provide an official transcript and possibly individual course descriptions or syllabi documenting the course and its learning outcomes. Transfer credits are usually considered on an individual basis and may be rejected if the course was taken too many years ago or the content doesn’t adequately match with a course in your LPN program.

Accreditation

Attending an accredited program means you are part of a program that must meet certain educational standards. Accredited programs provide quality education to their students so they are adequately prepared for work after graduation. Licensed practical nurse programs should be accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). This should be in addition to the school being accredited by one of the nationally recognized accrediting agencies listed on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) website.

If you opt to attend a non-accredited LPN program, you may find it more difficult to secure financial aid, get hired after graduation, get licensed in certain states, serve in the armed forces as a nurse, and transfer courses to another nursing program.

Resources

ACEN helps identify which LPN programs are accredited and why accreditation is important. It also helps programs reach and maintain accreditation

Davis Technical College’s practical nursing page does a good job of breaking down some of the more common requirements for admittance. Notice that some documents can be submitted after admission to the program, which you may find in other programs as well.

Mountainland Technical College’s LPN page gives an example of how an admissions committee might score your application.

This sample LPN application shows what you’ll likely need to complete when applying to an LPN program. It also shows the various steps involved in the process.

Discover resources for nursing students, including how to move from being an LPN to an RN.

Discover nursing student resources, journals and articles, continuing education, and more to help you during every step of your nursing career journey.

This resource guide lists over 15 scholarships and gives a variety of support resources specifically for LPN and LVN students.