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Systems Leadership DNP FAQ
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Admissions Information  

When is the next application deadline?  
The systems leadership DNP program admitsonce a year in the fall. Please look at our website frequently for further details.
Do I need to take the GRE? Is there a time limit on the scores?   
The GRE is waived if any one of the following conditions is met:
1. Cumulative GPA of 3.25 or greater 
2. Pre-licensure nursing GPA of 3.0 or greater.
3. Graduate GPA (of a completed degree) of 3.5 or greater.
Rush will receive verified GPA calculations from NursingCAS only after they have received all of your official transcripts. If you believe you will need to submit GRE scores, we suggest you prepare for the exam and take it sooner rather than later as we cannot review your application until official GRE scores have been received. These scores must be received by Rush University before the application deadline. Your scores will be sent to the institutions you designate within 10 to 15 days after your test date. The Rush University College of Nursing GRE code is 3262.  
If you have taken the GRE within the last five years Educational Testing Service (ETS) will send a copy of your scores directly to Rush. If you have taken the GRE more than five years ago and have the original score report, you may submit a copy directly to Rush. The College of Nursing will also accept GRE scores from any point in time, as long as an official report of the score can be obtained. The College of Nursing will also accept an official school document that contains GRE scores.     
Who should I ask to provide recommendations?  
Three professional letters of recommendation are required from faculty and/or work managers with at least one letter from a current or recent employer. Relationship of recommenders to you must be in a supervisory capacity who can evaluate your ability to be successful in graduate school and as an APRN. Co-workers, colleagues, subordinates or friends are not acceptable recommenders.   
How will I hear from the Office of Admissions about my application?  
Your application is submitted through a centralized application system called N-CAS. All application materials (e.g., essay, CV, recommendations, etc.) are submitted through N-CAS. Once your application is complete and submitted to Rush, it will be evaluated and you will be notified if you are selected for an interview. Plan to be on campus for about one hour. However, if you live more than 50 miles away, you may choose to interview by phone. We will use the email address you provide for all contact regarding your application status.    
What happens to my application after I complete my interview?  
Upon completion of the interview, your application is reviewed by program faculty and an admissions recommendation is made. Admission recommendations are then forwarded to the Admissions and Progressions Committee of the College of Nursing. It is their charge to offer admission to qualified candidates.   
What are tuition costs and is financial aid available?  
Please visit the Rush University website at Financial Aid or call the financial aid office (312) 942-6256 for the most up-to-date information.
I am a graduate of a prelicensure direct entry master’s or post-licensure CNL program.  Can I apply for the Systems Leadership DNP?   
Both  direct entry master’s and post-licensure CNL graduates may apply to the Systems Leadership DNP track.  The American Association of Colleges of Nursing states that the DNP degree must contain 1000 clinical hours of post-baccalaureate study.  Our Systems Leadership DNP contains approximately 500 clinical hours so the expectation is that students come into that program with a minimum of 500 clinical hours from their previous graduate program.  Only the clinical immersion hours for prelicensure direct entry master’s or post-licensure CNL students are counted towards that total.  Thus, an evaluation of clinical immersion hours earned is necessary. 
In the evaluation of an applicant’s materials significant weight is placed on an applicant’s essay, interview, and leadership background as it is a macro-systems change project that the student must initiate in the very first term of the program.  For the newer master’s graduate it can be challenging to meet these expectations as it takes some time to create a substantial CV.  We suggest the applicant discuss their educational/career plans with the program director prior to application submission to evaluate program match and timing.   
I have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a non-nursing master’s degree.  Can I apply to the Systems Leadership MSN-DNP program?
Yes, if you have attained and currently maintain ANCC Nurse Executive Advanced Certification or AONE Certification in Executive Nursing Practice.
I have a non-clinical master’s degree in nursing, i.e., MSN in Nursing Administration.  Can I apply to the Systems Leadership MSN-DNP program?
Yes, either you need to meet the certification requirement above or you enrolled and completed 500 practica hours in your MSN program.
Program/Contact Information
What is the main goal of the program?
The systems leadership DNP prepares one to lead a system-wide change including the development, planning, implementation and evaluation of the change and its outcomes. Systems leadership DNP graduates are well-prepared to assume major leadership roles in all types of health care and educational organizations.
The DNP project begins with the identification of a problem at your organization/institution. You will learn how to plan for, implement and evaluate the project as a student while in the program. Of key importance at this time is the identification of the problem for which you have or can obtain data specific to your organization. The application essay looks at two components:
1. Leadership goals: Discuss a specific leadership position (e.g., clinical program leader, associate dean, national consultant) you wish to attain within three to five years after completing the DNP program.
2. The problem: Identify a problem or question that requires a change in health care or educational services and/or policies that you might address in that role. This problem should have relevance to current and emerging health care or educational issues. The topic you identify should be the basis for your DNP project and congruent with your career goals. The scope of the project should be large enough that it would result in, for example, a system-wide change at the program, organizational, regional or national level, new or revised state health policy or the establishment of significant new services to a population or geographic region.
The essay is an important part of the application and serves as a basis for your interview with a faculty member. The interviewer will ask about institutional/organizational support for your project and who, at your organization, will serve as your sponsor. Therefore, it is important to have discussed this with your potential sponsor prior to the interview. Please include the details of your discussion in the essay.
Can I contact someone to discuss my proposed project prior to applying?
Yes, you may contact Dr. Susan Swider, speciality coordinator of the DNP program in systems leadership. She can be reached via email at

What type of experience is needed?
Successful applicants have demonstrated progressive leadership either with their employers or professional organization.    
Is there an online option and will I have to come to campus for classes?  
This program’s coursework is all online except for the seminars that occur in conjunction with the three on-campus visits that all students are expected to attend. Those visits come in the 1st, 3rd, and last term of the program.

How long does the program take to complete?  
This program is 2 years (6 terms) part-time.   
Can I take one class at a time?  
No, the coursework is structured to be taken with the cohort of students with whom you began the program. In addition, your DNP project serves as the mechanism used for the majority of the coursework assignment completion. 
Can I start taking classes before I am accepted or matriculated?  
None of the systems leadership DNP coursework is open to students-at large.    

Will graduate level classes taken at other universities transfer in for credit?  
We consider classes for transfer credit on a case-by-case basis. After you are accepted into the program, you will be assigned an advisor who can help you with the transfer credit request process. Please save course descriptions and course syllabi for all courses you want considered for transfer.   
Can I work while I am in the program?  
Most of the systems leadership DNP students remain in their highly demanding jobs (CNO, VP for nursing) while they are in the program. However, the program is rigorous and requires at least eight to 10 hours of study/ work per week and therefore, applicants are urged to reduce any non-essential activities for the duration of the two-year program.
1. The application for transfer procedure must be completed when an enrolled student wishes to change their program concentration and/or degree. The transfer must be approved; there is no guarantee of movement from one program to another.
2. The Program Director in the proposed concentration/degree determines the necessary requirements for the review process.
3. The Registrar processes changes at the end of each term.
4. The change is official as of the start of the new term if student accepted into the proposed major/concentration.
5. If permission is granted and as space permits, students will only be allowed to transfer to an already matriculating cohort of students.
Campus Visits

How can I arrange a campus visit?  
The college holds an information session the second Wednesday of every month at 4:30 p.m. on the 9th floor of the Armour Academic Center, 600 S. Paulina. To register for one of our monthly information sessions, please click here .    
Where do students stay during campus visits?  
Students make their own arrangements. We can advise you on nearby hotels. The Rush campus is accessible from both airports by public transportation.   

International Students

I am an international student - how can I get information about testing, transcripts and licensure?  
The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is required for applicants who are non-native speakers of English. This requirement may be waived if the applicant has completed a minimum of three years of higher education AND received their baccalaureate degree in the United States.
For further inquiries please contact Jennifer Thorndyke at
As many courses are taught in an online format in our DNP programs, we regret we are unable to accommodate international students in the US on a student visa.  Applicants who intend to complete a program in their country of origin will be reviewed on an individual basis, please contact Rush University College of Nursing at before applying.
Who can answer further questions?  
For further inquiries please contact Jennifer Thorndyke at

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