If you are planning to apply for admission to a nursing school for undergraduate or graduate studies, it is imperative that you know the necessary admission requirements and program prerequisites. There is much more involved with applying to a nursing school then you might initially think, however, that should not hinder your efforts.
A nursing career is very fulfilling and by taking the right steps early you will be bettering your chances to be accepted into any nursing program.
What are the Prerequisites for Nursing School?
The first thing before even making your nursing school application is to consider why you want to be a nurse and what type of nurse would you like to be? There are different types of nurses that also require different degrees and or levels of certification and licensure. If you are someone who wants to eventually become a nurse that only works with babies, you will need to work and learn to progress in many areas to eventually get in the exact position you want to be in. Consider all of your options and make sure that it is a decision that you can live with for the long haul to become a nurse. It is sometimes thought that the application process can be so thorough and daunting that some almost think it is set up that way to weed out those that are not truly dedicated to becoming a professional in this field. If you are dedicated to becoming a nurse, then going through the steps to become one will be gratifying not daunting.
An LPN is a nursing position that can be obtained with a two-year Associates degree in nursing. An LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) generally works in doctors’ offices, nursing homes, and outpatient centers.
An RN (Registered Nurse) is a nurse that has gone through four year training, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and is the next tier of seniority in nursing. Registered Nurses tend to have more responsibilities and perform more clinical duties then an LPN, and they tend to work in hospitals.
As an RN, you will be able to build and refine your career in caring, yet also take advantage of furthering your education, should you decide to do so. A career as a registered nurse can provide a life-long sense of fulfillment, but some people may decide to study further.
After working as a Registered Nurse for a period of one to 2 years, it is possible to further your schooling in nursing. One may obtain a Masters Degree in Nursing. Those who graduate with this degree are eligible to become department supervisors and assume leadership positions in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice centers, just to name a few.
An RN with a Masters Degree in Nursing (MSN or MA in Nursing) can apply to a program to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP), which is the highest nursing level one can achieve. A Nurse Practitioner has the ability to prescribe medications, make diagnoses, and treat patients in a similar manner to Primary Care Physicians. Nurse Practitioners may specialize in different areas such as pediatrics, geriatrics, neonatal care, or occupational health. An NP program will generally require a 1 to 2 year commitment to become licensed as such.
The requirements to be admitted into a nursing program will vary depending on the nursing school. However there are 3 nursing school requirements that nearly all accredited nursing programs will ask for prior to admission. They are:
1) Prerequisite Courses
3) Medical and Drug Screening
In addition to those 3 above, some schools will require that you pass some pre-admission tests.
1) Prerequisite Courses
What is a Prerequisite Course?
A prerequisite course is a course you ought to take in preparation for another course or program. Such courses on the majority give you a solid foundation to what you will be expecting at the next stage of what you are training for. A prerequisite course gives you insights and knowledge to aspects of another related program.
At times, a prerequisite course may seem be totally unrelated to the subject of study you will be undertaking at a later point of the program. Such courses only serve as an eye opener to help students think outside the ordinary and be all rounded. Other courses will help students become better in expressing themselves through talking or writing. Others, on the other hand will help students relate with their fellow students and professors. In a nutshell, no prerequisite courses should be regarded as useless or irrelevant. In this case, each course is paramount in its own way and is specially designed to prep you for the next sequence of courses in your degree program.
General Nursing Prerequisite Courses
Before you start on any nursing course, many schools of nursing will require that student have completed a set of prerequisite courses, more often referred to as pre-nursing courses. These courses vary from one school to the next but there are observed tendencies in the type of courses required. However, it is highly likely that schools in one state will require almost the same type of nursing prerequisites courses to give consideration to transfer students
The observed trend is that of students completing prenursing courses right after high school. Before you decide on the prerequisite courses to take, you must check with your future nursing school to ensure courses will match those required for their associate degree or Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN) programs. Otherwise, you may take some pre-nursing courses only to realize that they cannot be accepted as a graduation requirement for your program hence, prompting the need to do some more courses.
Below are examples of nursing prerequisites courses that most nursing schools will ask for. Even with disparities you will find that most nursing schools will require about 90% of the courses listed here. The remaining 10% may just be customized courses that fit to a university’s /colleges program need.
Anatomy and Physiology I & II
This course is usually designated with the code BIOL followed by a short number code depending on the college course numbering system. This course entails the human anatomy and physiology and must therefore carry some laboratory experience (LAB hours).
- Introduction to Psychology
This course is usually an overview of the general psychology of human beings and to some extent, a focus to patients. You will usually find this course designated with the Code ‘PYSC’ followed by some numerical values. In some nursing schools, it will be referred to as General psychology, Developmental psychology or just Psychology.
- Introduction to Sociology
Just like psychology, this course gives an overview of sociology. It can also be called General sociology, or Sociology. Many schools will use the Code SOCI to denote it.
This subject will entail much of laboratory hours (LAB) than the theory aspect. It preps nurses to be able to do simple diagnosis and laboratory testing of infectious agents. It is also normally denoted with the code BIOL.
Math is a general terms used to refer to a number of prerequisite courses in mathematics. In this category courses like Statistics, College Algebra, Probability and Elementary Calculus may be required. At its own discretion, a college may ask for 1 of them or a combination of any two.
Nutrition will be required by nearly all nursing schools as a pre-nursing course. The focus will be on nutrition needs for different patient groups and (or) healthy populations.
This is usually an elementary course that introduces students to laboratory methods, simple reactions etc. It will often be denoted as CHEM followed by the specific university numerical college code.
Core Nursing Prerequisites
These category of courses are usually not related to the nursing degrees per se. However, you will never miss them on the nursing prerequisite courses list. These are courses that are often referred to as “General Education Courses”. They include:
- English Composition/ Writing
- US or World History
- Fine Arts or Arts
- Free Elective courses
Where to Take Pre-Nursing Courses
It is a common observation for students to complete nursing prerequisite courses in community colleges. This tends to be convenient and cheaper since you can attend the community college in your neighborhood. However, some universities and 4-year colleges will also offer a pre-nursing program as a starting phase of the nursing major. While you can take courses online, be sure your future nursing schools will accept courses completed online if you planning to make a credit transfer.
Acceptable Grades and GPA for Pre-Nursing Courses
You must attain a minimum grade of a “C” to be safe during selection. This is because many nursing schools will by a far use the GPA and grades obtained from the pre-nursing courses to select students for the major. Grades lower than “C-“are generally not accepted. A minimum GPA of 2.00 on a 4.0 scales is also commonly required for pre-nursing courses
Other Nursing School Prerequisites
Besides the credit courses listed above, nursing schools will also require that candidates other non-credit requirements. Such include:
- Certified Nurse Assistant/Aide: You may find this as a pre-admission requirement for many nursing schools. For such programs, it may be mandatory to have completed a CNA course and earned a CNA certificate. Other states may require a candidate have and maintain a current registration status in the State’s CNA registry. For others yet, it may not be mandatory but it may be used to give additional points during selection, hence is a plus.
- CPR Certification: It is almost next to impossible to find a nursing school that doesn’t require a Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certificate for health care providers. This certificate course is normally tied the Basic Life Support Course (BLS) from the American Heart Association
3) Medical and Drug Screening for Student Nurses
After being accepted in any nursing schools countrywide, you will be asked to submit a Medical or Drug Screening report. In this case, students will have to take several communicable diseases tests to be eligible to work in patients environments. A number of medical shots/ vaccinations are also mandatory for nursing students interacting with patients:
- Drug Screening: Drug screening is used to indicate whether the future student is under the influence of alcohol or other uncontrolled substance abuse. If such tests are found to be positive, they are grounds to be denied admission into the nursing program. Most schools have a zero tolerance for drugs.
- Medical Screening: This includes a health examination tests. The most common test is the TB skin test.
- Immunizations: A number of medical shots/immunization are also required before starting on any nursing course including Measles, Diphtheria, Rubella, Tetanus, Mumps, Hepatitis B 3 injection series
- Proof of Chicken Pox Immunity: this may require proof of taking the Varicella Vaccine.
Now you are aware of all the different opportunities available to you and the minimum requirements before you apply to nursing school, you are therefore ready to take the necessary steps to enroll in a nursing program.
NOTE: Be prepared for fees outside of the actual nursing school cost. From pre-tests and paperwork, to the actual application, there are usually additional fees associated with each. Plan this into your budget.
Attend an information session – After researching and deciding which school or program is best for you, attend an information session. Many schools now require this as a part of the application process, so that questions and details may be discussed. Of course, it’s always okay to attend more than one session at more than one nursing school. At these information sessions, you will be provided with a packet of information. This usually includes a list of requirements, an application to the program, and any cost involved. Pre-registration may be required for information sessions, so do not just show up if they require this, as it will be frowned upon. Do not take an information session lightly. Dress professionally and bring a pen and paper. While some nursing programs will conduct individual interviews for applicants, many more schools and programs are doing away with the interview process. At an information session, the people running it are generally recent graduates and your future administrators and teachers in the program. You have a chance to make a lasting impression in this informal environment.
Become a nurse’s “shadow” – Many programs also require a “shadowing experience”. You will set up an appointment to visit a hospital for 4 -6 hours to spend the time alongside a nurse. You will be able to see what a nurse truly does through the work day and ask as many questions as you like. At the end of the experience, you will have a form signed by the nurse that you completed this experience. That form will then be enclosed in your application packet. This experience is another chance at making a great first impression in the application process.
Check your grades – The most basic requirement is that an applicant has a high school diploma. If you do not have one, it may be best to think about working on getting your high school equivalency diploma. What is your grade point average (GPA)? Many nursing programs require at least an average GPA of 3.0 to be accepted into a program. Others require even higher Grade Point Averages so as to become more competitive. If there are continuing education classes you can take that might help you to better this average it may be a good idea. If you are unsure about your GPA, it might be a good idea to meet with a counselor at a school that you are interested in attending or applying to. If your GPA seems to be near or below average, a great idea might be to volunteer for some time at a hospital where you would like to work, or a nursing home volunteering in a field associated with nursing. This may help stand out from the rest when you are filling out your application for a nursing school.
Obtain necessary paperwork – Nursing school prerequisites vary depending on the school and program you are applying to. Once you have attended an information session and know what paperwork is required for that school, begin to organize and send requests for any necessary transcripts from high school, technical schools, or prior colleges you attended.
Take any required exams – There are “pre-tests” that a nursing school may or may not require. A PAX-RN is a pre-admission exam for RN students. There are general subject tests such as the TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills), and the NET (Nurse Entrance Test). Not all schools require them, but if so, you will find many study resources at book stores for these tests.
CPR Certification – Nearly all accredited nursing programs will require you have Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification for healthcare providers.
Apply for financial aid – Resources from loan programs, grants and nursing scholarships can be limited, so apply to any programs as soon as you can. You will have the option to put your planned program dates on the application, so the money will be allocated when it is needed. The earlier you apply, the earlier you will receive notification on the funds being allotted to you.
Take care of medical requirements – Either prior to applying or within a certain time frame, all students are required to obtain a set of updated medical shots and exams at the student’s cost.
Apply to the Nursing School – When all of the necessary documentation for an application has been taken care of by you, apply to the nursing program at your earliest convenience. There are many programs with waiting lists, so the moment you know you meet the requirements to apply, DO SO. Do not miss a deadline, as you will have to wait for another program to start if you do. Missing the deadline may be viewed as a lack of good time management and desire to become a nurse. These nursing degree programs like the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) and the PhD in Nursing/Doctor of Science in Nursing (DNP) are competitive, and it is best to get your application in early and make sure it is completely filled out –NO EXCEPTIONS.
Last, but not least, WAIT – Once all of the prerequisites have been completed and the application is in, be prepared to wait. By completing all of the steps in a thorough, professional and timely manner, your future as a nurse will be here before you know it.