How to Get into Nursing School

Nursing Education
Like any other professional career, you cannot become a nurse without the training offered at a nursing school. Nursing education helps to train a nurse not only on nursing areas, but also on other areas of life including psychology, sociology, and at times religion. Most nursing schools will provide education that is all rounded to mould a nurse who will work holistically in delivering nursing care.

In choosing a nursing school that will offer the best education, prospective student nurses must ensure that the school offers up-to standard courses. This can be known by ensuring the school one enrolls in is national accredited by national bodies. Students can seek such information from accrediting bodies like Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.

Since nursing is a practical career, having real-life experience is the key to sailing smoothly and confidently after nursing school. As such, you must choose schools that are well connected with health agencies that serve as their areas of experiential learning.  These may be hospitals, care centers, physician offices, medical centers, long term care centers or any other health-related sites that handle nursing duties. Having sufficient clinical rotations and experience prior to leaving college is key to molding a competent nurse.

The manner in which a student decides to complete their nursing education is also important before starting off. Students; depending on their schedules and resources, should weigh between full time or part time and online/distance or on-site modes of completing their education requirements.

Nursing Associations

Any nurse who have undergone nursing school can tell you the incredible benefits of being in a nursing association; whether at college or at national level. Nursing associations are the best places for student nurses to connect with the real career while in college and as a preparation when out of college. It is paramount for students to join a nursing association in order to keep pace with what is happening in the nursing world.

In most cases, each college/ university have their own customized nursing association or a chapter of a national nursing association. It does not matter what level of education you are pursuing: certificate, diploma, associate (ADN/AASN), bachelors (BSN), and masters (MSN) all the way to the terminal nursing degrees (PhD/DNP), you will find important information in an association. The interaction between faculty members, supervisors and classmates can help you as a student nurse fill any gaps or questions within the course of study. It is in an association that you will learn about:

  • Existing and new scholarships and financial Aid for nurses
  • Earning licensure and renewal
  • Mentorship, support and guidance on your professional line
  • Changing nursing education and career trends
  • Hot nursing areas/specialties
  • Important conferences and workshops that promote nursing education

There are hundreds of nursing associations that you can join depending on your level of education or nursing interests. Most nursing associations are meant for nursing specialty areas but general forums suitable for any student nurses also exist.  Examples of general national nursing associations include but not limited to:

  • American Nurses Association
  • American Assembly for Men in Nursing
  • Emergency Nurse Association
  • National Student Nurses Association
  • Sigma Theta Tau, International Honor Society of Nursing
  • National Association of School Nurses
  • National Association of Hispanic Nurses
  • National Association of Black Nurses
  • International Council of Nurses

Nursing Prerequisites

As the name suggests, nursing prerequisites are those requirements you ought to have met prior to starting your education at a nursing school. Although each school may have a different prerequisites outlined for candidates, most likely than not, all schools will have common prerequisites.

In terms of prior qualifications, most nursing schools will require you to have a high school diploma or have earned a General Education Diploma (GED). Tests for the GED can be taken at most community colleges/ two-year public colleges.  Depending on the state you are applying to, associate and baccalaureate nursing programs candidates may need to complete Basic Life Support Courses like CPR. Others may ask for a Certified Nurse Assistant course or registration at a State Nurse Aide Registry.

Over and above all, the most important nursing prerequisites are the general education courses. Some nursing schools will insist that students be admitted into the nursing program only if they have completed all nursing degree prerequisite courses. This as well, may vary from one nursing school to the next but they are all fairly equal.  Such courses may include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology I & II
  • English
  • Writing
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics (Algebra, Statistics, and Calculus)
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

Many nursing schools accept general education courses from other colleges/universities and students are allowed to transfer almost any general education course. However, your future college may need to establish equivalency of courses taken at other colleges against their own to facilitate transfer. It is good to note that quite a large number of nursing schools use the scores of prerequisites courses for selective admission into their nursing programs. Candidates must therefore complete theses courses with high grades especially if they are looking forward to get into competitive nursing programs.

Other requirements may include taking a pre-entrance exam (HESI, Pre-Admission Exam for RN, TEAS etc) and an interview. All the above requirements apply to undergraduate nursing programs and graduates programs have different requirements. At graduate level, candidates need to show proof a valid RN license, a Bachelors degree from an accredited institution and often, working experience.

Nursing School Waitlists

The last thing any prospective nursing student would want to hear is that they have been placed on a nursing waiting list. Basically, a student is placed on nursing program waiting list after failure to secure a first-stance admission into the program. This may not necessarily mean that you are not qualified for the program, but is usually as a result of hundreds of applications being received at one school against a few seats.

Long waiting lists have been the experienced in recent days due to the roaming shortage of faculty nurses and the huge influx of career shifters willing to get into nursing. Large numbers of candidates also believe that the nursing profession is recession-proof; hence the greater number of applicants of prospective nurses. Being placed on a waiting list means you have to wait for other candidates that have been offered seats to decline their acceptance. If this happens, those on the waiting list maybe offered a chance to join the nursing program is they are still interested. However, candidates must note that most nursing schools discard their waiting list after a particular admission cycle is complete and new applications must be placed

A waiting list is like a game of chances and candidates must not hope for too long to get admitted while on a waiting list. The best advice to give to prospective students is that they should not apply to very competitive nursing programs especially if their GED or GPA scores are not very appealing. On the other hand, you must not stick to one program offered by a certain college because of the name it holds: nurses can start anywhere and go places. Being choosy may result into being placed on ending waiting lists.

Applying for Nursing School

Applying for nursing school is the first step of becoming a nurse. You must place an application to your nursing program of choice to facilitate your selection and subsequent admission into the program. For most undergraduate nursing programs, being accepted into a college does not meet the needs of getting in their nursing program. Often, nursing programs will warrant a second application besides the general college application.

An application is the first impression received by the selection panel even before they conduct any interviews with you. In this case, the application must be completed in full and must contain all required information. Most students miss places in nursing programs because of incomplete application packages: which are definitely not considered.

The most common items in a nursing program application are:

  • Complete Nursing program application form
  • Transcripts from prior programs
  • Recommendation letters
  • Working experience (if required)
  • Registered Nurse licenses (for graduate students or second degree seekers)
  • Pre-entrance exam scores (if any)
  • High school Diploma
  • An essay/Personal statement

Before placing an application, candidates must have read all the requirements of the college and ensure they meet them. Otherwise, it may be frustrating to send an application and pay for it only to realize you are not fully qualified for that particular program.

Called for Nursing School Interview?

Just like employers looking for the best employees, so are nursing departments looking for the best nursing candidates. On this note, a nursing school interview should be taken with the same seriousness as a job interview. Even though not all nursing schools will ask for an interview with the prospective students, a good number of schools do.

The candidates must be aware when the interview is scheduled and whether it will be over the telephone or a one-one interaction.  In any case, you must be as relaxed as possible prior to starting the interview. It is paramount to give true information on any questions asked and answer in the most precise manner. You must have your goals clear and must explain them to the interviewer if asked to.

For telephone interviews, you must ensure to keep a clear and steady tone and be yourself. For face-face interviews, appropriate attire and your manner of personal presentation may be key in passing the interview. Remember that having a successful interview may give you a chance over other poorly presented students who might have had better grades than you. So nothing should be taken for granted during a nursing school interview.

Campus Visits

Everybody wants to feel comfortable during their study period; a feeling of home away from home. This is why having a campus visit prior to making an application is important. A campus visit is important to cement what you see in flashy nursing websites, brochures or flyers.  Having a campus visit enables you decide whether you can survive at that nursing school for the next 2-4 years.

Since information, pictures and videos pertinent to nursing programs may be for marketing purposes, you must make a point of seeing the real situation on the ground. During a campus visit, you can get to learn of residential areas, cultural diversity, faculty members, nursing labs/simulation labs, clinical sites, student body, and life beyond classroom among others.

While some schools may schedule formal campus visits for candidates, some schools do not have such a provision. In this case, you can decide to stroll around campus, the department, libraries or social areas on your own; just to get the real picture away from marketing stuff. You would not want to arrive at your future school and think-well, is it the flashy campus I saw online?

Career Assistance

Career assistance given at college will determine the zeal and preparedness you leave college with. Career assistance may be a reflection of the professional nurse you will become after you get your nursing license. Assistance may range from simple things like crafting a CV/Resume for your first job or handling common interview question to complex stuff like specialty options and job networking. Questions regarding curriculum requirements may be handled at Excellence Centers, student societies or directly through faculty

Help with the nursing career line can be availed at nursing associations, campus organizations, and honor programs among others. Members of faculty as well as clinical supervisors, preceptors and instructors may also be of great help. Most nursing schools have career advisers, counselors and alumni pools that help stuck or needy students. On the other hand, peers and classmates are the most accessible resources on your career path. Student to student interactions may shape for good the future of nursing students.

Choosing a Nursing School

Well, for many students, this might be the most difficult part before you kick-start your nursing career. There are so many nursing schools in the US, and even more within a given locality. Choosing a nursing school goes down to the kind of education you want. There are so many factors to consider while choosing a nursing school including:

  • The environment
  • National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rates
  • Nursing Resources
  •  Faculty members Bios
  • Curriculum/Coursework
  • Partner Clinical Sites
  • Type of school-Private Vs Public, Online Vs On-site
  • Accreditation status

Before narrowing down to the last schools for which you can send applications to, it is important to have made consultations. Such can be found in nursing review websites, national nursing school ranks, contacting program alumni or making a campus visit. It might prove difficult to come-up with a final wish-list of nursing schools, but it is worth the time to avoid confusion and making wrong decisions.

Program Accreditation

Though not mandatory, a nursing school that seeks accreditation for its programs reflects the standard of nursing education offered. An accrediting body ensures that the curriculum offered by a nursing school is up-to the highest standards and that the school strives to maintain and improve its delivery of standard nurse training.

By seeking accreditation, a nursing school conforms to having acceptable nursing practices, covering the curriculum requirements on time and giving the best support to nursing students. Precisely, it is a clear indication by the school of its commitment to prepare competent nurses. There are 2 nationally renowned nursing schools accrediting bodies:

  • National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC)
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

Nursing School Rankings

Nursing rankings are ways in which nursing schools and their programs are measured against the others. The ranking of a nursing school may have significant impact on the number of applications they receive following the ranking release. Prospective students may use nursing school rankings while choosing the program to attend.

Nursing rankings can be developed for an entire nursing school or for individual programs. However, the same criterion is used to rank schools and individual programs. For instance, many rankings sets conduct random surveys whereby, the personal opinions of students, alumni, faculty, administrators, executives, employers are involved. Opinions may involve curriculum delivery, student-faculty ratio, pass rates, program outcomes, withdrawal vs. completion rates, employment rates among others.

Nursing schools ranks have received criticism on the grounds that they are subjective, and cannot cover in entirety the nursing issues surrounding nursing schools. In this case, the opinion being sought may favor a certain nursing program over the other and so on. Nevertheless, rankings play an important role in student decision making and are unavoidable to consider. Two popular nursing school rankings exist:

  • US News & World Report
  • NIH Ranking