Learn How to Get Into Nursing School
Getting into nursing school is easier than you think if you follow these suggestions.
Nursing is a great career for people who like helping others, enjoy science, have good communication skills, and like working as part of a healthcare team. Nursing school will teach you what you need to succeed in this rewarding field.
Regardless of the nursing school that you attend, you’ll study the following subjects:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Other courses related to the practice of nursing
If these courses sound interesting and you want to be part of a growing profession, this might be the right career choice for you.
But how do you get into nursing school? Well, that really depends on what degree level you’re talking about: associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), master’s degree (MSN), or doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), the highest level of training. Let’s compare them.
What Are the Different Degree Options?
An associate’s is a two-year degree, and it is an entry-level degree that will prepare you to become a nurse. You’ll learn basic lab skills, nursing theory and clinical practice, but you’ll also take other general college courses. With an ADN, you can become either a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN), and this is the quickest and easiest way into the profession.
However professional groups and employers are continuing to push for more education because studies have shown that nurses with more education tend to provide better patient care. So, increasingly, hospitals have been requiring their nurses to earn a bachelor’s degree.
A B.S. in nursing is a four-year degree, and you’ll likely have more job opportunities if you earn a BSN. In addition to the general core courses that all college students take, you’ll learn the specific skills you need to become a nurse. Both the ADN and BSN will prepare you for the professional licensing exam, the NCLEX-RN.
An M.S. in nursing is for experienced nurses who want to further their careers and pursue one of these career tracks:
- Advanced community public health
- Family practice
- Family psychiatric mental health
- Nurse midwifery
An MSN degree prepares students to take the national certification exams in each specialty area.
A doctor of nursing practice prepares nurses for leadership roles: to lead practice groups, shape policy, and advance the health of whole populations. DNP graduates are prepared for the most advanced levels of practice, clinical scholarship, and leadership in healthcare systems. To earn a DNP, students must generally do a scholarly project in a clinical setting with the help of faculty and mentors, and present their findings.
What Are the Prerequisites for Nursing School?
Before beginning your nursing studies, it is strongly suggested that students take at least a medical terminology course. Depending on your program, applicants may also be required to complete other prerequisites, such as:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Human growth and development
Keep in mind that you will learn much more about each of these subjects during your nursing studies.
For a BSN, the prerequisites might also include math, English composition, psychology, biology, chemistry, and more. Consult the schools you’re considering to find out what their prerequisites are.
What Are the Admission Requirements?
Although it can be competitive to get into nursing school, there are schools to accommodate student needs. But as is the case with other college applications, it’s always important to look closely at each school’s admission requirements and prepare the strongest application you can.
First, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED, hopefully with good grades. Some schools will accept students with a GPA of 2.5, but others require over a 3.0. And, as you might suspect, the most in-demand schools require the highest GPAs.
Next, you’ll want to study for and take the test of essential academic skills (TEAS). The TEAS covers reading, math, science and English. Although it’s not very different from what you studied in high school, you’ll want to get prepared: buy a study guide, take practice tests, and get additional help if you need it. This will help you to get the best score you can and increase your chances of getting into the school of your choice.
It’s also helpful to do related volunteer work at a community clinic or hospital. This will give you experience, it looks good on your application, and will let you know early on whether nursing is really the right career for you.
You’ll need to request a high school transcript, and a transcript showing your grades from any college you attended. Now it’s time to send in your application.
Then, you’ll want to attend nursing information sessions at the schools you’re applying to. This will get you oriented on the schools and their nursing programs, so you’ll be able to select the one that’s right for you.
Finally, there will be an eligibility review session with a school representative.
Remember, these are general requirements, and they may vary depending on the school you’d like to attend. Go online and make sure to find out the specific admissions requirements at the schools of your choice.
What’s the Fastest Way to Become a Nurse?
The fastest way to become a nurse is to get your ADN. There are still many nurses with associate’s degrees, and they have great jobs and do very good work.
However, in this case, fastest may not be best. Although hospitals still hire nurses with associate’s degrees (there is a nursing shortage, after all, and hospitals do need nurses), they often do so with the understanding that nurses will get their BSNs within a certain amount of time. Many nurses see the writing on the wall, and they want to be prepared. That’s why they’re pursuing their BSNs now.
If you are already a nurse and have an associate’s degree, an RN-to-BSN program may be the next step. There are even online RN-to-BSN programs, which, for working people can be a very convenient option.
What If I Already Have a Bachelor’s Degree?
If you’ve already earned your B.A. and now realize that you want to change career paths and go into nursing, don’t worry. There are fast-track programs for people just like you.
Accelerated bachelor’s programs build on your previous college experience and actually offer the quickest route to RN licensure for people who already have a bachelor’s or graduate degree in a non-nursing specialty. Fast-track programs take between 11 and 18 months to complete.
And if you’re aiming even higher, a fast-track master’s degree will generally take about three years.
Graduates of accelerated programs are valued by employers because of the many layers of skill and education they bring to the workplace. Employers often find that these graduates are more mature, have strong clinical skills, and learn fast on the job.
Do note that the American Association of Colleges of Nursing recommends that students not work if they’re in accelerated programs, given the rigor of fast-track degrees. If you do need to work, you may want to consider an online master’s program, which will give you more scheduling flexibility.
How Hard Is It?
Make no mistake about it: if you want to become a nurse, there’s some hard work ahead. But don’t let that discourage you. Yes, there’s a lot to learn, but if you want to be a nurse, you probably already like—and have a certain aptitude for—what you’ll be studying.
The important thing in your studies is to be very diligent and efficient, and not fall behind. All of your classes will have reading, homework, studying and tests, but take it one step at a time and keep your eye on the goal.
Do your schoolwork every day. And if finding large blocks of dedicated time isn’t always possible, make sure to optimize the time that you do have. Remember, 15- and 30-minute blocks of time add up, and if you wait for the perfect moment to read or study, it might never arrive. People learn best in short, frequent intervals anyway.
To help yourself with time management, make do-do lists and check tasks off as you finish them. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to concretely see your work getting done.
So yes: nursing school can be challenging, but if you set your mind to it, you’ll rise up to the challenge.
Can I Get into Nursing School with Bad Grades?
That all depends on what you mean by “bad.” Of course competitive programs require higher GPAs, so if you’ve got an average grade point average in high school or college, you might not be able to go to elite nursing schools. That said, there are many schools that require a 2.5 GPA, so if you had a couple of grades that bring your GPA down a bit, don’t worry: there are still perfectly good schools that offer a quality education, even if you weren’t valedictorian of your class.
Do remember that schools look at more than just grades. Students’ academic success and test scores are certainly important, but admissions committees also look at their life experience, work and professional experience, writing ability, and recommendations. So if your grades are around the 2.5 level, make sure that your application has other bright spots that highlight what you do best, and apply to schools that are appropriate for you.
Ultimately, there are good nursing schools all across the country that will give you the knowledge, training and skills you need to become a nurse. And there are some online options too. So, if you genuinely care about others, and want to make their time in the hospital as beneficial and comfortable as possible, find the training you need to join the more than 2,500,000 nurses across the country in this fast-growing field.
Sources: www.seattlecentral.edu/programs/nursing/, www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/nursing/blog/how-to-get-into-nursing-school/, www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/nursing/blog/students-reveal-how-hard-is-nursing-school/, www.aacn.nche.edu/students/accelerated-nursing-programs, www.nytimes.com/2012/06/24/education/changing-requirements-send-nurses-back-to-school.html?_r=0