Nursing School · Pre-Nursing Preparation

Getting Into Nursing School

So you want to be a registered nurse? That’s the career path you’ve chosen & now you have to get into nursing school. How do you do that? Let’s talk about it!

The first step is choosing your program type: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN).

  • The nursing profession has been making a move towards the BSN being the entry level degree. Having a BSN opens up more opportunities & more hospitals are requiring a BSN or a commitment to achieve it within 3 years of hire. If you have the means to enter a BSN program, I recommend it. The BSN was not a feasible or affordable option for me & I understand it may not be for many people. There is nothing wrong with getting your ADN & completing your BSN once you’re a nurse and working.

Along with this step, you should understand the different types of enrollment processes.

From what I understand, the process of getting into nursing programs at colleges & universities can differ. There appears to be two main processes for getting started:

  1.  Apply to a college/university that enrolls into the nursing program directly as a freshman without any second application process. Or..
  2. Apply to a college/university & be placed into a pre-nursing major/pool. I think this is the most common since getting into nursing school can be competitive. The time in the pre-nursing major is spent taking pre-requisites that help to qualify you for application into the program.

Know Yourself

I put this first because this journey is very challenging. You have to be self aware, understanding your strengths & weaknesses. Anticipating areas where you may need to put in extra study time, getting tutoring or asking for help can assist you in being successful.

Research colleges & their programs.

Whether you want to stay close to home or not, research colleges & universities of interest.

  • Plan to go visit & speak to advisors about the program & requirements for entry, costs & ask any other questions that may help you make a decision.
  • Be sure to consider personal life responsibilities (such as parenting, work, etc.).
  • Visit the college websites, print information about the program and take notes so you can determine which will be the best fit for you.

Apply & File You’re FAFSA

Once you’ve chosen a school; submit all required information, documents & transcripts during this step. You will most likely meet with an advisor & a financial aide (FA) advisor at this point.

Develop a Plan

Once my paperwork & FA was in order, I set out a timeline that included deadlines & checklists. Your plan should include:

  • Scheduling an appointment with your program advisor to discuss course requirements, your goals, any things that may be obstacles, transferable credits (if applicable) & advice.TIP: USE YOUR ADVISOR & SCHOOL OFFICIALS AS A RESOURCE throughout school & try to meet with them once or twice a semester; if you’re struggling meet with them more often. Also, utilize your schools website resources & course catalogs because sometimes advisors miss things & it’s your responsibility to be informed
  • Meeting with a FA advisor to determine how you’ll pay for school & what scholarships you may be eligible for.
  • Deadline dates for registration, program applications & tests

Register for Your Courses

  • If you’re in a pre-nursing major, you’ll start with your pre-requisites.
  • Map out your course sequence for the year (your advisor should help with this) or do what I did & plan it out for 2 years, but I recommend at least a year. Choose which courses and how many you will take in your upcoming semesters & be sure to pay attention to which courses that require pre-reqs as well. Be conscious of your FA payment methods while planning & registering.

Plan for the Nursing Entrance Exam

  • This step may be out of order for BSN students who are enrolled directly into the nursing program. For them, this may have to be taken prior to enrollment (though I’m not 100% sure since I did not enter a BSN program).
  • Plan study time for the NLN/TEAs/HESI exams & choose a month or date you intend to sit for it.

Deadline Date for Program Application

When you plan to apply to your program needs to be established. Many schools have deadline dates that determine whether you’ll start in Fall or Spring if you’re accepted. You want to be sure all required course work is complete before application, so plan accordingly!

Seek Tutoring if Necessary

When you are applying to a program with a ranking process, it’s important to aim for the highest grades because you’re in a huge pool of pre-nursing students who will be competing for a seat. So if you find yourself struggling with information, don’t wait until halfway through a course and 2 failed exams in to try to raise an F or C to an A. Contact your instructor or tutor with any questions or schedule a meeting. Also getting familiar with a tutoring center at your school is important even in a BSN program. Maintaining a high GPA can help you attain or maintain scholarships as well.

Stay Focused & Make Time to De-stress

Getting into nursing school is stressful. There is a lot of pressure to get high grades and maintain a high GPA, but be sure to plan/take time to de-stress during this period. Believe it or not, this time before entrance into the program is the easy part.

Final Tip

Plan plan plan! This is the best advice I can give anyone looking to be successful in school, in a career or life in general. I once had someone tell me they never bothered to plan anything because things can change, which they can. However, planning is preparation. You don’t want to be the student who is in your last semester realizing you missed one of the classes necessary for graduation because you didn’t plan ahead. Setting short and long-term goals, then figuring out the steps and requirements needed to achieve that goal helps you stay on track & reduces stress because you feel prepared. And if life happens, plans can always be readjusted or pushed forward so that you can get back on track. 

Use these tips to help you be successful & good luck in your journey to & through nursing school.


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