How to get into nursing school

get into nursing schoolI was approached by a college freshman this past week who had a million questions about how to get into nursing school. All the group advising sessions she had been to were basically designed to get students to question their convictions and ultimately change their minds about applying. Yes, in many areas the programs are quite impacted; and yes, if you don’t have “the goods” then you are better off pursuing another degree…but it still left her with several unanswered questions. Nurse Mo to the rescue!

Identify Nursing Programs of Interest
If you are in an area with multiple nursing programs offered, you’ll need to identify what the entrance requirements are for each program. For most community colleges, the requirements will be similar, but a BSN program will likely have additional courses for you to take. Others of you are applying all over the country, so you’ll want to make note of each school’s unique requirements. Make a spreadsheet or chart showing all the programs and all the requirements. Anticipate applying to ALL these programs (even if you are already enrolled in a 4-yr university with its own nursing program…keep you options open!).

Increase Your Chance of Getting Classes
Nursing programs in many areas are impacted…which means there are more people who want to take the course than can be accommodated. This extends to the pre-requisite courses as well (mainly the heavy science classes). It can be extremely frustrating to find that you cannot get into Anatomy & Physiology at your college, so we are going to expand your bank of available classes.

If you are a community college student, look to other colleges in your district. There may even be an out-of-district college nearby, so look into those as well. The idea is to increase the number of campuses on your radar so you can register (or attempt to register) at multiple locations. I drove 45 minutes each way to attend a college where I scored a Microbiology class…it was well worth it!

If you are at a 4-year university, you definitely need to venture out into the community colleges. Many colleges will give priority registration to continuing students. What this means to you is that you probably won’t get into the impacted science classes at a community college your first semester…don’t worry about it. Take ONE class at the community college (make sure it fulfills a nursing school requirement…something like human development or communication). If your school gives priority to continuing students, then you’ll have a MUCH better chance of scoring a Microbiology or A&P class for NEXT semester. If you rely on getting into these science courses at the 4-year school, you greatly decrease your chances of finishing your pre-requisites in a timely manner.

Before you choose just ANY course, make sure it transfers to the institutions you are interested in applying to for nursing school. You can find this information on the web…look for the school’s “articulation agreement.” This is a document which clearly states what courses at College A meet the requirements at College B. This is super duper important, so don’t forget this step!

Make a Plan
Next, you must make a plan. Ideally this starts with your first semester, but if you’ve already started then your goal is to make a plan as soon as possible. Using your list of required courses for each program, you must start now to map out how these courses will fall into sequence. Algebra comes before Chemistry which comes before Microbiology, etc… Knowing what courses are pre-requisites for others is key to getting your degree in a reasonable amount of time.

Make an Appointment with an Advisor
Part of the “make a plan” step is to meet with an advisor at the school(s) you are targeting. Take high school and other college transcripts to see if things like your prior chemistry and math courses count for anything. Some schools may even require you meet with an advisor, so get in there as soon as  you can!

Get Straight A’s
While some colleges are on the “lottery system” others are not. Plan to apply to the most competitive programs out there and start now to ensure you earn yourself a seat. Plan to apply to the most competitive programs out there and start now to ensure you earn… Click To TweetYou will need EXCELLENT grades to get into most merit-based programs (plus you’ll need to take an entrance exam, possibly take a GRE, maybe even sacrifice a lamb…just kidding!). Set yourself up for success by grouping your courses together intelligently. This means DO NOT TAKE TWO HEAVY COURSES AT THE SAME TIME. Do you have that? DO NOT DO IT! Sure, it can be done (and likely has been done), but it is not recommended. Take Chem one semester, Micro another, A&P1 then A&P 2, then Organic Chem…you get the idea. Consider taking summer school if it keeps you from having to double-up during the regular semester. If you DO take summer school, take ONE science class…just one. Promise me you won’t take more than one. PROMISE?? Pinky promise?? Ok, good.

Get Organized
I created a binder (big surprise) of all the different programs I was applying to. It included the course requirements, application process, application deadline, entrance exam requirements and dates, any forms I needed to submit and copies of everything I submitted. Plan to order multiple copies of transcripts well in advance so you don’t have to run to the registrar’s office in a panic and pay extra for rush processing (not that I know anything about that…haha).

Map Out Your Application Strategy
Take a careful look at each program’s entrance requirements and application process. Some schools let you apply BEFORE you have completed all your pre-reqs (as long as they are in process)…this is huge as it prevents you from wasting a semester twiddling your thumbs…awesome!

If you are applying to community college programs and BSN programs, note that the BSN program will likely have additional requirements. If you can arrange to take those additional courses last, you will have all your ADN program courses done first. This means you can start applying to ADN programs while you are still finishing up the additional classes for the BSN program…super efficient! For example, my BSN program required Organic Chemistry and Statistics…so I took those courses last while I was applying to the ADN programs in the area (which are all lottery based). Needless to say, I didn’t get lucky with the lottery…but got in on my first try with the merit-based program because I followed my own advice (and you can, too!).

Rock your Entrance Exam!
Most schools require some kind of entrance exam…TEAS, HESI and GRE come to mind. Plan ahead to take the test at a time when you can devote a considerable amount of energy to studying. I have taken the TEAS and GRE (and I hope to NEVER take the GRE again…what an awful experience that was). The TEAS is basically a re-hashing of 8th grade science courses, basic math and grammar. If you think that sounds easy…think again. The GRE is a diabolical plot to leech even the most well-adjusted individual of every shred of their self-worth and confidence…but I digress. The point is…do not take these exams lightly. They count for a reason, so study like your future depends on it!

Well there you have it! My best advise to help you get into nursing school. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Nurse Mo

9 thoughts on “How to get into nursing school

  1. Donna Maheady

    Hi Mo,
    Awesome advice. Cast a wide net. Be organized and patient!

    I would like to add some advice for students with disabilities.
    Use the same approach. Get connected with other nurses and nursing students with disabilities early. Visit the office of students with disabilities at various schools. Read all you can about nursing students with similar challenges. Gather evidence. Ask about reasonable accommodations. Do your homework!
    Visit http://www.ExceptionalNurse.com for more resources and mentors.

    Reply
  2. Rhona

    Exceptional advise as usual. I agree 100% with everything. I didnt realize how many differences there were per school. What was needed, the grades (which pretty much is 90% and higher for all) and the cut off etc. It was so much so planning and making lists was invaluable. Thank you for this.

    Reply
  3. Jenny Gygi

    I really liked your advice! I’ve been thinking a lot about a career in nursing, and how I could get into nursing school. I thought that your tips were very helpful, especially your tips to increase my chances of enrolling for classes to help me get into nursing school. I never would have thought to look outside of my own college for classes that I could attend! I think that this would help me to complete with all of the science credits that I need. Next semester I’ll make sure to look at a few different schools in my area that could help me get my credits faster. Thank you for the great tip!

    Reply

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