A combination of the skills you’ve acquired from parenting and your hardworking, compassionate nature has served as a strong inclination that you’d make a great nurse. The idea of supporting your family by doing what you’re naturally good at can sound far-fetched, but the truth is, that kind of success could be within your grasp as a nurse!
But many people don’t know where to start when it comes to getting into nursing school. There are some obvious tips, such as focusing on your studies and keeping your grades up when taking prerequisites—and that is important, most nursing programs will not admit students with a GPA below 2.5. But there are so many other nursing school requirements that sometimes fly under the radar.
It can definitely be intimidating to take the first few steps toward a new career, especially if you’re unsure whether or not you’ll be able to cut it. But it’s like what Wayne Gretzky says in that classic quote we’ve all heard tossed around in sports movies: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Sure, Gretzky was talking about hockey, but his words are a pertinent metaphor for life: you’ll never know if you don’t try.
Take a look at this step-by-step guide on how to get into nursing school—you’ll learn about all of the requirements and how to prepare yourself for the process, building your confidence and, hopefully, your resume!
6 straightforward steps to get into nursing school
1. Graduate from high school
A minimum requirement for getting into nursing school is a high school education. Whether it’s your high school diploma or your GED, this one’s a must. Nursing schools look for candidates who show a passion for nursing, but also have some of the prerequisites to back it up.
Another great way to add some credibility and beef up your resume while you’re finishing up the necessary prerequisites is to volunteer at a local clinic or hospital—you may not be earning a conventional salary this way, but you’ll definitely gain a wealth of experience, and that could bring you a few steps closer to getting into the nursing program you’ve had your eye on. You can also see if you’re qualified to work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or registered nurse aid and actually get paid for it!
2. Research different nursing school requirements
You wouldn’t walk into a car dealership and buy the first car that catches your eye without taking a few others for a test drive first, right? In the same sense, it is important to ‘shop around’ when looking at potential nursing programs. Explore your options until you run into the program that seems to be the perfect fit for your learning style, location and busy schedule.
For starters, there are a few different nursing career paths you can take. The type of program you’re looking for might vary depending on the particular nursing program requirements.
A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is considered the next step up from working as a CNA. Becoming an LPN usually takes about a year to complete and qualifies you to administer medicine, check patients’ vital signs and perform a variety of tasks under a supervising registered nurse (RN).
It takes an associate degree to become an RN, which usually pans out to about two years of schooling. RNs serve as a direct link to patients, expertly coordinating necessary medical care, education and support.
Going further to earn your bachelor’s of science degree in nursing (BSN) would take approximately four years and would qualify you to take a job as a nurse manager, among other things, supervising a staff of RNs.
3. Apply to your chosen nursing programs
Filling out an application for a nursing program requires the same amount of thoughtfulness and time spent as the researching portion of your process. It is important to pay close attention to application guidelines and supplemental materials, articulating yourself effectively throughout.
Pay strict attention to any deadlines listed on the website and, if at all possible, submit your application early—it will reinforce your eagerness and commitment, while also showing the school that you’re both prepared and reliable, something to be valued in any profession. This will also give you a little extra space for the program personnel to contact you if any supplemental application information is needed before the deadline.
4. Attend a nursing information session
Most schools will provide a nursing information session for prospective students who are looking to learn more about their program—in fact, many of them require it if you plan to enroll in courses at their school.
At these sessions, you will meet some important members of the faculty, you will learn more about the steps you’d need to take to enroll in the program, you’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have and you could even jump start your application process onsite. Even if this isn't technically a requirement for the nursing school, it's always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the program and prepare yourself.
5. Take the TEAS test
One of the basic requirements for enrolling in nursing school is the test of essential academic skills (TEAS). TEAS is a standardized exam proctored through Assessment Technologies Institute for anyone who’s interested in attending school for nursing.
We all know, ‘standardized tests’ were nerve-racking in elementary school, and not much has changed … it can still be intimidating. But don’t be afraid of it! You know better than anyone that if you tackle something head-on, you might surprise yourself with your potential.
Prepare yourself by reading through some helpful tips to manage your stress level in the midst of your journey into and through nursing school. As you prepare, be sure to read our blog post with tips for passing the TEAS test and utilize the tools that ATI provides.
6. Prepare for your entrance interview
After your application is submitted and reviewed and all the necessary tests are taken, a school may start to show some interest in you. You’ll want to make sure all your vaccinations are up-to-date, be ready to submit to a background check and prepare yourself to sit down for an interview with the nursing dean or other high-level faculty from the program.
Don’t sweat it, you’ll do great! Schools just want to make sure that you’re right for their program, and it’s also an opportunity for you to make sure their program is right for you. But you still want to be prepared: make sure you appear knowledgeable not only about the program, but about nursing in general; be professional, both in appearance and demeanor; and sell yourself a little—this is your chance to shine!
It’s still natural to be a little nervous. Prepare yourself a little more by searching for expert tips on acing that interview.
Take the next step!
Careers can be so much more than just financial support for you and your family. If you pursue something you’re passionate about, you could be changing lives (including your own) each and every day!
Now that you have an outline of what it takes to get into nursing school, muster up some confidence and move forward. Begin researching different nursing school requirements and programs because they're not all created equal!
Start here by learning 10 Facts You Didn’t Know About the Rasmussen College School of Nursing.