The decision to go back to school can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Hope and excitement about the future collides with the sudden need to make what seems like a zillion choices. Selecting programs, career tracks, specialties and all of the different workplace options out there can make you feel like a really small fish in a vast ocean.
It’s true, there are plenty of decisions to be made. But you definitely don’t have to take them on at once. Whether you have a clear picture of your eventual nursing career destination or not, everything starts with Nursing school. Your choice in this decision will impact all future nursing decisions, so it’s important to do your due diligence.
There are plenty of factors to weigh when meeting with a nursing admissions representative, and it’s a smart move to ask plenty of questions about the program—and about all aspects of nursing. To help you get the ball rolling with questions to ask, we compiled this list of helpful questions to ask your nursing admissions representatives.
7 Important questions for nursing admissions representatives
1. What nursing degree options do you offer?
As you might have already noticed, there are many different kinds of nurses and many different ways of reaching your first nursing shift. Dr. Colleen Koob, Nursing Dean at Rasmussen College, suggests first asking yourself what you are passionate about. Why do you want to become a nurse?
“If it’s to care for the elderly, to learn the basics of nursing care—taking vital signs, simple dressings and taking care of normal activities of daily living—a practical nursing career is for you,” Koob says. In this case, you will want to make sure your school has a licensed practical nurse (LPN) program.
“If you want to take that a bit further and get into more complex care—such as medication management or acute care in the hospital setting—becoming an RN (registered nurse) is right for you,” Koob says.
2. What paths to becoming an RN are available?
“Registered nursing degrees can be earned in a few different ways,” Koob says. “You can go to an Associate’s degree program, like we have here at Rasmussen College at many of our campuses, or even our new Bachelor’s degree program—both educational tracks prepare you to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for RNs.”
What is the difference between those two tracks? The Associate’s degree option will take less time to complete and get you in the field faster. The Bachelor’s track is a well-rounded leadership nursing track, and it may open up more opportunities.
3. What if I want to return to school after working in the field?
Many students know they might eventually want their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), but they aren’t ready to commit the time and finances all in one shot. Koob says some programs offer an RN to BSN program that allows nurses with their Associate’s degrees to level up to a Bachelor’s without needing to start all over.
You can see why this option is important—if you are working as a nurse with your Associate’s degree and want to elevate your credentials, you need a path to the BSN that takes your already-earned nursing credits and experience into account.
If you are considering an Associate’s degree to become an RN, you might want to ask your program about any RN to BSN tracks, just in case you decide to return to school for a Bachelor’s degree.
4. What about advanced degrees?
Does the Nursing school you are considering offer a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree? Koob says there are many exciting opportunities for specialization in nursing with an MSN. Career fields like nursing administration, education or nurse practitioner require an advanced degree.
“Many healthcare institutions require the advanced degree to obtain certain higher-level career opportunities,” Koob says. Even if you have no interest in advanced degrees, asking your representative to describe the degree paths and the opportunities they create will give you a much better picture of the wide field of nursing.
5. How difficult is the program?
Though it might sound like a subjective question, Koob wishes more prospective nursing students would ask about the difficulty of the nursing program they are looking into as well as the difficulty of the career.
"Not everyone can be a nurse—but, oh, what a rewarding profession it is."
“As I have told many students over the years—nurses need to know what the physicians know and how to actually take care of the patients with those disease processes,” she explains. Nursing school involves a hefty amount of memorization and can definitely feel academically intense. Asking what to expect from a representative of the program will help you mentally prepare for your time in school.
“This is not easy,” Koob says. “Not everyone can be a nurse—but, oh, what a rewarding profession it is.”
6. What academic support resources are available for students?
If the difficulty of nursing school is a point of concern, it’s a great idea to ask ahead of time about the academic support a program offers. Does the Nursing school have a tutoring center? Do professors ever offer extra instruction or advice? Let the representative highlight the ways they assist their students through the program—and take notes.
7. Can you tell me more about X in the curriculum?
You can fill in the “X” with anything that is specific to the program you are considering. Not only will this help you gather more detailed information, but it’ll also show the nursing admissions team that you are seriously considering their program and have done your research.
“If the students can show how passionate they are—this helps,” Koob says. “It would also help if the student has actually looked at the curriculum. Not all schools are alike.”
Koob explains that while every accredited Nursing school will prepare students to pass the NCLEX, the curriculum can be very different from school to school. Certain arrangements might be a better fit than others, and if you ask ahead of time, you will be able to choose the program you will be most excited about.
Your representative will see you now
Now that you have a list of questions to ask your Nursing school admissions representatives, you are ready to start contacting schools! You might also have a few extra questions of your own that you plan on asking, but by the end of this process, you will have a much clearer picture of what you are signing up for.
If you still plan on gathering information before reaching out, check out our article, “10 Facts You Didn’t Know About the Rasmussen College Nursing Program” for a broader look at Nursing school and the details that make programs different.