A combination of the skills you’ve acquired from parenting and your hardworking, compassionate nature serves as a strong sign 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.
Many people don’t know where to start when it comes to getting into nursing school. You may know some of the obvious tips, such as focusing on your studies and keeping your grades up when taking prerequisites. But starting nursing school seems daunting and you need to know all the tips, tricks and facts before diving into a potential career.
One of the first stumbling blocks would-be nurses face is figuring out what they need to do to actually get into nursing school. To help with that, we created this step-by-step guide on how to get into nursing school. In this article 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 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 showcase your passion and brighten up your resume while you’re finishing the necessary prerequisites is to volunteer at a local clinic or hospital—you may not be earning a conventional salary, but you’ll gain hands-on experience and skills, which could bring you a few steps closer to getting into the nursing program you’ve had your eye on.
2. Research different nursing school requirements
You wouldn’t walk into a car dealership and buy the first car you see 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 to find the perfect match for your learning style, location and schedule.
Something to consider are the different nursing education paths you can take. Sit down and outline your nursing goals—this can help you determine what type of nurse you would like to be and how long you would like to be in school. Once you align your passions and objectives, you can start looking into nursing programs that offer Certificates, Diplomas or other degrees in your field of choice.
The quickest route to being a nurse is becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN). You can become an LPN in as few as 12 months, snagging a diploma and hitting the hospital floor quicker.* If you decide to go the LPN route, you will be qualified to administer medicine, check patients’ vital signs and perform a variety of tasks under a supervising registered nurse (RN).
If you want more medical duties, becoming a registered nurse could be in your future. You can become an RN with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). RNs serve as a direct link to patients, expertly coordinating necessary medical care, education and support.
Registered nurses can also obtain a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). BSN nurses often do the same duties as those with an ADN, but also qualify for more leadership and management positions. Once you have a BSN, you can go on to advance your education by obtaining a Master of Science in Nursing, an excellent option for those who’d like to pursue leadership positions or even teach other nurses.
Once you know the path you’d like to pursue, it’s a matter of research. Find out if there are prerequisite courses or other work that needs to be done before gaining acceptance.
3. Apply to your chosen nursing programs
Once you have chosen what type of nurse you would like to be and have found programs that interest you, it’s time to apply. Filling out an application can seem daunting, but remember that everyone has to do it. Block off a few hours so you can sit down and focus. You will need to pay close attention to application guidelines and any supplemental materials, including essays or letters of recommendation.
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 jumpstart 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.
If you weren’t much for standardized tests in grade school, it’s understandable if this test makes you a little nervous—particularly if it’s been a while since the last time you’ve taken a test. Prepare yourself for the big day by taking practice tests online, forming study groups and reading up on expert tips to pass the test. Knowing what to expect is half the battle—being prepared as you walk into the exam room will boost your confidence and help you succeed.
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, have a background check on-hand to submit and be prepared to sit down for an interview with the nursing dean or other high-level faculty from the program.
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 also 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. Once you’ve had your interview, all you can do is wait patiently until you hear back. This may be easier said than done, but the wait is usually worth it.
Take the first step toward a nursing career
Careers can be life-long decisions, so choosing something you’re passionate about is important. If you truly believe nursing is your calling, then don’t wait to make an impact. As a nurse, you will be rewarded by the positive changes you make in patients’ lives.
Now that you have an outline of what it takes to get into Nursing school, muster up the confidence to move forward. You’ve gotten this far, so why stop now? Begin researching different Nursing school requirements and programs to see what makes each unique. Get started by checking out our article, “10 Facts You Didn’t Know About the Rasmussen College Nursing Program.”
*Completion time is dependent on the number of transfer courses accepted and courses completed each term.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in May 2014. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2017.
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