How to Find the Right Nursing Program
There are many things to consider when you are looking for the perfect nursing program for you. In general, these considerations can be broken down into four general areas: your career goals, the requirements of the program, the choice of online versus face- to- face education, and accreditation of the program.
Take a close look at your career goals. Some of the questions you might ask include:
- Are you already a nurse – or just starting a career? If you are continuing your formal nursing education, the program you want will probably be driven by your chosen specialty. For basic nursing education, it probably makes less difference.
- What kind of nursing program do you want to attend – public or private, small or large, online or bricks and mortar? Public schools are typically less expensive especially if you can qualify for in state fees.
- How important is it to you to live away from home – or do your circumstances require that you stay close to home? If you can move, be aware that moving out of your state of residence will result in being charged out of state fees.
- Can you go to school full time – or will you have to work while attending school part time? If you are paying for your education by working, you may want to take fewer classes so that you have more time for everything you have to do.
- What can you afford to pay?
- Can you qualify for scholarships or loans? Be sure to check out “How to Pay for Nursing School” on this site.
- Are you looking for a school that has programs for a specific nursing specialty?
Your answers to these questions will begin to point you toward the nursing program that will be perfect for you!
Understand the Requirements
Particularly if you are looking at 4 year programs leading to a BSN degree, you should look at the requirements for entrance into the program. Are there specific general education requirements that you can satisfy at a less expensive community college close to you? Before you begin nursing prerequisites in English, math, science, and the humanities at a community college, be sure to check with the university or college to ensure that the courses will transfer into their specific nursing program. Often, a four year university or college has a relationship with one or more community colleges and the admissions office will be able to tell you which courses to take to transfer into the BSN program. Are there specific requirements for the program you are considering? Check with the admissions office to fully understand the requirements!
Online or Bricks and Mortar?
There are several different types of nursing programs that you might want to consider. If there are no nursing programs in your area and you cannot move to another area, you might want to consider an online program or a hybrid program in which you do most of the classwork online and arrange to do clinical work at a local agency. If you know you are not self-motivated, you should probably consider a “bricks and mortar” school that will require face- to- face classes.
Accreditation and Approval by State Board of Nursing
Finally, be sure to look at the accreditation status of your preferred nursing programs. The three accrediting bodies that you should look for are: the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLN-AC), the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Each of these accrediting bodies has specific quality standards that the nursing program must meet to earn accreditation. Maintaining accreditation can demonstrate to you that the program is committed to providing a quality education. The State Board of Nursing for each state can provide a list of accredited nursing programs in the state.
Narrowing Down the Choices
Once you have reviewed all the options and have discovered what you really need in a nursing education, you will have a list of possible nursing programs. Be aware that it is fine to apply to several schools – in fact, that is an excellent idea! Despite the fact that there is a shortage of nurses, entrance into nursing programs can be extremely competitive since there is also a shortage of nursing instructors! Take time to fill out each application completely. There is often a written component of the application that asks you why you want to be a nurse or why you are uniquely qualified for the program. Give this some thought and spend most of your time perfecting this part of the application. All else being equal, this piece may be the deciding factor for admission to your chosen programs.