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GINS02: Deciding Which Nursing Path is Right For You – Choose the Best Nursing Schools

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So you are thinking about going to nursing school but you don’t know which school to even consider. There are a lot of things that you need to think about when you are applying to a school. Below is a list of 5 things you need to really think about before you choose which school you are going to attend for nursing school.

5 Steps to Choose the Best Nursing Schools:

 

1. Choose the type of degree you want

You will need to pick either Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN). This is to start, later you can get your masters or PhD if you’d like.  

  • ADN: This is a cheaper option, and doesn’t really limit your job outcome (yet). I cannot speak to this option personally as I got my BSN, but I can tell you that I have worked with nurses who are ADN prepared and would have never known. I do not believe there is a difference in terms of being a ‘good nurse’.
  • BSN: This is pricier, depending on the school you attend. This option can be attractive to employers because they need to have a certain number of BSN prepared nurses to be considered for Magnet. Also, research shows that there are less fatalities with BSN prepared nurses.

Bachelors vs. associates. It’s a tough call and honestly you can argue both ways. However, I really think that the long term benefit from going straight to your bachelors outweighs the savings you get from paying for community college credits. Unless you don’t ever plan to advance your career, you will eventually have to get your bachelors. Most hospitals make you sign a contract stating that you will get your bachelors within a certain number of years anyway. Also if you want to work for a Magnet hospital, they will be very selective with associate prepared nurses versus having your bachelors.

 

2. Wait List vs Selective Admission

Every school is different regarding type of entry into that school. There are two types:

  1. Waiting list: You apply to the program and are placed on a waiting list. These lists can be up to 2 years of waiting.
  2. Selective admissions: You still complete the prerequisites, but when you finish them and apply, you either are admitted or you are not.

Both of these options require you to complete prerequisites but if you do the waiting list you can accomplish some of the pre-requisites after you have been placed on the waiting list. This can be advantageous if you don’t have a lot of points for the selective admissions criteria. The selective admissions criteria requires you to finish all the prerequisites and other things can be counted to help boost your overall score such as healthcare experience or sometimes certificates like CNA or EMT.

 

3. Evaluate Admission Criteria

HESI TEAS test for nursing school

    • HESI/TEAS (Health Education Systems Incorporated/Test of Essential Academic Skills)
      • Take this before you apply, check with the school, they may have you do it through their testing sites.
      • Study because you will need a good score to get into nursing school.
        • Get a study guide
    • Pre-requisites (usually cannot be taken longer than 10 years ago) (some schools may prefer if prerequisites are taken at a specific school)  
      • Chemistrychoose a nursing schoo
      • Microbiology
      • Anatomy & Physiology
    • Experience
      • What type of experience do they require and how much.
        • Volunteering
        • Working
    • GPA
      • Minimum GPA for prerequisites
      • Minimum GPA overall
    • Essay
      • Some schools may require an admission essay or personal essay.  

**It is important to note that certain criteria may be weighted heavier than others – this can vary school to school

 

3. Evaluate the School/Program

admission criteria for nursing school

Once you have learned what the nursing program demands of you it is time for you to decide what you demand from the program  

  1. Accreditation by the NLNAC or CCNE, approval by the state board of nursing.  This means that the school is recognized as a college or university that has credible degrees. Each school needs to go through the accreditation process every so often and can lose their accreditation. It is important to look at how long the school has been accredited and whether or not they have ever lost their accreditation. You could potentially not be able to sit for the NCLEX if the school you pick isn’t accredited
  2. NCLEX Pass Rate.  For obvious reasons, you want to consider the school’s’ first time NCLEX pass rate. This may coincide with their rate of students that fail out of nursing school. Thus having a low school fail and high NCLEX pass rate being the most ideal of situations. It should be noted that the NCLEX pass rate is more important than the school fail rate, meaning you don’t want to let the NCLEX pass rate slide because they have a high school pass rate. The schools NCLEX pass rate is also a deciding factor in whether they are accredited.
  3. School overall rating  There are websites out there where they rank nursing schools.  If you are interested in a particularly competitive field of nursing you may want to look at these lists and choose some of the top rated nursing programs in the country.  There are different lists, however, so it is a good idea to read their evaluation criteria.
  4. Attrition rate:  Not sure what this is?  Well it is actually really important.  A schools attrition rate is essentially their dropout or fail rate, it tells you what percentage of their students don’t graduate from their program.   There are two possible causes of high attrition rates and you must think hard about both.  
    • The school may have more lenient admission criteria, letting in a wider variety of students, then weeding them out to keep NCLEX pass rates high.  
    • There is a problem within the school system where students are being tested too harshly or not educated well and students are failing.  
  5. Faculty  There are two things I would do here.  First I would check the degrees, experience, and requirements for the staff of the nursing program.  Second, I would find some local forums and ask current students about their experience.

 

4. Credit tansferability

This actually played a major role in my personal choice of school. There are two different scenarios here:

  1. The institution you want to go to doesn’t accept any or some credits you have already acquired through another institution.
  2. The credits you get for nursing school at a specific institution doesn’t transfer to another facility.

The first option is more common than the second option. The first option made me not go to my first choice university. They wouldn’t accept any of my credits nor my associates degree in applied science as credit for my basic curriculum, thus I would have to start over.  As for the second option, this is a game changer if you want to get higher education. Say you chose to get your ADN and then need to get your BSN and the credits wont transfer… You will be taking a lot of courses to make up for the courses and curriculum lost.

 

5. Evaluate everything else

choose the best nursing schools

  • Tuition
  • Location
  • Clinical locations
  • Extra costs:
    • parking
    • cost of living
    • commute
    • etc.

For some, this will be a major factor. It will also be the deciding factor for the type of degree (BSN vs. ADN). I encourage you to think about the amount of money that you will eventually spend to get your BSN in addition to the money for your ADN. However, having that said, if you are able get your ADN and get a job, some hospitals have a tuition reimbursement program where you can get part of your tuition paid back to you if you sign a contract to work a certain amount of time. Be cautious of this though because if you are offered a better position elsewhere (and leave before your contract is over) you will have to pay the hospital back any money they gave you.

In Summary…

Spend some time and talk with a counselor, you should weigh the pros and cons of each option and whether it is the right decision for you. I do everything with a spreadsheet (this is how I decided on my car, my house, which cruise to go on, etc.), so I have made spreadsheet for you to help weigh the decisions you have ahead of you.

Evaluate best nursing schools

It is vital that you do your research and look into each institution that you are considering. Don’t make this decision hastily, your career is no joke. Do it right the first time to avoid headaches and lost time and money.

So, good luck on picking your nursing school and getting into nursing school [link to getting into nursing school post]. YOU CAN DO IT. I promise. I did, and honestly I didn’t believe that I could. NRSNG is here to help you when you get into nursing school and be your inspiration as well as your helping hand. We have a ton of FREE resources (and not free ones if you are interested) to help you through nursing school.

Let me know what school you are thinking about going to. Leave a comment. Tell us if there is anything you are considering for nursing school.

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Date Published - Apr 11, 2017
Date Modified - Apr 11, 2017

Kati Kleber RN CCRN

Written by Kati Kleber RN CCRN

Kati Kleber RN CCRN is a Neuro ICU nurse with experience in MedSurg. She joined the NRSNG team in 2016. Her passion lies in helping new grads navigate the complexity of being a new nurse. She runs the blog: NurseEyeRoll.com and is a published author.