How to get into nursing school
That is probably all you’ve heard now that you have been considering nursing. And guess what I am going to say? Yup. You guessed it, it is hard.
And it should be! I don’t want just anyone being my mother’s nurse. I want someone who is skilled, knowledgeable, and the best of the best.
Having said all that, I also believe that there is a difference between being hard and being bananas. You see, I truly believe that if nursing school were likened to an obstacle course, we could train people to maneuver through and master skills that will help them conquer any course. Instead, we take a near impossible test to become a nurse, a test that if taken by a nurse who has been practicing for the past 30 years, would likely not pass. Why? Because nursing is a large field that is specialized and after practicing on a cardiology unit, the proper dose of Motrin for a pediatric child might not be something you ever use. But it’s all on this test that you must take to become a nurse.
Now, I cannot give anyone the title registered nurse. I earned the title, I try to help others achieve that title, but it must be done through the same pathway as everyone else (for now, one day I hope to change that).
What I can offer you is guidance to getting there, starting with how to get into nursing school.
8 Tips to Ensure You Get into Nursing School!
Choose a school that fits your strengths
- I choose a program where grades were heavily weighted at my school. This was the best option for me personally because I had really good grades and, thus I got in right away on the first try.
- Some schools may weigh experience or letters of recommendation more highly.
- How do you know? First, read everything you can on the program website. Read every FAQ and admission criteria. You can often tell from their website what they seem to care the most about. Second, find school forums where you can ask current students about their application experience.
Write a killer Essay
- Write about something you know! This is a GREAT opportunity for you to show that you are more than just test scores and grades. For this to be good and authentic though it needs to be important to you. Tie in real personal experiences whenever possible.
- Follow instructions! I can tell you from experience on the hiring end that when you have hundreds of applications you have to set some “weed out” criteria. A lot of schools will eliminate applicants that don’t follow instructions. This is a chance for you to show that you can be meticulous and pay attention to details – which they will want in a future nurse!
- Proofread! Make sure you proofread this, have your parents, classmates, friends, teachers, mentors, proofread as well.
- Show that you have a real understanding of the field of nursing. (not just what you picked up from Grey’s Anatomy)
Master that interview
- Dress to Impress. Whether you are interviewing in person, on skype, or over the phone dress professional! This includes hair, jewelry, shoes, and clothes. Trendy is not better here. I took a course in college where i was taught how to dress for an interview, and I learned some great things:
- Dark colors are best: I was surprised when they said choose pants that are black, brown, or navy blue. No bright colors. Dark is more professional.
- Simple is best: Excessive jewelry or bright makeup can be distracting.
- Wear pantyhose: If you wear a skirt wear pantyhose. I thought this information seemed outdated and out of style, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that what I think DOES NOT MATTER. I was not doing the interview!
- It may seem weird to dress for a phone interview, but how you feel WILL impact how your perform. If you are dressed for the part you will have a better result!
Great letters of recommendations:
- Here is how to make sure you will get GREAT reference letters:
- Go to office hours
- Stay after class to ask a questions (Want to know what to ask, check out the section on organization here)
- Go to your teacher to get help with any homework or tests you get wrong
- The best way to get a great letter of recommendations from your professors is to get to know them.
- Guess what, as long as you pass your grade in the class doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you work hard and made sure you understand the material. You do the things above and you will have the type of relationship with that teacher that you need to ask for a great reference!
Send a thank you note.
I have done a lot of interviews over the years and I was really impressed by a student who thanked me for our phone interview. When it came time to narrow down candidates I was able to easily recall my interview with her and my impressions during our conversation. She became more that a piece of paper with numbers.
- Unfortunately grades have to be mentioned here. Schools will have minimum GPAs either overall or for your prerequisite courses. Look at the schools your are thinking of applying to and check what minimum GPAs they have.
- Another thing to note about grades. More competitive nursing programs may also care where your classes were taken. They may think a 4.0 from a well-known university more impressive than a 4.0 from a small community college.
- Online classes- if any of your prerequisites are from an online school, make sure your nursing program will accept those credits.
You may be required to take one of these tests for a nursing program. TEAS or HESI. There are some differences between the two. The TEAS has a science section and the HESI does not. Some schools may not require either. ATI has study guides and practice tests for each exam.
- In the hospital or a nursing home
- Patient care technician (PCT)
- Nurse Assistant or Medical Assistant (MA)
- Get your EMT and work on the ambulance! (I’m personally partial to this)
After contemplating ‘all the things’ needed to get into a nursing school and picking a nursing school, you need to be proactive about getting your pre-requisites done. I cannot stress this enough: PAY ATTENTION in your pre-requisites and get GOOD GRADES. If you don’t have a good foundation, you will struggle to understand concepts such as how a medication is absorbed into the body, why left sided heart failure causes fluid in the lungs, or what an elevated D-Dimer means. Get tutors, form study groups, talk with your teachers. Make understanding the material a top priority.
Go network. Find away into a hospital, nursing home or ambulance company and get that health care experience under your belt. Seriously. You meet so many people this way, you learn so much and you start to learn basics that will make your first few weeks of nursing school easier. But also, and much much more importantly, you are going to have a better chance in getting into nursing school.
Once you have chosen where you want to apply make sure you have everything you need:
Lastly, let me give you a checklist for applying to school so you won’t miss anything!