How to Choose a Nursing School
So you’ve decided that nursing is your calling in life, and you can’t wait to get started. One of the first
steps to realizing your dream of becoming a registered nurse (RN) is choosing a nursing school. But this
is not something you can or should do on an impulse. The decision requires careful consideration,
thorough research, and proper planning. Here’s how you can get started on choosing a nursing school
that’s right for you.
Choose a Program
There are so many nursing programs available these days that aspiring nurses are spoiled for choice.
They can choose between a four-year Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, a two-year
Associate’s degree in Nursing (ADN) or a nursing diploma.
Your choice of nursing program will depend on the nursing school you go to. A BSN degree is available at
four-year colleges and universities, while an ADN nursing program is offered at junior or community
colleges, and some four-year postsecondary institutions as well.
Nursing diplomas are usually administered by hospitals, but such programs are fewer in number as
compared to BSN and ADN nursing programs.
Online or On-campus
With advancements in technology, it has become possible to pursue your nursing degree online. Whether
you want to study online or on campus will also determine your choice of nursing school. There are some
online-only universities that offer nursing programs, and then there are actual brick and mortar colleges—
though some may allow students to take some or all their classes online.
But it’s important to know that only theory classes can be taken online, as far as nursing education is
concerned. All nursing programs include practicums, or clinical, that must be completed on site at a
healthcare facility. In fact, how much hands-on experience a nursing program provides through these
clinicals should also be considered when choosing a nursing school.
Accreditation is one of the most important factors while choosing a nursing school, because without
proper accreditation, your nursing education will have little value in the real world. Accreditation is a stamp
of approval, from a neutral third party, of the academic standards and practices that are in place at a
university or college. This accreditation should come from a regional or national agency that is recognized
by the U.S. Department of Labor.
In addition to the general accreditation of your nursing school, BSN and ADN programs require separate
accreditation from specialized bodies like the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission
(NLNAC), as well as the State Board of Nursing covering the state the school is in.
Location of School
Where you choose to attend your nursing school is a personal decision. Do you want to stay close to
home or are you willing to relocate to a different state altogether? Do you want to experience campus life
or would you rather stay away from the distractions? Do you prefer warmer climates or look forward to
snowy winters each year? Such factors may seem trivial, but should be considered when choosing the
location of your nursing school.
Additionally, you must also evaluate your school from a variety of angles: accessibility, convenience,
entertainment, and work opportunities, for instance. You wouldn’t want to live in a ghost town where the
nearest sign of life is a few hundred miles away, would you?
Cost of College
Needless to say, the cost of your chosen nursing school should match the size of your budget. In addition
to tuition and fees, you should also factor in associated costs like transportation, room and board, books
and supplies, and personal expenses.
But the good news is that financial aid is available to qualified students to help them pay for college.
According to College Board, most students receive financial aid in some form, and the average amount of
aid for a full-time undergrad student in 2010-11 was about $12,455*.
So, make sure whichever nursing school you choose participates in federal financial aid programs and
also has financial advisors to guide you through the process of identifying and applying for this aid if
financing your degree is important to you.