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How to Get into Nursing School: The 6 Step Guide

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By Mike Linares MSN, RN | Updated June 18, 2024
Updated June 18, 2024
Young female nursing students going to nursing school

Thinking about becoming a nurse? Nursing degrees are a popular choice for many high school and post-grad students. If that’s what you’re considering, you need to first figure out how to get into nursing school.

A degree from nursing school truly opens a plethora of different career paths to explore. With schedule flexibility and a seemingly endless number of specialties available to get additional training for. 

If you are a compassionate, caring, and empathetic person who loves to make a difference in the lives of people around you, working in healthcare is a great fit for your personality. 

But before we start buying a bunch of matching scrub sets, education and training are a must. Which means, you have to get into and actually pass nursing school!

We wanted to share our top tips, along with a step-by-step guide to applying for nursing school. Following these steps, we hope that this sometimes stressful process can seem a little less daunting. 

Here is our guide on how to get into nursing school:

How To Get Into Nursing School

While every person’s journey to becoming a nurse is unique to them, there are some similar themes, prerequisites, and nursing school requirements that all future nurses must navigate to start their schooling. 

Without further ado, here are six steps to follow to get into nursing school:

Step #1: Research the Different Types of Nursing Careers (There Are a Lot!)

Before you begin to figure out which school you want to apply for, you should look at the different kinds of nurses. Taking some time to learn about the various nursing specialties available is a great way to ensure that you are truly interested in starting this career path. 

Most people think that all nurses have to work in medical or surgical units in a hospital setting. But, that’s not true. A wide variety of unique and exciting specialties are available for a newly graduated nurse to explore. 

So knowing what your options are before you even begin your schooling is a great way to focus your studies.

Types of Nursing Specialties

Here are just a few examples of lesser-known nursing specialties that are definitely with exploring:

Operating Room Nursing 

If you love Grey’s Anatomy and want to explore the high-pressure world of the operating room, becoming a certified operating room nurse might be for you. This is a very rewarding area of healthcare. Especially, for those who love working with a team and can perform under pressure.

Cosmetic and Injection Nursing

You do not need to work in a hospital to be a nurse! Cosmetic and injection nursing is commonly performed in smaller clinics. Which is great for those who do not want to do bedside nursing.

Travel Nursing

Do you want to explore different areas of the country?  For those with an adventurous side, working as a travel nurse is a great choice. But first, find a specialty you like, then get some work experience as a new grad. 

Then you can work to fill in gaps in staffing in hospitals and care centers across the country — a travel nurse truly never has a boring shift at work!

Infection Control Nursing

Especially in recent times, infection control and prevention have become incredibly important. If you love doing research and working with a multidisciplinary team to enact change, this is a great area of nursing to explore.

Community Nursing

Nurses belong in our local communities too! Community nursing can include working in schools, large public events, and even summer camps to provide high-quality care to children and adults in need.

Step #2: Explore the Different Types of Nursing Licenses and Degrees

Once you feel inspired by the wide range of nursing possibilities, you now need to consider which nursing program will be the best fit for what you are looking for. 

While all people who graduate from nursing programs are nurses, different levels within the title can dictate things such as your yearly salary, the scope of practice, and certain specialization opportunities. 

Some of the most common nursing licenses include:

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA)

Designed to help people get a jumpstart on a healthcare career, this diploma typically takes between four to twelve weeks to complete. 

As this position does not require going to nursing school to achieve, it is a great option for those struggling with nursing school prerequisites. The responsibilities of this job are generally basic care tasks for patients. 

There is no bridging program between CNA and nursing programs, which is why many CNAs consider taking a phlebotomy course as a jumping point to becoming a nurse.

Licensed Practical or Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN)

These nursing programs are typically offered at local colleges and typically take about one year to complete. Working under the supervision of a registered nurse, an LPN or LVN is still responsible for providing high-quality nursing care to their patients.

And some of the most common nursing degrees are:

Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN)

As a fast-track program to become a nurse, this program takes between 5 months to two years to complete, provided that you have completed the prerequisite courses in advance. 

Many clinical settings are currently leaning more towards BSN, and some hospitals will even pay you to get your BSN as an ADN. 

Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN)

The four-year Bachelor of Science Nursing degree program is the traditional path to becoming a registered nurse. 

Registered nurses have the highest salary upon completion of their degree. They also have the largest scope of practice compared to all other nursing diplomas and degrees.

Whichever choice is the best fit for you to start with, there are always opportunities to move up the career ladder over time. 

This also sets you up for further education. A BSN is usually a pre-req for a Master’s or Doctoral degree in nursing. And you don’t have to get the additional degrees immediately.

Step #3: Choose the Right Nursing School For You

Once you have decided which nursing program is the right fit for you, next comes doing some research about the available institutions offering the program. 

Getting into nursing school is incredibly competitive. So, applying to multiple schools that offer programs you are interested in is a great way to increase the likelihood of being accepted. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket!

We highly suggest considering the following questions when you are picking through which nursing schools to apply:

  • Do I want to leave home for school? If so, how far?
  • Are you looking to do nursing school online or part-time?
  • Does the school offer an accredited nursing program?
  • Does this nursing school offer hands-on clinical experiences?
  • What additional courses does this school require for me to take to pass the program?
  • Am I going to live on campus, or will I be commuting?
  • Will I have access to high-quality nursing preceptors?
  • Does this program offer additional academic and mental health support?

If the school you have in mind meets your criteria for these questions, it’s a great fit for your needs! If not, keep searching to find a program that offers you what you are looking for.

Step #4: Meet the Nursing School Prerequisites

The next step in our how to get into nursing school guide is to become a competitive applicant by completing the needed prerequisites. The nursing prerequisites will differ depending on the type of nursing program and school you are interested in attending. 

In general, the majority of nursing programs require applicants to have earned their high school GED, often with a competitive GPA. 

Shorter nursing programs like the LVN/LPN and ADN programs typically have a lower GPA requirement. While the average minimum GPA to get into a BSN program is 3.0.

Additional prerequisite courses or grades in specific classes may be required depending on the program you are choosing to pursue. Some additional nursing school requirements may include:

  • Completion of high school biology, chemistry, and mathematics with a minimum grade determined by the school you are applying to
  • Prerequisite science courses in areas such as anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and statistics. Note: the number of specific courses depends on your program and school
  • A passing grade on the SATs, HESI, and TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills)

We highly recommend visiting the website for the school program you wish to apply to get an accurate list of all the nursing prerequisites you need to complete to be admitted to the program. 

Having a plan to tackle this list is one of the best ways to improve your chances of being accepted. So, it is definitely worth putting in the time and effort to get all of your ducks in a row before you apply.

Step #5: Study for (and Pass) the Entrance Exam

With all of the prerequisites out of the way, a very common barrier for nursing school hopefuls is passing the entrance exam with an adequate score. 

Test-taking is a learned skill, and many intelligent people commonly struggle to get the scores they need to complete programs they are more than capable of completing. 

One of the most common entrance exams is the TEAS. And to ace the TEAS, consider a study resource that offers the following:

  • High-quality sample questions taken directly from TEAS content. If you can answer these questions, you’ll be able to confidently answer questions during your exam.
  • Engaging explainer videos from the most complex topics. Learning from lectures or textbook readings doesn’t always work for everyone.
  • Access to comprehensive assessment tests to know that you’re ready to rock the exam. Assessment tests help you figure out if you are ready to write, or which areas you need to review.

Step #6: Sort out Financial Aid and Payments

Lastly, and unfortunately, the most expensive step, is sorting out how you are going to pay for nursing school. The average tuition depends greatly on the school and program you choose to attend. 

So be sure to search for this information before applying so that you aren’t blindsided by costs that you were not expecting. Some of the most common ways nursing students pay for their schooling include:

Applying for Federal Student Aid

While it may be scary to apply for federal loans, they are actually the safest form of financial loan available for students to use to pay for their education. Available with low-interest rates, federal loan payments begin once you have finished school. 

The application for federal student aid is also free, making the process relatively easy to complete.

Applying to Scholarships

Want to take advantage of your high grades and extracurriculars? Scholarships are a great way to do this! A wide variety of scholarships for academic performance, sports performance, essay writing, and more are available for anyone to apply to every single year. 

Doing some research and applying to scholarships that interest you is a great way to reduce your tuition.

Get Into Nursing School with Ease

If you have caught yourself wondering how to get into nursing school, you’ve come to the right place. 

SimpleNursing creates tools, test prep questions, and resources used to teach nursing students across the country. 

As one of the most trusted nursing students, our dynamic e-learning and exam preparation courses are helping nursing students find success in even the most difficult exams – including entrance exams.

Join with a free trial today and improve your entire learning experience. 

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Education: Associate Degree in Nursing, Cerritos Nursing School Master of Science in Nursing, Capella University | Specialization: Nursing Education

Mike Linares has over a decade of experience in the medical field, beginning with four years as an ambulance worker in Orange County followed by another four years as an EMT, during which he also taught EKG for paramedics. His journey continued as he transitioned to become a registered nurse. Despite facing challenges in nursing school and initially failing out, Mike's determination led him to develop effective study techniques. He successfully petitioned to re-enter nursing school by demonstrating his commitment through the creation of a nursing boot camp. This experience inspired him to create study materials for friends, which proved highly successful. This success story culminated in the founding of SimpleNursing, a platform dedicated to providing accessible and effective study resources for nursing students.