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The Ultimate Guide: How To Get Into Nursing School

Welcome all (hopefully) future nursing students, this hopefully will answer all of your questions about how to apply for nursing school! We’re going to help you get into nursing school and apply to nursing school by going over all of the information you will need. Applying to nursing school can be scary, nerve-racking, and terrifying, but most of all exciting.

Nursing students are some of the hardest working that attend college. Not to put down other degrees, but nursing is one of the degrees that is not only highly competitive and challenging, but will make you question every single decision you make while in nursing school.

The goal is to make that process easier for anyone that wants to apply for nursing school or is in nursing school. If you just got accepted or taking prerequisites, these are must-know tips to help you study!

How Long Is Nursing School?

So, how long is nursing school? It will be different lengths depending on the program and school type. There are several Bachelor Nursing programs that are meant to be 4-year programs, but are completed in 5-years. And there are some 5-year programs that are completed in 6-years.

In addition, there are 2-year and 3-year nursing programs that provide you with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing. These programs are designed to be shorter, but usually will require you to complete additionally schooling later on in your career.

Again, how long is nursing school? Well, nursing programs have varying lengths, but you need to find what is the best fit for you. Some programs will go at a fast pace and you might need a little more time, or vice-versa. Shop around to find which nursing program and nursing school will fit your needs.

Types of Undergraduate Nursing Degrees

4-Year Bachelor’s of Nursing Science (BSN)

All About Nursing School: 6 Fun Facts About Nursing, Education ...

4-year nursing programs are typically what anyone right of out high school will start, or those who have no other degrees will peruse. As a result, these programs help prepare student nurses for not only going straight into a nursing job, but prepare you for graduate school or further education.

While a 2-year associate RN nursing program will still prepare you for nurse life, most jobs require nurses to obtain a 4-year bachelor’s degree within 1 year of getting hired. If you have any aspirations of graduate school you will need a bachelor’s degree as well.

These types of programs (4-years) will typically have 8-week or 16-week clinical rotations that allow you to get as much experience as you can while in those clinical sections. For example, I had an 8-week critical care rotation that allowed me to learn a lot about the ICU and reassured me that I wanted to work in the ICU.

In a 4-year nursing program you will spend the first 1 or 2 years taking general education (Gen-Ed) classes before apply for the actual nursing program. After finishing gen-ed classes, you will be able to apply for the nursing program and begin taking nursing classes.

These nursing classes will go at a slightly slower pace than an accelerated program would, but will still offer the same amount of information and education. When applying for nursing school (4-year), you want to make yourself stand out as much as you can with good grades, a great recommendation letter and

Some common classes required for BSN programs:

  • English composition
  • Human anatomy
  • Human physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Statistics
  • Psychology or sociology
  • Human growth and development
  • Biology or chemistry

Other common requirements for admission into many 4 year BSN programs:

  • A GPA of 2.75+ (most schools recommend 3.3+).
  • Complete transcripts from all previous universities you attended.
  • High school transcript.
  • Two or three academic and/or professional recommendations.
  • A quality essay describing your career goals as a nurse.

Accelerated Nursing Programs (Accelerated BSN)

I won’t go into great detail on accelerated nursing programs because they’re basically 4-year BSN programs at a faster pace. As a result, these programs are typically from 1.5 years to 3 years and are for anyone who already holds a bachelor’s degree. They are great options for anyone who is looking to go back to nursing school!

2-Year Associates of Nursing (ADN/LPN)

12 Month LPN-RN Diploma Option | Washington Health System

Associate nursing programs are shorter versions of BSN programs, but there are some drawbacks and benefits. These programs allow you to complete your nursing degree quickly, but you most likely will have to complete a bachelor’s degree within a year of hire.

Associate programs are great for student nurses who are looking to get a degree on a budget, or want to get done as quick as possible. From what I have learned from other nurses, these types of nursing programs may or may not prepare you as well as a 4-year nursing program would.

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These programs will have faster gen-ed programs and move straight into the nursing classes. The downside is that you don’t have as much time as you would with a 4-year nursing program to complete gen-eds or nursing classes. In my experience, taking pathophysiology or pharmacology in an accelerated fashion could potentially lead to failure or non-retention.

Other important classes that I personally would not rush are anatomy and physiology, nutrition, chemistry and microbiology. These types of classes are extremely important “gen-ed” or entry-level nursing classes that will affect you later down the line when you go to take your NCLEX.

Common classes for an ADN program:

  • Microbiology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Chemistry
  • English
  • Statistics
  • Psychology
  • Communications

Nursing classes for the ADN program include:

  • Foundations in Nursing
  • Nursing Care of Adults
  • Behavioral Health
  • Pharmacology
  • Maternal and Child Nursing Care

If you still aren’t sure which type of nursing program you’d want to attend, this article by NerdWallet, goes over some more options.

Should You Go Back to School for Nursing?

Are you considering going back to nursing school? Well, that’s what I did (kinda). I was in engineering school and then I switched majors and applied to nursing school.

But, if you already have a bachelor’s degree or another career; should you go back to school for nursing?

That’s up to you! I have met several nurses who were in a totally different career before they went to nursing school. There are a few things to consider though.

  • Will you have the ability to work throughout nursing school?
  • How many loans do you have to take out?
  • Do you have other responsibilities, such as kids?
  • What could stop you from succeeding in nursing school?

Answering these questions can help you decide whether going back to nursing school is right for you. Knowing what barriers might stop you from succeeding is important. However, if it is something you’re truly passionate about, you shouldn’t let anything stop you! It is 100% worth it if that is your passion.

How Much Does Nursing School Cost?

What are the costs associated with nursing school? How much does it actually cost to become a nurse? Well quite honestly, it’s different for everybody. While there are a few different types of nursing degrees and each will cost different amounts, we will focus on Associates and Bachelor’s degrees of nursing.

How much does nursing school cost? A Bachelor’s Degree in nursing will cost you approximately $40,000-$100,000 for a 4-year BSN. Some nursing schools can cost $40,000-75,000 per year. Now, these costs will be impacted by where you live (do you live on campus or not), what books you need to buy, what accessories you buy and other factors. This cost is typically higher than an Associate’s degree because BSN programs are usually at private or publicly funded “big name” schools.

Additionally, LPNs (license practical nurse) or LVNs (licensed vocational nurse) will usually be able to attend a “bridge program”. These bridge nursing programs allow students with prior nursing experience or Bachelor’s degrees to have an accelerated nursing program. The costs of accelerated nursing programs will be similar to BSN programs.

An Associate’s Degree in nursing will cost you approximately $20,000-$50,000 for a 2-year LPN/ADN degree. This cost can be greatly reduced due to the amount of time you are in nursing school and most community colleges will have a relatively cheap program. 2-year nursing programs will also vary in cost based on similar factors to a 4-year program. But, most 2-year nursing programs will require some additional online or in-class schooling to obtain a BSN after 1-2 years of being hired.

What Are The Requirements For Nursing School?

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The requirements for nursing school are different depending on what nursing program you are applying for. But, there are some must-know secrets that will apply to most programs to help you get in to nursing school!

The most common requirements for nursing school:

  • GPA of 2.5+ – 3.0+
  • Letter of Recommendation
  • Pre-requisite classes (Anatomy and Physiology, Organic Chemistry, etc.)
  • Time commitment
  • Drug-test results
  • Volunteer work
  • Career statements
  • ACT/SAT Scores
  • Specific Science GPA requirements
  • Math or entrance exam

What GPA Do You Need to Get into Nursing School?

The GPA that you need for nursing school depends on the program you apply for. Quite honestly, most programs require you to have a 3.0 or higher, but there are some programs that are lower. If you’re applying for a private school (in my experience), they will have lower GPA requirements.

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Even if these requirements are met, you could still possibly be wait-listed. A lot of nursing schools can only accept a certain amount of students (for example, my school only accepted 165 students, which sounds like a lot, but with 500 applicants, it’s necessary to stand out).

You can read more about requirements and how to know what to expect here.

How To Apply For Nursing School?

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When you’re looking to apply for nursing school you should know which schools you want to apply for and what their requirements are. Because each school is different, you need to know what their expectations are and how to cater for them.

Before even beginning to apply for nursing school, you need to have a plan in place outlining which nursing program you want to attend, which college you want to attend, and what your GPA and attributes are. As a result of having a strong plan in place, it can greatly increase your chances of being accepted to nursing school.

Picking A School

The first step to apply for nursing school is to pick a school. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of nursing schools and they all offer something unique. Picking a nursing school is usually based on how much it costs for tuition, where it’s at, how long the program is, what the programs reputation is and if any of your friends will be attending the same school.

I can’t list out all of the nursing schools in the United States because it would be unbelievably long. But, NursingExplorer has an amazing list of all nursing schools by state, including tuition costs, expected GPAs and more information about applying to that specific university.

Knowing The Requirements

It is important to consider what science GPA a nursing program will require. This is different from your cumulative GPA. A cumulative GPA is, as it sounds, a compilation of all the credits you have taken. Your science GPA is typically calculated only with science classes (Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry, Statistics) and is usually has a heavier impact.

Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few nursing schools, you should list out what their specific requirements are and make sure that your gen-eds will transfer if it isn’t the same school you’re currently attending. In addition, you need to verify the cost of applying and when that schools semester starts. Some nursing schools will start only in the fall, or only in the spring, but some will start in all 3 trimesters (Summer, Fall and Spring).

You also should take into account what classes each program requires you to take and what their clinical requirements are. Now each state will have their own regulations per their Board’s of Nursing, but each school will also have their own requirements as well.

Knowing The Location

nursing-school-campus

Another detail that a lot of nursing students can look over is the importance of the location of your nursing school. A lot of nursing schools will work with the surrounding hospitals for their clinical rotations.

For example, my nursing school is near a prominent children’s hospital that is very difficult to get into. All of our pediatric rotations are at this hospital and our nursing classes were offered internships at this hospital to get your foot in the door.

So, before choosing a school, think about where you might want to work (and some students might not know and that is fine), and consider that into your decision when applying for nursing schools. If you’re living on campus, this can also be a factor because you’ll be living in that area for 4-5 years!

Taking all of these factors into account is important when looking to apply for nursing school and can drastically affect the outcome of your nursing career.


Nursing School 101 is an awesome free book that goes over some more details on how to apply for nursing school, get through and finish nursing school.

Preparing Your Application For Nursing School

getting-into-nursing-school

Now that you have picked out your program and are ready to apply for nursing school there are a few things you should be considering when preparing your application. You should have the requirements for the programs you’re applying for listed out and you should know which ones you’re a strong applicant for.

There are some things that you can do when applying for nursing school that can improve your chances of getting in.

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Pre-Req Classes For Nursing Schools

If you haven’t yet taken any prerequisite classes, you can take some to not only improve your GPA, but create a more well-rounded transcript. Taking pre-req courses is a requirement for most of the 4-year BSN nursing programs. For programs that are highly competitive and require high cumulative GPA’s it is important to do as well in these courses.

These prerequisite courses are typically similar to; human studies credits (history classes), English composition classes, statistics classes, electives and others.

Calculate Your GPA

Before going into applications, calculate your cumulative and science GPAs to know which schools you’re a strong candidate for. This can improve your chances of getting into nursing school and minimize the cost associated with application fees!

Essays and Recommendation Letters

Some nursing school application processes will require you to write an essay. The content could be about your future aspirations, goals during nursing school or professional goals after nursing school. Along with writing an essay, you might have to have letters of recommendation. Typically, these letters should be from someone within either the nursing or academic community. It can be beneficial to have someone you know and trust write a letter for you to increase your chances of being admitted to nursing school.

Drug Tests, CPR Certifications or Other Health Requirements

Most nursing schools will require you to take drug tests as well as have a CPR certification running throughout nursing school. Some schools might also have other health screening requirements, but mine personally did not.

We just had to keep up our CPR certification, which is renewed every 2 years in most cases. In addition, we had to get drug tested every semester, as well as get a background check every year in the program. You might have to get fingerprinted as part of the background check process too.

Criminal Background

A lot of nursing schools will not allow admittance if you have a criminal record based on several factors. If you do have a criminal background (DUIs are a common example), I would recommend talking to the admitting board prior to applying to see how much it will affect your chances.

According to some sources I found, in the United States you won’t be able to even sit to take the NCLEX test with a criminal record. If this is your case, I would highly recommend talking to the proper administrative figures prior to applying to nursing school.

Improve Your Chances of Getting Accepted to Nursing School

We wrote a full length post on how to improve your chances of getting into nursing school, but we’ll give you some quick pointers. Knowing the requirements, calculating your GPA and writing a killer personal statement are all some easy ways that you can improve your chances of being accepted to nursing school.

Making friends in the program or who are applying is a great way to figure out what you might be missing. They will be able to show you different ways of approaching problems. And help you find where you might lack in your application.

Good Luck, Nursing School is Worth It!

Nursing school is hard. There is no doubt about it. Everyone will tell you how much it sucks. Especially those late night studies where you aren’t really sure if you’re going to pass or fail. But, the important thing to remember is how rewarding it can be once you finish.

Not only will it be emotionally and physically rewarding when you know you’re helping people heal and live better lives. But, it is also monetarily rewarding.

how-much-do-nurses-make

With nursing, not only do you start at an typically high starting salary. But you also have the potential to grow. You can go back to school and get your MSN or DNP or PHD. This potentially doubles or triples your salary! CRNAs (Nurse anesthetists) are some of the highest paid master’s degree recipients out there!

If you think that you will struggle, there are a lot of tips to help you get through nursing school! You will meet friends in your classes that will help you get through as well. In addition, talk to nurses who have gone through it (99.9% chance you know someone who is a nurse) or talk to the school prior. Ask if they think it is the right fit for you based on your prior education.

Just remember to stick with it, you got in for a reason, you can do it!

Full Time Nurse

Striving to help nurses and nursing students succeed.

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