How to Get Into a Nursing Program: 5 Steps

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Getting into nursing school: Advice - red stethoscope with notebook

Your decision to change careers and become a nurse was certainly a smart one. The outlook for nurses with BSN degrees is bright. In fact, studies show that registered nurses are needed now more than ever before. But before you take that first step of choosing a nursing program, it would be helpful to get some advice for how to get into a nursing program.

Getting into a nursing program requires organization, research and punctuality. While each program certainly has its nuances, here are five steps that will serve you well on your quest to be accepted into a nursing program.

1. Determine your nursing career path

When you picture yourself as a nurse, what do you see? Do you want to work in a hospital helping patients or do you see yourself working with infants and children? Deciding what kind of nurse you want to be will help you discover the steps you’ll need to take to reach that goal — and what kind of licenses and specializations you’ll need to work toward.

If you want to get into the healthcare field as soon as possible, you can become an LPN, or licensed practical nurse. If you want more responsibility, you might consider becoming a registered nurse, or RN. If you have a special interest in a specific field such as pediatrics, midwifery, oncology, etc., then you can earn specializations that will qualify you to practice in those areas.

nursing science students looking at lab materials

In the next step in getting into a nursing program, we’ll take a closer look at the pathways to become a nurse.

2. Choose desired degree/identify level of nursing education needed

When it comes to nursing, there are three major pathways prospective students can explore. You’ll first need to identify the amount of time you want to spend getting your nursing education, the duties you want to be qualified to carry out and how important going further to become an advanced practice nurse is to you in order to decide which path to follow.

Becoming an LPN

The first path to becoming a nurse is also the most expedient — however it is also the path that will only qualify you to do very basic nursing. Becoming a licensed practical nurse, or, LPN, means that you will be able to interact with patients in a limited way. As an LPN, you can give patients medicine, check their vital signs complete other duties only with a supervising registered nurse, or RN, present.

Becoming a Registered Nurse

The second path is best for students who are seeking a little bit more responsibility. By becoming a registered nurse, you’ll take on a more individualized approach to patient care. You’ll learn how to complete a wide variety of tasks and be qualified to offer support and education.

There are two options to consider when exploring becoming an RN. The first option is to earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). The second option is to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN.

UST nursing students studying at table with binders

While the duties are similar, the biggest difference between these two tracks is that BSN-prepared nurses are generally more likely to hold leadership and management positions, as the BSN is a more advanced degree. Additionally, hospitals of high caliber are on the lookout for RNs who hold their BSN. In order to hold the Magnet designation that marks them as a hospital with excellent patient outcomes, more hospitals require nurse managers and leaders to hold a bachelor’s in nursing.

Becoming an Advanced Practice Nurse

The third path is only an option provided you’ve earned your BSN. Leveraging your BSN toward an education to earn a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN), empowers you to advance your career and opens a plethora of doors. With an MSN you’ll be able to teach, act as a leader in the healthcare field and depending on the state, see patients independently as a nurse practitioner.

These three paths offer different opportunities that align with different people. Once you’ve determined what kind of nurse you want to be, you can start researching programs that support your goal. Generally a BSN will be the degree you’ll need to pursue to qualify for many nursing jobs. A BSN program can take anywhere from 12 months to four years to complete, depending on the school and program you choose. With ABSN@UST, you can graduate prepared to take the NCLEX exam in as few as 12 months, which is great news — especially if you’ve chosen a nursing pathway that requires higher education after attaining your BSN.

3. Find the right nursing program

Where you choose to earn your nursing degree matters. Before you begin the admissions process, be very clear about your needs when it comes to your education. Doing this can help you decide if our 12-month Accelerated BSN program aligns with your nursing school goals. For example:

  • If you’re a career changer with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you may be attracted to the fact that our ABSN program lets you earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in as few as 12 months.
  • If you want a quality nursing education, you may like that our ABSN program allows you to gain an education that meets strict academic standards set forth by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
University of St. Thomas Houston nursing student

Knowing what it is you want out of your nursing education can help legitimize your decision for changing career paths and will be helpful when speaking to an admissions counselor.

4. Meet the admissions requirements

Requirements may vary based on the program you’re applying to. Generally the admissions requirements for BSN programs can comprise prior college credit or a bachelor’s degree, some prerequisite courses, and an entry exam.

As part of the process for getting into our ABSN program, you will need to complete and pass (with a score of 80 or higher) the HESI (Health Education System, Inc) exam. This exam ensures that you are competent in a variety of health science disciplines. To pass, you will need to complete five different exams that assess the mastery of reading comprehension, vocabulary, general knowledge, grammar, math, and anatomy and physiology.

5. Submit a complete application by the deadline

Once you’ve fulfilled the admissions requirements, you’ll be able to submit an official application for enrollment into the ABSN program. The application process will ask you for a personal statement detailing why you want to become a nurse as well as an intended start date. At University of St. Thomas, we offer three start dates in May, August and January.

Ready to begin your nursing journey?

It’s true — getting into nursing school is no easy feat. However, with the right advice for getting into nursing school, you can find success. At UST, our admissions counselors are committed to your success from day one. If you have the willingness and determination to do what it takes to enroll in the program, then we have a seat for you.

Reach out to our admissions team today about accelerating into the nursing profession through UST’s ABSN program.