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Direct Entry Programs- Does ranking really matter??

For Direct Entry Graduates----- Does the rank of the program truly matter?? I am trying to decide what program is best for me and get through a good program with the smallest amount of debt. My speciality is FNP and the more hcp I talk to they say to do an accredited program that is the cheapest. From your experience going through direct entry programs what has been your experience. If you were choosing between #1 Penn (174k) vs. #127 Thomas Jefferson FACT ( 68K) which one would you choose and why?

BCgradnurse, MSN, RN, NP

Specializes in allergy and asthma, urgent care.

Good question.....I went to a well-ranked program and it did open some doors for me. However, I would look more at what the program has to offer. Do you get to do RN clinicals in top-notch hospitals? Does the program set up your NP clinicals for you or do you have to find your own preceptors? I personally would never go with a program that makes you find your own preceptors. I've seen too many posts from NP students who can't find preceptors on their own. Do they offer classes/electives that appeal to you? I'd also look at what % of their grad pass NCLEX and NP boards, and what % of their grads find jobs soon after graduation.

I don't think you need to go to the most expensive program out there, but make sure you know what you're getting for your money. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

Are you talking about the US News & World Report rankings? They are not well-regarded within academia, and really don't mean much.

I would choose Penn and I strongly disagree that USN&WR rankings are not "well-regarded within academia." If schools did not care about the rankings they wouldn't manipulate statistics to get higher rankings, nor would almost every school out there advertise based on them. Particularly with the glut of FNP programs out there right now, including programs like Walden which accept 96% of applicants and are basically known as diploma mills, I think having the "name-brand" education is going to help you get at least your first job, if not all your jobs - just look across the site at people graduating from highly-regarded BSN or ASN programs vs. people graduating from for-profit diploma mill programs, and the difference in struggles for getting a job. Is it worth a full 100k? Maybe not, but I think it's definitely something to consider.

Have you tried negotiating your aid package with Penn? Sometimes if you say "I want to go here but the other school is offering me 30k and I can't afford to not take it" they might increase what you're getting.

juan de la cruz, MSN, RN, NP

Specializes in APRN, Adult Critical Care.

Actually, it's probably academia that puts weight on those rankings more than any other nursing group. The methodology itself proves that. The rankings are determined by sending surveys to CCNE and NLNAC accredited schools and colleges of nursing. As the US News site states:

"All the health rankings are based solely on the results of peer assessment surveys sent to deans, other administrators, and/or faculty at accredited degree programs or schools in each discipline. All schools surveyed in a discipline were sent the same number of surveys. Respondents rated the academic quality of programs on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding). They were instructed to select "don't know" if they did not have enough knowledge to rate a program. Only fully accredited programs in good standing during the survey period are ranked. Those schools with the highest average scores appear in the rankings."

US News also ranks specialty programs in nursing (NP and CNS) and states that the methodology used in those were:

"The nursing specialty programs are ranked based solely on input from educators at peer nursing institutions, who nominated up to 10 schools for excellence in each area; schools with the most votes are listed."

In other words, it's a popularity contest among the exclusive group of people who gets to answer the survey. Chances are the respondents are graduates of the highly ranked programs. It may be a safe bet to say that if you graduated from those programs, you have a high likelihood of being accepted into PhD and DNP programs in that exclusive group of highly ranked schools should you decide to advance further after your Master's.

Clinical expertise is not assessed in that ranking. You wouldn't know which schools excel in clinical placements in terms of your areas of interest. However, it may also be a safe bet that the larger schools that attract highly trained faculty have a better chance of providing the kind of expert clinical training you need.

Another thing to consider is although some of the highly ranked schools (Top 20 maybe) are nationally-renowned, you may find schools in your immediate metro area that are just as good and have a great network of alumni and faculty who can provide the clinical placements you need. I am not saying that just because I attended a local state university (lower ranked, Top 50) as many people agree that it's worth considering those regional universities too.

In my (admittedly limited) experience, schools only care about the rankings because they know the general public believes they mean something. No one I've encountered in academic circles actually takes them seriously. What US News doesn't want people to know is that they send out these questionnaires out to the top administrators at the various nursing, law, medicine, etc., programs and ask them to respond. However, because most of those individuals feel they have little first-hand knowledge or experience of other schools and are understandably reluctant to get involved in passing on vague generalizations, most of the people polled don't respond. US News ends up doing the rankings based on the objective info that is publicly available, like the amount of government research funding a school gets, how competitive the school is (# of applicants vs. number of accepted students), etc. Most of which has little or nothing to do with the quality of the teaching, experience/expertise of faculty in the different specialities, and other things that would actually have relevance for potential students.

At least, that's what experienced academics have explained to me in the past when I've asked.

However, I am certainly not suggesting that the general reputation of a school and reputation of a nursing program, specifically, doesn't matter. I'm just saying that there are serious limitations to the USN&WR rankings.

You are saying everything I am thinking. I have talked to nurse managers and doctors who say it doesn't matter what school but your credentials and what you have to offer. In regards to penn vs Thomas Jefferson. I will basically be doing clinicals in all of the same places and according to the administration at Jeff we actually do a significantly more clinicals than penn bc Jeff is clinically based vs Penn who is theory based.

I am also thinking about going to Emory which is a great school and in the middle price range of the 2. But one of the complaints were not enough clinicals( but for the bsn portion) I'm not sure for the msn portion.

All 3 programs over bsn and msn and I really wouldn't mind working as an RN during the msn portion

Overall I know that unless I receive a lot of money from penn it's not a good idea bc no one is going to pay me more money because I went to penn .

Thank you guys for the input!

What is the price difference meep?

Nevermind, just saw. That is a big difference!

In your experience, are employers apprehensive about hiring direct-entry grads with very little nursing experience?

BCgradnurse, MSN, RN, NP

Specializes in allergy and asthma, urgent care.

I found that most employers were more concerned over my lack of NP experience than RN experience.


Specializes in critical care.

Wow, that's quite a price difference! Personally, I would go with Jeff. It may not have the national name recognition of Penn, but it is a well-respected school regionally. The only way I would choose Penn would be if money were no object.

The downside of Jeff is that you have to find your own clinical placements for the MSN portion. Do you know if anyone ever has trouble finding clinical sites for fnp ?

Take a look through the postings here. Many many frequent requests for help in finding a preceptor. People have to be really proactive, and depending on their area or timing of their rotation may just be unlucky. Unfortunately they don't necessarily have the option to just defer - they need a site.

My program asks that you send in names/sites if you have them and would like to go there, but they do place everyone. Bit of a squeeze this year as we're the first FNP vs. adult cohort. I wouldn't want to have to find my own - even if you find them it might not be a good site for learning. Too much stress already never mind cold-calling offices.

If you are debating between two schools, why not ask if they can put you in touch with recent grads or people enrolled now? That would give you the best read on local options.

I wouldn't pay to attend a program that didn't provide my clinical education. I just don't understand how some programs get away with this.

The say that they assist with finding positions if you stay in Philadelphia . Vanderbilt and case both don't provide clinical sites and they are reputable schools. I wish there was more info on the msn portion of these programs!

Does anyone have information regarding finding one's own clinical placements? I'm planning to attend Vandy (one of the programs that requires students to find their own clinical placements if they are out-of-state), and I'm curious to learn about other students' experiences with finding clinical placements at schools like Jeff and Vandy.

When I went to my info session at Vanderbilt, they said they had never had a student unable to graduate because of not being able to find a clinical placement. It seemed like they give you more-or-less a pre-approved list and you just have to take the step of actually calling. This doesn't seem to be the case for a lot of other schools, since their students are frequently posting on here about being unable to find preceptors, so I don't know what the difference is, but I didn't get the impression it would be a problem at Vandy. They even have a staff person who helps with clinical placements, so I think it really is just, we have some autonomy and learn professional skills in terms of setting it up, but we're not just left for the wolves.


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