If I'm this confused about getting started, will I be able to make it in school?


I'm 24 years old, and finally able to start my life plan of becoming a nurse. Due to lack of parental support, I've been unable to go to school due to financial aid issues. I just turned 24, so I will no longer require my parents' tax information to receive aid! I live in Northern VA, and have looked into both NoVa Community College and George Mason. I've pretty much ruled NoVa out, as they only offer full time options. Unfortunately, I I do have to work full time to afford rent and bulls, and GMU offers part time. My only fear is that I won't be accepted into their highly competitive program. I was looking at the RN to BSN option since it looks like you can avoid the competitive program. I'm feeling extremely overwhelmed, and am just looking for any advice available.


234 Posts

Specializes in Cardiac Stepdown, PCU.

Are you already a RN? If not then the RN to BSN option won't be available to you. It's generally a program for people who have already graduated from a Nusring program (ADN or BSN) and who have obtained a RN License. Competitiveness aside, if you are just starting out you will need to apply to a nursing program.

First step: Decide what you want to do. BSN or ADN? A LOT of people will come in and say go straight for BSN, BSN is what most areas are looking for. For the most part they are right. In a lot of areas however ADN is perfectly fine (for now) though that shouldn't mean never bother with BSN. It just means that you can focus on ADN, then bridge (RN to BSN) to get yoru BSN. Sometimes I think people forget that ADN isn't a "that's it" you can still get the BSN after you get the ADN! In your case, needing a part time program, needing to work... also look into LVN programs. Sure... it's not RN. Look at it as the first step in becoming a Nurse. You can always bridge to RN later (LPN to RN).

You also need to look at what your time commitments are. How much time you have for studying and what you feel you will be able to handle. If you think you can handle a BSN and work full time (and many do and can!) by all means.. go for it. If you think it will be too much for you personally, go for ADN. Look at the programs, look at their set up, their classes, what they will require you to take every semester... can you handle what they're offering in your current situation?

Once you've decided on the type of program.. then look at your school options. Even those that don't meet what you want, and keep an open mind. Really what that BSN but only an LVN program fits? Consider it your first stepping stone to what you want.

After you've identified programs. Yes. Programs. Identify which one you really want, which one is a "I guess this will work if nothing else".

Now look at their requirements. All Nursing programs have requirements for entering. A certain GPA, certain entrance exam, they require certain prequisite courses that you have to take (Bio, A&P, Microbio... etc.) And some of your pre-req's will have their own requirements.. which what your first semester will likely be - the pre-req's of the pre-req's. For example, at my campus you have to take Bio I and II (you can take them at the same time) before you can take A&P or Microbio.

Get a general idea of what pre-req's your going to need for all the different programs your looking for. Then decide WHERE you want to take these classes. It doesn't have to be the school that had the program you are looking for. It can be any school, there are even online classes. Just make sure the school is appropriately accredited you should have no issues with transferring the credits for those classes to the schools you want to apply to.

General advice for picking a school? Don't vie so much on name or reputation. No one will care in the long run. All that matters is if you have a licence. Balance NCLEX pass rates with tuition costs and go from there. A school with a really bad rep (from more than just students who are sore over a bad grade or not getting their way) won't have high pass rates and won't be worth going to regardless to cost.

Enroll to the chosen school, go through the financial aid process, and start on the classes you need. You've identified your pre-req's. Now identify what you need to enroll in those classes. If nothing, then just get started on them. If you need a few other classes. Take those too.

You can also take other classes that might possibly be needed during the program you are choosing to enroll in. For instance, English I and II are not pre-req's for my program, but you are required to take them for the program. You can take them as your taking your pre-req's if you want to or just take them along side the nursing classes once you've been accepted into the program. Just keep in mind your time commitment. Science classes take commitment and if you are not a quick or easy learner it's like a second job. Do NOT over do yourself. Remember what I said about GPA? You're gonna want as close to a 4.0 as possible. Some programs look at your overall GPA, some programs look at a specific pre-req's GPA, or just your science class GPA... it's important to know specifically what the programs you are interested in want.

Once you've gotten close to completing your pre-req's start looking at applying. Know when the application times are. Most programs have "windows" to apply to their program. My program only has a fall admission, so we apply in the fall through early spring before the fall we want to enroll in. Other programs enroll in spring or winter semesters, but you still apply a semester or two before the one you want to begin at. Know when those windows are. Know when you will have the pre-req's done so that you can turn in your application in time. Most programs require an entrance exam. Identify when you will have to take this... do they want the transcripts of the exam when you turn in your application? Or can you send it later? Call the nursing program advisers and start asking questions... when, where, what... all of them. Anything that comes into mind.

After that it's just a waiting game... do you get accepted? do you get rejected. It will all depend on the people who apply. Even if you meet the minimum requirements, even if you exceed them... if there are only 80 spots but 82 people scored better than you for entry you will not be accepted. And that's okay! This is why you apply to multiple programs. This is why you have a back up. This is why you cry, take a breath, and try again and then reapply for the next class.

I hope I've given you at least some clarity on where to start! Good luck!


464 Posts

Someone from Northern Virginia can better answer Associate degree hiring in that area than I could.

Two year colleges are generally more accommodating than four year ones for scheduling around full time workers. When you get to clinicals, I think any school will be tough for scheduling.

I would not rule out any school in your area whether 4 year or 2 year unless its private or very expensive. Have you verified with NoVa Community College that they do not accomodate part time?

Go to fafsa.gov to start a financial aid request. When it asks for school info, you can enter up to ten(?) schools. You can only get financial aid from one school, but all schools will look at your information to decide what they can offer. You can accept one school or none.

You may qualify for pell grants, tuition grants, Virginia Commonwealth Award grant, scholarships, unsubsidized loan(good one), subsidized loans. It all adds up.

Let's say a 4 year school costs $900 for 7 credits part time and you qualify for $1800 pell grant but since your going part time they only give you $900, that will still cover tuition. Perhaps they also give you $750 tuition grant also, that should cover books and other school supplies.

Don't rule any school until you find out exactly what it will cost you. The two year school also offers grants and unsubsidized loans.

Any schools financial aid office will help you fill out the FAFSA online application. It will be easier than using Google to try to figure out each obscurely worded statements.

RN to BSN is available if you choose a two year program and graduate from that.