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Is it worth shooting for a top program?

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What are the benefits of going to a school like U Penn as opposed to say, your state university?

I graduated from said state university (Rutgers) with a 3.415 and a pretty blank resume to boot. I'm thinking about taking a year off to really build a strong resume, do well on my GREs, and get lots of healthcare/volunteer experience (I have none!). The year off is also to do a bit of soul-searching, character-building, and assurance that the 20-40k I will be spending will be on something I know that I really want to do.

At the young age of 22, no debt, and being uncertain about what I really want in life... I know it sounds like a win-win decision to take that year off with the added possibility of going to a much better school, but a part of me doesn't want to waste anymore time (I feel like I have done enough of that), and also just because I'm not 100% sure about something doesn't mean I shouldn't do it already - I mean, when are we ever really 100% sure about something? To further evaluate the usefulness of a year off:

1 - Is aiming for a top program really that much worth it? How much better are my job prospects? Are UPenn graduates finding themselves just as unemployed as all the other nurses in this dismal job market? If I'm interested in possibly pursuing a specialty, going into research, doing public/community health, etc... is it worth going to a top school? Honestly, I really just want a simple lifestyle and I'm not going into nursing for the money at all, but I'm also aware certain areas of nursing might not only be more stimulating and interesting to me, but also more stress-free.

2. What exactly can I do to make myself a strong applicant for nursing (both to schools and to employers)?

Would it be worth the year off to gain lots of hospital experience (of which I don't have), possibly work as a CNA, and for the purpose of getting into a top nursing school, do any other kinds of activities to make myself a stand-out applicant (I'm thinking stuff like community/social type of work, Americorps, etc.)?

Thank you for any insight/advice.

1) No offense, but since you readily admit your current resume is blank, how is taking a year off going to build your employable credentials?

2) Take a long hard look at posts from people who did their nursing degree from places like Columbia University's ETP program. They spent about $50,000+ for a nursing degree which they could have earned for a fraction of the price.

And a hospital isn't going to pay you more for a UPenn degree than, say, a public university's BSN.

3) Finish your bachelors at Rutgers, take the nursing pre-requisites at your neighborhood community college (with mostly As at least). Then when you're done, spare yourself two free months to study for the GRE. Study 6 hours a day, and do all the prep books. Then take the test.

Volunteer at a hospital for a few months, and then apply for some accelerated BSN or MSN program as you wish.

Thanks for your post.

1) I probably should have clarified. By a year off, I essentially meant I would use that year to do work/volunteering. I already have my bachelor's. I should be applying to schools now for the Fall 2011 semester, but my credentials (in my opinion) are pretty weak to get into a nursing program. What I meant to say is that maybe I should wait and apply for the Spring or Fall 2012 semester. In the meantime, I would try to get hospital experience, and do all kinds of work/volunteer work, including community/social type of work. You might ask why bother with the latter, it's mostly because I'm also interested in doing non-profit/community/social work as well.

2) Yes, that is what I'm afraid of. I'm aware there is no salary difference. However, I'm thinking more in the long-term. Such as pursuing higher education in nursing or having an easier time going into a particular specialty or area of nursing. I'm wondering if anyone has any insight or first-hand experience into the usefulness of a more prestigious program.

I have personal/financial reasons for wanting to take a year off to work, volunteer, and sort out my life, maybe even find a passion for something else. I have to weigh that against the actual usefulness of that year off, because I could work as a real nurse a year earlier and perhaps avoid the possibility of asking myself "why the heck did I wait an extra year to start nursing?" and regretting that extra year.

One factor to consider is the possibility of going to a top nursing program and the usefulness of such - which is why I'm asking anyone here with experience/insight.

Edited by jayandaroo88

1) Your GPA is fine. What you ought to do is take the pre-requisite courses, do well on them, and do well on the GRE General Test. If you want to work, that's fine, but you're going to need about a year to finish the pre-requisite courses on their own anyway (this includes summer classes). I wouldn't advise working while taking courses like Anatomy I and II --- they are simply too much to handle, in terms of the time commitment you'll need to get good grades.

In the grand scheme of things, if you're a recent grad your work/volunteer experience won't matter as much as someone who's been out of college for a long time (say 20 years) since they'll know you are just out of school.

If you're going to volunteer just do it at one place for a long period of time. Doing it at many places won't help,and plus, you won't have time for anything else. You need to get good grades in your pre-requisites!

2) Why would a school's name matter so much in specializing? Someone who gets their nursing anesthesia MS from Our Lady of the Lake doesn't get paid much less than a CRNA from Columbia U...

Nursing isn't like law or business school... where you get your degree from won't be a deal-breaker or a deal-maker...

I think you'll find out through the pre-requisite courses whether or not you're cut out for nursing-style academic material anyway.

omw2help, BSN, RN

Specializes in SNF.

I'm a pre-nursing student, so I don't speak from experience, however I have heard sometimes bigger named schools have greater "networking" opportunities such as alumni networks and hospital affiliations. Of course you can do your own networking where ever you are, and where ever you work or volunteer will give you a chance to network as well. Your volunteer / work experience is what will make you stand out from other applications who have similar grades and GRE.

If I were you, I'd apply now. If you don't get in, then follow your plan to work / volunteer and apply again. :)

PacoUSA, BSN, RN

Specializes in PCU / Telemetry. Has 9 years experience.

Why would a school's name matter so much in specializing? Someone who gets their nursing anesthesia MS from Our Lady of the Lake doesn't get paid much less than a CRNA from Columbia U...

Nursing isn't like law or business school... where you get your degree from won't be a deal-breaker or a deal-maker...

I have to agree with this. If I could do law school all over again, I would definitely go to one of the top 10 schools, hands down. That profession is VERY school-centric and where you go to school DOES matter. Granted, I probably would not have gotten into any of those schools with the LSAT scores I had (well, I did apply to Georgetown Law and my rejection from them is a case in point) and in hindsight it was a good thing since I ended up leaving the profession anyway (I went to a cheaper state school and still got a great legal education). But for anyone going to law school now, my advice is a top 10 school or not at all. The bottom of the class at Harvard Law will always get an interview before the top-ranked student at Brooklyn Law. It's just a sad fact.

Now as far as nursing goes, it's different. Where you get your BSN from does not matter as much (provided of course the program is CCNE accredited and state Board of Nursing approved). I myself considered Columbia's ETP but passed on the application based on the obscene cost. I am applying to state schools mostly in the hopes that one of them will be an affordable choice. I have no doubt I will get a great BSN education at any of them. I am motivated however to do my DNP @ Columbia, since I have always wanted to go there at some point (I was born in their medical center, in some way I have always felt a link) ... I would like nothing better than to capstone my nursing education at such a school.

May be some work experience to 'fill those blanks'. I f not then atleast volunteer work at some hospital

Over the long term since you mention an interest in specialized paths such as community health or research I can see a small benefit to a program like Penn - this will give you access to e.g., world class researchers and community health leaders. Getting into Penn alone is not enough of course - you'd have to step up to the plate, make your interest known and do what you have to do to get the attention of busy people, etc., so you can get your foot in the door. If you want a more typical entry into the field through hospital nursing then paying for a top ranked school is not necessary at all - you stand the same chance of getting hired as any other applicant with a new nursing license. A year is not a long time. If you're seriously considering community health then take this opportunity to volunteer with an organization in your community that deals with these kinds of issues. This will help you firm up your career interests, it will look good on applications, and maybe even help you find some scholarship/fellowship money.

Get your CNA certificate; see if you can get a job and work in a real medical setting. Volunteering is great but you won't get any hands-on experience. The hospital I'm working at the volunteers are not allowed to touch the patients--liability issues. It sounds as though money isn't a problem so the low pay won't be an issue. The program itself only takes about a month. Every nurse I know that was a CNA beforehand is great and very glad they had the experience. Just give it a thought.

I have a BA and an MA and am working part-time as a CNA. I've applied for an accelerated BSN program; finishing up my last prerequisite now. If I get into NS, this CNA experience can only be to my benefit...I have learned tons being on the floor.