Welcome to allnurses!
This is confusing for people new to nursing, because there are several different paths in nursing to get to, essentially, the same place.
You can enter a diploma, ADN, or BSN nursing program straight out of high school, same as you would go to college for anything else
after you graduate from high school. Diploma programs are 2- or 3- year programs that are connected to hospitals. ADN ("associate degree in nursing" -- actually, the degree you end up getting is usually an AAS or ASN) programs are community college nursing programs
. BSN (baccalaureate of science in nursing) programs are college/university programs. All three of these types of programs prepare and qualify you for the national RN licensure exam, and you get licensed after you've passed the exam. Everyone gets the same RN license, regardless of which type of program they completed
. There is lots of info elsewhere on this board about the pros and cons of the different types of programs. There is an entire "Registered Nurses: Diploma, ADN or BSN?" forum located under the "General" tab at the top of the page, with nothing but
discussion of this issue!
More recently, schools have introduced "accelerated BSN" programs, which are designed for people who already have a BA or BS in another subject and now want to enter nursing. These programs are "accelerated" because they omit all the general education requirements for a BS degree, which those people have presumably already completed (when they finished their earlier degree), and the nursing content is also condensed and accelerated into a shorter amount of time. Because of the "earlier degree" requirement, a high school graduate would not be eligible for one of these programs.
There are also the so-called "direct entry" Master's programs in nursing, which also allow people who already hold a BA/BS degree in something else to enter a program which combines basic nursing education (seriously abbreviated basic nursing education!) with a Master's in nursing program. These programs, also, would not be a possibility for someone coming out of high school.
Hope that info is helpful! You can narrow down your search (for information and for schools) to those with traditional diploma, ADN or BSN programs, and then you only have to figure which type of program would be best for you. That is a very personal choice because it involves so many variables (cost, location, time, many other things). The "best" program for one person might be a poor choice for another person, etc.
The US system trains RNs as "generalists," that is, you study all the main areas of nursing in school (and are tested on them all for licensure, and then can choose to specialize in whatever area you choose after you're licensed. So, one thing you don't
need to consider in choosing a school is what specialty interests you. There are graduate programs in nursing that offer a specialty in caring for infants (NNP) or mothers/babies (CNM, WHNP), but that is an additional step "down the road" after you are licensed and working.
Hope this info is helpful. Best wishes for your journey!