5 Steps When Applying to Nursing School

What is the best way to apply to nursing school?

Applying to nursing school can be intimidating. Here you will find 5 steps to get you started on the right track to success and get you that coveted admission letter!


What is the best way to apply to nursing school?

Today's post I'll be sharing five tips to applying to Nursing School that I used during my "application journey" as a second-degree student. You'll be happy to know that there are multiple avenues you can take to enter the world of nursing - each with their pros and cons! (but that is a whole other post). The focus will lean towards the tools you can use to successfully find the right program for you, and get you through the application process as efficiently as possible to start your own path towards becoming a registered nurse - regardless of what you dream school or program may be!

As you may have heard, or might already be aware from first-hand experience - - - applying is No Joke! So many programs, so many differences, so many deadlines . . . It can definitely be a source of stress. Before I started to take the entire application process seriously, there were multiple occasions I felt like it was just too much work. I often thought to myself, "Is the universe conspiring against me, am I just not meant to do this? Why do I keep hitting these walls!?!" . . . As with most things, the moment would pass, and I would go right back at it again with newfound determination. And You Will Too! The solution?

TIP: Be well prepared, know your end-goal, and find ways to stay motivated throughout the process!

In an attempt to save some of my fellow prospective nursing matriculants' sanity, I put together a short list of the organizational tips that worked for me. Once I started pulling all of the information together in an easy to read and easy to track format- everything started to seem much simpler. The decrease in the stress I was creating for myself, gave me breathing room to focus on the tasks that actually needed attention!

TIP: Non-Profit vs For-Profit what is the difference? And, which should I choose?

How To Get Started In Getting That Admission Letter You Desperately Want

 STEP 1:  Use an Organization system that works for YOU

First things first, set yourself up for success. Consider an organizational tool (or several) that will allow you to place all of the important information you will need to make the process easier for you. . .

  • Organize all important emails by Folder in your inbox
    Many times, you will stumble onto a nursing program you want more information about. Typically websites will allow you to enter your email address, and they will provide you with additional information via additional websites, PDFs, etc. You can either keep all of the nursing emails in one folder or subdivide them by other characteristics important to you such as the type of program, what state it is in, etc...
  • Set up folders on your computer desktop to save important PDF files or screenshots as mentioned previously, once you start reviewing multiple programs, it will be hard to keep track of which ones you think may be good choices, which ones you've ruled out, etc. At the beginning of my process, I would screenshot the main page for a nursing program I wanted to keep in mind. Then, I'd place it in a folder titled "Nursing Programs" . . . Again, once you're diving a little deeper from just browsing, you can further categorize these as you see fit.
    • For example, if You've decided you are ONLY applying to Bachelor's programs, you may want to make separate folders for each school.
  • Create a Master Nursing Application Binder Once I have decided which programs I was interested in applying to, I started to print hand copies of the most important materials for each school. I purchased color tabs, and each one was for a different program. Then I printed and added to that area their application, prerequisite list, expected deadlines, and copies of all required documentation. This was literally my saving grace!

 STEP 2:  Research different schools and their respective programs

It really isn't as simple and throwing a dart to a board and just seeing where it lands...

So, here are some of the things that you should consider:

  • the length of the program
  • the type of degree that will be conferred (ADN, BSN, MSN)
  • the flexibility in their school schedule

All of the above (and more) are extremely important aspects that you should carefully consider before making your decision! As you know, school applications can be quite a lengthy process. Therefore, you shouldn't waste your time applying for any particular program that isn't going to work for you. Nursing school is hard enough as is... and you DO NOT need the added stress of picking a program that is going to throw additional curveballs your way

EXAMPLE: If you know you want to be done sooner rather than later, do not apply to 4-year programs. If you know you can only go to school part-time, do not apply to programs that require full-time attendance. ETC...

 STEP 3:  Choose the schools that are the best fit for YOU

As mentioned in TIP 2 - You must consider your own circumstances and how that fits in with the programs you like the most.

  • What is your family life like right now?
    • Are you married?
    • Do you have children (and are they very young and not of school age yet?)
    • Do you have a supportive environment that will allow you to concentrate on school?
  • Do you have the ability to be a FULL-TIME student, or can you only attend PART-TIME or NIGHTS?
  • Are you in a financial situation that requires you to work during school?
    • Are you able to pay for school out of pocket, or will you need student loans?

As uncool as it sounds, you really have to make sure all your ducks are in a row before applying to a program. The "now or never" mantra sounds adventurous and all, but you wanna make sure you are set up to succeed from the get-go as well as avoiding any pitfalls you could overlook by rushing into it.

 STEP 4:  Print and Review program requisites for each program

Compare/Contrast the requirements for each individual program you have already decided you are interested in applying to. This kind of minutiae is important when figuring out which schools you are READY to apply for, and which schools you may need a little more time to complete all the requirements. This will also help you set up your desired application timeline. Some people prefer to apply to ALL the nursing programs around the same time (usually within a 6 month to 1-year time span). Meanwhile, other folks are on a "whatever program accepts me first" timeline and are more open to applying as they go.

Example #1 Some schools will require that all of your prerequisite coursework be completed within the last 5 years. Other schools stipulate that the coursework can be completed within the last 10 years. Some schools don't care at all, and therefore you need not retake courses you took back in 2005!

Example #2 Some programs (ADNs) only require a basic Chemistry course, other programs (BSN or MEPN) often require a biology-Chemistry series that can entail 2-4 classes!

 STEP 5:  Set calendar reminders for program application due dates

Remember TIP#1 at the beginning of this post ... Well, a great way to make sure you're on top of everything is to create an excel spreadsheet of all the important deadlines related to each application you will be submitting. Another great way to keep deadlines organized is to set up calendar reminders on your laptop or cellphone.

Make sure to set reminders of looming deadlines a week or so in advance! This way, if you've forgotten about a task, you still have a week to get everything together in time for the deadline! SERIOUSLY --- Missing a cut-off date to submit transcripts, a TEAS score, proof of vaccines, etc . . . should absolutely NOT be a reason to keep you out of nursing school. Stay on task and ensure this easy-to-avoid blunder doesn't happen to you!

Well, that is all I have for today folks... I really hope some of you have found these tips helpful in your journey towards gaining admission to the nursing school of your dreams. Keep at it, and you WILL succeed!

2nd degree RN w/ previous Healthcare Exp in Administration

2 Articles   124 Posts

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Specializes in ICU/ER/trauma. Has 13 years experience.

Go to Cheapest accredited school you can find. Otherwise your paycheck will be no different than if you're a nursing assistant. (Student loan will eat you alive with interest and principle.)

JofAllTrades, BSN, RN

2 Articles; 124 Posts

Specializes in Case Management. Has 4 years experience.

Thank you for your comment! YES, the cheaper you can find a GOOD ACCREDITED program, the better for your pocket in the long run for sure.

I was just telling another Pre-Nursing student that in my search for a program I had 3 things in mind I wanted in any nursing program: Good, Short, Cheap...

Unfortunately, you can typically only get a combination of 2 of those. So I'd recommend either Good & Cheap (even if it takes a longer time to finish than others) OR if you have the money to spare, or are willing to play the debt game forever Good and Short (which was my personal choice). However, I will say there are some community colleges out there that are all 3! You can always start with the ADN and then do a RN-BSN bridge program later one on your employer's tuition assistance!

Specializes in Psychiatry. Has 8 years experience.

I like this!!

I always encourage people to give community college a try. It's cheaper and when you're done, you can work while you get your BSN. How convenient. ADN holders and BSN holders make just about the same/hour so what's the need to stress out about a BSN.


37 Posts

Has <1 years experience.

This is so timely. After years of doubt I'm starting the journey to finally start the process of applying for a nursing program. I'm accepting the reality of my circumstances and not beating myself up anymore. Cheap and accredited is my new motto. I'm leaving the fantasy of attending an accelerated program behind.

JofAllTrades, BSN, RN

2 Articles; 124 Posts

Specializes in Case Management. Has 4 years experience.

Congrats on making the decision to jump in! You know your life better than anyone else, and therefore are the best equipped to make those decisions. I wish you the best of luck in your new journey! :)