For those who want to help people, nursing is a wonderful profession to get into. Before you can join the ranks of these compassionate health workers, you need to look at nursing schools. It’s a good idea to take steps to ensure you go all the way. You should investigate before enrolling:

  • What will my experience be like? 
  • How well prepared will I be when I graduate?
  • What does it take to get in?

Read on to discover why nursing is worth pursuing, what to look for in nursing schools, what to think about when seeking the right fit, and how to improve your chances of getting in.

Why Nursing? What Nursing Schools Help You Achieve

Let’s start with the end in mind. Where do you want to end up?

Making a Good Living

The median annual salary for RNs (registered nurses) with a bachelor’s degree nationwide continues to rise. As of 2017, it was $70,000; by 2019, it rose to $73,300. That’s a decent living almost anywhere in the U.S.

Trusted and Respected

While your focus might be on helping others, it’s natural to want to be respected in your profession. 85% of Americans say the honesty and ethical standards of nurses are “very high” or “high.” This is the most respected of all professions rated by a national Gallup poll.

Fulfilling a Need

For years, the healthcare industry has been bracing itself for a shortage of nurses. In 2017, it was projected that one million RNs would retire by 2030. Now, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has only deepened the need for nurses. You’ll be joining a workforce that needs you!

Checking Out Nursing Schools

Let all your reasons why you want to become a nurse fuel your motivation to research nursing schools. Here are some important things to consider:

NCLEX-RN Exam Pass Rate

This is a good place to start, because if nursing schools don’t adequately prepare their students to pass this exam, they can’t become registered nurses. It’s considered acceptable for a nursing program to produce a pass rate of at least 80% of its graduates.

Reputation

You can evaluate a school’s reputation in a number of ways: reach out to graduates, look for online reviews, read press releases, etc. It’s wise to look at more than accreditation alone. (This means an authoritative body has reviewed the program and found it acceptable – more on this below.)

Program Accreditation

Schools may have multiple program accreditations. Check to make sure your program is either accredited or, if it is a new program, that it is on its way to being accredited by the time you graduate. A school’s strong reputation and previous accreditations are good indicators that it will be.

Size of the School

While some students prefer large universities, others prefer smaller schools where classes are more intimate, and they get more personal attention from professors. Looking at school size isn’t really about numbers, it’s about how you’ll feel being a student there.

Admission Requirements

Does the school require you to be in the top 10 of your class? Or do you only have to have a minimum high school GPA (grade point average)? You’ll want to reach out to the admissions office to ask about this specifically.

Faculty

Who will you be working with? You can evaluate faculty just by looking at their credentials, their experience and qualifications. But many students find it helpful to visit campus and meet professors in person to get a feel for how approachable, patient and helpful they come across.

Clinical Experience

How much hands-on experience in clinical settings can you expect to get from the program? It’s always a good idea to ask what the learning process looks like, what facilities you’ll be using, what partnerships the school has with hospitals, labs and other medical centers.

Affordability

What can you expect to pay out of pocket for your education? The tuition on paper doesn’t matter so much as what tuition assistance is available. Look into what scholarships and grants the school awards or helps you apply for, and how much you can borrow via student loan programs.

Flexibility

How flexible can the structure of your class time be? This is especially important if you’re holding down a job. Obviously, a fully-online program offers the most freedom to work toward your degree on your own time, but on-campus programs may be more flexible than you think.

Location & Student Life

If the school is close to home, you already know the area. But you’ll want to research the off-campus community and geography before moving to a faraway school. This is a big commitment. Find out how other students pursue their passions and have fun outside of class.

Getting Into Nursing School

You’ve done your research into your top picks of nursing schools, and now you’re ready to start applying to them. What do you need to do to improve your chances of getting in? Beyond everything that’s important for all students to do, like preparing for the SAT/ACT, keeping your grades up, volunteering and/or getting involved in student leadership, here are a few good ideas for you as a future nursing student.

Keep Those Math & Science Grades Up

The earlier you’re looking at nursing schools, the more you can do to improve your cumulative GPA. There’s a lot you can do in your sophomore, junior, even senior year to improve your standing. While all your grades are important, make sure you’re taking as many math and science classes as you can, especially in the areas of anatomy, physiology, microbiology and biology.

Get Certified in CPR

It may or may not be among the nursing school’s admission criteria, but it’s always a good idea to know some of the basics coming in. Knowing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), the ability to be a citizen first responder if someone is in physical distress, is a big plus. The American Red Cross offers training in communities throughout the country. There is likely a class available at your local YMCA or other community center.

Do Healthcare-Related Community Service

Look for opportunities to volunteer in healthcare. Nursing homes, for example, often have a lot of need for volunteers. This not only gives you experience in healthcare settings, it also creates connections with supervisors who can write you letters of recommendation.

Study Hard for the Entrance Exam

It’s common to take an entrance exam, e.g. TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills) and similar exams, as part of the admissions process. While this is a pass/fail requirement, the entire process is competitive. You’ll want to score as highly as you can. On the other hand, don’t stress too much over the entrance exam. Just passing may be enough if you have other strengths, like strong letters of recommendation, etc. Those go a long way.

Looking at Nursing Schools in West Virginia? Check Out Davis & Elkins!

We understand that choosing a nursing school is a big decision, which is why we do everything we can to help students decide whether Davis & Elkins College is a good fit. This is a small, intimate learning community of about 800 students located in Elkins, West Virginia. Nursing students here find they get to know their professors really well, to the point where the program feels like family by the time they graduate. We’re located in an absolutely gorgeous place in the highlands of the Allegheny Mountain Range, basically heaven for outdoor lovers. We’re also proud to call the vibrant arts community of Elkins and Randolph County home. Our nursing programs boast a 100% passing rate for state boards in recent years:

  • Associate of Science in Nursing Degree (ASN)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN)
  • RN to BSN Online

Interested in learning more? The best way is to come out and see us. We can’t wait to introduce you to our wonderful nursing faculty and show you around the beautiful campus here at Davis & Elkins College!

Covid-19 update

D&E’s primary goal in our response to COVID-19 is the health of that community as we continue this institution’s mission of high standards of education, and to prepare and inspire students for success and thoughtful engagement in the world. Read more in our Guide for Returning to Campus.

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