The first step to a nursing career is getting into nursing school. Nursing school helps prepare you with the knowledge and skills you need to pass your licensure exam to begin a career in nursing. But what should you expect from the application process?
This overview will guide you through the nursing school application process. Check out our five basic steps for getting into nursing school:
STEP 1: Find the right program and degree.
Did you know there are multiple nursing degree options? You can become a registered nurse (RN) with only an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). However, some states and employers are requiring nurses to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
- 1% of hospitals and other healthcare settings require new hires to have a BSN.
- Some states, such as New York, require RNs to complete BSN degrees.
Additionally, some advanced nursing roles, such as Nurse Practitioner, require a master’s degree or doctorate. For working nurses, an online program such as WCU’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) can be the right choice.
The first step to getting into nursing school is to decide what degree you want, and find a program that aligns with your needs. Here are some good questions to ask when researching schools:
- Is it an accredited nursing program?
- Do they offer the degree you want?
- Is there a waitlist to get into the nursing program?
- What kind of hands-on training do they provide? Can you take a tour of the classrooms or simulation labs?
- What are the clinical rotation requirements and placements?
- How big is the program?
- Do they offer financial aid?
- Is it a flexible nursing program that fits into your schedule?
Try to attend information sessions or schedule one-on-one calls with admissions advisors. This is the best way to make sure you have all the information you need before committing to a school.
STEP 2: Satisfy the prerequisites.
Once you have narrowed down your list to a handful of nursing schools, take a look at their prerequisites. These will vary by programs, but might include any of the following:
- GPA requirements
- Entrance exams (ACT, SAT, HESI)
- General education requirements
While some programs will require that you have completed some general education requirements, others will not. For example, when you enroll at West Coast University’s BSN program, all classes are included in the program. This means you could enroll at WCU straight out of high school, without completing any other prerequisite courses.
For more advanced nursing programs there may be even more requirements, such as a previously earned nursing degree or nursing experience. For example, WCU’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program requires that you have a BSN and a valid RN license. You can always check requirements in our online catalog.
STEP 3: Fill out an application.
The application process will also vary between nursing schools. The application may include any of the following:
- Application fee
- Letters of recommendation
- Interview with program representative
- Unofficial or official copies of your transcripts
STEP 4: Apply for financial aid.
Start filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before you get your acceptance. The information from your FAFSA is used by schools to determine financial aid eligibility, to make sure you keep track of deadlines.
Pro tip: For a quick overview of what you can expect on the form, check out Your Quick Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA on our blog.
In addition to completing the FAFSA, research and apply for nursing scholarships. Employers and foundations provide a variety of scholarships every year. In fact, 1.7 million private nursing scholarships are offered annually. Find out if your employer offers scholarships or tuition assistance, and just begin with a simple web search. Apply for as many scholarships as you can to maximize your chances for funding. More is more!
STEP 5: Enroll!
Once you receive acceptances, it’s time to enroll! The enrollment process may include steps such as confirming your information, submitting official copies of your transcript, and signing up for classes.
Most universities will include a student orientation. This is when you will learn about student resources and get set up for your classes. Once you have completed orientation, you are all set to begin your nursing education!
WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment.
WCU Distance education programs are delivered out of the Orange County and Dallas campuses and may not be available to residents in all states.
Practice Experience is required in order to graduate from the RN to BSN, RN to MSN, MSN and DNP degree programs.
Due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, the University has moved some of the on-ground courses into a distance education modality. However, as soon as the COVID-19 circumstances change, students will be expected to return on campus to complete their program onsite in the regular learning modality as approved by WSCUC and outlined in the university catalog.
Financial aid and scholarships available for those who qualify.
 “Employment of New Nurse Graduates and Employer Preferences for Baccalaureate-Prepared Nurses.” American Association of Colleges of Nursing. https://www.aacnnursing.org/News-Information/Research-Data-Center/Employment/2020
 “Registered Nursing Requirements by State.” Nurse Journal. https://nursejournal.org/registered-nursing/rn-licensing-requirements-by-state/
 “College Scholarships Statistics.” Saving for College. https://www.savingforcollege.com/article/college-scholarships-statistics
WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.