Navigating NP Program Prerequisites

By ThriveAP Intern Ashley Prince

Navi-guessing, or traveling without a clear-cut plan, is one of the best ways to go exploring.  I can sum up my sight-seeing experience over Spring Break in Europe as “Hey, that looks cool, let’s go over there!”.  As a result, we ended up in some pretty cool corners of London and Paris that we wouldn’t have seen if we had stuck with a strict itinerary.  However, it’s definitely not perfect.  I don’t recommend using this method at 4 a.m. to try to find a way to King’s Cross, or when you’re attempting to figure out how to cram in all those NP program prerequisite courses.

All schools, whether you’re looking at Direct Entry Nurse Practitioner Programs or Accelerated BSN Programs usually have the same core prereqs like Anatomy, Physiology, and Introduction to Microbiology, but beyond that each school’s requirements can vary.  For example, only my prospective NP programs in California require Oral Communications, whereas Georgetown asks for a host of humanities and theology courses and Pittsburgh wants pathophysiology.  You get the idea.  Here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned and use to create a clear navigation plan, and hopefully they can help you too.

1. Make a list of all the schools where you plan to apply and list their prereqs. Creating an outline like this will show you general trends in the classes you need to take.  Having a long list in front of you is easier than bouncing from web page to web page trying to figure out which courses you will need.  Personally, I like to check off each class when I complete it as a mini-accomplishment.

2. Check whether the course needs to be completed before you apply to the NP program, or simply before you start.  The difference between these two deadlines gives you an extra semester to complete required prerequisite courses, which is huge.

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3. Start early.  The earlier you start taking prerequisites the better.  Personally, I didn’t start taking them until my junior year of college, and trying to pin all the courses down on top of finishing my major in two years has been a rough task.  The earlier you start, the more flexibility you will have.

4. Pay attention to your undergraduate general education requirements.  You know those annoying history and art classes that you don’t have much of an interest in but the university makes you take anyway?  Typically, a long list of courses count for any one requirement, so you can overlap a Sociology prerequisite for your nurse practitioner program with a Social Sciences general education requirement.

5. Using a giant piece of paper, tentatively schedule each semester remaining in college, or before you enter your nursing program.  List every class you are going to take for your major, minor, prerequisites…everything. This schedule will definitely change more than once (My final list was probably my 100th calendar!) but it makes it SO much easier to plan out all your courses considering the time you have left in your undergraduate program.

6. Don’t discount your local community college.  I had never thought about taking classes at my local community college over the summer until my academic advisor suggested it.  A lot of these courses are offered in a convenient online format and are transferred to your university.  This has actually been my life saver.  I’m enrolled in three classes this summer, and without these courses would have been forced to cut the list of nurse practitioner programs where I want to apply or postpone graduation.  One word of caution: double check to make sure that the programs you’re applying to will accept prerequisites taken at a community college.  Some will, and some won’t.

Good luck!

Questions about prerequisite course requirements for your NP programs of interest?  Comment to get advice from other ThriveAP readers by posting a comment.


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3 thoughts on “Navigating NP Program Prerequisites”

  1. How can you tell if a program accepts community college courses? Every program that I’ve researched hasn’t brought up where you complete your prerequisites.


    Hi B,

    You would need to contact the school directly to get that information.  Most don’t list it on their sites. 

  3. Yes, Erin is quite right. And also keep in mind, you can also “test out of” / “Validate” some courses, even some nursing courses. If you have the knowledge, or you have already taken the class 100s of years ago, or you don’t mind studying carefully without an actual course, you can take an exam for it, IF IF IF your program will accept it. For exampe, I took an Excelsior exam for Nutrition for my prereq for Hopkins, and they would not accept a CLEP. Other schools will accept a CLEP exam. At Hopkins I had some RN classmates who “validated” actual nursing classes because they had the knowledge base without an actual course transcript: the faculty gave them an exam for the course, and when they passed, they did not have to take the course. Also, I have noticed that private schools are MUCH more flexible about “requirements” than state schools.

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