Planning Your Pre-Nursing School Route

By ThriveAP Intern Ashley Prince

If there’s one phrase that academic advisors should be banned from saying, its “I’m sorry, but you have a lot of work to do.”  What may seem like an honest, objective assessment of your graduate school plans can send a student (AKA me!) into panic mode.

Once I decided to become a nurse practitioner, the next step was figuring out how to get there.  My primary choice was a direct entry/bridge NP program like Erin, ThriveAP’s founder, went through.  However, the AACN recommended that the NP role be changed to a DNP prepared role by 2015.  Although it’s looking like this deadline might not be completely feasible, many of these schools I was looking into already abolished their bridge program.

On top of the fewer choices, my boyfriend and I started talking about what we were going to do after he graduates from the Naval Academy and he finishes up his military commitment.  I realized I really wanted to go to a school near one of his possible bases to finally end the long-distance portion of our relationship (California also sounds more appealing the longer I’m stuck in this brutal Ohio winter!).  With these factors, I’ve narrowed my choices down to a handful of Accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing (ABSN) schools, and two existing bridge programs.  The ABSN programs last at least a year, sometimes more, and after I can get a MSN and be a nurse practitioner, if it’s still offered, or apply to DNP schools to become an NP.

On paper it sounds like I have it all figured out.  But, all of the ABSN programs have pre-requisites that I have to work into my already-slightly-behind-schedule major curriculum.  I need to start working on personal statements and getting letters of recommendation together soon.  I also saw a forum post on how many ABSN programs have hundreds of applicants for about fifty spots, which really freaked me out about my odds of getting in.  Armed with questions and in need of reassurance, I saw my advisor, and was met with that lovely statement above.

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My advisor has a lot of experience in graduate admissions, and I really value his opinion, even if it’s not the one I wanted to hear.  He said I have two things working against me: 1. I’m younger.  Most ABSN applicants are adults seeking a career change, not students fresh off earning a different B.S.  These applicants also have more working experience, which brings me to 2. I don’t have hands-on nursing experience.  While shadowing, volunteering, being a teaching assistant, and staying involved on campus are great, it’s not quite the application gold that job experience is.  On top of these two strikes, I should have already started the personal essay portion of my application, asked professors for letters of recommendation, and I need to prepare for extra packed semesters to cram all those pre-reqs in.  Yikes!

With so little time between now and application deadlines, what can I do to improve my application?  Now that I’ve calmed down after the meeting, I’ve turned to action mode.  I can’t change my age.  But I can do something about the hands-on experience.  Lots of places offer Certified Nurse Aid (CNA/STNA) certification classes that are normally just a few weeks long.  I can get certified and, hopefully, find a job as a CNA over the summer.  Even if it doesn’t result in a job, it will teach me some of the basic skills I need, and give me a leg up on those applicants who don’t have it.

As soon as I get back from spring break (I’m giving my brain a week long break to fully take in my first trip to Europe!), it’s time to crack down on STNA program research, essay drafts, and admissions fun.  My advisor gave me a mountain to tackle; guess it’s a good thing I learned how to rock climb last weekend!


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