This post has been sponsored by Capella University.
Please see my disclaimers page for more information on our partnership.
Continuing your nursing education is an exciting time. Making that decision is a big deal! Congrats! However, a lot of thought should go into which school and program you choose. Deciding you want an MSN, applying to a few schools, and then going with whoever accepts you first could cause you to spend thousands of dollars unnecessarily and leave you with a degree that does not enable you to do what you ultimately want to do.
Here are five important questions to answer before applying to nursing graduate school programs.
1. What do you ultimately want to do?
This may sound simple, but it is a bit complex. Think about what you’re passionate about and how can you pursue it so your path is as direct as possible. Think about what that job would look like practically and that the demands and schedule are sustainable. If you want to be an acute care nurse practitioner, but you don’t want to work weekends and holidays, you may want to do some research about what positions fit that schedule. Or if you are really interested in teaching, would a DNP be best for you… or should you look at a PhD? Define what you’re passionate about and decide which program would best enable you to purse that.
2. Do you want to go to school online, on-campus, or a hybrid program?
Online is a wonderful option – if that works for you. If it doesn’t work for you, location would be a major factor. Figure out what will work best for you, and no one else. If your BFF is doing an online program, but you always did poorly in your undergraduate online degree and truly need to be in a classroom – be in a classroom! There’s no shame in your schooling game! Set yourself up for success! I personally would prefer an online program, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to learn. Hybrid programs combine in-class and online teaching methods.
3. What’s the school’s reputation and accreditation situation?
It’s important to know if the program you’re looking at is accredited. Accreditation is a voluntary process where a school’s faculty and leaders demonstrate that they meet specific quality standards. It may be important to future employers and to schools you may be interested in attending in future degrees.
Also, check out the professors on the school’s website. What are their passions? What is their focus? Does it align with yours?
4. How much will it realistically cost?
Figure in all of the costs when you’re looking at the financial aspect. Include tuition, fees, as well as a high estimate for textbooks each semester. Thoroughly research discounts through employers, professional nursing organizations, and other avenues. Check out scholarships – there are a lot out there! Also, don’t forget to figure in any application costs!
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5. What are the requirements for acceptance?
Some schools require the GRE (a very common graduate school entrance exam) and some do not. If the school you’re interested in requires an entrance exam, make sure you figure that into your costs and timeline. Other commonly required items for admission include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school (and transcripts!), minimum GPA, verification of your RN license, and possibly an application fee.
Other potential requirements can include immunization requirements, interviews, essays, letter(s) of recommendations, CPR certification, drug screens and background checks. International students may have additional requirements.
I hope this list has been helpful to you! A perfectly matched graduate student and graduate school is a beautiful thing.
If you loved this list of questions and are pining for more, check out my newest book! It is ALL about nursing professional development! It is called What’s Next? The Smart Nurse’s Guide to Your Dream Job. It’s available on the American Nurse’s Association Publications page and Amazon. (Psst – there’s a discount for ANA members if you buy it on their website!)
And as many of you know, I’m a Capella fangirl and they are a wonderful graduate school option. Here’s some information about their Empowering Nurses scholarship.
See graduation rates, median student debt, and other information at https://www.capella.edu/capella-results/.