9 Things to Know Before Starting Nursing School

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What are the top things to know before starting nursing school? First, if you choose an accelerated nursing program, you’ll need prior non-nursing college credits or a completed degree. Going to nursing school might also require prerequisite courses. Nursing school is rigorous, so treat it like a full-time job.

nurse sitting at table writing in notebook

Starting nursing school is exciting, but you’re likely nervous. Having some butterflies in your stomach when embarking on a new phase in your life is only normal, but arriving at nursing school knowing what to expect can help. Here are the top nine things to know before starting nursing school.

nurses walking up stairs

What is an accelerated nursing program, exactly? Check it out here!

1. You May Need Prior Non-Nursing Education Before Going to Nursing School

If you plan to attend nursing school as a high school graduate, you’ll apply to a traditional four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. Otherwise, if you have prior non-nursing education, you may qualify to apply to an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, such as the ABSN program at Xavier University.

An ABSN program builds on your undergraduate degree so that when you study, your only focus while in the program is on nursing coursework. With an accelerated timetable, you can graduate in as few as 16 months.

2. You Can Rely on Your Admission Counselor for Guidance and Support

Before enrollment in an ABSN program, your primary point of contact will be the admission team. You’ll be assigned a dedicated admission counselor at some schools, such as Xavier. Your admission counselor will be the first person with whom you speak about the degree program, your eligibility, and the subsequent steps to take. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to ensure you fully understand what you need to do to get started.

Plan for a lot of phone time with your admission counselor as they guide you through every step of the ABSN application process. Before you submit your application package, a good idea is to ask your admission counselor to review it one last time to ensure you have all the necessary items.

3. Personal Things to Know Before Starting Nursing School

student writing in notebook

Your admission counselor’s job is not to determine whether you get into the program. Instead, they make sure you submit the most competitive nursing school application possible. You can help your counselor by being open and honest about personal matters.

If you scored low in an undergraduate science or math class, for example, your counselor needs to know what happened so they can create a plan to put this transcript discrepancy in the proper context.

Your counselor may also ask about your family obligations. Although the question may seem irrelevant in nursing school applications, it’s actually very pertinent. An ABSN program is rigorous and time-consuming, so your counselor wants to ensure you have enough support resources to facilitate juggling nursing school and family life successfully.

4. Apply Promptly to Start Nursing School Soon

Another of the top things to know before nursing school is that many ABSN programs have rolling admission procedures. This means the admission staff reviews applications as they come in rather than waiting for a deadline to pass before reviewing all of them in a batch. What does this mean for you in practical terms? Applying early gives you an advantage over others interested in starting in the same term. You may be able to receive your admission decision before some students even apply.

Even if your chosen ABSN program has a higher enrollment capacity than most BSN programs, you still need to have a sense of urgency when applying, especially if you’re targeting a specific term. If you wait too long to apply, you may have to wait for the next start date, so be sure to check in with your admission counselor regularly to ensure you’re still on track to start on your selected date.

5. You May Work Through a Blended Online/In-Person Curriculum

Many traditional nursing schools require students to complete 100% of the curriculum on-site with no online components. Other schools, such as Xavier, feature a hybrid curriculum with online coursework and in-person, hands-on learning components. You’ll learn about nursing theories and concepts online and visit the ABSN learning center for in-person nursing skills and simulation labs. You’ll also be assigned to the school’s clinical partners to complete multiple clinical rotations, gaining additional hands-on experience.

No BSN nursing program can be completed entirely online, and ABSN programs are no exception. Therefore, you need to live within commuting distance of your ABSN learning center.

xavier absn student reading course material

6. You Can Rely on Your Nursing Cohort for Support

Nursing school comes with a lot of new terminology, and reviewing common words and phrases is helpful before starting nursing school. One phrase you’ll hear often is “nursing cohort.” What is a nursing cohort? The term refers to the group of students with whom you’ll be going through the program. Even if you complete the coursework online, you’ll work closely with other members of your nursing cohort during onsite nursing labs.

It’s common for nursing students to forge close ties with other members of their cohort. Nursing school is challenging, and only other people sharing the same experiences genuinely understand how challenging it is. You can lean on members of your cohort for support — both emotional and practical. For example, you might consider joining a study group with your cohort members.

Once you decide to earn your BSN degree, follow these 5 tips to prepare for nursing school.

woman sitting at desk with laptop

7. Nursing School Is Like a Full-Time Job

If you want to succeed in an ABSN program and keep up with its rigorous pace, you need to be willing to put certain aspects of your life on hold.

During this period, you’ll need to manage your time carefully, get comfortable delegating personal responsibilities to others, and frequently say, “Thanks, but I won’t be able to go; I have to study for school.” Although some weeks don’t demand much time and energy, other weeks may require you to spend up to 60 hours on your nursing studies. Indeed, nursing school is like a full-time job, and you’ll need to devote most of your time and energy to it.

8. You May Need to Take Some Prerequisites

If you’re attending a four-year BSN program straight out of high school, you won’t need to take any prerequisites. However, it’s customary for ABSN programs to require at least a few prerequisite courses. Since nontraditional students apply to ABSN programs and come from various academic and professional backgrounds, prerequisites are necessary to ensure that every new nursing student begins the program with a firm foundation that prepares them for the nursing curriculum.

If you have prior college credits in math and science, you may need to take only a few prerequisites. ABSN programs typically establish a minimum GPA in prerequisite courses, and previous college credits must have been taken within a certain period to count toward prerequisites.

Nursing student studying with textbook and computer

Compared with other schools, Xavier requires fewer prerequisites for its ABSN program. Here, applicants need to demonstrate only satisfactory completion of:

  • Microbiology
  • Statistics
  • Human Anatomy or Anatomy & Physiology I (with lab)
  • Human Anatomy or Anatomy & Physiology II (with lab)

9. You Should Start Prepping for the NCLEX Right Away

Before starting nursing school, you should know that one important thing to do is begin preparing for licensure as early as your first semester. You won’t take the NCLEX for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN®) until after graduation, but your future as a nurse relies on your success on this exam. To ensure only qualified nurses receive their certification, the exam is challenging, and succeeding demands months of prep time.

During each week of nursing school, you should devote a generous amount of time to studying for the NCLEX. One of the best ways to prepare is to answer plenty of practice questions — and carefully review the explanations for the correct answers. In addition, take multiple full-length practice exams (and time yourself during them).

nurse sitting in class looking at camera

Learn more about how to prepare for the NCLEX so you have the tools to succeed on your first try.

Thinking of Going to Nursing School at Xavier?

Xavier is an excellent choice for starting nursing school in Ohio. Our ABSN program offers three enrollment locations and three yearly start dates, making high-quality nursing education more accessible than ever. Your dedicated admission counselor will guide you through the admission process and guarantee you have all the information you need before your enrollment date. Once enrolled, you’ll have access to our Academic Success Coaches throughout your education.

Contact an admission counselor at Xavier today and get started working toward a meaningful nursing career!