Tip #1: Research potential programs
If you are looking to get into the field of nursing, you may have a relatively specific idea of what sort of work environment you would like to end up in. Do you like the fast-paced, ever-changing world of the emergency room? Would you prefer the quieter, mostly routine schedule of a doctor’s office? Or maybe you want to become a practicing nurse who doubles as a nurse educator. The educational path you choose may vary depending upon what you would like your focus to be. Of course, school is also a wonderful place to be exposed to new things. So even if you can’t answer that question now, there is plenty of time ahead of you before you need to decide. Maybe you are already working and are taking on school in addition to an already busy life. You may find that an online program is a better fit for your lifestyle. The bottom line is that choosing the correct program for you will help you succeed in the long run.
Tip #2: Apply to multiple programs
When you find that perfect program that suits you, choose another! Maybe even choose a few others. We’ve all heard the old adage about not keeping all your eggs in one basket, and your education is no different. Having a backup school is always a great safety net. Build a list ranking your top nursing programs to help you narrow down what you are looking for. Make sure you know what the requirements are for the programs you are applying for and start preparing your materials and documents. Whatever you do, make sure several baskets are involved for all your eggs!
Tip #3: Apply early
Don’t wait until the last minute to apply. Coupled with the multiple applications, you will be providing yourself with more options by acting early. It never hurts to beat the flood of applications. Your promptness will communicate eagerness, punctuality and organization to the people you are looking to impress. Also, it’s always possible that documents you submit either electronically, via snail mail or have requested from someone else, like transcripts from other schools or letters of recommendation, may get lost in transmission. Applying early ensures you have time to resend missing documents before you hit the deadline.
Tip #4: Volunteer your time to gain experience
This is a smart move in several different ways. The most obvious is that gaining experience in the field you are exploring makes for a great line on your resume or a strong paragraph in a statement of purpose, if one is required. In fact, volunteering in general, whether it’s related to your future career path or not, is a smart way to stand out from other candidates. It tells the reader you are committed to helping others and also showcases your dedication and passion.
Tip #5: Seek out certifications
If you are serious about a career in nursing, it is smart to show that intent by taking initiative. A great way to do this is to get certified in courses like CPR and basic first aid. You can take your personal studies further attending courses on AEDs and EpiPens. If you are currently working in the medical field and looking for advancement, you may even be a Certified Nurses Assistant (CNA). This can often be a wonderful gateway to entry for people to try their hand in the medical field before deciding to attend school. Regardless, any of these certifications look wonderful on a nursing program application.
Tip #6: Take related classes seriously
Higher education is an investment in both time and money. As with all investments, you need to commit to making the best of the way you are spending both. Make sure to give maximum effort to math and science classes, as they will be a telltale sign of your commitment to classes across many nursing programs. A strong GPA overall is important, but these classes in particular will support your future nursing coursework.
Tips #7: Prep for the entrance exam, the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS)
The TEAS is a common entrance exam for many nursing programs. It covers skills in reading, science, mathematics and english. Don’t start fretting already. There are practice test booklets to help you study. Many people recommend taking the test as early as you can once you have decided to pursue a career in nursing. Even if you don’t score as high as you would like on the first go, this practice helps you know what you are up against and calm those nerves if you take it a second time around. While many nursing programs require the TEAS, if you apply to a program that does not, it will only make you look better when you send them your results.
Tip #8: Have a top notch resume, cover letter and letters of recommendation
Tips four through seven will help you achieve this last tip in many ways but a little bit of extra time spent polishing up these documents can make a world of difference. Make sure your resume is clean looking, not too wordy, but also tells the full extent of your knowledge, skills and experiences. Your cover letter should be directed to whomever will be reviewing your application and read as professional, yet personal. Top this off with a few strong letters of recommendation from past professors, community members or former employers who can speak to your character and you’ve got yourself setup for success. Package them all together in a clean and professional way, send them into the nursing programs of your choice and sit back and wait to choose your future! Good luck!