5 Questions to Ask Prospective Nursing Schools

The right nursing school allows you to be eligible for licensure and land a job in the healthcare setting you prefer. Picking the wrong one, however, can lead to stress, a lack of support, and post-grad confusion.

Most likely, you want to be in the first camp. To do so, it’s important to research prospective nursing schools carefully and talk to a program representative. By going beyond what’s on their website, you’ll get a more honest look at each program you’re considering.

To help make conversations with the best nursing schools in your area more productive, here are five questions to ask and objective traits of good nursing programs.

Traits of the Best Nursing Schools

The “best” nursing school is subjective. One program could be someone’s dream degree while it doesn’t even make your list of places to apply. However, some objective qualities indicate a high-quality nursing program.

Before talking with campus representatives, let’s do a quick check that the schools on your list possess these traits:

After you’ve checked your list and eliminated any that don’t have these traits, it’s time to do your research. That process should involve talking to an admissions representative. In those conversations, you’ll want to ask the following five questions.

What Are the Admissions Requirements?

Usually, there are some common admissions requirements for nursing schools. For ADN and BSN programs, these include:

  • High school GPA
  • Prerequisite courses, such as high school biology, anatomy, and/or chemistry
  • ACT or SAT scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • The Common Application

Depending on the program type or individual institution, these requirements can vary greatly. An MSN program won’t ask for your ACT scores, but some BSN or ADN programs might not as well. Others may require essays while some universities aren’t on the Common Application.

To clarify the requirements for each nursing school, ask a school representative for their specific ones. When possible, see if they can send the requirements in an email so you can refer back to them.

What Is the Overall Cost?

Many nursing schools will list the tuition on their website. While important, it’s not the only financial factor to consider.

For example, at Ohio University, the online RN to BSN program costs $307 per credit in-state and $312 per credit out-of-state. However, the school mentions there are additional fees, which aren’t listed on the program’s website.

Additional costs can include student fees, textbooks and online software, transportation to and from school, as well as everyday living expenses like rent and groceries. Online students may avoid certain costs, such as student fees and transportation, making virtual programs more affordable.

But whether online or in-person, these costs add up. To ensure a program is cost-effective, ask for a more comprehensive list of costs than the tuition listed on a nursing school’s website.

What Is Your NCLEX Pass Rate?

To become a licensed nurse, you must pass the NCLEX exam. The NCLEX is a comprehensive test that nursing students take in their final semester or shortly after graduating. In most states, someone must pass the NCLEX to become a licensed nurse.

While all accredited nursing schools prepare students for this exam, some do a better job than others. To see how strong a prospective school is, ask about their pass rate from the last few years (not their rate ten years ago or over a longer period).

For reference, the average NCLEX pass rate nationwide is 78.45%, so ideally you want to attend a program that meets or exceeds that rate.

Job Placement After Graduation

While on the topic of NCLEX pass rates, don’t be afraid to steer the conversation toward where alumni work, especially if there’s a certain line of work or healthcare system you want to be employed in.

To learn more about job placement, you can ask the school directly for a snapshot of where their most recent class ended up three months after graduation or search for nursing alumni’s current job titles on the university’s LinkedIn page.

Are There Academic Support Resources?

Nursing school is hard, and you want the right resources to support your education. Without these resources, it can be easy to feel isolated and frustrated. With them, you can navigate school and your professional life with ease.

Student support resources to ask about include:

  • Free tutoring services
  • A writing center for support on essays, job resumes, and other writing materials
  • Office hours and chances to interact one-on-one with faculty
  • A robust clinical experience program
  • Professional development support
  • Study groups for nursing students
  • Networking opportunities with healthcare employers

If you’re an online student or want to decrease your time on campus, ask how many of these resources are available virtually.

Can I Specialize in a Specific Field?

Often, LPN, ADN, and BSN programs offer a general nursing education, instead of going into subspecialties like oncology nursing or nursing informatics. In MSN, NP, and DNP programs, having a specialty is often a must. If you’re applying for one of these advanced degrees, ask about what specialties each program offers and make sure it aligns with your interest.

For those getting an LPN, ADN, or BSN, you can still gain specialized knowledge because some programs offer concentrations. If formal concentrations aren’t available, pay attention to elective options. For example, if you want to work in geriatric nursing once licensed, research a program with one or two electives in this field.

Applying to nursing schools is a big step, and you want to make sure you have all the information about prospective programs before applying. While you may find some information on nursing school websites, asking these five questions provides a more candid look at each program.