4 answers

How difficult was nursing school and what was the application process like?

Asked Pharr, Texas

4 answers

yoonji’s Answer

Updated San Mateo, California

Hi Lucia, my name is YoonJi, and I'm the Partnerships Manager at CareerVillage.org. My sister is a pediatric ICU nurse at a renowned hospital in California. I saw your question and asked her to respond. Here's what she had to say. Best of luck in your career path exploration and journey!


"I took an alternative route in obtaining my BSN. Initially I completed my undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and then decided to pursue a degree in nursing. Having my bachelors degree allowed me to apply to an accelerated BSN program. These programs are typically a year and a half to two years in length. The school I attended offered a 13 month program. Due to the nature of completing 2 years of studies into a 13 month program, nursing school was very fast paced, very intense, and was challenging. Although nursing school was challenging I found the 13 months in length to be a great advantage for me to enter the work force faster. Regardless of the program being condensed, nursing school in general is rigorous and very time consuming. Most schools require a minimum percentage of mid to high 80s in all courses to pass. To apply, I finished some required prerequisite courses, wrote an entrance essay, obtained letters of recommendations, and took the GRE which was required for some (not all) programs. After graduating school you will need to take the NCLEX exam to receive your RN license degree. This exam is also difficult and although nursing school does well to prepare you, you will need to study for it once you graduate. Ultimately, I took a unique route, but there are different ways to get a BSN degree. You can apply for a community college to receive an associates degree or apply directly to a four year university after high school and major in nursing. All routes will lead you to a degree but keep in mind some hospitals do not want to hire those with an associates degree in order to maintain the hospital as magnet status. Becoming a nurse definitely takes drive and passion and is truly a very fulfilling career if this is where your heart lies."

yoonji recommends the following next steps:

  • If you are in college, research accelerated nursing programs and complete the prerequisite for your desired school.
  • Research scholarships for nursing. (For example, you could go to programs that pay for your education if you work for a few years at a specific hospital upon graduation in good standing.
  • Look at nursing blogs (allnurses.com) to gather more information
  • If you are in high school, start by looking at colleges that offer undergraduate degrees in nursing.
  • if you are able to get in contact with a nurse or nurse manager definitely see if you can shadow the nurse to understand work flow etc.

yoonji’s Answer

Updated San Mateo, California

Lucia, I got another answer for you! This time from another colleague of my sister. She was super strategic about her nursing school process and went to a program that paid for part of her education in exchange for working a few years at a specific hospital. Here are her thoughts:


What was the application process like?

"The application process for nursing school was pretty simple. You had to meet certain criteria in order to get in such as having at least a 3.0 G.P.A, volunteer experience in a hospital or community setting and have joined extra curricular activities and writing a personal statement about why you want to become a nurse."


Was Nursing School difficult?

"Nursing was difficult in the sense that once you are in the program your life is dedicated to it. Most nursing programs are vigorous and fast pace so most of my weekends were spent studying. If I was not studying for an exam I was writing a paper. Every day I was doing something related to nursing such as going to class, going to clinicals, writing a paper, practicing certain nursing skills at the skills lab to be checked off before deadlines, reading textbooks or just studying. Although it was difficult and tiring, it flew by so fast and the end results of being a nurse are so rewarding. All that time that I had dedicated to nursing school helped me get a job as a new grad nurse in the end."

yoonji’s Answer

Updated San Mateo, California

Got another nurse's answer for you, Lucia! This time from a nurse who's worked in hospitals in CA and OR and has a diverse perspective on nursing.


"I feel like the biggest difficulty in nursing school was the competition. Everyone was trying to be the best. There was this idea that unless you were passing with all A's, you wouldn't be a great nurse and/or pass nursing school. I was worried I wasn't studying enough because other classmates were studying more. I would second guess myself. Then when test or final grades came out, it would make me feel a little inadequate. I passed nursing school with A's and B's and honestly I think it was the clinicals and hands on that made me the nurse I am today. There are many nurses who are "textbook smart" but not "nursing" smart. They did not know how to interact with patients or take care of the patients but yet, they were the ones who were passing everything with A's. I feel like nursing school can only teach you so much, but once you get your first nursing job, that's when you REALLY learn. Nursing school was hard though. The papers, clinicals, tests. You need to figure out how to time manage everything plus attempt to take care of YOURSELF. Self care is so important during nursing school. Just remember to breathe. You aren't the only one going through it :)

I really don't remember much about the application process other then it was a royal pain. You have to get all your original diplomas to submit plus your essays. They are all pretty much the same in that stand point. They will ask for essay's and the questions may vary but essentially, they all ask the same thing "why do you want to be a nurse, and how would you succeed in this program." They want you to standout. Anything in your life that may be different from another person and how a certain "experience" makes you want to be a nurse.


Hope this helps!"

yoonji’s Answer

Updated San Mateo, California

Hi Lucia! My sister asked her colleague to share his experience. He's a driven, super smart, and accomplished young man. I'm sure you'll find his perspective to be useful and interesting. Here's what he had to say:


"The most difficult part of nursing school, for me, was the science prerequisite courses: chemistry, calculus, biology, microbiology, physiology, etc. The amount of content to learn felt overwhelming at the time, and I felt obligated to excel in these science courses, not only because I knew my grades would eventually be scrutinized in the future when I would apply to graduate/doctorate programs, but also because these classes would form the foundational learning in core nursing classes such as pathophysiology, pharmacology, and critical-care nursing. Balancing school with extracurricular activities and work was a challenge, too, because I was involved in a lot and needed to work to pay for school. In the end, however, once I started nursing classes, school got a lot easier because I was learning something I was interested in, albeit there was still a lot to learn. That being said, to answer this question, nursing school is as difficult as any other science major such as chemistry or psychobiology. My advice would be to know your limitations; don’t try to do too much in regards to social clubs, organizations, work because doing well in those science courses are important for your long-term educational goals and career. 

I only applied to one nursing school, UCLA. I submitted an application to the university itself and submitted a supplemental application to the school of nursing. The university application consisted of uploading my high school transcript, standardized test scores, and two personal statements. The application for the school of nursing, which is a separate application I mailed in after I completed the university one, required an additional essay about why I chose nursing, two letters of recommendation, and my curriculum vitae/resume. My advice for the application process is to prepare early. Ask your recommenders for letters at least one month in advance in order to allow an appropriate amount of time for them to write a solid recommendation letter. Write your personal statements early and have multiple people proof read them. It is not uncommon to revise your essay multiple times. When is comes to the “why I chose nursing” essay, be genuine and sincere in your response. If the financial benefits are the reason you chose this field, consider that there are other ways to make a lot of money, so really put some thought into why you would devote your life to the service of others. This is a time where you should do a lot of introspection and learn more about yourself. Nursing schools will look at candidates holistically, meaning they are looking for more than an academically achieved individual. Showcase something that makes you stand out, whether it be that you played the lead role in a musical or you are the captain of the debate team. In conclusion, the application process is a time for you to reflect on all your successes and culminate your experiences to prove to schools that you are deserving of a spot at their university."

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