How to Choose a Nursing School: 8 Things to Look For

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Knowing how to choose a nursing school can be tricky. These eight factors will help you determine if a program is right for you: alignment with your goals, accreditation, accelerated timeline, multiple start dates, clinical experiences, online coursework, high-tech labs and admission support.

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Getting into nursing school is a big deal. Before applying, you want to ensure you are applying to the right program. When deciding where to attend nursing school, you likely have many questions. What should you look for in a program? What are the essential factors to consider? Knowing how to choose a nursing school is key to ensuring you receive a high-quality education that prepares you for your career.

The Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at Pacific Lutheran University near Seattle, Washington, is committed to providing top-tier nursing education. At PLU, you can earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in as few as 16 months. In this post, learn eight characteristics to look for in a high-quality nursing program.

1. Alignment with Your Goals and Motivation

A major factor when considering which nursing school to attend is whether that program will set you up to achieve your career goals. This is especially important when deciding which degree to pursue.

Ask yourself why you aspire to become a nurse. What are your long-term career goals? Before you can answer, “Where should I go to school?” you will need a clear answer to the question, “Why should I go to nursing school?” Clarifying your “why” for nursing makes it easier to find a program that will help you achieve your goals.

For example, if your goal is to enter a nursing leadership role or become an advanced practice nurse, you will first need a BSN. While an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program can allow you to practice as a nurse in some clinical areas, a BSN is generally ideal because it gives you more career options, better pay and stronger clinical skills.

Nurse smiling talking with patient

See more reasons why a BSN in nursing is so valuable.

While the degree type is important when choosing a program, also look at the nursing department’s mission and values to ensure they align with yours.

2. Accreditation and State Approval

Choosing a high-quality nursing program is essential to your career prospects and your ability to get into advanced nursing programs in the future. You must attend a program that has state approval to be able to receive your RN license. Likewise, you must attend an accredited program to be eligible for advanced nursing programs in the future. So, for the sake of your career, confirm that the program of interest meets accreditation standards and state approval.

CCNE Accredited logo

Rest assured that the ABSN program at PLU is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), and the PLU School of Nursing is a member of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and is approved by the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission (NCQAC).

3. Accelerated Timeline

If you are eligible for an accelerated nursing program, choosing one can help you save a lot of time. Traditional nursing programs are designed for students without prior college experience and take four years to complete.

However, you can finish your degree in as few as 16 months through the Accelerated BSN program at PLU if you have at least 60 non-nursing college credits or a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. So, if you want to earn your degree quickly, zero in on the accelerated programs.

4. Multiple Yearly Start Dates

Another way to save time and earn your degree more quickly is to choose a nursing program that offers more than one start date each year. This gives you two advantages. First, you may be able to start sooner than if the school had only one start date per year. Second, the school can accept more students, which increases your chances of getting into nursing school.

5. Quality Clinical Experiences

Clinical rotations are where you put nursing fundamentals into practice with real patients. During clinicals, you will learn the art of patient care. Good clinical learning opportunities are one of the key indicators of a high-quality nursing program. Ask about the number of clinical hours you will get, the facilities where you will complete them and the instructor-to-student ratio. Also, ensure that the program sets up all your rotations for you.

Nursing students working together in sim lab

Curious about the ABSN experience? See what nursing school is like at PLU.

6. Online Coursework Component

Another factor in how to choose a nursing school is whether the program offers online or in-person coursework. Traditional four-year nursing programs and some accelerated programs use an in-person, lecture-based format for coursework. This means you will spend every weekday in class, and classroom-based courses will be your primary learning modality.

However, if you choose a program with an online coursework component, you can study on your own time in a place where you feel comfortable. Depending on your learning style, you can employ a variety of study strategies. The ABSN program at PLU uses online coursework, and our students benefit from the adaptability and flexibility it provides.

7. High-Tech Laboratory Experiences

Labs are another vital learning opportunity for nursing students. A nursing program should offer two types of labs: skills labs and simulation labs. Skills labs will teach you various technical nursing skills, such as placing IVs, inserting nasogastric tubes and assessing patients.

PLU nursing students working with lab equipment

Simulation labs apply the skills you have learned to a clinical scenario. You will work with a small group of peers to care for a high-fidelity patient simulator manikin. Scenarios may range from childbirth to cardiac arrest or stroke. These labs will teach you skills and strategies for handling complex patient situations. Plus, the lab environment means you can learn and make mistakes without fear of affecting an actual patient.

8. Admission Support

The final factor to consider when determining how to choose a nursing school is the level of admission support offered to prospective students. Applying to nursing school can be a stressful and challenging endeavor, and having the support of the admission team can make the process easier.

A good admission counselor can help you with a variety of questions, ranging from “Should I go to nursing school?” to “Will online or in-person coursework better suit my learning style?” Quality admission counselors invest time and energy into helping you succeed. This attitude of advocating for students will likely translate to the nursing faculty too.

Pacific Lutheran is committed to helping you achieve your nursing goals. Our admission counselors will be with you every step of the way as you work toward getting into nursing school.

smiling nurse with backpack walking up stairs

Learn 10 strategies for how to prepare for nursing school before it starts.

Earn a BSN at Pacific Lutheran

Now that you know how to choose a nursing school, you are ready to start the admission process. PLU will help you earn your nursing degree and start your new career quickly. There is no telling how many lives you can change throughout your nursing career.

Contact our ABSN admission counselors today and discover how PLU can make your dream of becoming a nurse a reality.