Your Nursing Career: Consider All BSN Options
By Wendi Poole
Student in the American Public University RN to BSN Program
For many associate degree nurses, one of the toughest things about beginning the process of getting a BSN is simply knowing where to start. There are so many options these days that it can be a bit overwhelming to choose which program is right for you. I’ll share my experience, and a few tips I have learned along the way.
One of the most important things to know about a program is whether or not it is accredited. Accreditation is a major deal, especially if you plan to continue your education to a master’s or doctorate-level degree. You really don’t want to do all the work to finish your BSN, then attempt to go on to a graduate program only to find out your BSN wasn’t accredited, which could disqualify you from attending the graduate program of your choice.
Be warned. Just because the college is accredited, doesn’t necessarily mean that the nursing program is. I made this mistake once. I really wanted to attend a particular program that was in my home state that was completely online and affordable. I went through the whole application process, enrolled in my first classes, and bought my textbooks. Two days before classes started, a friend asked me about which institution accredited the program. I looked and found that the college was accredited, but the nursing program was not. I withdrew immediately and it took me months to get my money back. A little research in the beginning can save you tons of trouble in the end.
I have learned to be leery of a school that promises that all of your costs will be covered by financial aid. While many people qualify for financial aid–it does often cover most or all of tuition–no enrollment advisor can promise that all of your costs will be covered. If you do enroll and end up being denied financial aid, or not getting as much as you thought, you could end up owing the college thousands of dollars.
I don’t know a lot about financial aid, but I do know this–there is a reason that financial aid is a common department at every college. It takes time, paperwork, and patience to know what your financial aid package is, and nothing is guaranteed until you complete the process.
Know exactly the kind of learning experience you’re seeking. Research each program and get advice from knowledgeable colleagues, friends, and family. Did you know that some programs have group work and others don’t? Some programs rely heavily on research papers. Others grade by exams. Do you prefer to take courses completely online or do you prefer to sit in a room with an instructor you can see? Determine if your employer has an agreement with any colleges or programs, because the discount could end up saving you a lot of money. If the program you’re interested in offers a trial period, enroll in a class to see if the school is a good fit for you.
Whatever you do, don’t let anything stop you. I have been to three different BSN programs over the past three years, but I finally found the program that worked well for me.