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9 Questions to Ask About Nursing Programs Before You Apply

9 questions to ask before applying to nursing school

You’ve made up your mind … you want to switch career paths and become a registered nurse. Given the growing demand in Texas and nationwide, now is as good a time as any to enter this life-changing profession.

Not only that, if you already hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you can build on your previous education to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree sooner through an accelerated nursing track, which is offered by University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.

However, before you choose your nursing school, here are nine questions to ask about nursing programs. Answering these will ensure you make the right choice for your nursing education.

1. How soon can I start … and graduate?

Let’s face it, if you already have one degree, you probably don’t want to spend another four years in school. Nor do you want to sit on a waitlist for a year or more waiting for the next fall start seats to become available.

Luckily, if you already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and live near San Antonio (or are willing to relocate), you can use your previous degree to earn a BSN in as few as 16 months with the University of the Incarnate Word Accelerated BSN track. Unlike traditional nursing schools, this hybrid track blends online coursework with hands-on labs and clinicals, making it possible to accept more students while still maintaining small lab and clinical student-to-faculty ratios. Not only that, this innovative approach allows us to offer three starts a year.

All of this means you may be able to start and finish nursing school sooner than you might think.

2. Do they offer dedicated admissions support?

When you research some nursing schools’ admissions processes, you may start to wonder whether they intentionally made the process and requirements difficult to comprehend in an effort to weed out candidates. Most likely, that’s not the case, as unhelpful as it might be.At University of the Incarnate Word, we realize that applying for nursing school can seem overwhelming. So we set out to make our Accelerated BSN track admissions process as straightforward as possible. That’s why the first step is to speak with an admissions counselor.

a UIW admissions interview outside in front of a computer

When you do, he or she will discuss your qualifications, the accelerated nursing track and the application process in simple, easy terms. He or she will also answer any questions you may have. More importantly, if you are deemed a good candidate for our track, you’ll be assigned a single admissions counselor to guide you through the entire process, so that you never feel alone in this venture.

In fact, your counselor will check in with you regularly throughout the process, keeping you informed of any next steps and advising you on what you can do to improve your chances of getting into nursing school.

3. What are the admissions requirements?

When selecting a nursing school, it’s important to consider the admissions requirements. For one thing, you want to know that the nursing track you’re looking at sets high standards. That alone says a lot about the quality of education you’ll receive.

Not only that, you want to know that what you’re looking at is a good fit. If your GPA falls considerably short of the requirements set by a particular nursing school, you probably need to look elsewhere. Keep in mind that it’s very possible that you will not get into nursing school with the minimum GPA; that depends greatly on the other applicants.

That’s not to say that, for example, in the case of a school that requires a slightly higher GPA than you currently hold, there aren’t things you can do to improve your GPA. When you call to talk to an admissions counselor, he or she will be able to evaluate your unofficial transcripts to determine how you might improve your GPA to meet the requirements.

4. Will I need to take any prerequisite courses to be eligible?

Before choosing a nursing school, you need to consider the prerequisite course requirements, as they vary considerably from school to school. At some schools, the required prerequisite courses consist solely of science-based topics essential to your understanding of important nursing concepts. Others take a more liberal approach, including coursework with little bearing on your nursing education.

With the UIW ABSN track, every prerequisite course we require you to have taken is relevant to your nursing education. These courses, which include important topics such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biological chemistry, statistics, nutrition and psychology, can all be completed 100% online through University of the Incarnate Word using the same learning management system (LMS) we use for the online portion of our ABSN track.

That said, just because we require these courses doesn’t mean you will need to take them. Depending on your previous degree and when you earned it, you may already meet the prerequisite course requirements. When you call UIW to discuss our 16-month ABSN track, your admissions counselor will review your previous education history with you to determine what, if any, prereqs you need to complete to apply.

5. Where will I complete my clinical rotations?

Clinicals are one of the most important components of your nursing education, providing you real-life experience in a variety of healthcare settings. However, not every nursing school offers the same caliber of clinical experience. This makes it important to look into where you’ll be attending yours.

male nursing student in UIW scrubs examining syringe

Thanks to our strong connection to the San Antonio community, University of the Incarnate Word ABSN students benefit from partnerships with two of Southern Texas’ most respected health networks — CHRISTUS Health System and Methodist Healthcare System. Known throughout Texas and the region, these clinical partnerships provide not only terrific learning experiences, but also opportunities to network.

6. How much time will I need to commit to the program?

Ask any nurse whether nursing school is hard and, chances are, you’re going to find unanimous agreement. No one said nursing school is easy — and that’s a good thing. After all, nurses carry great responsibility. They need to be highly skilled and knowledgeable about what they do.

For this reason, nursing school can feel a lot like a full-time job, especially an accelerated nursing track. Before making a decision, you need to be honest about how much you can take on. If you need to continue working full time, an accelerated nursing track is probably not a good idea for you. However, if you already have a non-nursing degree and want to switch careers to nursing as soon as possible, an ABSN track is your best bet. It just might require a sacrifice of your time.

7. Is it properly accredited?

Effectively, accreditation means that a school provides a level of education that meets specific academic criteria determined by an accrediting body that has been recognized as legitimate by the United States Secretary of Education.

Unfortunately, not every nursing school or track is accredited, which — if you’re not careful — can mean a lot of time and money wasted. For example, while it’s possible that your state board of nursing may allow you to sit for the NCLEX despite attending a school that was not accredited, it could also deny you the ability to sit for the exam, depriving you of the opportunity to become a practicing nurse.

However, even if your state board of nursing allows you to sit for the NCLEX, a prospective employer may pass you up for a candidate who attended an accredited nursing school. Additionally, you won’t be able to transfer your credits to another school should you wish to pursue a master’s degree or other advanced practice certification. There’s also another downside to non-accredited programs … you may not be eligible for federal school loans.

For all of these reasons, it’s important to research nursing school accreditation. University of the Incarnate Word is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and our ABSN track is accredited by the Commission on College Nursing Education with approval from the Texas Board of Nursing.

8. What are the NCLEX pass rates for past graduates?

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how well you did in nursing school — if you don’t pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), you won’t receive licensure as a registered nurse. That’s because the NCLEX is not the kind of test most of us remember from school.

On most tests you might have taken in your previous undergraduate degree, there was probably a right answer and the rest were incorrect. On the NCLEX, any number of answers could be correct; your job is to pick the most correct answer. Also, unlike most tests, the NCLEX-RN uses a computerized algorithm to adjust the questions you receive based on your previous performance. For this reason, it’s possible to pass or fail the test with just 75 questions or as many as 265. (Note: Due to COVID-19, as of the publishing date, the number of questions currently ranges between 60 and 130; however, this is likely only temporary.)

Because of this, you want to choose a nursing school that builds NCLEX preparation into the curriculum. At University of the Incarnate Word, nursing students take NCLEX-style quizzes and exams to help them get into the right testing mindset, and the results speak for themselves.

UIW Nursing Students Graduate Prepared

In 2018, every UIW BSN student who sat for the NCLEX passed on the very first try.

9. Does the school have a history of academic excellence?

It’s true that universities are evolving with the needs of society, and as such, new programs and degree tracks are added — as in the case of the UIW ABSN track, which was introduced in 2020. However, it’s also important to know that the university has a proven track record. Not only does it show the university is in it for the long haul; prospective employers want to see that a job candidate attended a university with a solid reputation.

Founded in 1931, the University of the Incarnate Word Ila Faye Miller School of Nursing and Health Professions has a long history of nursing excellence. In fact, the school was the first university west of the Mississippi River to offer an accredited bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Have additional questions to ask about nursing programs?

Contact us today to learn more about the second-degree Accelerated BSN track at University of the Incarnate Word.

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