How to Prepare for Nursing School: A Short and Sweet Guide

nurses studying for nursing school

Both rewarding and challenging, nursing is a great career path for anyone looking to make a difference in the lives of others. Before beginning their careers, all nurses must complete nursing school—a challenge in itself. Here to help you start off on the right foot, our team at SureFire CPR has put together this introductory guide on preparing for nursing school. Learn what to study, what to avoid, who to talk to, and how to optimally use your time. Nursing school may not be short and sweet, but this guide sure is. And with the right game plan, preparation can be too. Below, we’ll show you how.

Find the Type of Nursing School You Want to Attend 

There’s more than one way to get your nursing degree. In fact, there are a few different types of degrees, each with its own path to graduation. All degrees, however, give you the credentials you need to become an RN. The first option is an associate’s degree, which allows you to become an RN without earning a bachelor’s degree. The second option is a diploma program, which lasts two to three years and allows you to become an RN in less time than it would take to earn a bachelor’s degree. The final option is a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, which typically takes four years to complete and gives graduates an RN distinction alongside a bachelor’s degree. 

This third and final route allows graduates to pursue extra degrees like a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) or master of science in nursing (MSN) degree, both of which gives individuals the ability to choose from a larger array of higher-paying nursing jobs. This does not mean that the BSN route is the only way to attain these graduate degrees, however. Individuals simply need a bachelor’s degree and an RN distinction to enroll in either graduate program. For those just beginning their nursing careers, option one or two for attaining an RN distinction can be much faster and more attractive.

Study According to Standardized Tests

One of the best ways to get ahead of the curve in the nursing world is to start studying before nursing school begins. Wondering where to start? Look at nursing school’s biggest standardized tests. Two of the biggest ones are the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) and the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) exam. Administered by ATI Nursing Education, the TEAS tests nursing students’ skills in a wide range of core areas, including: English language and usage, reading, science, and math. It’s important to note that the TEAS must be taken before nursing school, as most nursing programs use it as part of their application process. A good score on the TEAS can help you get into the school of your dreams. 

Unlike the TEAS, the NCLEX is given to all prospective nurses who have earned their nursing degrees. This test is perhaps the most important of any nurse’s career, as it determines whether he or she is ready to practice as an entry-level nurse. The NCLEX covers a wide range of materials taught in nursing school, so studying for it before school even begins is a great way to get ahead on your coursework.

Get Immunized 

You can’t work in a hospital without your necessary immunizations. Likewise, most nursing schools won’t accept you unless you’re fully immunized. Here’s a list of immunizations you’ll want to be up-to-date before enrolling in nursing school:

  • Tetanus
  • Rubella
  • Rubeola
  • Mumps
  • Meningitis
  • Pertussis
  • Chickenpox
  • Tuberculosis
  • Hepatitis B

Network and Shadow

Perhaps the best way to prepare for nursing school is to experience it for yourself before attending. Reach out to nursing schools in your area to ask if you can audit or shadow a class or two. If you’re interested in learning more about life as a nurse, attend local nursing events in your area, shadow a nurse, or sign up to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). These steps will not only help you learn more about life as a nursing student and nurse—they’ll also help you build a network of educators and professionals you can call on for letters of recommendation, job opportunities, and general career advice.

Get Your Prerequisites and Certifications in Order

Nearly all nursing programs require students to fulfill some sort of prerequisites in order to enroll. These prerequisites can vary significantly from program to program, so it’s best to check with your desired programs to see what they need from applicants. All schools will have this information clearly available on their websites, so go take a look if you’re unsure. Some very common prerequisites include a high school degree, some high school or college course experience in the biological sciences, and English speaking and writing proficiency.

Required prerequisites aside, there are a host of extra experiences, titles, and certifications that can help your nursing school application stand out from the rest. Becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA), for instance, can help show nursing programs that you’re ready to do the work it takes to become a nurse. (Experience as a CNA also shows that you know how to perform a number of essential nursing skills. That’s why CNA certification is a required prerequisite for some nursing programs.) We also highly recommend earning other life-saving certifications wherever possible. Getting certified in CPR, BLS, ACLS, and Hospital Fire Safety will show nursing instructors your dedication to learning life-saving techniques.  ECG and Pharmacology are also a few subjects that can stump even the brightest nursing students, so taking a course prior to school can help relieve the stress of those topics! Becoming a CPR instructor also is a great way to increase your confidence in your skills and help improve your public speaking (which will definitely help with your interviews!) Live in Southern California? Apply now with SureFire CPR!

Learn More and Get Certified Here at SureFire CPR

Still wondering what to do to prepare for nursing school? Our team at SureFire CPR is here to help. Contact us to have your nursing school-related questions answered, and put yourself on the path to success with one of our many award-winning certification courses. Explore our site to learn more, and enroll with us today!


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About the author

I spent 15 years as a firefighter and paramedic...

And too often I would arrive on the scene of someone unconscious, surrounded by a circle of people feeling helpless. Sometimes those people would even have CPR training but lacked the confidence and experience to act.

That’s why I started SureFire CPR. Our classes are practical and engaging – teaching you the crucial skills you need to know what to do and feel empowered to take action.

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Zack Zarrilli, Founder

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