Adult looking for answers about college, specifically Nursing school.
November 10, 2013 7:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 31 year old single father who currently has something of a dead-end job after giving a sales career a shot (I was terrible). I have a BA in History from Ohio State with a graduating GPA of 2.42 (it's fun working full time, going to school full time and raising a kid full time!). I want to go back to school, but don't know where to start.

I guess my question is directed at both people who have done it before and people who know something about admissions. Most nursing programs in my area have a wait list and, frankly, I can't afford to sit around for two years with my thumb up my butt like that. I worked in an ER for 7 years to pay for school and I KNOW I belong at the bedside. It's the only place I feel like I make a difference. I guess my question boils down to, at its essence, what do I do? I feel stuck and don't even know a first step to take. I went and saw an advisor at a local community college and she was aggressively unhelpful. Help, gang!
posted by Capt.DooDooFace to Education (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked at master's programs for non-nursing/science majors? They do require you to complete some prereqs if you haven't already, but they often consider experiential qualifications for admission, other than just previous GPA. Nontraditional students are pretty common in these programs, I know quite a few people who've gone this route and my sister is about to embark on this path at the ripe old age of 37.

It looks like for Ohio State, you'd need to take the GRE due to your graduating GPA.
posted by padraigin at 8:01 PM on November 10, 2013

I am an advisor at a community college that has a nursing program. Your school may be different, but here's how ours works: First, the phrase "waiting list" is often used by students, but it's actually inaccurate. You're not just sitting around with your "thumb up your butt", you have to complete pre-requisite courses (biology, anatomy & physiology, college algebra are some of the most common ones). For some students, this can take 2-3 semesters. I assume that you already have taken some of those courses, but I don't know if the school you choose to attend will let you "double-dip" and apply the courses towards a new degree. After you complete the pre-req classes, you'll apply for the program. Our application process takes about a semester to complete (you apply in spring, take classes in the fall). Admission is competetive and most programs place a lot of emphasis on the GPA from your pre-req classes. If you did well in science classes, that *might* make up for your low GPA. To be blunt, if you don't have at least a 3.0, you will not be a strong candidate.

I am a strong advocate of community colleges because they are affordable, but you have to find a school that's a good fit for you. I'd be happy to answer any additional questions you have!
posted by chara at 8:11 PM on November 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm doing this. I am taking prereqs cheaply at a local community college (I need about 6-7 total) and applying to 12-15 month long accelerated second bachelor's programs. I think admissions is competitive, but as far as I know there is no wait list. I am sure they would look very favorably upon your ER experience.

I work full time and am taking 2 lab classes at nights & on the weekends, and since I took summer classes I expect to finish all my prereqs in a year. Since I can apply while I'm in the process of completing them, I hope to start in summer or fall 2014, a year after starting the process. It sucks and I have no life outside of school and work but it's just for a year.

I would look up ABSN programs in your area and see what the prereqs are. They will all be slightly different, so I started with the most common ones to all programs and sort of progressed from there. You might already have some of the requirements from undergrad (I had things like sociology and English but have to take all the science classes). Also, check out

Good luck!
posted by queens86 at 8:14 PM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, depending in your area of the country I would really try and do a BSN rather than an associate's. I have been advised by multiple nurses to go straight for a BSN, and at least where I live associate's-prepared nurses are being phased out of hiring. Plus, if you already have a bachelor's, the ABSN plus prereqs takes the same amount of time as an associate's. This does however require that you stop working for a year while in the accelerated program.
posted by queens86 at 8:17 PM on November 10, 2013

You might look at getting certified as a nurse's aide. The certification takes about 12 weeks and having the work experience would boost your chances of getting into the nursing program and for getting a job after you finish the program.
posted by entropyiswinning at 8:29 PM on November 10, 2013

Hello! I recently went back to nursing school. I graduated in May with my associate's and am working my first nursing job. I switched from programming to nursing because of reasons. I went to a community college because my local one had good clinical approval from the local hiring people. I'm getting my BSN online now. I worked (30-39 hours a week) during nursing school.

Here's what I did:

-- researched programs, decided to go for my local community college.
-- took my ACT, got my CNA certification, started taking pre-reqs before I even got my application in.
-- applied and did not get CNA jobs, kept my existent jobs.
-- got an interview with the community college, went in.
-- got into the program, cried.
-- went part-time at my full-time job.
-- took all my nursing classes
-- got dumped by my long-term boyfriend in the middle of my third of four semesters.
-- graduated in May with my ADN.
-- sat for boards, got my RN.
-- took more my pre-req classes for my BSN.
-- started my BSN at a local four-year anniversary.

MeMail me if you want any more information or encouragement or anything.
posted by RainyJay at 10:29 PM on November 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

One thing you may want to look into is the possibility of smaller community colleges in your area. Where I live, the major traditional college's programs tend to get swamped with applicants and, because enrollment is competitive, sometimes people have to "wait out" a semester that they didn't get in. You have a higher chance of getting into a smaller program that has fewer applicants.

Meanwhile, if you haven't completed all of the prerequisite classes, do so. Your ER experience will make them considerably easier, and having good marks on your prereqs will significantly improve your chances of getting into the nursing courses proper.

Also, as others are saying: going straight for your BSN is probably a good idea. If you do end up going to a smaller school or community college, ask about degrees--the school I've gone to only offers up to associate's, and has you take LPN courses (which you would be taking anyway, to get your associate's or BSN) first. It's kind of unintuitive, and I'm still working on how smoothly I can transfer when I'm ready to enroll in an ADN to BSN program. You mentioned that the community college advisor was unhelpful, and, yeah, unfortunately, you may just have to keep bugging them; I did.

Anyway, good luck! Given your work history and education, I'm sure you'll do great once you find a way in.
posted by byanyothername at 8:51 AM on November 11, 2013

Oy, I haven't been in exactly your shoes, but I've been in pretty similar shoes, and they sure did hurt.

I went to nursing school in my thirties. Pre-recs I did part time at community college which was doable while working although stressful.

I got into nursing school right away. People say there are long waiting lists here too, but the reality is there are not. The programs are competitive but here, the community college programs are mostly lottery and most people get in on their first try if they have all the pre-reqs. I got in right away.

My program had an attrition rate upward of 75%. My class, for example, admitted something like 110 students and graduated something like 25. I am smart, a good test taker, had a strong health background. I did pretty well, definitely in the top 10 of my class, but was failed by a clinical instructor in a context where there is enormous subjectivity. So I had to sit out a year and a half and re-take the class. As a result, my educational process from beginning of pre-reqs to end was six years even though I went to a 2 year ADN program. I share this story because you complained about the guidance counseling at your local community college being sucky, and if I had this whole process to do over again I would go to a 3 year program at a state school OR I would go to a more expensive private school because both those options would have provided much more support and help and (I conjecture) would never have failed me out on the last day of one of clinical rotations with no forwarning! Obvioulsy, there is enormous variation, and there is a very well regarded community college ADN program just across the bay. I'm just saying, choose your nursing program carefully.

As a result of 6 years of increasingly grueling and then soul crushing schooling, I lost unreplaceable time with my daughter. On the other hand, being in school full time at the end (and living off loans) allowed me more flexibility and time with her than some friends who work full time. Also, my kid has seen my example that working your ass off for something super hard will eventually pay off.

When I graduated, I discovered there were no jobs in the area. Many of my classmates moved out of state (Texas, Maryland, Washington) for jobs. Many got jobs they didn't like in doctor's offices or skilled nursing facilities. Some are still not employed as nurses.

I got really lucky (after hustling and shmoozing my ass off) and got a job after about 6 months of unemployment.

The first year of nursing has been super challening and exhausting, but I finally know my job and am making a living wage. I still have no benefits or sick pay - and I work in a hospital!

Am I glad I did it? Yes. Was it the hardest thing I ever did in my life, including being a single parent? Yes.

Good luck to you and I hope this is helpful information.
posted by latkes at 5:22 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

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