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Steps to Getting an Associate Degree in Nursing

by Christopher Cascio

Getting your associate degree is an important first step to become a licensed nurse and entering the ranks of respected healthcare professionals. Many aspects of claiming this education coincide with higher education in general. However, obtaining a degree in nursing carries specific demands, such as entrance exams, rigorous clinical course work and dedication to a field that requires you to adapt and evolve continuously in the ever-developing science of healthcare.

Research Programs

The first thing you need to do is collect information, and you'll need to decide whether you want to attend a large university halfway across the country or a small community college close to home. You can even study online at a school such as Chamberlain College of Nursing. Pay attention to the admission requirements, as your high school grades and GPA will play a significant role in where you can get accepted. If you can, visit some campuses. Most importantly, look for a place that feels comfortable, but can challenge you and allow you to grow.

Apply For Admission

Once you've identified a few programs that seem like a good fit for you, it's time to start filling out applications. You'll also have to contact your high school, and arrange for them to send out official transcripts to each school to which you're applying. Furthermore, you're going to have to write some application essays. Use the application essays as opportunities to show each admissions committee qualities about you that they can't learn from your application, such as resourcefulness, compassion or selflessness. You do this by telling a personal narrative about when you had to exhibit these qualities, so they can see for themselves without you having to tell them.

Complete any Admission Requirement Exams

Depending on your current level of education, you might have to pass a few tests before you are granted admission into the program. For example, if you already have a degree or other college experience -- and have completed general education courses in Math and English, you might not have to take placement tests in those areas. However, if you don't have college experience, expect to take at least those two tests, which test for high school-level competency. You might also have to get CPR certified and pass a general entrance exam to get into a nursing program. For example, the entrance exam at Erie Community College covers Reading, Grammar, Vocabulary, Math, Anatomy and Physiology. If you don't pass the first time, you can take it again. However, if you fail twice you are ineligible for the program.

Apply Yourself

Once you're in, it's time to give it your all. In most programs, you'll have to pass each course with a C or higher, and be required to complete a substantial amount of laboratory courses in addition to regular lecture courses, which will allow you to complete clinical objectives. Strive to excel in all areas, including all of your exams. Nursing is a career that demands excellence, and it only begins with earning your degree. Before you'll be able to practice you'll have to get licensed, and that requires taking the NCLEX exam, which fully integrates all the material you'll learn in nursing school. Pay attention and put 100% effort into all of your studies; you're going to use all of it.

About the Author

Christopher Cascio is a memoirist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and literature from Southampton Arts at Stony Brook Southampton, and a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in the rhetoric of fiction from Pennsylvania State University. His literary work has appeared in "The Southampton Review," "Feathertale," "Kalliope" and "The Rose and Thorn Journal."

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