So You Want to Get Into Nursing...?


Kendrick Morrison

Mohawk Valley CC
Admissions Specialist

As college admissions professionals we all know nursing programs and the medical field continue to be a hot ticket major for our potential students. Parents and school counselors tell their students this is the way to go and it’s a high-demand field with a stable job environment…a sure way to make money to support yourself and eventually a family.

The reality is, many students we meet don’t completely understand what a nursing program entails or what requirements they even need to get into the program. When asked: “Why do you want to get into nursing?”, students often reply “because my parents told me I should” or “I like Grey’s Anatomy and ER and it looks pretty cool”. A follow-up response often includes “but I don’t like blood” or “I was told I don’t have to take a lot of science classes because I don’t like biology or chemistry”. Wait, what? Who told you that? This is quite scary. I know in the back of many admissions reps’ minds we are thinking: is this the type of person we want taking care of us, our parents, our children, our future?

The big question is where does the real life and college preparation for a potential nursing student begin? This could apply to many other majors too. Does it begin in high school? Middle school? At home? At a younger age to encourage students to enjoy science and math? Many students we meet with don’t understand the importance of passing biology and chemistry in middle school and high school. In some cases, not only do they need to pass the course but also the Regents exam to even be considered as a regular applicant for a nursing program.

Where do study habits fit in? I often think students feel just because they snuck by in high school without studying or doing homework means they can use the same tactics to crack it in college. We all know this isn’t true, especially in nursing. Nursing programs are meant to be tough on purpose. It isn’t a career cut out for everyone. There are terms to learn and memorize, quick rational decisions that have to be made and skills to perfect (we all know somebody who complained their nurse couldn’t find their vein the first time they went to draw blood).

Our potential students don’t realize program competition is fierce, that there are clinical rotations to the complete and many professors only allow you to fail one nursing course before you are dismissed from the program. Parents of students who qualify for pre-nursing programs never want to hear their child may not get into an actual nursing program due to their performance in college.

The harshest reality often comes around graduation time when all the hours spent learning the tools of the trade are put to the test with the board exam. That is one test that can make or break a student, all their hopes and all their dreams.

I always find it interesting when colleagues tell stories where 15 years ago they struggled to fill 50 seats in their nursing program. Today there are thousands of students applying and competing for the same “coveted” 50 spots in a program.

What can we do? We CAN make a difference. We can try to engage students and talk with counselors when we speak at middle/high school programs or career days. We can educate students at college fairs and discuss the importance of doing well in school and that taking five study halls your senior year is not a good idea. Will it work? I’ll let you determine that based on your work ethic and belief in student success…

In closing I will leave you with what an advisor once told me they ask every potential nursing student they advise: “Do you want to change a bed pan? Sponge bathe someone? Can you handle watching someone die with their grieving family members in the room?” If you answered “no” to any of these “are you sure you want to be a nurse?”