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Can You Really Afford Long Nursing School Waitlists?

take-a-number-dispenser.png“Good things come to those who wait,” the adage goes. But sometimes waiting can be more detrimental than taking swift action on your future career. This is especially true for those who aspire to get into nursing school.

Just how long are nursing program waitlists these days? They practically rival the Green Bay Packers’ NFL season ticket wait list: Cheeseheads wait an average of 100 years. It’s only a mild exaggeration: One community college in California recently waded through 1,000 applications … and accepted only 72.

The aging Boomer cohort, coupled with the aftershocks of the 2008 recession, has resulted in nursing’s prominence as a stable, high-earning career. It’s also resulted in mile-long nursing waiting school waitlists, as many schools switch from lottery-based to merit-based admissions. While getting in won’t depend on Lady Luck, the competition is much stiffer.

Which leads to the million-dollar question:

Can you afford to wait?

The simplistic answer is no. In the end, the opportunity cost of delaying your education often trumps what savings you may realize by staying waitlisted with a cheaper community college.

Let’s say you are currently earning about fifteen dollars an hour in a dead-end position. Waiting an extra year (or two) equals an extra year (or two) away from entering a job market that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, statistically promises a median salary of $65,470 for Registered Nurses (RN).

Of course, there is the other opportunity cost of taking out more loans to complete a BSN program from a more expensive school that doesn’t have a wait list.

Calculate the ROI

While the loans you take out to complete such programs may be higher (even after transfer discounts, military discounts, and/or federal financial aid is applied), the odds are good.

Job placements numbers don’t lie. At Herzing University, both the accreditor and state job placement rate for students who finish their associate’s program is 91 percent. That’s just associate’s – the rate climbs to a 100 percent for master’s graduates.

If you were to “gamble” $41,925 – the overall cost for an associate’s program at Herzing – for something with a 91% chance of succeeding, it is likely a smarter play than six-digit loan debts of disciplines like law school.

Private schools without waiting lists: Meeting overwhelming demand

Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that nursing-related jobs will grow 71 percent between 2010 and 2020, there just aren’t enough nursing instructors and programs to meet the current demand. While federal initiatives are working on the problem, your best bet may be to consider private colleges and schools which do not have a waiting list.

Here are other ways to get around (or at least shorten) the wait list phase:

Finish earning your BSN, in less time than the wait list

At Stevens-Henager College, you can quickly jump into a 20-month Bachelors of Nursing program, taking courses like Pathophysiology, Nursing Informatics, and Evidence-Based Nursing.

Consider the alternative: Waiting 20 months (if not more) just for your name to bump its way up to the top of the waiting list … and then a few more months to study for, pass, and possibly re-take the NCLEX-RN licensure exam.

Weigh prestige against waiting time

How important is a “big name” nursing school on your resume? University of Pennsylvania, University of Washington, and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill are top 10 nursing schools.

But unless your objective is a doctorate or a career in academia or teaching, you can still be competitive by graduating from rigorous, accredited nursing programs from private colleges.

Even if you do look for prestige, it often doesn’t matter where you fulfill general education requirements such as English, social sciences, math, biology, and chemistry courses.

Transfer your credits to a NLNAC-accredited nursing program

Got a bunch of anatomy, chemistry, and general education credits sitting around? Be sure to take an assessment of which credits are transferable to a nursing program.

Azusa Pacific’s nursing program, which has no wait list, has a Two-Plus-Two (High Desert) nursing program for students who’ve completed 60 or more transferable semester units. This option lets you complete the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in six consecutive semesters.

At Kaplan, you can get a maximum discount of $8,000 for transferred credits.

Go for grad school – or an associate’s

Across the board, tuition for a 3- or 4-year BSN program tends to be costlier than that of an associate’s or master’s. For example, a BSN program at Herzing is $82,925, compared to $41,925 for as associates or $35,280 for a master’s degree.

If you are at the point of your career where the next step is a master’s or an associate’s, it truly may make more sense to skip the waitlist. These programs are relatively more economical and faster than a BSN.

Switching from a non-healthcare field? Look for “Second Career” programs

Because of the overwhelming number of bright, capable nursing school applicants who come from other backgrounds, many “Second Career” programs have sprouted. Many of these programs prepare students to take the NCLEX-RN.

The University of Michigan School of Nursing offers one, but Azusa Pacific has a program without a waiting list. Its Second Careers and Nursing (SCAN) program is an accelerated master’s entry program for students with baccalaureate or (higher degrees) in other disciplines.

Take baby stepping stones toward your BSN or Master’s

Been rejected (or waitlisted) from a four-year BSN program? Think of as an opportunity to break down your career endgame into smaller steps: A two-year RN Associate degree, a one-year LPN certification, or working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).

Bottom line: The best time to apply or prepare for an LPN-to-BSN or RN-to-BSN program is now.

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