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How to Prepare for Nursing School: 2024 Guide

Jun 12, 2024

If you’ve ever been a hospital patient, you know firsthand how vital nurses are to patient recovery. Hospitals can be stressful places, but nurses help ease the anxiety and fear that patients experience while receiving treatment for injuries or illnesses. In difficult or uncertain situations, nurses provide the compassion and comfort that can turn a patient’s experience from painful to bearable—and maybe even pleasant.

If you feel like your calling is to deliver this type of care to those in need, you could be a perfect candidate for a nursing career. Though the academic journey of a nurse may be demanding, the potential for a fulfilling, lucrative job can be a great incentive to succeed.

This blog is for aspiring nursing students who want to learn about how to prepare for nursing school in 2024.

Why Go to Nursing School?

Nursing prelicensure, RN to BSN, and other similar programs are often rigorous, but they serve as strong foundations for a nursing career. Nursing is one of the most gratifying jobs for mission-driven individuals since it places them on the front lines of patient care. Plus, developing a passion for the career could make challenging coursework much more manageable.

Some of the most attractive benefits of pursuing a nursing education include the following:

  • You can find a flexible degree program. There are ways to balance school with your work and family life. For example, at WGU, students can access program materials online 24/7, with no set log-in times for coursework.
  • You can gain extensive knowledge of healthcare. Completing a nursing program opens the door to many healthcare careers. Your core and specialty nursing courses will equip you with relevant and useful industry skills, and you’ll gain the expertise to properly care for a wide spectrum of patients.
  • You can earn a competitive salary in a growing field. Job stability and salary are driving factors in choosing the right career path. As of May 2023, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an average annual salary of $86,070 for registered nurses, with a 6% growth rate for employment of RNs from 2022 to 2032. This data indicates that nursing jobs are projected to remain in demand.
  • You’ll be empowered to positively impact the lives of others. Nurses provide necessary care and comfort in nearly every healthcare setting. They not only administer treatment plans, but just as importantly, they extend emotional care and compassion to calm and encourage patients during difficult situations.

What to Expect in Nursing School

Fundamental coursework. Your coursework may consist of nursing core classes, general healthcare classes, and courses related to your specialty. Common subject matter could include information technology in nursing, global and population health, intrapersonal leadership and professional growth, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and human growth and development.

Nursing skills labs. In your nursing skills lab, you’ll discover the essentials of what it takes to be a nurse—how to practice empathy, how to employ critical thinking, how to stay focused under stress, and how to maintain patience on the job. In addition to these skills, you’ll also learn clinical skills, such as the following:

  • Blood pressure monitoring
  • Catheterization
  • Head-to-toe assessment
  • Intramuscular injections
  • Oxygenation therapy
  • Tracheostomy care
  • Wound care

Nursing simulation labs. Nursing simulation labs are designed to recreate the environments and scenarios you’ll encounter when you’re a working nurse. These immersive, hands-on experiences will familiarize you with what it’s like to work in healthcare settings such as hospital emergency rooms, urgent care centers, labor and delivery rooms, and operating theaters. Simulation labs will differ depending on your specialty of study.

Clinical rotations. Clinical rotations allow nursing students to interact with patients under the supervision of employed nurses and other clinical staff. These rotations can be a great opportunity for nurses to practice their specialty and gain real-life experience in the field. During your rotations, you’ll often apply what you learn in your skills and simulation labs to interact with and care for patients. The work you perform in clinical rotations is a vital step on your nursing education path because you’ll come to know what day-to-day tasks you might encounter in your career.

Consider Your Finances

College tuition. College tuition is one of the most significant financial investments an aspiring professional can make. For some students—especially those coming directly from high school—the ticket price of a traditional college or university may be inaccessible. To put it in perspective, from 2020 to 2021, reported an average yearly tuition—plus fees—for in-state students in public colleges at $10,388. The average yearly tuition for out-of-state students in public colleges was $22,698. The price was higher for private colleges, with an average yearly tuition of $38,185. At a four-year public university, students can expect to pay between $41,000 and $91,000, and at a private university, upwards of $152,.

WGU, on the other hand, offers flat-rate tuition for its nursing bachelor’s programs, meaning you’ll only pay $6,430 (pre-nursing terms) and $8,755 (clinical nursing terms) for a nursing prelicensure degree and $4,685 for an RN to BSN nursing degree per six-month term. This allows you to complete as many courses as you’re able to during each term, potentially saving you time and lowering your total bill.

WGU also provides a number of financial aid services and support systems that can empower you to follow your professional dreams with little to no new student debt.

Living expenses. Many full-time students attending traditional universities opt to quit their jobs or work fewer hours to focus on coursework. These students may also be encouraged to live and eat on campus, which could add thousands to their annual education bill. According to, the average annual cost of room and board at four-year public universities is $10,440 while the average for four-year private universities is $11,890.

At WGU, you can keep your current job while studying. Since WGU’s coursework is available online and doesn’t require set log-in times, you can balance school with your work and family life. WGU also provides nurses with flexible options for onsite clinical assignments.

To-Dos for Nursing School Preparation

Find the right nursing program or specialty. There are many different types of nurses, so be sure to do your due diligence to find the career path that best aligns with your goals. Some of the most popular nursing careers, according to, include family nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse, nurse midwife, geriatric nurse, and acute care nurse practitioner. If you’re interested in the highest-paying nursing careers, consider becoming a certified nurse anesthetist, neonatal nurse practitioner, psychiatric nurse practitioner, geriatric nurse practitioner, or certified nurse midwife.

Decide on the right degree. Once you have an idea of the area of nursing that suits you best, you should then choose the right degree to prepare you for that career. WGU offers several accredited bachelor’s and master's degrees—as well as certificate programs—in healthcare and nursing, including nursing education, leadership and management, nursing informatics, family nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

Do your research. Before you make any final decisions about which area of nursing to pursue or where to earn your degree, consider talking to a current nurse about their time earning licensure and gaining career experience. They could offer you effective study tips to meet RN prerequisites or lend valuable insight into the day-to-day of nursing. You might also speak with a WGU Enrollment Counselor, who can guide you toward a degree program that matches your learning style.

Finally, consider browsing online nursing forums to see what nurses are talking about. In these spaces, you can read about the challenges that nurses face, what nurses love about their work, and other useful information. 

Prepare for Nursing School Success! 

Ready to start? Look to WGU.

We're an online, nonprofit university dedicated to creating pathways to opportunity for each one of our nursing students. A WGU nursing program will equip you with the skills that the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) deems essential. Additionally, WGU’s competency-based learning model lets you advance through coursework as quickly as you show mastery of the material, so you can potentially graduate faster and save money.

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