12 Steps To Prepare For Nursing School While In High School (PLUS Pro Tips)


Written By: Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA


Are you a high school student with dreams of becoming a registered nurse? Do you feel overwhelmed with all the information there is to consider and wish there was a way to begin the process? Maybe you wonder, “Can someone tell me how to prepare for nursing school while in high school?”

Because I have been where you are and understand how you feel, I want to share 12 steps and pro tips to successfully prepare for nursing school while in high school. By following these simple steps, you can get on track and prepare to transition to nursing school after earning your high school diploma.



How to Prepare for Nursing School While in High School?

(The following are the 12 steps and pro tips to successfully prepare for nursing school while in high school.)


STEP #1: Make Sure You Take the Right Classes While in High School


About The Step:

Nursing schools set high standards for admission. Therefore, if you want to prepare for nursing school while in high school, one of the most important things you can do is take essential classes to prepare you for nursing studies.

Pro Tip:

State school systems have a list of required courses or credits that high school students must complete, including the number of science, math, and English courses. If your school offers advanced standing or specialized courses like statistics, chemistry, or anatomy and physiology, consider taking them, as this will help you prepare for the way content is structured in nursing school.


STEP #2: Get CPR and First Aid Certified


About The Step:

All nursing students must be CPR and First Aid certified at some point before beginning clinicals. While you may not have to get certified while in high school, doing so is an excellent way to get some exposure to health-related information before beginning nursing school. As a side note, people without a medical or nursing background have been in the right place at the right time to save lives because they were CPR certified. Earning your certification while still in high school could mean the difference in you helping someone in desperate need.

Pro Tip:

BLS, or Basic Life Support, certification is required for all nurses. There are several agencies that offer CPR classes and certification. The most popular are the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association.


STEP #3: Get Volunteer Experience in Healthcare Settings


About The Step:

A great way to prepare for nursing school while in high school is to volunteer. Even in high school, you can volunteer at a hospital, nursing home, senior center, or many other health-related facilities.

Pro Tip:

Volunteering in healthcare gives you a feel for the atmosphere of healthcare. It also creates opportunities for you to meet healthcare professionals who may later become mentors while you are in nursing school. Even if a hospital or other facility does not have a formal volunteer program, management may create volunteer opportunities for you if you reach out to them and express your plans to become a nurse and your desire to volunteer.


STEP #4: Consider Whether You Should Attempt Earning Credits Through Dual Enrollment


About The Step:

Another excellent option to help you prepare for nursing school while in high school is to complete college-level courses to earn dual credit. Dual enrollment courses are classes you take that award both high school and college credits simultaneously.

Pro Tip:

Taking dual enrollment classes can reduce the time it takes you to earn your nursing degree once you start college. Talk to your high school advisor to discuss options for dual enrollment options. Some schools offer dual enrollment classes at the high school campus, while others require students to take classes at a local community or technical college or on a university campus.


STEP #5: Research Different Types of Nursing Degrees


About The Step:

There are two types of undergraduate nursing degrees: an associate degree in nursing and a Bachelor of Science in nursing degree. The associate degree (ADN) typically takes an average of two years to complete, and a bachelor’s degree (BSN) takes approximately four years.

Pro Tip:

Both associate's and bachelor's nursing degrees in nursing prepare you for roles in providing clinical nursing care. With a BSN, you may be a more likely candidate for a management position. However, that is not to say that an associate degree will disqualify you from working in nursing management or leadership.

The great thing about nursing is that there is always room to grow and learn. If you decide to earn an associate degree, you can always go back and earn a bachelor’s degree or pursue a graduate degree later.


STEP #6: Find Out Admission Requirements for the Programs that Interest You


About The Step:

A critical step in preparing for nursing school while in high school is to find out the admission requirements for different schools. While the general admission criteria for most nursing schools are similar, some schools have specific requirements for their programs. Therefore, it is important that you verify the admission requirements for each school where you plan to apply.

Pro Tip:

Some of the general requirements when applying will be to write an admission essay about why you want to become a nurse or why you chose a particular school. You can begin thinking of what to write now and prepare some rough drafts. Also, you will have to submit high school transcripts for review. The better your grade point average in high school, the better your chances of getting a spot in a good program.


STEP #7: Take the ACT and/or SAT


About The Step:

Most colleges and universities require candidates to take the ACT or SAT and submit scores with their admission application. Each school determines the minimum score required for admission to its program. Most prefer candidates with a composite score of 24 or higher.

Pro Tip:

Your high school may offer ACT or SAT prep classes. You can also buy ACT and SAT prep books to study independently. There is no limit to the number of times you can take the ACT or SAT. So, if you do not get the score you want, I recommend taking the test again. Most high schools receive vouchers each year, which allow students to take the exams at least once with no out-of-pocket expense. However, you may not know about the vouchers unless you ask someone. Your guidance counselor should have them or tell you where you can get one.


STEP #8: Talk to Your High School Advisor About Scholarships and Financial Aid Opportunities


About The Step:

One of the most important things to consider, and something most high school students may not think about, is how you will pay for your college education. Depending on where you go to school and for how long, earning a nursing degree can be expensive. Knowing what resources are available and how to tap into them is essential.

Pro Tip:

I know I have mentioned talking to your high school guidance counselor several times, but it is because they are exceptional sources of information, and their job is to help you. Ask about scholarship and grant opportunities and get information about applying for federal student aid. Most colleges and universities require students to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which determines eligibility for federal grants and low-interest student loans. It is never too early to identify resources and start meeting eligibility requirements for financial assistance to pay for your education.


STEP #9: Research Several Nursing Schools


About The Step:

One of the great things about going to nursing school is that you have tons of options. However, if you do not know where to begin, it can feel a bit overwhelming. Once you decide whether to pursue an associate's or bachelor's degree, you can narrow your search to schools that offer that type of program. Ask questions like what percentage of students graduate from the school's nursing program and how many pass the NCLEX-RN exam, as these are strong indicators of the quality of education the program provides.

Pro Tip:

As you prepare for nursing school while in high school, a few things to consider are whether you plan to commute or live on campus. If you plan to commute, how far are you willing to travel to school? Some schools require incoming freshmen to spend their first year living on campus. Consider attending workshops designed for prospective students. Also, ask if it is possible to visit the nursing department to see where you will learn and meet faculty. Anything you can do to familiarize yourself with a school or program can make your decision easier when it comes time to choose a school to attend.


STEP #10: Prepare for the HESI Exam


About The Step:

The HESI is a standardized, computerized test that most nursing schools require prospective students to take as part of the admissions process. The test, which is comprised of 326 questions, is used to assess vocabulary and general knowledge, grammar, reading comprehension, biology, understanding of anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, and basic math skills.

Pro Tip:

Each section of the HESI is individually scored. Therefore, if you are stronger in reading comprehension and vocabulary but struggle with basic math, you may want to put special emphasis on studying extra for the math and chemistry components. There are many resources to help you study and prepare for the HESI entrance exam.


STEP #11: Get a Part-Time Job at a Hospital or Doctor’s Office


About The Step:

One of the best ways to prepare for nursing school while in high school is to get a part-time job at a hospital or doctor’s office. Granted, there are things you cannot do in a healthcare facility without a license or certification. However, there is much more to working in a healthcare facility than giving medications or performing procedures, and those are things you can do.

Pro Tip:

It is not required for you to get a job in a healthcare setting before starting nursing school if you plan on going after high school. However, as a nurse and healthcare educator, I have found that students who worked or volunteered in a hospital, doctor’s office, or other healthcare setting seemed to be more at ease when it came time to begin clinicals and transition to patient care. In addition to getting some experience, you can also make some extra money while still in high school, which is always a plus! (Tell your mom I said, “You’re welcome!”)


STEP #12: Apply to Colleges Early


About The Step:

Once you narrow your search to schools that truly interest you, begin gathering as many of the required documents you will need to submit with your application. Of course, you will need to request your school to send an official transcript after graduating, but many schools will accept your application pending graduation and meeting the GPA requirement for admission. By applying early, you ensure your application arrives in time for admission teams to review your information and contact you if they need additional information or want to interview you. Not all undergraduate programs require candidates to participate in an admissions interview, but it never hurts to be prepared, just in case.

Pro Tip:

Admission to some nursing schools is much more competitive than others, and having your application turned in is one way to ensure your application is not lost or delayed, which could result in being wait-listed. Also, I recommend applying to at least a few schools. You may be limited, depending on where you live now and whether you plan to live on campus or off campus, but since you are preparing for nursing school while in high school, you have time to look at your options.



My Final Thoughts


High school is an exciting time filled with hopes and dreams. One of the things you are probably dreaming of is going to college and your future career. If you are considering becoming a registered nurse, you may have wondered if there is someone who can tell you how to prepare for nursing school while in high school.

In this article, I shared 12 steps and pro tips to successfully prepare for nursing school while in high school. By following these simple steps, you can make the process of preparing for nursing school while you are still in high school a little easier. Then, after graduating, you can transition into the role of a nursing student. Nursing is a wonderful profession full of opportunity, and we need bright, dedicated people excited to become part of our teams like you!


Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).