How to Decide on the Right Program
How do you decide which program is the best fit for you?
If you are asking every program the same questions, every program will be the best. If you are reaching out to a variety of BSN programs and asking questions, document the responses. Next, take this information and develop a tool to share with your colleagues. It will be one less step for the next person getting started, and you can use the tool for professional advancement. Be sure to ask about transfer credits; challenging credits; cost per credit hour; credits to complete; length of classes; average time to complete; minimum or maximum time to complete; online, classroom, or hybrid setting; eBooks; hardcover; included in tuition costs; additional costs per semester; tutoring costs; practicum requirements; discounts available; graduation costs; and graduation rates.
There is the decision comparing online versus in class setting. Some people feel they could never be motivated enough for online classes and want the classroom experience. Online enables a student to study around work and personal schedule. It does mean time management but something most of those who choose say is very manageable.
Next, consider what credits will they accept, what is transferable, or what you might be able to challenge. Need an elective? Consider a DSST exam at a local community college for $100 on a Saturday morning and earn three credits. It had been suggested because "no nurse has ever failed it." Another option would be CLEP exams.
Even those nurses that do not feel computer savvy can adapt quickly. There are some great programs for formatting papers. These programs make APA formatting or saving references easy.
Books: some programs include eBooks as part of the tuition. Not including books would not deter me from a program; there are some great rental or used sites. In two degrees, I never paid full price for a book. Sometimes I rented, sometimes I bought used, depending on the book. A simple Google search will guide you to best price.
After speaking with different programs and representatives, you will know which program feels right for you. Trust your gut, it is a personal decision and that is hard to measure.
Finally, one thing I have heard repeatedly when talking to different BSN prepared nurses over the pros and cons of the programs they choose is they wished they had started sooner. If I can offer one piece of advice, it would be to choose a program and try it. Worst-case scenario, if you do not love it, you transfer your credits. If you do, you will be looking back in no time saying I wish I had started sooner.
Beth Hogan MSN, RN, CNOR, CRN