Interview With a Pre-nursing Student: Part 2
This post concludes my interview with a pre-nursing student. You can find part 1 here.
Me: Do you have any tips for finding scholarships or financial aid?
No. I stumbled into mine, and it kept expanding. I think you start where you are and turn over rocks. I went to a workforce center even though they were not helpful. Then I started hearing about grants. One person led me to another.
Me: What are the most expensive things that schools leave out of their cost estimates?
I guessed at costs at clinical sites. It is not just the expensive things. The little things add up fast, and you can’t write those off later. I just hung out with some students at one school and saw 101 little things: There is a coffee fund for the place I will do my work study. There is a “buy lunch” expectation between student groups certain days a week. There can be parking at that clinical site.
No one lists a laptop, but I’m sure I need one. Many schools expect you to get health insurance on your own, and that feels oppressive. If the school contracts out background checks, they can be miserable. One school I looked at mentioned that there are NCLEX study costs (you are pushed into buying into Kaplan). That was nowhere on their list with tuition. I found out it would be another $400. Surprise!
There are a lot of unofficial requirements. Many students find they really are expected to get their CNA on their own ($700–$1000) with certifications. Getting it done reasonably can take planning a YEAR in advance. Plan ahead. Ask around. A lot of things like CPR certifications can be done for little or no cost IF you know you’ll have to do it. But I’ve met students who enroll at for-profit schools at the last last minute for little things and have to pay a lot of money.
Finally, no one tells you the time commitment this path takes. When I started this, a school led me to believe that I could apply now, would be a shoo-in, be done with prerequisites in a semester, and walk into a program. No school accepted me. A year later, I am applying to longer programs. I have been accepted everywhere, but it has been an expensive lesson.
Me: Are there any other “gotchas” to look out for during the application process?
PS: Plan. Plan. Talk to students and admissions folks about what they really look for or expect. Assume that every student you meet is as qualified as you. Everyone has a background. Shop around. Visit schools. Ask questions. You’ll learn something new at each visit. Fees are everywhere for every step.
Here is my best advice: ask for a list of exact deadlines for money. Keep asking like a broken record. (I finally walked up to an administrator and said, “I am writing a grant. I need to plan for everything now. What type of computer do you recommend?” She went on an info hunt for me. I got a list of unexpected and recommended unofficial costs). Ask if there any deposits or enrollment fees. Is anything due for any reason before this (tuition/billing) date? Keep asking, and ask different people. When you keep asking the same questions (is ANY money due before this time? Will I have to pay for ANYTHING?), people start mentioning new things.
I only wish I had known that nothing (and I do mean nothing) is as was advertised. Timing will spin you around in circles. No matter how super you think one program is or how determined you are to go one place, apply everywhere applicable. And anytime someone tells you something, ask another person. Expect nothing to be simple. And start early! Some programs require paperwork that can take a year to get. At least if you haven’t started the month before applications are due, you can beg for a waiver. Several processes seem to exist only to create paperwork-processing jobs.
If you need to figure out costs, compare what the school gives you to other programs. You’ll quickly realize they leave out expensive things. You won’t be comparing apple to apples, so throw the advertised sticker price out the window (or add $7,000 to it).
— This concludes our interview. Please do not get discouraged: remember, nursing is the hardest job you’ll ever love. The hard part starts when you decide to become a nurse, and the love will come later. —
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