Exploring the competitiveness of NAU’s nursing program

Dry eyes from studying, racing hearts from exams and aching hands from essays are the college students’ common afflictions. Nursing students are all too familiar with these problems, but they can prescribe solutions to help one balance the workload. Nursing has become a popular field, especially with the given circumstances of the pandemic.

The nursing program at NAU is challenging, rewarding and competitive, but it is also a demanding program to get accepted into.

Dawn Rivas, associate director of the NAU School of Nursing, said the nursing program gets over 100 applicants per semester, but only has 30 seats available each time. She also said it is essential to complete all liberal studies and prerequisites before applying to the nursing program, which each student has to list and state the grade they got in each class. 

 Rivas said the nursing program at NAU has three different locations. The primary site is at the Flagstaff Mountain campus, but they also operate at the Yuma and Tucson campuses.  

“I think it’s difficult because it’s very competitive,” Rivas said. “The thing that is kind of surprising to me is that if I had my mindset to become a nurse, I would become a nurse wherever they accepted me. And so, what we see a lot is people apply to our nursing program and only want to come to Flagstaff.”

Rivas said if people were more flexible and willing to travel to a different location that is not Flagstaff, they could get into the NAU nursing program sooner. The application is a longer process than most of NAU’s degree programs, which would include a Kaplan admission exam and the newly-added CASPer test.  

Junior nursing major Carlos Pampara got accepted to the program in fall 2020 and started this spring. Pampara said it is a good idea to be open to complete the program in either Tucson or Yuma, not only in Flagstaff. 

Pampara said he was rejected once before he was accepted into the program. He said when he took the Kaplan test it was hard because only about 20 questions cover three semesters of sciences, but he found it most helpful to study anatomy. He said the CASPer test was more like a personality test than an exam with actual questions. 

Junior Calli Ketterer majors in nursing and she got accepted into the program in spring 2020 and started in the following fall. She said she believes that the process of the application needs to be adjusted slightly.

“I think the process needs improvement because it is based on GPA and one test score, and to me, that doesn’t accurately show the candidate applying for the position,” Ketterer said through text. “I feel as though there should be multiple interviews, so the program can get to know the applicants and see if they would be fit for the job.”

She also said it is a popular major, making it more intense, especially with only 30 spots available per semester. 

Rivas said the nursing program is strict when it comes to completing everything, which can take about three semesters. Once a student is accepted into the program, it takes about five semesters to finalize all the requirements to graduate with a nursing degree. 

 However, Rivas said NAU also has the accelerated bachelor of science in nursing, which can be taken if a student has already earned a bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited college. The nursing program’s accelerated option aims to prepare a student for the registered nurse’s exam, a test for entry-level nurses to take to become a registered nurse within one year. 

Pampara said he found it hard to try to balance studying for the Kaplan test and focusing on classes. Depending on the date that one signed up for, it can line up with the first or second exams given in actual classes. He said it is vital to be organized and to start studying for the exams early as opposed to waiting until the last minute. 

“It was hard trying to balance between [studying] for the Kaplan and also focusing on classes that you’re taking right now,” Pampara said. “It can cause some stress if you don’t manage or organize yourself well. It is kind of hard to prioritize what you want to focus on.”

He said the benefit of not getting in the first time was that he knew what to expect when reapplying and retaking the Kaplan exam, which helped him study more efficiently.

Rivas said not to give up when a student does not get accepted right away and to keep trying because there is always next time. However, it is essential to step out of one’s comfort zone and consider not being set on the Flagstaff campus.

“[Students should] be willing to think outside of the box or outside of their comfort zone and maybe not stay in Flagstaff,” Rivas said. “And don’t give up if you didn’t get in this time, even if you didn’t get in next time because there are people that are really good nurses that tried two or three times before they got in.”

Ketterer said the nursing program is intense, but it is great to get involved with if nursing is a field of interest. 

“I think that it is a very well-put-together program with amazing instructors and a great platform to learn,” Ketterer said. “I encourage people to look into a career in nursing and NAU in particular. Just know that it is going to require a lot of time and dedication, but it is possible if you put your mind to it!”