R.N. to B.S.N. Program Decision Tool
There are many things to consider when choosing the right Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program to meet your needs.
Many associate degree (AD) prepared registered nurses (RN) return to school to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, due to personal goals, or employer mandates. With 777 different RN to BSN programs offered in the United States, and a variety of delivery formats and schedules, selecting the best program to meet an individual’s needs is challenging.
Below you will find a decision tree outlining all of the different aspects to consider when choosing an RN to BSN program. Each section will dig deeper into those considerations with questions you should ask yourself prior to applying.
First, you should reflect on your personal plans and goals as you consider returning for your BSN.
It is important to first ensure that your program of interest is an accredited program. Accreditation includes meeting national and professional requirements through organizations such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or Accreditation Council for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Both CCNE and ACEN ensure certain program and educational standards are met including faculty qualifications, required content, and organizational standards. Attending an accredited program means that students are eligible for national financial aid programs, and credits earned are more easily transferred to other universities.
There are multiple considerations when you are thinking about the best program format for you:
- Format: Programs may be exclusively online, hybrid (combination of online and face-to-face), or entirely face-to-face.
- Technology: the level of experience with technology that is required for each program will vary based on the delivery format and the need to navigate online learning. Completing a learning self-assessment tool offered by prospective universities provides important information to students including what the university deems essential skills and the level of technology required for successful program completion. Taking multiple self-assessment tools can provide a well-rounded view of necessary skills and abilities and inform the decision-making process.
- Individual Format: Some students prefer to progress at their own rate or work alone. These students may search for programs that offer individualized formats rather than the cohort model.
- Cohort Format: A cohort model allows students to learn with and from peers over a period of time. This is especially helpful if the courses require group projects or if the student likes to study with peers.
The following questions should be considered when deciding what program format is the best fit for your unique learning style and needs:
- What kind of learner am I—audio, visual, both?
- Am I comfortable and adept at using technology and do I have the necessary tools to learn online including an up-to-date computer, software, and internet connections?
- Do I do better with self-scheduling or set schedules?
- Do I prefer working alone and completing my work at my own rate?
- Are there group projects? If so, how will I collaborate with other students to complete these requirements?
As you explore RN to BSN programs, be sure to ask whether completed credits from your ADN program will transfer to the prospective BSN program, as well as how many courses remain to meet all graduation requirements.
Questions to consider include:
Your time is precious and is a key consideration when choosing an RN to BSN program.
- Consider the length of courses, as well as the amount of time you must dedicate to schoolwork or travel time to the program of choice.
- Application deadlines are another important item to consider.
- Competing time demands involving family or social responsibilities, work schedules, and other obligations should impact your decision-making process.
A few key questions to ask yourself regarding time include:
Paying for a BSN degree is a major factor to consider when returning to school.
To get a sense of the scholarship opportunities available for RN to BSN Program students, visit the GVSU RN to BSN Program Scholarship Website.
As you navigate different programs, consider:
Every program offers different kinds and levels of organizational support. A few examples include:
- Tutoring: academic support in the form of writing centers and tutoring services for course requirements.
- Accessibility: if you require accommodations for a disability, many schools offer learning and accessibility resources.
- Academic advising: is made available to students as they start and progress through their RN to BSN programs. Academic advisors are typically available to help with signing up for courses each semester.
- Veteran services: in addition to special programming and resources, there may also be other benefits offered through scholarships or grants specific to this population.
- Support groups: joining support groups, such as those for gender identity, ethnic, or family role identity may be available to connect with other students.
Important questions you should ask when considering organizational resources include the following:
Make a Decision
Returning to school to earn a BSN has multiple implications for everyone. You should thoroughly consider each aspect to make the best decision based on your unique situation. Making the decision to return to school is not a quick process, requiring time and thought. Review prospective program websites and don't hesitate to reach out to admissions counselors directly to have your questions answered.
For each student, different areas on this chart will hold different weights. While one program may be better for a friend or work colleague, it may not be the best for you. There is no one right or wrong answer, which is why you should take the time to think through your unique learning needs and future goals.
Explore the GVSU RN to BSN Program
If an online program is a good fit for you, check out the Grand Valley State University RN to BSN Program.
Our fully online RN to BSN program features synchronous and asynchronous coursework and small class sizes, which provide individualized, meaningful engagement with professors and fellow students. Unlike correspondence courses, our faculty guide students through every step of the program, meeting the needs of students working full-time. Local precepted clinical experiences are coordinated for you by our dedicated placement coordinator.
Who is the RN to BSN program made for?
- Students enrolled in an Associate Degree in Nursing, Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Nursing, or an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree program
- Students just graduating with their associate's degree in nursing
- Registered Nurses who have been working for any length of time, or who are not currently working but still have an active, unencumbered RN license.
Meet the Authors
This RN to BSN Decision Tool was designed by Grand Valley State University Kirkhof College of Nursing associate professor, Dr. Susan Strouse, and Doctor of Nursing Practice student, April Butler.
Do you have questions about the RN to BSN Decision Tool? Contact Dr. Strouse at [email protected].
Dr. Susan Strouse followed the RN to BSN education trajectory herself, later continuing her education to earn her MSN and Ph.D. in nursing. She has taught at both community colleges and universities with extensive experience teaching RN to BSN students. Dr. Strouse noted that students often did not have a systematic, informed method of selecting an RN to BSN program, and decided to remedy that gap by creating a decision-making tool to help with this process, informed by her personal, and professional experience.
April Butler also followed the RN to BSN pathway of advancing her education, graduating with her DNP in April 2022. April partnered her personal and professional knowledge with Dr. Strouse, to create this tool to help future RN to BSN students.