How am I going to pay for nursing school?

Chris O'Brien received her BSN from Auburn University and her Master's in Public Health degree from Emory University. With a background in cardiac care, home health, nursing research & education, and medical writing, she now enjoys the dual paths of being a freelance medical writer and yoga teacher in Decatur, GA.

Luckily there's lots of help available to pay for nursing school, even more than for most other types of degrees. Because the demand for nurses and nursing faculty is great, and because healthcare facilities can't function without nurses, there are a number of federal grants available to help you pay for your education. Scholarships are available, too. In fact, in many places nursing students have the option to sign a contract to work in a particular healthcare system or hospital for a certain amount of time after graduating in exchange for a scholarship. Hospitals use this as a recruitment tool, and it keeps a steady supply of well educated nurses available, so it works well both ways.

Shop Around

Most schools are more than happy to provide advice about the various federal and possibly state grant options. In addition, there may be other scholarship funding available that school personnel can direct you to. Individuals, corporations, hospitals, and other groups offer scholarships to help nursing students. The criteria for receiving scholarships are as varied as people are, so you do have to search to find the ones that you're a good candidate for.

Start Online

Completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the first step to take once you've been admitted to a school. Yep, you heard right It's not uncommon to get admitted first and then find the money. Sounds kind of crazy, I know. Of course it's not a bad idea to start the conversation about paying for college ahead of time, especially if schools are seeking you because of your excellent academic background or for whatever it is that sets you apart from the rest of the applicants. You can't get a scholarship unless you ask for it. You can also apply to the scholarship right now!

Beat Deadlines

There are strict deadlines for all student aid, so getting a head start on this is the only way you're going to get funds. Make a daily to-do list and set aside 30 minutes to an hour each week where you search through scholarship information. Just scan it first to see what's available - it may surprise you. Counselors or admissions staff members at your school are excellent resources for scholarship and financial aid options, so make a connection with someone and get an idea about what you'll need, but do it way ahead of the deadline.

It's a Good Risk