There are several high school activities aspiring registered nurses can pursue to get a jumpstart on nursing school and passing the registered nurse exam (NCLEX-RN). Even though most high school students choose their academic and extra-curricular activities based on fun, it’s important to take these formative years seriously. Admissions committees for competitive college nursing programs will expect to see an application filled with relevant courses and experiences. After all, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) reports that more than 75,000 nursing applicants are turned away annually. Marketing yourself as a promising young nurse is important even before entering the college classroom. In this article, we’ll discuss the steps you can take to prepare for nursing school while in high school.

Advanced Placement Classes

Taking a college academic track filled with Advanced Placement (AP) classes during your junior and senior years is wise. Future nurses will need a solid foundation in math and science before excelling in college-level nursing courses. Filling up your schedule with AP courses related to algebra, calculus, biology, chemistry, statistics, and physics can go a long way in bolstering your nursing school application. Usually, colleges will provide credit for these classes if you pass the culminating exam with a satisfactory score too. Remember that maintaining the highest possible GPA is key, so balance your AP coursework in a manageable manner.

First Aid and/or CPR Training

Getting a head start on learning basic nursing skills through specialized first aid and/or CPR training is an excellent idea. If your high school doesn’t teach these life-saving tactics in your health curriculum, search for a community-based program that does. In fact, the American Heart Association (AHA) even offers online CPR certification courses for testing your life support knowledge. Getting a part-time job as a lifeguard or emergency medical technician could also help you fine-tune these skills. Participating in the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA)-Future Health Professionals program could provide valuable preparation in nursing science too.

Volunteer Service Learning

Adding volunteer work to your resume will set you apart from other high schoolers who focused exclusively on academics. Hands-on experience gained through volunteering will provide key insights into whether nursing is indeed the career path for you (please also see, How Do I Know if a Nursing Degree is Right for Me?). During the school year or summer break, take time to volunteer at your local healthcare facilities. Volunteers are often needed at hospitals, nursing homes, residential care centers, and clinics. Not only will you develop valuable skills working with patients, but you’ll also network with on-staff nurses to build solid career connections.

Working as a Nursing Assistant

After turning 18 years old, high school seniors are qualified to pursue credentials as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Being licensed will exponentially increase your luck in receiving an acceptance letter from your dream nursing program. CNAs work under close supervision to handle various bedside activities, such as monitoring vital signs, bathing patients, changing bedding, and charting conditions. Training classes before the state test are quite minimal, but it could bolster your application greatly.

Preparing for a bright future in nursing must start in high school because competition remains fierce for enrollment in our country’s top-ranked nursing colleges. It’s never too early to begin practicing the communication, problem-solving, clinical, analytical, and leadership skills you’re likely to need as a registered nurse. It’s advised that you develop an organized study plan with your high school counselor and take advantage of these high school activities to get ready for the rigors of nursing. 

For more information on nursing school preparation, please see: What Kind of Scholarships Are Available for Nursing Students?