Your Nursing School Scholarship Guide
Congratulations on your decision to become a nurse! Nursing is an excellent, versatile career choice that can provide years of satisfying, fulfilling work. Now that you have selected your field, it's time to learn how to pay for your education. This can be daunting and intimidating, but taken a step-at-a-time, you will see that there are many sources of funding of which you can take advantage.
As you begin funding your education, it is key to understand the terminology associated with financing your education. A scholarship is a financial gift; it is money you do not have to pay back. As such, it is generally a competitive source of funds.
Many scholarships are designated for students with specific characteristics. There are scholarships for students with certain grade point averages, ethnic or geographic backgrounds, specific career focus such as nursing, economic situations, and many other classifications. In addition to searching websites, nursing school sites and government sites for information, do not overlook less advertised sources such as local organizations such as the Red Cross.
Generally, the most substantial sources of nursing scholarships are from nursing schools themselves; diligently investigate scholarships available from the schools that interest you.
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Loan repayment programs offer to repay your student loans once you graduate. You must apply to the sponsoring organizations and be approved for these programs. Generally, such programs are associated with accepting nursing jobs in underserved, impoverished, or otherwise challenging environments and require a commitment of some years.
There are many such programs sponsored by the federal and state government as well as specific hospital and medical centers.
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There is a long-standing American association between nursing schools and hospitals and medical centers. Many medical institutions offer educational benefits to employees to pursue nursing degrees or extend their education beyond the degrees they already have. These programs require you to meet the educational requirements of the nursing program and maintain the relationship as defined with the sponsoring institution.
Grow Your Own programs are designed to fill nursing openings by educating nurses from the existing employee base. The hospital creates an association with a local nursing school and the two organizations work together to support nursing students to successful graduation. Upon graduation, the nurses who are products of Grow Your Own programs agree to work in the sponsoring hospital or medical center for a period of time such as several years.
Grow Your Own programs are an excellent way to begin your nursing career. They pay for your education and provide you with your first job, which can still be a challenge even in the current advantageous nursing climate.
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Tuition reimbursement programs are offered by your employer for qualifying classes you take. These generally have stipulations associated with them including such requirements as establishing a qualifying length of service, having to pay out of pocket and being reimbursed only for qualifying programs and grades, limitations as to how much money or how many classes will be reimbursed etc.
Become familiar with the details of your employer's program before paying for any classes lest you find out later that you do not qualify for reimbursement. Additionally, understand that many such programs are subject to change without notice; keep current on the requirements. If you find classes that are not specifically listed as qualifying for reimbursement, do not hesitate to present your case to the company and request assistance. Your organization does not know of all the possible educational opportunities and may have overlooked the one you found.
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Increasingly, hospitals are offering nursing residency programs. These programs are well-reviewed by both nurses and hospitals. The goal of these programs is to provide a smooth, intelligent transition from classroom to the hospital floor.
Though graduate licensed nurses are legally qualified to nurse, hospitals and medical centers have long acknowledged that the usual six-week orientation program is insufficient to render them independent on the hospital floor. The residency programs provide additional education, instruction on local policies and procedures and a network for new nurses to support and learn from each other.
Nurse residency programs are paid employment and include all the education associated with the program. Often such programs stipulate that you must agree to remain with the institution for a set period of time, such as a year, after completion.
Many institutions that have experimented with nurse residency programs find that it increases nurse retention. Nurses who have experience with nurse residency programs report that it made the transition to employment easier.
Traditionally, clinical nurses topped out financially and in career terms pretty quickly. To improve income, you had to move into administration or leave clinical nursing for the private sector. To retain clinical nurses, some hospitals have created nursing ladder systems.
Nursing Ladder systems provide in-house education for career advancement and recognize and provide those advancements to nurses with superior clinical skills. These programs operate inside specific institutions. Each step up the ladder is associated with pay and responsibility increases or/and some title change indicative of your advanced role.
The advantages of these programs are many. They retain experienced clinical nurses in the roles they enjoy rather than diverting them out of the hospital or into administration. The nurses enjoy job advancement, pay improvements, and the acknowledgment that they have superior skills in some area. Hospitals are finding increasingly that clinical nurses tend to stay with the hospitals longer when there are such opportunities of advancement.
If this is of interest to you, look for employment opportunities that offer nursing ladder systems; they are not available in every hospital. When you do find such a program, become familiar with the process, requirements and career path so you do not miss opportunities.
The key advantages of student loans is that they enable you to attend school full-time so you can concentrate on your studies and you don't start to pay them off until you graduate. The federal student loan program is the best route for educational loans. The interest rate is lower than private loans and you have a long time over which to pay them.
The foundation of the federal student loan program is a form called the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Based on the information you submit in this form, the government will offer you an aid program composed of grants, campus work study and loans. Grants are financial gifts that you do not repay; they are free assistance to your education. Work-study programs are opportunities for you to work on campus and get paid as you study. The money you earn is paid to you directly not to your school. You may use these funds as need to advance your education for books, clothing, school supplies etc. The third area of aid is your student loan. The repayment terms of your loan are specified in the award material.
You can find private loans to support your education as well. Because they are not supported by the federal government, the interest rate tends to be higher than federal student loans and the repayment period is variable depending on the institution.
Private loans are also more demanding in terms of repayment, co-signer, interest rates etc. They are also quite variable. To effectively use private loans to your advantage, you need to survey the loan environment to find the best deal. Many institutions advertise loans at a certain rate but the rate available to you as a student may be higher than the advertised rate. Understand exactly what your responsibilities are for a private loan before signing anything.