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Tag Archives: money advice

Paying for nursing school

28 Aug
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From the incredible and hilarious nursing.school Instagram.

A couple of my readers have wanted to know how I pay for nursing school and while I’m no financial adviser, I can offer some words of wisdom on how to make it work and at least share what I’ve done. So let’s get real uncomfortable and talk about our finances!

One of the main reasons I decided to make the transition from veterinary nursing to human nursing is that it’s a more secure profession. Much better pay, better benefits and plenty of opportunity for growth and even better salaries over time. But getting there is by no means cheap.

Probably the biggest piece of advise I can offer is to start saving right now. Like right this minute. Top priority. Top of the list. How are you going to make this work? Most likely the time between when you decide you want to go to nursing school and actually starting will be a while. I decided I wanted to go back to school in January 2016, and I actually started nursing school January 2018. Between that time was a lot of pre-requisites and applying periods. I made a commitment to myself back then that I would scrimp and save. I also agreed to pick up as many extra shifts at work as possible. I took on every pet sitting client that asked me. I also went through my monthly budget and eliminated a lot. No more shopping. Not a lot of traveling. Eating in more. Cancelled Hulu, Spotify, New Yorker magazine subscription, etc. It all felt like little things that would never add up to paying for nursing school, but it has helped make a dent.

I would also highly highly recommend community college for any and all prerequisites that you might need to take. When I first decided I was going back to school, I shopped around for post-baccalaureate programs. I was accepted at the University of Vermont’s program. I was so excited and wide-eyed. It was all starting to happen for me. How fun it would be to live in Burlington! But then they started notifying me of the cost. About 22K per semester for 3-4 semesters, coming to between 66K and 88K for prerequisites. Not to mention the cost of relocating to Vermont, buying a car, etc. I opted for Laguardia community college where I racked up around 10K of debt instead. Not. Bad. Nursing schools DO NOT CARE where you did your pre-requisites. They care what grades you got. So save the money and go to the cheapest community college options available.

I chose NYU because I’m an older student, and it was one of the few programs that had a January start instead of a September start for their accelerated program. For me starting the nine months earlier was worth the heftier price tag. I would become a nurse sooner, and NYU has a great reputation, and I felt I could get a higher-paying job faster. But there are cheaper options, such as Hunter college, if you are looking in New York City.  Many nurses start out with an associates degree, gain experience, and return for their Bachelor’s. It’s a totally viable option if that’s what you can afford.

I have been careful about balancing work and school, and I’m lucky that I work at a place that gives me the flexibility to do that. My first semester I only worked one day a week, and second semester I worked two days a week. And I pet sit a lot. It’s a great side hustle, even though the money isn’t reliable. Some months I’ve racked up a lot of pet sitting money, and other months I barely make anything at all. My savings, my part-time work, and the pet sitting have made it so I only needed to take out loans that would cover tuition. I’ll still owe between 80k-90k in loans when I’m done though. That includes private loans (the majority of the debt), federal loans, and the small loans I took out to pay for my pre-requisites. Even when I think about it though, I feel nauseous. But for me, I decided that I will make it work. I’ll be making good money, doing something I love, and I’ll pay that down eventually. I did meet a lot of students at NYU who continued to work full-time, but I must warn that the majority of them failed out that first semester. So I personally don’t think it’s worth the risk.

So that’s how I did it/am doing it. Everyone’s situation is a little different. A lot of my classmates are living with their parents to save money on rent (not an option for me), and a lot of my classmates have their parents paying for their living situation (also not an option for me), and some of my classmates aren’t working at all and taking out additional loans to cover living expenses (gratefully not what I needed to do). The best piece of advice I can give is really take a long weekend to sit down and work through it. Is this absolutely what you want to do? Do you have debt already hanging over you? Are there things you can do NOW to start making extra money? How can you cut back on your spending, and what are you willing to sacrifice? What nursing school options can you afford? It’s not going to be easy, but if it’s what you really feel called to do, it’ll be worth it.

Some small Nursing School tips to save money!

  • Don’t buy the textbooks! I was an eager beaver who bought the textbooks a week before school only to find out on day 2 of school that there were free pdfs of the textbooks going around which were VERY easy to get. I wasted about $700. So at least wait through the first week of school to make sure you really need to be buying those books.
  • Go to student group events! My friends make fun of me, because I attend so many lectures on different aspects of nursing. But the not-so-secret thing is that it comes with a free dinner. Usually it’s pizza. Sometimes it’s salad, sandwiches, potluck food made by students. Basically they give you free food to lecture you for an hour about a healthcare topic. It’s usually very interesting and also gives you a great way to meet other students in the program and network with professors and alumni. But, yeah, free meals. Do it.
  • Invest in a good coffee maker, travel mug, lunch pails, etc. Don’t waste too much money at school/hospital cafeterias. Pack your own snacks, brew your own coffee. It adds up fast, and professors get weirdly impressed when they see you eating healthy snack options.
  • Sign up for a credit card with cash back rewards. Just a general money-saving tip, but it has especially helped in nursing school. I have a chase card with amazon reward points. Again, these little things add up fast, and it’s helped mitigate some of my smaller expenses.
  • If you don’t already have a job like mine that you can mold to your school schedule, ask your professors if they know of any. A lot of my friends have gotten “Companion” positions at hospitals. I’m quite jealous of them, because they get a decent amount of money, and they get to know a lot of the nursing staff at hospitals and will have in-house references once we graduate.
  • Optimize what your school offers you. NYU allows us free admission to most NYC museums, along with free gym memberships, not to mention a ginormous library. That means I spend a lot less money on going out, working out, and buying books.

I hope this at least helps!

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