Tips for Choosing an RN-BSN Program

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN, 2015) reported there are 679 RN to BSN programs available nationwide, including more than 400 programs that are offered at least partially online.  Prospective students therefore have numerous options to choose from in their own state of residence, as well as across the nation due to this online presence. How then can students select the program that is the right fit for their personal and professional life?

There are several questions to ask yourself as you begin your search, perhaps starting with your preference for an online or face-to-face program. Once you narrow this down, take some time to explore potential programs available to you. Review the admission requirements, including a list of pre-requisite courses you need to be admitted, license requirements, and grade point average (GPA) needed from your Associate’s or Diploma nursing program. If you are interested in an online program look to see what the requirements are to “be online.” Is the program asynchronous, meaning you can be completing course work when it fits in your schedule? Or, are there requirements to be online on particular days or hours? This information will help you decide if the program will be one you can add to your already busy life. At Widener University our online RN to BSN program is asynchronous, giving you the flexibility to work at your own pace, and on your schedule. 

Review the cost of the program and any potential financial aid or scholarships that might be available to you. If you are working as a nurse, explore if your institution provides any financial assistance, such as tuition reimbursement. There may be incentives to complete a BSN degree also, such as a raise in salary. Find out if there are limits on the amount of money your institution will reimburse (such as a dollar amount per year or overall) or if your institution has any requirements for you to enroll in a specific program. Sometimes hospitals partner with a particular University to offer classes, or make the admission process easier. 

Next, take some time to explore the University, beginning with a look at the mission and philosophy of the program and the University. Ask yourself, are these in sync with your beliefs? Is there a focus on community service or leadership, for example, and if so, does this appeal to you?  This information can assist you to see if the University and program are a good fit for your career goals. You may want to select an RN to BSN program at a University that also offers graduate degrees that will further enhance your career. Widener’s School of Nursing offers undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees. 

Look carefully at the website and all information specific to the School of Nursing of the University you are interested in. View the faculty webpages and read about their research and practice interests. You may find information on their philosophies on teaching and expectations for students. Investigate if the nursing program is accredited; this is information that should be clearly stated on the website.  Accreditation is a rigorous process that demonstrates the faculty’s commitment to nursing education. Our baccalaureate (including the RN to BSN program option), master’s and Doctor of Nursing practice (DNP) programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (Widener University School of Nursing, n.d.). Widener University’s School of Nursing is also recognized as a Center for Nursing Excellence by the National League for Nursing (Widener University, n.d.). This designation was achieved because of our commitment to advancing nursing science, and is supported by faculty leaders in nursing education, scholarship, and civic engagement.  

With all of the options available to earn your BSN degree, it can be overwhelming to choose a program. Talk to co-workers and fellow nurses, ask them about their experiences. Invest the time to research options and choose an accredited program that will meet your personal and professional needs. The program should be well respected and taught by qualified faculty who are committed to preparing nurses to lead and advance the profession, and support you in your career goals. Good luck!

If you would like to learn more about Widener’s online RN-BSN program call 844-386-7321 to speak with a program manager or request more information

About the Author

Dr. Nancy Laplante is an Associate Professor of Nursing. She is the Coordinator of the RN/BSN & RN/MSN program options and the Director of Online Programs for the School of Nursing. She earned her MSN degree in 2004 with a focus in community health nursing, and a PhD in Nursing in 2007. Dr. Laplante is a board certified advanced holistic nurse, and serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Holistic Nursing.

She believes that compassion and caring are essential components of nursing education, and she strives to engage students in respectful, meaningful dialogue. She is a regular contributor to fundamental nursing textbooks and has published in the areas of holistic nursing education, educational perspectives, healthcare applications for the Internet of Things (IoT), and Service-Learning. Additional research interests include the image of nursing, creating presence in online learning communities, and self-care practices for nursing students. In her spare time Dr. Laplante enjoys spending time with her family and being a volunteer for a local animal rescue to support pet adoption and education in the community.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). (2015). Degree Completion Programs for Registered Nurses: RN to Master's Degree and RN to Baccalaureate Programs. Retrieved from

Widener University. (n.d.). NLN Center of Excellence in Education. Retrieved from

Widener University School of Nursing. (n.d.).  Retrieved from