What’s the Ideal Age to Start Nursing School? (Debunking the Myth!)

I’m going to tell you a secret…over the years, I’ve had students as young as 23 and as old as 71 ask me the same exact question: “Am I too old to be starting Nursing School? I feel like I’m behind.”

I’ve been a professional nursing tutor for over 15 years. So as someone who has helped adult learner nursing students of all ages successfully navigate and graduate from nursing school to become amazingly wonderful nurses, I’m going to tell you how I always answer that question: if you have the desire and the means to go to nursing school, then it’s not too late. You are not too old. There is no ‘deadline’ for nursing school.

And I’ll prove it to you.

Age Is Just a Number

Sure, the ‘traditional’ path through higher education feels like it should be high school directly to college. But how many people do you know nowadays who have gone back to school later in life? Who changed careers? And come to think of it, why is that even considered ‘traditional’?

More and more, adults at all stages of life are choosing to go back to school for nursing. And colleges have taken notice! In fact, many now offer programs that accommodate the busier schedules of adult learners who need to work or take care of family alongside nursing classes.

So if it’s such a common thing nowadays, why do you still feel like you don’t quite belong there in Nursing School?

Nursing Student Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever heard of ‘Imposter Syndrome’ before? It’s when you have a hard time believing that you are capable and deserve the situation you’re in, so you work harder and harder to make sure you ‘deserve’ your spot (and that nobody else figures out that you probably don’t belong there after all…).

In nursing school, this happens when you start questioning whether you’re actually cut out to be a nurse. When you wonder if you’ve got what it takes to get through school, or if maybe something is wrong with you and you’re not quite good enough. (But at the same time, you don’t want anybody else to know, or else they might kick you out of the program!!) This can lead to increasing worry and anxious thoughts, worsening test anxiety, and more.

Imposter syndrome is a normal experience that almost everybody deals with, but I think it tends to be worse for adult learners and here’s why: as an adult, you’re generally good at everything in your life because you’ve been adulting for a while now. And since most of us do the same things on repeat, you’ve had lots of practice and know how to accomplish all the tasks you need to make your life run smoothly.

Now enter Nursing School.

Nursing School is a completely new experience, with new skills required. And anything you’re doing for the very first time…well, you’re going to suck at it.

So if you feel like you’re not that great at nursing school yet, it doesn’t mean you’re an imposter who doesn’t deserve to be there…it means you’re NORMAL ❤️

Because skills can be learned. You start out not so great at them, but if you do the right kind of learning, do the right kind of studying, then you will gradually improve.

What’s the Right Time for Nursing School?

So, when is the right time to start nursing school? Whenever works best for you.

(Honestly, I think it’s kind of like having a baby…there’s never a good time, and there are things you can do to prepare, but eventually you just have to decide you want to do it and…start trying!)

But here’s some good advice: don’t be in too much of a hurry.

I know that ‘too much’ can be relative. But I have seen nursing students fail because they were so stressed out from financial worries, or taking care of elderly parents, or their own health concerns, that they didn’t have enough personal and mental resources to take care of themselves.

These can be extreme cases, but always count the cost of nursing school…if you can delay starting by a single semester to save up extra money so that you can work minimal hours while taking your nursing classes, would that be worth it?

If you can go to a nursing school that is tens of thousands of dollars cheaper, but you can’t start until next Fall, how much money would that save you?

Because I promise you…most of these nursing schools out there will be all too happy to tell you to start now, and take your money. But will they care if you fail because you weren’t completely prepared yet? Nope! They already got your money.

If you’re not sure whether you’re ready for nursing school, I’d encourage you to attend my next Pre-Nursing Bootcamp! It covers the 4 major topics you need for nursing school success, and you can ask me any questions you have about starting nursing school, too.

Because it’s impossible to give a ‘one-size fits all’ sort of answer to the question of when you should start without first assessing a few more details about your personal situation.

The Reality of Nursing School at Any Age

No matter how old you are when you start Nursing school, it’s going to be a challenge. And challenges are good! They encourage you to stretch and grow as a person.

When you’re an adult learner starting Nursing School, you need to tackle this challenge on top of all the added responsibilities in your life. This is where the real divide between adult learner nursing students vs nursing students coming straight from high school often (but not always!) differ.

You’ve got bills to pay.

You’ve got family to take care of.

You might even have a job you’ve got to keep working in between your class schedule.

And it’s these extra responsibilities that can sometimes make you feel like you don’t belong…but now you know that’s just Imposter Syndrome talking!

The Importance of Mentorship and Community as a Nursing Student

So while there’s no right or wrong age to start nursing school, there are different ways to approach school depending on what other life responsibilities you have. And it can feel alienating when you’re dealing with how to pay your car insurance while your younger classmates are complaining about not being able to attend Friday night’s party.

That’s why it’s so important to surround yourself with a healthy community of nursing students who are facing the same challenges you are.

(And it’s even better if you can find this healthy community outside of your current nursing school. Because do you really want your classmates knowing all your personal business? I thought not.)

It’s also helpful to have a mentor with a broader perspective than yours. After all, no matter how well prepared you think you are, everybody has some bumps on their nursing school journey. And a good mentor who has seen it all can be just the thing you need when you think the world is falling apart.

I do that for students all the time. Failed a test? Let me tell you about all the nursing students who not only failed a test, but failed out of nursing school, staged a comeback, and went on to become amazing nurses. I saw it happen. And if it happened for them, it can happen for you, too. Sometimes, it’s hard to see the bright future ahead of you when you’re currently experience a setback.

If you’d like a reliable place for both a positive, supportive, encouraging community AND practical mentorship, I invite you to join our Group Tutoring Membership! Not only do you get access to tutoring and mentorship from a professional nursing tutor, but you also get to attend weekly Nursing Student Support Groups and cheer each other on in our members-only forum.

And yes…the majority of our members are adult learners, so you won’t feel like the ‘class mom’ when you join 😉

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