According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, among careers requiring only an associate degree, nursing is one of the most highly paid and in-demand. Aspiring nurses in the Chicago area can save money by training at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. With 26,000 students, COD is the second largest public education institution in Illinois after the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the community college offers two pathways to a career in nursing: the associate degree in nursing or ADN, which leads to an RN licensure and immediate employment, or the Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Basic Admission

To be admitted to COD’s nursing program, you must first be admitted to the general college, a process which can be started via the COD Web site. COD has an open admission policy: The school accepts anyone who is over 18 years old and has a high school degree or GED. Classes do fill up quickly, so students should apply early -- ideally in February or March -- to obtain the courses they want for the fall semester. After paying the $20 application fee and submitting your form online, submit your ACT scores and school transcripts. If you do not have these on hand, or your ACT math and English score are below 20, you will be required to take placement tests in reading, writing and math. The school recommends that you meet with an adviser as soon as you have submitted your application form. Now you are ready to apply for admission to COD’s Health Sciences programs.

Health Sciences Admission and CNA

The Health Sciences programs at COD require a separate admission packet and a $50 application fee, which you will submit after being accepted to the general college. Students are not admitted directly to the nursing program but must first apply to the Basic Nursing Assistant program, a certificate program lasting eight weeks. To be accepted to the Basic Nursing Assistant program in your first semester of school, you must score a Category One on COD’s writing placement exam and have a composite ACT score of at least 20, or pass COD’s reading placement exam. If you cannot meet any of these requirements, you must pass English 1101 or 1002 and apply for second-semester admission to the program. One hundred to 120 students are admitted to the Basic Nursing Assistant program each term, and on completion, if you pass the written competency test, you will be a Certified Nursing Assistant in Illinois.

If you have been a medic in the military, or if you have been a CNA in another state, you may skip BNA training, provided you can show proof of your work history.

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Additional Coursework

After completing your CNA and prior to nursing degree program admission, you must pass several nursing prerequisite courses with a grade of “C” or better. These include Mathematics for Health Sciences and general psychology. You must also take the customary nursing prerequisites. These include a survey of general chemistry and Anatomy and Physiology I and II, which you may also take in advanced format with a human cadaver.

ADN and BSN Admission

When all your required courses are completed, you should then be able to take the HESI A2 (pre-admission exam). This exam lasts five hours and tests the student's basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology, chemistry, biology, mathematics, reading, writing and vocabulary. The exam also categorizes the student's learning style and personality type. Eighty seats are available in the ADN program every spring, and priority is given to the students with the highest HESI scores from the previous semester.

Once admitted to the ADN degree program, you may choose to pursue an associate degree in the Pre-Nursing/BSN program rather than the traditional ADN that leads to RN licensing. To do so, find out the BSN requirements at your target four-year college and meet with a nursing adviser to decide which of these courses will serve for your associate degree. You may also apply to COD’s 3+1 BSN program with Benedictine University and Governor's State University. In this program, students complete three years of nursing study at College of DuPage, and a final, bachelor's degree-granting year at one of the aforementioned two universities.

About the Author

Laura Holland Fletcher has graduate level training in ESL, linguistics and the teaching of writing. She taught ESL and college writing for more than 10 years in both the US and Asia. She also writes for local and national magazines that cover legal, educational and social justice issues.