I always wanted to attend an Ivy League college. More than anything, I wanted to prove to myself that I could get in and make it through what I had been told were the most difficult University programs in the country. So, when I made the decision to go to nursing school, I applied to one place: Columbia University.
Big Lights, Big City
Columbia’s medical campus is located in the Washington Heights region of Manhattan. Health science students like myself lived in Bard Hall which was a two minute walk to New York Presbyterian Hospital. Accommodations were certainly livable just as long as you didn’t mind the communal bathroom and showers in a building that should have been remodeled 20 years ago. But at $600 per month rent, all utilities included in Manhattan, who could pass up the deal? As a poor nurse-to-be, I certainly couldn’t.
Not Your Average Nursing Program
Columbia’s nursing school specialized in making second degree students (i.e. students who already completed a bachelor’s degree) into Nurse Practitioners. During the first year of the program, you earn the title of Registered Nurse by completing two years of nursing courses in one. The next 1-3 years made you a Nurse Practitioner in the specialty of your choosing. The first year of school consisted of three semesters of 6-7 classes each plus time in spent in the hospital getting hands on experience, which left little time for anything else but school.
It Costs a Pretty Penny
With no scholarships available, attending Columbia cost about $85,000 for one year of school. The thought of more debt, is part of the reason I chose not to continue on into the Nurse Practitioner portion of the program. I remained an R.N., and used my Master of Public Health degree and nursing experience to work in oncology research. Doing so, I made the same amount of money as a Nurse Practitioner and loved the work I was doing.
Sleep is Optional
I slept less the year of nursing school than any other year of my life. I took up permanent residence in the library, and studied like I’d never studied before. It was the most intense academic year of my life and there were many moments where I thought I wouldn’t make it through. Columbia’s professors demanded excellence- as they should. At the end of my Ivy League experience, I felt two things- pride and accomplishment. For those two things alone, it was all worth it.