Top Private Nursing Schools in California

Top Private Nursing Schools in California in 2024


Last Updated on March 24, 2024 by II Editor

California is known for its desirable weather, flourishing industries, and many educational opportunities. If you aspire to enter nursing, finding the right nursing school is an important first step towards your career goals. In this guide, we provide an overview of some of the top private nursing schools in California where you can earn a quality nursing education.

We’ll explore the unique strengths of several renowned nursing programs in the state. From rigorous academics and cutting-edge facilities to opportunities for specialization and experienced faculty, these schools aim to prepare compassionate and knowledgeable nurses. Read on to learn about program offerings, admission requirements, costs, and more from each profiled institution so you can decide which may best fit your needs and aspirations as a nurse. 


Defining Private Nursing Schools

Before diving into specific school profiles, defining “private nursing school” in contrast to public options is helpful. Private schools are independent institutions that are nonprofit or for-profit. They are not tax-supported like California’s renowned public university systems. Private nursing programs have more autonomy over curriculum, staffing, and operations compared to public counterparts bound to state regulations.

This autonomy allows private schools flexibility to tailor programming. For example, they may offer accelerated BSN degrees, dual-degree options like BSN-to-MSN, or specialized tracks in areas like nurse-midwifery. Tuition costs are higher at private institutions than comparable public programs due to less state funding subsidies. However, many private schools offer generous financial aid packages.

Top Private Nursing Schools in California

Let’s explore some top picks for private nursing education in the Golden State. Factors like accreditation, reputation, resources, outcomes, and cost-effectiveness contribute to a school’s prestige and ability to prepare students for graduate success.

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1. University of San Francisco 

  • Location: San Francisco
  • Acceptance Rate: 70%
  • Graduation Rate: 84%
  • Tuition (BSN): $48,610

Consistently ranked among the top nursing schools in California, USF emphasizes social justice and care for underserved communities. Their BSN program leverages the university’s prime location near top hospitals. Students gain experience in diverse clinical rotations and benefit from small class sizes, allowing close faculty mentorship. The program boasts a 92% first-time NCLEX pass rate. Accelerated 15-month BSN options are available.

2. Samuel Merritt University 

  • Location: Oakland
  • Acceptance Rate: 66%
  • Graduation Rate: 78%
  • Tuition (BSN): $48,060

Samuel Merritt places a strong focus on simulation experiences to prepare students for real clinical settings. Cutting-edge labs emulate complex patient scenarios. The BSN curriculum incorporates leadership, community health, and holistic care principles. Program options include an accelerated 15-month BSN and a 2+2 program for non-nursing majors. Ranked #27 nationally by US News, graduates report a 98% NCLEX pass rate.

3. West Coast University

  • Location: Various California campuses. 
  • Acceptance Rate: 80%
  • Graduation Rate: 75%
  • Tuition (BSN): $31,500

As a multi-campus university system, West Coast offers flexible online and hybrid nursing programs across California. This makes the accredited BSN highly accessible. Additional opportunities include fast-track programs for non-nursing grads and RN-to-BSN completion pathways. Clinical partnerships provide diverse hands-on experiences. Graduates benefit from the West Coast’s strong reputation and pass rates above 90% on nursing licensing exams. 

4. Holy Names University

  • Location: Oakland
  • Acceptance Rate: 75%
  • Graduation Rate: 76%
  • Tuition (BSN): $39,930

Holy Names prides itself on graduating compassionate, competent nurses through a values-based education. Small class sizes of 20 students maximize faculty support. Emphases are placed on community health assessment, nursing research, and leadership development. Clinical sites span San Francisco area hospitals and clinics. Their BSN curriculum can be completed in 4 years or an accelerated 15-month option. NCLEX pass rates routinely exceed state and national averages.

5. Concordia University

  • Location: Irvine. 
  • Acceptance Rate: 83%.
  • Graduation Rate: 74% 
  • Tuition (BSN): $42,990
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Housed in a beautiful coastal campus, Concordia offers traditional and accelerated BSN tracks along with RN-to-BSN and master’s entry programs. Their nursing simulation center houses high-fidelity mannequins programmed to respond realistically to interventions. Students gain emergency training and complete community health assignments. Generous scholarships are available to assist with affording a private education.

Admission Requirements

In addition to learning about program strengths, it’s important to understand the admission criteria for acceptance into these prestigious nursing programs. Competition for slots can be rigorous, so meeting minimum standards is key. Here are some typical requirements:

– GPA: Most programs require at least a 3.0 overall GPA on a 4.0 scale for all prior college coursework. Higher GPAs are often preferable for admission.

– Standardized Tests: The SAT or ACT are usually not required for RNs but for BSN-to-PhD tracks. The NLN Nursing Acceleration Challenge Exams (ACE) or HESI A2 may be mandatory for accelerated BSN programs.

– Prerequisite Courses: Commonly required prerequisites include college-level anatomy and physiology, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, psychology, and English with a minimum grade of C.


– References: Two to three positive letters of recommendation from professors or employers are standard.

– Personal Statement: A 500+ word essay responding to an assigned prompt is frequently part of the application.

– Clinical Experience: Some programs like USF require certain hours of prior medical experience such as CNA work or volunteer work.

– Interview: Competitive schools may invite qualified applicants to an on-campus interview as the final step.

– Citizenship: International students generally need a student visa and may face additional requirements like TOEFL/IELTS scores.

Factors like overall application quality, fit with school mission/values, and diverse experiences can also influence admissions panels. A meeting with a representative is advised to discuss one’s candidacy.

Choosing the Best School for Your Goals

Through extensive research, you should now have a well-rounded understanding of strong private nursing school options close to home in California. When choosing between programs, reflect deeply on factors like:

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– Program outcomes: Look at graduation rates, average time to completion, and NCLEX pass percentages.

– Cost and financial aid: Compare total costs of attendance, including tuition, housing, books, and fees—research available scholarships.

– Specializations: Consider if accelerated, dual-degree or specialty tracks align with your career path plans better.

-Location: Weigh the pros and cons of campus settings in different communities for clinical access, costs of living, and lifestyle preferences.

– Fit: Evaluate how a school’s mission, size, resources, and faculty support match your individual learning needs and goals as a nurse.

With purposeful reflection, connecting with admissions teams, and possibly campus visits, you can determine the top private nursing school in California primed to help launch your rewarding nursing career. The differentiated educational experiences these schools provide set graduates up for success. 

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In this blog post, we highlighted several top-ranked private nursing schools in California renowned for training excellent candidates for the profession. With this overview of defining characteristics, program offerings, and key factors to consider, you now have the insights needed to select the ideal institution.

Reflect deeply on your aspirations as a nurse and partner closely with each school of interest to determine the optimal educational environment to help you develop the clinical knowledge, technical skills, and hands-on experience vital for a fulfilling career impacting lives. With diligent research, selecting the top private nursing school primed to launch your journey is within reach.

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