CSON faculty, students, and alum answer your questions from our virtual accepted students page.

Andrew Dwyer

Connell School of Nursing Assistant Professor Andrew Dwyer, Ph.D., RN, FNP-BC, FNAP, with current DNP student Katlyn N.

Q: Can you walk me through what a typical week of classes is like during the DNP Program?

A: A typical week has one or two days of classes, which are a mixture of on-campus as well as hybrid online classes. Some of the classes take place in the morning and others take place in the evening. If you’re a part-time student, there’s more flexibility in what classes you can take in each semester — so you could choose classes that work the best with your schedule for a particular semester. However, as a full-time student, there’s not as much flexibility in how your classes are structured. For example, I’m a full-time student and my first-year fall semester consisted of Monday morning class on campus and a Monday evening class that was mostly online. I had Tuesday evening class online as well. My spring semester consisted of two Monday classes on campus and a Wednesday class on campus as well. The classes are a mix between morning, afternoon, and evening, however the School of Nursing tries to make the schedule as convenient as possible for students by clustering class times together. 

-Response from Katlyn N., full-time DNP student


Q: As a full-time DNP student, is it possible to work while taking classes? If so, what would be a manageable/recommended schedule for balancing a job and school work?

A: Yes, this is common at CSON. In my case, I’m a full-time DNP student on the FNP track, and I also work part time as a nurse at a community health center. While balancing these two can sometimes be challenging, I’ve found it manageable and also fulfilling in how my courses complement and enrich my work and vice versa. To accommodate working students, many courses tend to be grouped on the same day (for example, both this and last semester I had two courses on Mondays). This has allowed me to have a “school day” dedicated to my courses and assignments. Several other courses are in the late afternoons/evenings, which allows me to work part days. Fortunately, my work is accommodating and supportive of me going back to school, which has helped significantly, especially during times like finals when I’ve been able to take fewer shifts to complete assignments. Professors are also supportive of working students, and they find ways to accommodate student needs. This situation is similar for many of my peers, who also work — either per diem or part time — and they’ve each found a school/work schedule that works for them, so it’s very possible. The key is to be open and transparent about all of this to both your work and your professors. You’ll find them very accommodating.   

-Response from Mary L., full-time DNP student

 Q: How rigorous have you found the DNP program? How many days a week do you dedicate to classes, clinical, and coursework? Have you find it manageable to work full-time while enrolled? 

A: When deciding on a graduate school program, I was extremely nervous about how I would manage classes and a full-time work schedule. One reason I chose Boston College was because of how flexible the part-time program is. My adviser has been extremely helpful in navigating my academic schedule to ensure it fits with my work schedule. I work three twelve-hour night shifts a week at Brigham and Women's Hospital and so we tailored my school schedule to fit, with two classes each semester and one in the summer. By doing this, I’ve been able to dedicate an entire day to classes and schoolwork, while working my three scheduled night shifts at work. In regard to course load, I’m typically able to do schoolwork on my dedicated class day and some weeks, when necessary, I dedicate another day to schoolwork. Thus far, it has been extremely manageable. However, I anticipate having to reduce my hours at work once clinicals start later in the program.

-Response from Lizzy N., part-time DNP student 

My adviser has been extremely helpful in navigating my academic schedule to ensure it fits with my work schedule.


Q: Did you find it difficult to become a student in the classroom again vs. working and learning on the job?

A: Short answer: Yes. Long answer: I took a longer time than most students (nine years), to go back to school for my NP degree. This length of time away from academia was a double-edged sword. On one hand, I truly knew that I had taken all the time needed to make sure I picked the right degree for me — Pediatric Primary Care NP. This means my school work is extremely applicable and motivating to me, and I have a huge amount of clinical relevance from my years of experience. On the other hand, more time out of the classroom made the transition back to school more difficult than I expected. It took some time to get back in the grove of studying techniques, schedules, and balancing work/life. But I quickly began accommodating to this new normal, and I am sure you will too. Just know that it is an adjustment! The hardest transition for me has been remembering how to work productively (and kindly) in a group, as so much bedside nursing is independent.  

-Response from Katie G., current DNP student

Q: Were you able to get financial aid, or did you end up paying out of pocket/taking out loans?

A: I was able to get all the necessary funding through FAFSA loans and the GradPlus loan. I haven’t needed to pay out of pocket. Every person's situation is different. A few reasons for my choice is that my husband and I relocated to Boston so that I could start this program, and rent here is higher here than other places we’ve lived. I wanted more financial flexibility now, knowing that I am going into a career with high rates of job placement and a dependable salary. I was confident I would be able to swiftly repay my loans with my higher income as an NP compared to bedside nursing. I would recommend just cold-calling BC’s financial aid office and talking to a financial advisor. I did, and they were incredibly helpful. They’re experts who can answer lots of questions so you don’t get lost in details that may or may not be relevant.  

-Response from Katie G., current DNP student  

Q: Did you find yourself able to break-even with the cost invested in your degree after going out into the workforce?

A: I think break-even is the best way to put it. Currently my loan payments are based on last year’s taxes, so they’re zero dollar payments. But starting in the fall, the payments will be far more than my current rent where I live in Philadelphia. With that being said, I will definitely break-even and live comfortably as a single person, but it does not leave much room for savings or for supporting anyone else. I currently work at a Planned Parenthood that qualifies for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, but there’s a chance that program may not exist in the years to come, so I’m not relying on it. I’m currently looking to cut down my hours at my job and work part time for an FQHC to qualify for HRSA loan repayment program, which I think will make a huge difference long term.

-Response from Claudia M., ‘19 WHNP alum


Susan Kelly-Weeder

Susan Kelly-Weeder, Ph.D., FNP-BC, FAAN, FAANP, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs

Q: What are the main differences/classes between the old MS program and the new DNP program? 

A: We have increased the total required clinical hours from 500, for most specialties in the MS, to nearly 1,000 for the DNP. We have also introduced an innovative model for developing your DNP clinical project in conjunction with clinical sites. The course content is better integrated to build upon your foundational coursework with your clinical content. And the DNP coursework will better prepare students for the busy, ever-changing field of health care, while also offering the highest level of education to nurse leaders and nurse practitioners.

-Response from Susan Kelly-Weeder, Ph.D., FNP-BC, FAAN, FAANP Associate Dean for Graduate Programs


Q: How do clinical placements work? Does the school find preceptors or do students need to find their own? If the school finds them, do students have a say in the location (location or setting)?

A: Clinical placements are arranged and assigned by the specialty program director. The program director will work with the students to find a variety of settings to ensure they meet the necessary requirements to sit for the boards, as well as to meet students’ professional goals. Please note, some sites are not accessible by public transportation.

-Response from Susan Kelly-Weeder, Ph.D., FNP-BC, FAAN, FAANP, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs

Q: For students entering in the fall when will it be decided if Fall 2020 is going to be online or in person classes?

A: Boston College has daily conversations about when and how to appropriately re-open the campus. These conversations are focused on the University’s highest priority: the safety of our students and the BC community. We understand the importance of making this decision in a timely fashion. And with that in mind, as soon as an official decision is made, we’ll immediately inform our students.

-Response from Susan Kelly-Weeder PhD, FNP-BC, FAAN, FAANP, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs

Q: Which kind of employers offered you jobs after graduation?

A: Come graduation, the positions most willing to hire me as a new grad were family planning facilities and a few FQHCs. However, those were the kind of jobs I was looking for, so I can't speak to other specialties since I wasn’t looking for those types of positions. Some of my classmates took jobs at private practices, college health, and I believe someone started at a fertility clinic.

-Response from Claudia M., ‘19 WHNP alum  

 Q: How long did it take you to find a job post-graduation? How competitive did you find the job market?  

A: I took my boards in June and accepted a job offer in July for a September start date. I think the job market, if you choose to stay in Boston, is quite competitive, and I didn’t have much luck within the city where I applied. Some classmates were hired by their clinical placements, so that made for an easy transition. But for myself, despite having a full-time job as an RN, I wanted to start working as an NP by September, which means I didn’t look for a job in Boston as long as some of my classmates did. I was open to moving literally anywhere, and I applied to jobs across the US and had a few offers from multiple Planned Parenthood’s and a small town reproductive health facility. I think my flexibility to move to a new city, as well as my fluency in Spanish, helped make me a good job candidate as a new grad. 

-Response from Claudia M., ‘19 WHNP alum