24 Nursing School Tips for Your First Year and Beyond

SimpleNursing Editorial Team Aug 9, 2022
Two pretty young female diverse nursing students sharing nursing school tips

Throughout nursing school, you’re busy and have many, many things to juggle. Gathering and implementing nursing school tips can help make the school year go more smoothly.

It’s no secret that nursing students face many challenges, from the long hours spent studying to the high cost of tuition. Courses and exams can be overwhelming, but necessary in going toward the next step in your future nursing career.

It’s a lot of work and a lot of pressure — but you’ve got this! After you make it through nursing school, you’ll officially be a nurse professional.

We have nursing school tips for those going into their first year, and for those finishing out their degrees.

Tips for Nursing Students’ First Year

When you’re starting as a nursing student, everyone tells you that the first year is the hardest. They say it’s full of sleepless nights, long hours, and possibly some tears. 

But there are ways to make your first year less stressful, easier to pass, and maybe even more enjoyable. So let’s start our list of twenty-four tips to help you get off on the right foot in your first year of nursing school:

  1. Know your learning style. Find out how you learn best, and use it as a tool to help you succeed in school.
  2. Ask plenty of questions. Most instructors are more than happy to help you with questions, so don’t be afraid to approach them.
  3. Complete pre-class prep (if available). Whether it’s required or not, complete reading and assignments before class starts so you can focus more on the lecture itself.
  4. Take advantage of all resources available. Since you’re already paying tuition, put your hands on every school resource you can get, such as job boards, recorded lectures, the cafeteria, etc.
  5. Don’t be afraid to use outside learning resources. Using learning resources outside of school can help by giving different strategies and testing tools, like NCLEX practice tests.

Find out how our learning resources stack up with others.

  1. Set realistic goals for yourself. It’s ideal, but not always practical, to pass every class with perfect grades without sacrificing aspects of your life (mental health, time, family, etc.) Consider using the SMART goal method to better set yourself up for success:
    1. Specific – Exactly what goals can you meet? Which steps do they require?
    2. Measurable – What kind of data will you use to gauge success and in which amounts?
    3. Achievable – How are your goals attainable? Do you have the required tools and resources for them?
    4. Relevant – How do your goals fit in with your curriculum? 
    5. Time-bound – What’s the projected timeline for achieving your goals?
  2. Have a sound support system. Ask friends or family members if they would be willing to help you out, especially when things get tough for you.
  3. Make friends with other nursing students. You’ll be spending a lot of time together, possibly for more than a year. Having friends will make nursing school much more bearable.

How long do you have to be in nursing school for your degree?

Study Tips for Nursing Students

It’s not just about knowing how to study. You need to understand how to approach studying, when to study, and how much time you can spend studying.

To continue our list, check out these study tips:

  1. Use study guides.  They give you an overview of what’s covered on tests and quizzes, so you know what kinds of questions they’ll ask. Study guides also help you organize your notes so you can always access them.
  2. Study a little every day. When you maximize your study time with an even pace, information can stick in your brain much better come exam time.
  3. Form or participate in a study group. Studying in groups can make learning easier and give you different perspectives on how certain concepts relate together.
  4. Use your downtime as study time. We know that most students don’t want to spend their precious free time studying. But if you want to succeed in nursing school, it’s important that you make it a priority and squeeze in some time off-campus.
  5. Use nursing mnemonic devices. Mnemonics are little tricks that help with memory retention by associating new information with things that are already familiar and easy to remember.
  6. Complete practice questions. Practice questions help you understand where you’re lacking subject-wise and avoid stumbling on exams. 
  7. Review the information learned after class. Take at least five minutes after class is over to review what you’ve learned while lectures are still fresh in your mind.
  8. Don’t use cramming as your sole study method. It may be tempting to rely on cramming right before exams to free up your spare time, but spending time each day to study will ensure exam success. 

Taking exit exams soon? Check out our NCLEX Cram Sheet.

General Nursing School Tips

Here are some other tips for your nursing school term, regardless of what year you’re in:

  1. Get organized. This goes for your school supplies (laptop, notebooks, equipment, etc.), your time, and your study area (if you have one).
  2. Master your time management. Time will be your most valuable resource throughout the school year, so managing your day-to-day as best possible is crucial.
  3. Keep a calendar and schedule. You can use tools like Evernote, Google Calendar, or a planner so you always know what’s coming up next (in the week, month, etc.). 
  4. Give yourself breaks. Take a break if you ever feel overwhelmed with schoolwork or like things aren’t going well. It’ll help clear your head and give you perspective on what needs more attention.
  1. Find activities to do outside of school. Finding things to do outside school, like volunteering or pursuing hobbies, can also give your mind a break from nursing school stress.
  2. Develop good sleep habits. Getting enough sleep is important because it helps your brain function properly and keeps your body from getting tired during long shifts at work or school. 
  3. Get to know your instructors. They’re great sources of medical knowledge, and can help guide you through your nursing education.
  4. Maximize your clinical experiences. Clinicals get you hands-on experience for your future nursing career. Learning as much as possible during your clinicals can set you ahead after graduation.

Hopefully, these tips can help you get through your classes and exams with ease.

Other Nursing School FAQs

We’re answering some of the most pressing questions from nursing students wanting to get through nursing school unscathed:

How Do Students Fail Nursing School?

Some nursing students fail nursing school because they don’t study (or don’t know how to study effectively). Failing exams, not doing homework, or skipping labs and clinicals also result in failing out. But some other reasons (that aren’t talked about as much) include:

  • Falling too far behind 
  • Stress stacking up 
  • Losing passion for nursing 
  • Insufficient funding
  • Support systems falling apart

Something else to consider is that many nursing school classes are graded on a curve. So if you’re in a class of students that consistently score high, your ‘A’ and ‘B’ scores could still bring you to the bottom of the class. And for a lot of students, it could be enough to fail. 

That’s why it’s so important to build a report with instructors and understand how to stand out in the class.

How Do Nursing Students Learn Best?

Nursing students can learn best when they’re actively engaged in class and relaxed outside the classroom. So instead of just reading your textbook, try to use what you’re learning in your clinicals and lectures.

And if you want to take a learning approach based on the senses: 

  • Visual learners prefer pictures and diagrams. 
  • Auditory learners prefer lectures and audio recordings.
  • Kinesthetic learners prefer hands-on experiences.

How Should A Nursing Student Study?

There are several effective approaches to studying, and none are completely wrong. Just make sure that you understand exactly what you’re trying to learn, as it can be easy to get lost in the details and lose sight of the big picture.

If you have trouble with covering entire subjects, try breaking up your study sessions into smaller chunks and focusing on only one piece of the subject at a time. This will help keep things more manageable and less overwhelming.

Want More Than Nursing School Tips?

What will help you get through a nursing school year (whether it’s your first year or not) is investing in an effective resource. 

Gathering and going through with nursing school tips can help make your next school year go more smoothly.

SimpleNursing has everything you need before you step into class, during your lecture, for your study time, and after graduation for your NCLEX. You can read over our study guides, take quizzes with video rationales, and focus on any subject.

Start off your nursing school term with a free trial today.

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