8 Tips for How to Get Through Nursing School Successfully

Students studying outside on laptops

As you begin your nursing school journey, feelings of excitement and anxiety may overcome you. Nursing school is a challenge, and it can take some time to gain solid footing and determine how to get through nursing school. We’ll ease the transition by giving eight key tips for navigating an accelerated nursing program.

At University of St. Thomas Houston, we are well-versed in guiding students through the rigors of our 12-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (2nd Degree) program. Taking what we’ve learned about how to be successful in nursing school, we can share some practical insights with you.

From study tips to strategies for balancing your personal life during nursing school, we will cover a wide range of nursing school tips for success that will help you excel in your nursing courses.

1. Create a Schedule for Your Day

Nursing school can be overwhelming, especially in the beginning. It can be difficult to determine how to organize your studying when you have a flurry of commitments, including simulation labs, study groups and clinicals. But creating a schedule and sticking to it will give you structure and help you stay on track.

Here are a few ways you can schedule your day:

  • Schedule a consistent bedtime and wakeup time each day, getting enough each night.
  • Write all your in-person school activities for the week in a planner, or enter them into your calendar app.
  • Decide what time of day works best for studying, and block that time off every day.
  • If needed, adjust the amount of your daily study time until you feel you can get through all the material at a comfortable pace.
  • Schedule a few hours each day on the weekend for studying.
  • Schedule time for working out or doing your hobbies. Be intentional about making time for the activities you value.

Making a comprehensive schedule will help you maintain focus, stay motivated and feel relaxed. Being intentional and proactive about when you study and for how long will help ensure you keep up with the material.

2. Don’t Get Behind

It can be tempting to procrastinate and to try to put off studying until a few days before the exam, but it will serve you much better to be proactive. Nursing school moves at a fast pace, especially in an accelerated program, so you don’t have time to fall behind. Start studying for exams early, and give yourself plenty of time to learn the material without being rushed.

Another way to stay on top of your coursework is to ask questions promptly. Sometimes when students get confused about material, they bury their questions instead of speaking up. In nursing school, it’s important to notice any gaps in your understanding quickly. Then reach out to classmates or the instructor soon to get clarity.

It’s best to be proactive on ensuring you understand a topic, for with nursing, the topics often build on one another. Therefore, focus on learning each topic well and clarifying questions as soon as possible. This will set you up to stay on track.

3. Use Efficient, Interactive Study Methods

One of the foundations for how to get through nursing school successfully is to study smart. When you were studying for your prior college courses, the intensity may have been less than that of an accelerated nursing program. An ABSN program demands a lot of time and energy studying for online coursework while also attending simulation labs and clinicals. Time is scarce, and you want to get the most bang for your buck with study time.

University of St. Thomas nursing student using computer

When you begin studying for an ABSN program, here are some helpful ways to raise the quality of your studying so you can become a learning machine:

  • Listen to or watch lectures at your own speed so you can pause, rewind and replay as needed.
  • Make outlines for your lectures to condense all the pertinent material into one or two pages.
  • Use interactive study methods as much as possible. Examples include flashcards, practice questions, working through mock scenarios and quizzing peers in a study group.
  • Determine if you’re a primarily visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner. Then implement study methods that emphasize that medium.
    • Visual: watch YouTube lectures and other video learning, color code your notes
    • Auditory: listen to lectures or nursing podcasts, study your notes out loud
  • Rather than simply trying to memorize facts, use mnemonics, auditory cues, stories and other memory devices to cement memorized material in your mind.
    • An example of a mnemonic: ROY G BIV. Each letter stands for a color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. You can use tricks like this to represent terms and concepts in nursing, as well.

4. Try Multitasking

Some people prefer to compartmentalize their studying and non-studying time, but if you don’t mind multitasking, it can help you increase your efficiency. By layering studying into your day, you can be productive in times you otherwise wouldn’t.

UST nursing students studying at table with binders

For example, if you enjoy running on the treadmill at the gym, then why not bring your phone or tablet along and watch a nursing lecture while on the treadmill? Or if you’re in the car, why not listen to a podcast discussing a topic you learned in class this week?

A few examples of how you can multitask with studying include:

  • Study flashcards while you are waiting or have downtime.
  • Study notes or do practice questions when you have extra time during clinicals.
  • Watch lectures and videos while you are working out, doing household chores, or cooking.
  • Listen to relevant audio materials or podcasts while driving.

The more you immerse yourself in your nursing education and make it part of your everyday life, the more the knowledge will sink in.

5. Ask Questions and Seek Support

One way to get through nursing school successfully is to rely on others for support as much as possible. Asking questions not only aids your understanding, but it also invites others to share and speak out when they are confused. By asking questions, you foster an atmosphere of collaboration and community support.

At University of St. Thomas ABSN, we are committed to every student’s success and wellbeing. Our instructors, faculty and tutors want you to reach out and ask questions. You can count on our nursing faculty and instructors to be available online, over the phone and in-person. Our academic success coaches will sit down with you and help you form a personalized study plan.

No matter how big or small the question or concern, reach out. In a fast-paced accelerated nursing program, remember it’s always in your best interest to be humble and ask sooner.

6. Prioritize Personal Wellness

During an ABSN program, it can be easy to focus so much on school that it consumes your entire life. While it’s vital to spend enough time studying, it’s not healthy or necessary to spend all your time studying. Remember your own needs are also a priority.

It’s important to balance your schoolwork with life. The world around you doesn’t stop just because you are in school. It takes 12 months to finish the program, and we want you to be able to stay strong and motivated without burning out.

Take time to evaluate your personal priorities. What activities or people do you value most? What do you consider a beneficial use of your free time? Narrow your list down to the top few, and then add these priorities to your schedule.

Four people talking outside of UST campus ministry

For example, if getting coffee with your sister every Saturday is something you enjoy, then put it in your schedule. If going to your child’s recital is important to you, make time for it. Other ways to practice self-care include listening to music, eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep.

Set aside some time daily for the activities and people that enrich your personal wellbeing. Whether it’s working out, playing with your kids or reading a few chapters of a novel, you have enough time. The important thing is that you listen to your body and do activities that refocus you.

7. Let Your Passion Fuel You

You likely began considering nursing because you want to do something meaningful in your life, and you enjoy contributing to people’s health and wellbeing.

When you jump into nursing school, try not to get so weighed down by the to-do lists and studying that you forget the purpose of it all. You are in nursing school because of your passion for helping people and making a positive difference in their lives.

Once you begin your clinical placements, use these not only as a learning experience, but also as a place to refuel. Pay attention to the patients you meet, listen to their stories and remember the role you played in their recovery. They are why you are here. They are the reason you want to become an excellent nurse. Your hard work will pay off because you will get to spend your career doing what you love.

nursing student with binder standing with instructor

8. Start Studying for the NCLEX Early

Once you finish nursing school, the last hurdle before you can get your license is the NCLEX exam. The NCLEX is not a test you can cram for. That’s because the NCLEX is no ordinary test. Like many tests, the NCLEX is multiple-choice; however, what makes it different is that many questions include multiple correct answers, meaning that you must choose the answer that is most correct.

This requires a different type of thinking and intentional practice with this style of question. From the beginning of nursing school, incorporating NCLEX-style practice questions into your studying is a smart move. At University of St. Thomas, our Accelerated BSN program asks NCLEX-style questions on quizzes and tests to help you be as ready as possible.

Here are a couple tips on making the NCLEX-studying process easier:

  • To be successful, plan at least 1–2 months of dedicated studying for the test.
  • Schedule which days you want to dedicate to test prep. Plan out your practice exams, too.
  • Establish goals. Set realistic goals to help mark your progress and keep you on track. This can be completing a certain number of practice questions, mastering a concept, or achieving a high score on a practice quiz.

With the right amount of effort and time, passing the NCLEX is within reach. Just remember to start early and incorporate NCLEX-style questions into your nursing school studies.

Jump into a Rewarding Nursing Career

Now that you know how to get through nursing school, let’s take a step back. If you haven’t yet applied to nursing school, and you’re still considering whether nursing is the right fit for you, we are here to help.

ABSN student in lab

At [email protected] in Houston, we’ll talk through any questions you have about our ABSN program and how to become a nurse through our 12-month second-degree ABSN program. The field of nursing inspires us every day, and we are excited to educate the next generation of life-saving nurses.

Contact us today if you want to learn more about how to begin your nursing journey.