student life


What You Need to Know Before Your First Day of Nursing School

Written by Hannah Lease, RN, BSN

Whether you’re about to start your nursing program or you have already started, I want to first start by saying CONGRATULATIONS! Coming from a recent accelerated nursing school graduate, there’s no denying that nursing school is tough, but it is also so worth it in the end. For me, I know that in the beginning of my program I thought there was no way I’d survive my first semester. I thought I was going to have to beg my old boss to let me come back to work again. But here I am, a few weeks after graduating from my 16-month program and I did it. I want to give you some tips that I hope will help you as you navigate starting this new journey and how to make sure you can excel as much as possible throughout your program. Us nurses have to stick together, right?! 

Preparing for Nursing School… 

  • Get Organized → Being organized and having great time management are going to be two the most important skills throughout school. Be sure to get yourself a great planner, whether it’s digital or paper form, and hold yourself accountable to staying well organized and ahead of your assignments/studying! Doing something every day, even if it’s only a little bit, will make a huge difference for you in the long run. 
  • Back-to-School Shopping → I don’t know about you, but shopping for school supplies is one of my favorite things. Supplies that were at the top of my list were a reliable laptop, binders, index cards, pens, markers, highlighters, sticky notes, and notebooks.  
  • Find Your Tribe → The friends you are about to make throughout nursing school are going to be some of your lifelong friends. There’s no way I could have survived without my classmates and especially my core group of friends. Once my school sent us the names of my cohort, I was immediately reaching out to them prior to even meeting them. I know everyone may not be a social butterfly like I am, but this was one of the best ways for me to start my program. I organized a group of us to meet up to get coffee prior to our first day of orientation and it was a huge hit. Also, when it comes to finding your study group, be sure to be with those who are a great mix of staying focused to make sure you’re getting some good studying done, but also able to unwind when you take breaks. 
  • Study Style → Prior to starting school, start thinking about what methods of studying might work best for you. Do you think you’ll like to write out your own notes? Flashcards? Practice questions? Making study guides? Going into school with a general idea of what you think will best fit your studying needs can potentially help ease you into all your hours of studying. Also be sure to scope out your study spot. If it will primarily be at your house, make sure it’s in a spot that allows you to be free from distractions as much as possible but is still a cozy & peaceful area. 

Need-to-Know Study Tips… 

  • Do what works for you → Throughout school, I found myself comparing myself a lot to my classmates - whether it was how they chose to study, the time of day that they studied, how long they study for, etc. I finally realized that just like with everything else, I can’t compare the way I do things to how others do them. If the way you study is vastly different from your best friend in school but your way works for you, then that’s all that matters. For me, I would always do as much reading that I could, completed any study guides, wrote out my own notes, did a TON of practice questions, looked up videos for certain topics, and would always try to talk through/teach the material to anyone that would listen. 
  • Practice Questions/EAQs → Every nursing student that I talk with and asks for advice will forever hear me talk about my love for practice questions/Elsevier Adaptive Quizzing through Elsevier. These were a big game-changer for me and undoubtedly helped me be successful throughout my program. Even just doing 10-20 questions each day will quickly add up and help you feel more prepared for your exams. I think these are a great way to get you thinking about the material in a different way rather than just reading the book or taking notes.   
  • Take breaks → I cannot stress enough how important it is to take study breaks. Please, please, please do not hide yourself away for hours without taking any type of break. Set up a study break schedule so that you can give your brain a quick recharge. Study for an hour then take a ten-minute break to grab a snack, drink some water, go for a quick walk, or do a quick chore around the house. 
  • Use your resources → Reach out to your professors/instructors to see what resources are out there to help aid in your studying. Also, look inside your books to see if there are any codes/links listed that will offer access to more studying materials. Follow Elsevier on social media to see what new resources and tips they come out with to help you succeed! Look up videos on YouTube, reach out to other nursing students, or talk with nurses that you meet during your clinical rotations - anything to help you get the most out of the resources that are waiting to help you along this journey.  

I’m rooting for you every step of the way and hope you can take a moment each day to realize how far you’ve already come in making your dream to be a nurse a reality! There will be tough days, but I PROMISE you can do this! Your future patients are going to be so lucky to have you as their nurse someday.