student life


What to Expect Before Starting Nursing School

Written by Angelys Centeno

Each and every one of us experiences nursing school in a different way. One thing to always keep in mind is that you are about to begin a journey on a life changing career path. One that requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and many sleepless nights.

Before you start your nursing school journey, make sure you know what qualities a nurse must embody. A nurse is an advocate for their patients - meaning you stand up for them at all times. A nurse is caring, loving, and can put all of their personal problems aside to care for someone else. Are you ready to start your journey?

To help get you ready, here’s my survival guide to starting nursing school:

Expect things to be different…

I am currently a senior nursing student and I remember when I first started nursing school. I thought my life would remain the same only with school as an addition to my life. Boy, was I completely wrong. You have to know that nursing school is very demanding, and you must learn how to balance both your personal life and nursing school. So, the takeaway here is to remember that your life will change, because nursing school will become your number one priority.

Learn how to say no…

This is a very important to note. While you’re in nursing school, life outside remains the same. Life does not wait for you - meaning that events and holidays still occur with or without you. You must learn how to say no in times where you should be putting school first. For example: let’s say you have a test next week, but the day before your exam it’s your best friend’s birthday. You have two choices. Either study in advance and attend your friend’s birthday outing, or tell your friend ‘no’ and that you will make it up to them after your exam. The takeaway here is learning how to say no to things that can be a distraction. Remember, nursing school is only for a certain time frame – and it is important to do well so that you can become the best nurse possible.

Put your schoolwork first…

In nursing school, you must learn to put schoolwork first. This is the biggest tip I can give for being successful in your nursing program. Whether in a planner or on your phone, write down all of the things you have to accomplish throughout the week. Study in advance and don’t leave things for the last minute.

Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX…

I cannot stress enough how useful this book has been to me in nursing school. It has all the information you’ll need from your first semester to your last, and I love that it’s broken down by body system. It also gives you in-depth rationales and test-taking strategies for each practice question to help you be successful on exams. This book will get you used to the types of NCLEX-style questions that you’ll also see on course exams. It also comes with access to online resources and the ability to make custom quizzes using a ton of different filters.

Test-Taking Strategies for Beginners:

  • Remember your ABCs (Airway, Breathing, Circulation)  In that order.
  • READ the test question thoroughly and remember that sometimes the last part of the sentence is really what the question is asking you. Sometimes the first part of the question can be a distraction!
  • Pay attention to the wording of the question for example “what indicates the patient needs further teaching” or if it says, “what indicates the patient understands the teaching”.
  • Learn Maslow’s hierarchy of needs!
  • Use mnemonics.My friends call me the mnemonic queen because I always come up with the funniest/craziest ways to remember things. If it sticks, use it!        
  • Always take notes in class and then go home and type them out or re-write them! I’ve found that studying right after lectures makes thing much easier to remember.
  • When studying, use the Pomodoro technique.


Angelys Centeno

Student Ambassador