Nursing Students – Tips for the first year

Medical students sitting and talking

Content shared from nursecrets

So, you have been accepted into nursing school. First of all congratulations! You have made it through the process, so now what?  After the excitement has diminished you may begin to wonder “what have I gotten myself into?” We have put together Tips for Nursing Students First Year of nursing school.

You probably would like to know what to expect in your first year of nursing school and how to survive. These tips will get you started on your journey and carry you all the way to NCLEX.

The first things you may remember are all the voices that tell you nursing school is hard. You didn’t let those voices stop you from completing the admission process, so don’t let them stop you now.

Don’t get me wrong, nursing school will be tough. You will flex brain muscles you didn’t know you had. But, just think about all the nurses in the world and remember that we all began at this point. We made it through and so can you!

1. Begin with the attitude of building a solid foundation.

This is the first tip because I believe it is important and not often spoken. Nursing school is like no other degree program. In nursing school, no class is an island. Each class builds upon the previous one. You don’t get everything in one class. You may even learn information that you have no idea what to do with. Keep that information. YOU WILL NEED IT!

For example:

  • First, you will learn what a normal and abnormal blood pressure is and how to take a blood pressure in one class.
  • Secondly, you will learn how to assess a patient to see if a blood pressure is normal or abnormal in another class.
  • Thirdly, you will learn about disease processes related to blood pressure such as hypertension in another class.
  • Fourthly, you will learn how to treat hypertension such as with medication in another class.
  • And finally, at the end you have a NCLEX question in which you will need to know all this information to answer the question.

So, if you slack on any of these classes, then the questions appear to be hard. If you build a foundation with this information, the questions will be easy.

Also, when an instructor is teaching you about a disease process, they go on the premise you already know what a normal and abnormal blood pressure is and how to assess for them.

This information will not be taught to you again in each class.

2. You will feel overwhelmed from day one.

Every nursing student has felt this. A lot of things are thrown at you at one time. You will feel stressed the first day and on occasion throughout your program. The main thing is to take a deep breath and don’t let anxiety get the best of you.

Don’t get wrapped up in trying to be perfect. You are learning a new topic. You are not going to be perfect at everything. Remember to learn from your mistakes and keep going. Don’t beat yourself up on things that have passed or things you didn’t get right. You don’t have time and this can drain your energy.

3. Don’t place so much focus on grades

As mentioned in #1 nursing school is cumulative. It is important to not only memorize but to comprehend and assimilate the information you receive.

Everyone wants to do the very best, but don’t get bogged down in the grade game. You will be taught a different way of thinking and a different way of taking tests. You may see a dip in your grades and this may be hard if you have been a straight-A student.

If your grades drop, don’t let it stress you out. Try not to obsess over grades and focus on learning the material and building a foundation.

Probably the hardest thing you will have to face in nursing school is that learning and test-taking will not be the same as when you were in high school or any other program. Face this sooner than later and you will begin to see a shift in your grades.

4. Become more organized.

If you don’t have great organization skills, now is the time to learn. You will need to organize all the information you receive so you don’t miss deadlines and just to know where you need to be and when.

You are developing a skill that will carry you throughout your nursing career. This will help you care for more than one patient efficiently and even to care for a critically ill patient as a nurse.

Yes, you will need a planner whether it is digital or paper. Planning ahead is the key to making nursing school more manageable.

Certain things in nursing school will require different amounts of study time. Don’t think you can do everything at the last minute. This can get out of hand quickly. It is important to acquire good organizational skills in nursing school and stick to them.

Resources: 8 Planner Tips For Student Nurses

5. Learn to prioritize

There will be some things that will have to take a back burner at times. Prioritize the things that you must get done. Becoming more organized will eventually keep you from working on things at the last minute all the time.

Create a list of all the things you need to do. Highlight the things you “have to do soon” in one color and the things you “need to do” in another color and the things that can wait until you have downtime in a different color. You may have to make some tough decisions. But it will get easier as time goes by. This is where having a planner really helps.

6. Manage your time

Your time is a priority while in nursing school. Just about every minute will be accounted for. You can’t just glide into one week after another without a definite plan.

Create a schedule and stick to it. Don’t make a habit of waiting till the last minute telling yourself you work better under pressure. You will actually feel better when you are on time or ahead of time.

Tips to manage your time better.

  • Plan ahead. Having a calendar and reviewing it daily or weekly will keep you focused with no last minute suprises.
  • Block time out for studying daily. Whether it is reading or reviewing notes, make sure you are consistent.
  • Be effective in your studying. Don’s spend unnecessary time studying information you already know.
  • Avoid getting distracted with things you don’t need to know. When you see a photo in you textbook, don’t stop and spend time on it if it is not related to what you are working on. Don’t worry you will get to it.
  • Avoid distractions with social media or text. You can still have time for those things in moderation but make sure you have good periods of focused time spent on studying.

7. Manage your Reading

Reading will take a lot of your time. The number of reading assignments will be overwhelming. Your first thought will be you will never get through this information in the amount of time given. The good news is that these reading assignments can be managed. Here are some tips for nursing school success.

Divide the information into chunks to conquer.

You will receive a syllabus for all of your classes on the first day. This is the time to figure out how much time you will need to spend on each class. The worst thing you can do is try to read your entire reading assignment for a test at one time.

The key is to break the reading up into manageable segments. You will retain the information better by reading over time instead of all at once. Plan your reading schedule in your planner.

Reading is one of the main things that you will need to map out from the beginning. Once you begin and see what is expected, you will be able to create a better and better plan.

Try to read before class.

This can be hard. However, if you start off doing this from the beginning the payoff will be great. If you read before class, the lecture becomes the second time you have come into contact with the material. Then you are able to be more efficient in class. You can then focus on the information covered in the lecture because you have a foundation for the lecture.

Your note-taking will be better because you won’t have to try to write down every little thing because you will find you already know and understand some of the material. Also, you won’t be afraid that something is covered in class that’s not in the book because you already know what’s in the book.

When you have this foundation you can listen more than you write and have the perfect notes for exams.

Resource: 8 Note-Taking Skills for Nursing Students.

8. Don’t fall behind.

Falling behind will cause your stress levels to go through the roof. There is nothing worst than trying to do all your reading and studying for an exam the weekend or even the night before your exam.

The amount of information you will comprehend and remember is decreased drastically. Make a reading and studying schedule and stick to it. And remember to make your goals realistic.

For instance, don’t think you will be able to study all day Sunday. This is the time that something always happens to keep you from your studies. Sometimes it is just the idea that you have all this time and you can have a hard time starting and the time dwindles until maybe that evening.

9. Communicate with your Instructors

One of the best things you can do is establish a professional relationship with your instructors.

However, the instructor cannot solve all your problems. And they can’t dig you out of a hole at the last minute. But, they can give you the advice to keep you out of a hole and resources that can help.

It’s important to establish a relationship before the last minute. The Friday before the final exam when you need a high score to pass the class is not the time to establish this relationship.

Your instructor can give you helpful tips along the way to overcome some learning blocks or just give you a different way of thinking about a topic. The smallest tweaks can make the biggest difference.

10. Join or create a study group

It’s important to join a study group that actually studies. Sometimes a study group can become a gripe session. You do not have the time to spend an hour or two talking about what you hate about nursing school.

Also, if you find yourself teaching information you already know to others, it’s time to find another group. You have to understand that your friends will not take the NCLEX for you. This is something you will face on your own and you have to spend your valuable time moving toward that goal.

If you cannot find a study group, create one with people who are like-minded. You need a study group that moves you forward in your studies. You don’t want to spend less time with family, friends and doing something you love just to spend your precious time bemoaning the last exam.


Caffeine. (2021, September 21). MedlinePlus. Retrieved December 30, 2021, from

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