How to Succeed in Nursing School

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
While no college degree program is easy, a nursing program can be especially demanding of students. Read on to learn how to meet its challenges and succeed in nursing school.

The Three Components of Nursing School Success

Achieving success in nursing school requires a combination of three key components: strong study skills, effective organizational and time management abilities, and a healthy school-life balance. Before you start working on these areas, however, make sure you don't underestimate the demands of nursing school. Classes, clinical responsibilities, and required study time make nursing school equivalent to a full-time job. To succeed, it's recommended that you don't hold a job while you're a nursing student. If that isn't feasible, try to limit yourself to part-time employment.

Component One: Strong Study Skills

  • Prepare in advance by making sure you have all the textbooks and supplies you'll need throughout the semester.
  • Don't cram. Instead, study in short blocks of time (ideally, less than one hour at a time) on a daily basis.
  • Join a study group. Study partners not only keep you on schedule with your studies, but also provide moral support throughout nursing school.
  • Make sure you have a distraction-free place to study and unplug during your scheduled study time. Turn off your cell phone, don't check emails, and most certainly avoid the temptation to surf social media sites.
  • Don't miss your classes. This seems like a no-brainer, but when you're feeling overwhelmed, it may be tempting to blow off a boring lecture in order to complete another assignment. While missing classes may help you achieve short-term goals, in the long run it's a mistake that will set you further back.
  • You'll take many exams in nursing school. If you suffer from test anxiety, it's a good idea to take steps to mitigate it while you prepare. Check out this short Overcoming Test Anxiety: Steps & Strategies lesson for tips.
  • If you're struggling in a particular class, get help when you need it, not when you're so far behind that you're completely overwhelmed. Many schools have resources available to help nursing students excel, and professors are available to answer your questions. You may also want to reach out to a senior or recent graduate for tips, guidance, and advice.
  • Nursing school coursework is cumulative, so hang on to your textbooks from semester to semester. You never know when you might need to reference and revisit what you studied in previous classes. Self-paced online courses may also serve as excellent reference resources. See, for example,'s Fundamentals of Nursing and Medical Terminology courses.
  • If you're concerned that your study skills are sub-par, check out the tips and strategies offered in these lessons on Studying for College Success.

Component Two: Effective Time Management Abilities

  • Have a planner you can use to enter in all your academic and personal commitments, map out the time you realistically dedicate to various responsibilities, and create a schedule for the semester. If you need help, this Time Management for Nurses course offers tips and strategies to help you through nursing school and your future career in nursing.
  • Don't make your calendar too rigid. The best way to plan effectively is to plan for the unexpected. Allow some flexibility in your calendar so you may deal with life's curveballs without falling behind on your schedule.

Component Three: A Healthy School-Life Balance

  • While energy drinks and junk food may help you through an emergency late-night study session, these occasions should be the exception, not the rule. Remember that nursing school is a long journey, not a quick jaunt, and that journey requires you to be healthy. It is critical, therefore, that you prioritize eating nutritious, balanced meals and getting adequate sleep.
  • Keeping a journal can help you work through stress, or at least write down your worries before bedtime, so you can get a good night's sleep and deal with concerns when you're well rested in the morning.
  • Remember that your nursing school commitments are an adjustment not only for you, but also for your friends and family. If you let them know in advance that you may not be as available as you have been in the past, and ask for their support, you'll avoid unnecessary stressors down the road.
  • Don't lose sight of what you enjoy doing. Taking time for yourself to do whatever you love - be it skydiving, working out, or watching movies - is critical to keeping yourself mentally focused.
  • By all means, be stylish when you socialize, but forego fashion when it comes to campus life and clinical work. As a nursing student, you'll spend a great deal of time on you feet, so invest in comfortable shoes to get you through the long days.

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