It is no secret that a significant number of first-year college students report feeling overwhelmed. This is undoubtedly especially true of nursing students — perhaps even online nursing school students. Nursing students are arguably faced with more challenging material, at a faster rate, than students pursuing other degrees. Attending an online school is perhaps inherently less stressful due to the scheduling flexibility built into the online nursing school model.
Nevertheless, there is no avoiding the fact that nursing school is challenging. If you are pursuing your RN-to-BSN degree, you have probably already experienced similar challenges in your career. Enrolling in an online BSN nursing program is an excellent way to advance your education — and your earning potential — while retaining the flexibility to continue working or fulfilling other obligations simultaneously.
In any event, it can be helpful to consult the wisdom gleaned from fellow students who have already gone down this path. To that end, we have assembled this collection of tips for surviving — and even thriving — during your first year of nursing school.
Avoid Focusing Exclusively on Grades
Your ability to comprehend the material being presented to you, and to apply critical thinking skills, is far more important than earning stellar grades. The fact is, it will be harder to earn those high marks you might have been used to scoring in high school. Do not become discouraged. Numbers are less important now; critical thinking skills are of paramount importance. The emphasis will gradually become less about hard facts and more about thinking your way through complex, unfolding situations rapidly.
Strength in Numbers
Find a study group. Join it, and give it your due attention. Study groups can help you take a divide-and-conquer approach to material that might otherwise seem overwhelming. Group members help and encourage each other, provide mutual support and motivation, and even help you retain information.
Set a Schedule — and Stick to It
Staying on top of your assignments your first year will take some adjustment. You will no longer have the luxury of approaching your schoolwork haphazardly. You will need to schedule study and review time into every day, and stick to it so you do not fall behind.
Do not be afraid to ask questions. Answering them is part of your instructors’ job. If appropriate, ask a fellow student for clarification. The only dumb question is the unasked one.
You cannot rely on cramming at the end of the semester. It will not work. Slow and steady wins the race. Chip away at your studying as you go along. It is the only realistic way to keep up with all the material you will be responsible for learning.
Manage Your “Me Time”
Save some regular time in your schedule for self care. Eat right. Get some exercise. Take a little time for decompressing with friends or family. And most important of all: Get enough sleep!
Take the Long View
You will get through this challenging, maddening first year. If things seem hard at first, keep in mind that they will probably get easier eventually. Take it one day at a time and avoid falling behind. You can do this!