10 Tips on How to Survive Nursing School

by Elizabeth Griffith | Jan 14, 2020

By Olivia Schuh ‘21 | January 14, 2020

Nursing students Rachel Cross, Casey Revadelo, Olivia Schuh, and Mikayla BollerI know I still have much to learn, but as the first semester of my junior year of nursing school is officially in the books, I reflect over all I have learned. There are some things that I wish I could have/should have done over the last two and a half years that I want to share with my fellow underclassmen. There are things I have also found helpful that might make your time as a nursing student easier. Let’s get started!

  1. Get to know your professors early in the semester. Your professors are there to help broaden your learning and prepare you for your boards at the end of your journey. They are a fountain of knowledge and you need to take advantage of every moment.

  2. Review every single test you get back. Use the opportunity to review tests with your professors. Whether you got one or half of them wrong, you should always review your exams. It’s a learning opportunity every time, and, chances are, the same topics you missed could be on the midterm or final!

  3. READ YOUR BOOKS! I know the books are heavy, and they can be hard to read, but you need to read your books. Most of the time, professors will pull test content from the book as well as the lectures to see what you are learning on your own.

  4. Get your assignments done early. Sometimes, the professors will open the content (assignments, reading, powerpoints, etc.) for the entire semester or even a few weeks out. It’s important to stay ahead (if you can) so you have adequate time to study for the exams. There are also mini-quizzes that the professors have you do online that you can complete early in the semester.

  5. Get organized!!!! (This one can never have too many exclamation points!) I use two or three different planners to help me stay organized for my student life and my personal life. I have one planner (the Marian planner) in which to write every assignment, test, and clinical. I also assign each class a different color so I know in which class I need to read, do homework, or prepare for an exam. I never take the Marian planner out of my backpack, so I know exactly where it is at all times.

  6. Find good study habits. It’s taken me FOREVER to find the perfect study technique, but they're lifesavers! There can also be multiple studying techniques for different classes, so learn which are best for you early on. If you’re unsure, you can always ask the professor for help.

  7. Study during your breaks. I know how that sounds... You work hard all semester and you can finally breathe for a few weeks. However, if you don’t continue to keep that information in your head, you’ll forget it. At the beginning of every semester, after you take pharmacology, you will take a dosage competency exam, which you have to get a certain percentage (a 90% sophomore year, a 95% junior year, and a 100% senior year). Review the information during your break so you can pass this critical exam.

  8. Self-care is so important for nursing students. Nursing is hard. That’s just a fact. Allow yourself some self-care before you burn out. Find something you like to do and just do it! Don’t feel guilty. Studies have shown that employing a proper self-care regime can create a more positive environment in high-stress degrees, such as nursing.[1]

  9. Make a good circle of friends. Having good friends in nursing school can make or break you. They can be both an exceptional study group and an excellent source of procrastination. You can have both, but only one will help you make the grade. Choose wisely.

  10. Finally, it’s okay to repeat a class. I’ve said this multiple times: nursing school is hard. If you have to repeat a class because you just missed the cutoff, it’s okay! You’re not out of nursing school—you get a second chance. Learn from your mistakes and try again. Just be proud of yourself because you’ve come this far! 

Bonus Tip: Get good writing tools! I recommend FriXion pens because they are erasable and write smoothly. They’re a little more on the expensive side, but they are super helpful when you write quickly or make lots of mistakes. 


[1] Ashcraft, P.F., Gatto, S.L. (May/June 2018). Curricular Interventions to Promote Self-care in Prelicensure Nursing Students. Nurse Educator 43(3), 140-144. Doi:10.1097/NNE.0000000000000450

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