10 Key Nursing School Tips for Success: Advice from Current Nursing Students

Averett ABSN student in classroom

Nursing school is tough, not to mention accelerated nursing school. After all, nurses are responsible for caring for and preserving human lives in the most trying times. Nurses need to have a strong educational foundation in order to be trusted with their important role. Therefore, that means nursing school is a major challenge. How do successful students do it? What are the insider nursing school tips for excelling in a fast-paced program?

We sat down with two students in the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at Averett University, who shared the top nursing school study tips they’ve used to succeed. These specific strategies straight from the source provide you with an idea of how you can approach an accelerated BSN program.

The 16-month ABSN program at Averett consists of a hybrid learning model that incorporates online courses, skills and simulation labs and clinical rotations. Eligible students with a prior bachelor’s degree or 60 college credits who’ve completed the prerequisites can begin the program in January, May, or August.

Now let’s get into what current Averett ABSN students Michelle Balderrama and Kahla Michaels say are the top 10 nursing school tips for success.

two Averett ABSN students wearing face masks

1. Be Serious About Your Why and How

Before you even begin accelerated nursing school, it’s wise to look honestly within yourself at your goals and reasons for nursing school. Ensure your heart is in the right place and you have a strong reason for becoming a nurse. Once you know nursing school is the best path for you, consider how you’ll be able to handle the pace of an accelerated program.

In an accelerated nursing program like the ABSN program at Averett, students need to commit the majority of their lives to studying over the course of the 16-month program. If you have children, you’ll need support to manage the home while you spend most of your time studying. Be honest with yourself about your goals and what you can handle.

“Definitely have a good support system and don’t go into it lightly,” Michelle says. “It’s going to be hard.”

2. Start Humble and Ready to Learn

Another key aspect to succeeding in accelerated nursing school is to enter with a learning mindset. Be honest about how much you’ll be challenged. Even if you have prior health care experience, nursing school will be difficult, so be ready to put in the work every single day.

“Some people come in, and they were overconfident because they’ve had medical jobs before,” Kahla says. “They came in thinking that this was going to be easy just because they have a little bit of a background.”

Kahla has a history of health care experience as an EMT, but she entered nursing school with the mindset that there is still lots for her to learn about being a nurse. ““It was very humbling really quickly how much you don’t know… Don't come in overconfident because you are going to get humbled so quickly,” Kahla says.

3. Make a Thorough Schedule

Another key way to set yourself up for success in an accelerated nursing program is to be intentional about creating a schedule with all your classes, school assignments and due dates.

“Get your course schedule, and write down what is due on what day. I do that for the whole month,” Michelle says. “What assignments are due, what discussions are due. That way I don't miss anything, because there’s a lot of assignments, and if you turn your back for a second, you’ll miss one.”

In an accelerated nursing program, tests are a large part of your grades, so students can optimize their grades by completing other assignments well.

Make sure you also add test dates, clinicals and skills and simulation labs to the schedule. Michelle also finds it helpful to write down what she wants to read and accomplish by what date, as this keeps her on task and organized.

4. Form a Consistent Study Group

One of the foundational nursing school study tips for both Kahla and Michelle has been forming a study group. Their group reads over the material on their own and then comes together to discuss the challenging sections. They meet regularly to create a study plan, study for exams, quiz each other and keep each other accountable. They check in throughout the week over video calls, benefiting not only academically but personally through peer friendships.

Michelle notes that having an effective study group means playing to everyone’s strengths. For example, one member of her study group is great at looking ahead and making sure the group stays on track with upcoming assignments.

According to Kahla, it’s important to have group members who take classes seriously. “Who’s going to help me succeed, and who can I help succeed?” she says.

5. Study Effectively

In accelerated nursing school, understanding is key, so find study methods that work for your learning style. Michelle says after trying multiple methods, she has found that writing things down is a good way for her to learn the information.

At Averett, ABSN students receive active learning guides, which contain the broad topics for each chapter. Kahla says working through these guides is helpful because after reading the information, you answer a number of questions, which helps the information stick.

Both Kahla and Michelle emphasized the role of going through practice questions and quizzing each other on questions. Practice questions are great for solidifying learning. In accelerated nursing school, while reading and watching videos is great for teaching, going through questions is an important way to test your understanding and see how the content could be presented on an exam.

6. Reach Out to Your Instructor if You Need Help

If you have questions or need more guidance about the material or what to focus on for an exam, get in touch with your instructor and let them know what you need. Both Kahla and Michelle have found that being proactive and willing to reach out to their instructors has been important for their success.

In a hybrid accelerated nursing program, you are responsible for learning the material for exams, so be willing to do what it takes to set yourself up to succeed. If you and your classmates need further clarification before an exam, ask your instructor to provide more resources or direction. It’s key for accelerated students to stand up and take charge of their learning.

7. Be Prepared to Teach Yourself

One challenge of accelerated nursing programs is that students need to take the reins with their education in a larger way than they may have experienced in the past. That means being comfortable making a study plan and working through material on your own will serve you well. With the online portion of the curriculum comes greater flexibility but also greater responsibility.

According to Michelle, an accelerated nursing program is more involved than the studying she had experienced previously. In the ABSN, it’s more about “teaching myself, me having a lot of self-discipline, and reading everything, and then practicing questions to make sure I understand,” she says. “That is very time consuming, which is something I had not needed to do before.”

Therefore, if you’re looking to succeed in accelerated nursing school, get comfortable being the leader of your learning and holding yourself accountable for staying on track.

8. Be Disciplined with Your Studying

During accelerated nursing school, you will need to be disciplined and spend most of your time studying. As Michelle says, after dropping her kids off at school, “I'm pretty much studying from the minute I leave my kids to the minute I go to bed.”

Despite how challenging studying can be, it’s vital to keep focused and put in the time early so you can ultimately fulfill your career goals. While putting off studying may seem like no big deal, it’s important to keep on track. As Kahla says, it’s important to be self-disciplined and get your time management under control because “stuff will creep up quick.”

An ABSN program requires a lot of time, so you’ll need to be focused about putting in the work consistently every day.

9. Set Aside Time Each Day for Your Top Priorities

Nursing school will take a majority of your time, but for your mental wellness, it can’t take all your time. Whenever possible, get into the routine of setting aside time each day for what’s most important to you. You may need to let some less important hobbies or activities fall to the side because your time is limited.

As a mom, she finds she doesn’t have time for the gym like she used to. “That’s fallen to the backburner now, but you just have to find where you can make those limitations, and that was one of the things that got cut.”

Especially during the first month of nursing school, when Michelle was adjusting to the rigors of studying, “it was really overwhelming, and I did not see sunlight. I did not go anywhere except school and home.” But after Michelle got settled into nursing school, she now is intentional about setting aside dinnertime with her husband and kids as a time away from the books.

Studying every waking minute is not realistic to sustain for 16 months, and spending a little daily time unwinding with your family or friends will help you remain grounded and avoid burnout.

10. Have a Good Support System

For success in an accelerated BSN program, having the support of your loved ones pays dividends. Whether you are single or have a family, having people who can step in and provide you with a warm meal or an encouraging word can make all the difference.

Michelle is a mother of three children, and a key factor in her being able to manage the ABSN program is the role her husband has played in taking care of the kids and home. Since starting the program, “I have not done dishes. I have not cooked,” she says. Her husband and kids have helped her substantially.

Ready to Get Started with Your Nursing Journey?

Despite the challenges of nursing school, it’s possible to achieve your goals. Because the accelerated program at Averett can be completed in as few as 16 months, students benefit from being able to enter their careers sooner.

The hard work of the ABSN program prepares our students that much more to graduate as qualified, practice-ready nurses.

If you’re interested in learning more about how earning your BSN at Averett fits into your future, reach out to our admissions counselors to get started.