What To Do Before School Starts: 8 Ways to Prepare for Nursing School

Summary: Getting ready for nursing school can be overwhelming. These 8 tips for what to do before nursing school starts will help you spring into nursing school as prepared as possible. Strategies include rallying your support system, understanding your priorities, and maximizing your clinical downtime.

UIW students studying with text "8 Tips to Prepare for Nursing School"

If you are waiting to start nursing school, or even if you have not yet applied, you might be wondering what to do before nursing school starts to set yourself up for success.

We will provide some strategies on how to prepare for nursing school from Day One. The more of these steps you take, the better prepared you will be to tackle the coursework, exams, labs and clinicals that are to come.

At the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), we are passionate about educating practice-ready nurses through our Second-Degree Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track. We are here to help you thrive in nursing school every step of the way, so let’s start at the beginning.

1. Reach Out to Your Support System

Speak to your family and friends before your nursing classes start. Let them know that you are embarking on a life-changing journey that will require most of your time and attention. Now is the time to lean on your loved ones for a little extra help.

Ask family members if they can babysit for you when you need alone time to complete homework. See if a friend would be willing to provide you with dinner while you are studying for an exam. Be sure to explain that your hectic schedule will be temporary, and the results will be worth it.

2. Expect to Feel Overwhelmed at the Beginning

When you first begin nursing school, you will likely feel overwhelmed and stressed. This is common for nursing students, especially when beginning an ABSN track.

As you get ready to begin nursing school, be aware that your life will change. You will feel like you don’t know anything, but this will pass. As you progress in your studies, learning becomes easier. The more you put pieces together, the more the body of information makes sense. This is the natural progression of learning how to care for patients. Trust the process.

You may also need some time to adjust to the busy schedule of nursing school in the beginning. Take it slowly, and think about short-term goals. You will settle into the rhythm of multitasking in the UIW ABSN track, and you will gain skills and strategies that will help you succeed.

3. Prepare to Prioritize Your Studies

As you consider the rigorous nature of an ABSN track, learning to prioritize becomes key for success. In nursing school, it is important to spend most of your time studying, but your spare-time activities should relieve your stress and bring you happiness and meaning.

Before you start an accelerated nursing program, look at your life to determine what you most value. Your free time will be limited, so you will need to make the most of it and put it toward the parts of your life that mean the most to you.

Maybe you value children, family, sports, fitness, baking, reading, friend groups, etc. Think about your list and narrow it down to the top few. If something doesn’t bring you joy, then consider putting it on the back burner during nursing school at UIW.

Prioritize by Planning to Study Efficiently

One way to prioritize nursing school is to find effective and efficient study methods. Before you begin classes, planning your study strategy will help you make the most of your study time.

A useful habit to put on your radar is to optimize your time by studying when you have downtime during the day. If you have a spare 15 or 30 minutes while waiting in line at the grocery store, why not go through your flashcards so you get ahead on your studying?

Efficiency is key with an ABSN track, and one helpful strategy is to connect your clinical learning experiences to the didactic content you are learning each week.

Here are some great ways to use your time efficiently and connect your clinical and classroom learning:

  • Work through flashcards, and bring them with you to study during spare time.
  • Do online nursing practice questions to accelerate your learning.
  • Ask your preceptor to demonstrate skills you are learning in skills labs.
  • Have your preceptor explain questions you have from classes.
  • Talk to other nurses about their study tips.

As you can see, there are many ways to make the most of your time and learn in a way that connects your online coursework with the practical healthcare experience.

Nursing students studying together with textbooks

4. Start Reading about Nursing

Once nursing school starts, you will have plenty of reading to do, but it is a good idea to start learning about what to expect before classes begin.

You might consider reading introductory books such as Nursing School Thrive Guide by Maureen Osuna. If you do not have time for a book, you can check out blogs like Nursing.com. Another helpful blog for prospective nurses is called ScrubsMag.com. Or you can opt to peruse magazines such as Nursing Times. All these resources will help prepare you for what is to come in nursing school.

5. Get Your Finances in Check

One often overlooked way to prepare for nursing school is to spend some time organizing your finances. Talk with UIW’s Office of Financial Assistance, and make sure you have your tuition and student loans figured out. We are here to help you with any questions you have.

Also consider the supplemental supplies you will need as an accelerated nursing student. You can purchase them while you are waiting. Here are some of the most common items:

  • Lab coats and jackets
  • Supportive shoes for clinicals
  • Compression socks
  • Comprehensive planner or planner phone app
  • Stethoscope
  • Nursing scissors
  • Penlight

Once you have all your school expenses in order, you can also make a comprehensive budget with all your living expenses. Set all your bills to automatic pay. Your busy future nursing student self will thank you when you can spend more time studying and less time budgeting.

6. Complete Your Paperwork and Shots

If you have forms to complete for nursing school, do not wait until the last minute. You might come across a requirement that will take some time to fulfill. You do not want anything to hold up your nursing school start date, so take care of these things well in advance.

Another consideration is making sure you are up-to-date on your immunizations. You are about to enter a field of work where you will be exposed to bacteria and viruses.

Check with your admissions counselor to find out which immunizations you need for the UIW ABSN track. As a UIW student, your clinicals will begin during the first semester of the ABSN track, so your vaccine records must be up-to-date for you to gain clinical clearance. If you want to get a jump start on immunizations before classes start, here are some of the most common vaccines nursing schools require:

  • Tetanus
  • Rubella
  • Rubeola
  • Mumps
  • Meningitis
  • Pertussis
  • Varicella
  • Tuberculosis screening
  • Hepatitis B
  • Flu
  • Covid-19

Check with your admissions counselor to find out which immunizations you need for the UIW ABSN track.

7. Earn First Aid and CPR Certification

In order to be a nurse, you will need to earn first aid and CPR certification. These certifications ensure you have the basic skills to know how to care for injuries as well as cardiac arrest. These skills are essential for any healthcare worker. If you have time to get your certifications before school starts, that is one less task to complete once your schedule gets busy.

8. Read Up on Your Program’s Curriculum

Before nursing school starts, it’s helpful to get a reminder of what to expect for classes and clinicals during your first semester. Here is an overview of what a UIW ABSN student can expect with our hybrid learning model:

  • Online coursework with on-ground exams to teach the fundamentals and theories of nursing practice
  • Nursing labs at our site location in San Antonio, focusing on applied skills development and clinical judgment
  • Clinicals in the community and local healthcare systems, providing diverse real-world nursing experience

Upon your completion of the ABSN track, you will be eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN®). In 2020, 100% of UIW BSN students passed the NCLEX on the first try.

Don’t Wait to Apply!

Now that you know what to do before nursing school starts, if you haven’t yet applied to nursing school, we’d love to help you get started.

If you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree with a minimum cumulative and science GPA of 3.0, you can begin the admissions process for our ABSN track in San Antonio. After verifying your eligibility with our admissions team, you will work with an admissions counselor who helps you navigate the entire enrollment process. We will also help you submit the most competitive nursing school application possible.

Plus, our ABSN track offers three start dates a year — in January, May and August — so you don’t have to wait to start nursing school. Contact our admissions team today to see about setting your accelerated nursing education in motion.