Top 10 Tips for How to Study in Nursing School

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An accelerated nursing school track is a challenge. There’s no way around it. Learning so much nursing material in 16 months is ambitious. What can you do to optimize your learning amid the challenges of an accelerated nursing track? Understanding how to study in nursing school is key to having a game plan for success.

Accelerated BSN programs present a unique challenge because of their fast pace, expansive curriculum and high expectations. They compress the standard two-year nursing curriculum into much less time, meaning students need to study more efficiently and effectively.

At the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, succeeding in our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track is a worthy accomplishment. The 16-month hybrid curriculum is built for students who have prior non-nursing bachelor’s degrees and seek to make the change to nursing careers.

At UIW, we’re well-versed in equipping students to succeed in the ABSN track. We’ll share the top 10 nursing school study tips and strategies that help students shine.

1. Stick to a Schedule

When you begin accelerated nursing school at UIW, your schedule fills up with simulation labs, clinical experiences, study groups and exams. On top of that, you’ll need to find time to complete assignments, study for exams, write papers, answer discussion posts and more. The best way to manage all this is by creating and closely following a schedule.

Having your day planned out ensures you give yourself time to study while also preventing you from missing core in-person activities like labs. Creating a schedule may seem like a hassle, but it’s actually a way to create some freedom in your day. When you plan your day effectively, you can complete your tasks efficiently and thus have time to unwind at the end of a long day.

Here are a few tips for creating a schedule in nursing school:

  • Make recurring events on your phone for anything that happens at the same time each week. Add notifications to any activities you need to attend in person.
  • If you prefer a paper schedule, a planner can also be an effective method of time management.
  • Add the following to your schedule:
    • School activities, labs, clinicals, study groups and exams.
    • Sufficient study time every day for your online courses. Also include time for completing assignments and preparing for labs.
    • Personal activities and events as long as they don’t interfere with your study schedule.
    • Time for personal wellness, exercise, meals and family time.

2. Adjust Your Study Strategies for Your Optimal Learning

Another key piece of how to study in nursing school is to develop efficient methods for learning the material. Even if you may have used certain strategies for college courses in the past, it’s worth exploring which methods will help you learn the most efficiently.

Here are some ways you can optimize your learning methods:

  • Engage with the material in a way tailored to how you learn best. For example, if you’re a visual learner, use video, diagrams and color-coding. If you’re an auditory learner, listen to podcasts and lectures.
  • Make outlines for each lecture. Compress the lecture content down to one 8.5”x11” page. Then use all your outlines to study for exams.
  • Incorporate repetition. Try flashcards or a flashcard app like Anki.
  • Do as many practice questions as you can, and review them well, especially when you answer them incorrectly.

3. Use Technology to your Advantage

In a hybrid online nursing program like the ABSN track at UIW, technology can be of great benefit if used correctly. Through the online course platform, ABSN students have access to numerous nursing school study tools. Online learning offers numerous advantages, such as allowing students flexibility with how, when and where they study.

male student studying on a computer

Some great ways to optimize technology for your nursing school success include:

  • Watch video content (multiple times for complicated topics) and use the other interactive learning content, including case studies and practice questions.
  • Ask online discussion questions often to help you sort out challenging topics early.
  • Supplement your learning with podcasts and YouTube videos about relevant nursing topics.
  • Thoroughly read the course textbook resources to learn in-depth information.

4. Stay Focused

In accelerated nursing tracks, you’re responsible for taking the initiative to prepare for exams and stay up on the material. Those who work hard and keep focused on their academic goals are better equipped to achieve them. If you have trouble focusing on your schoolwork when you should be studying, incorporate systems to help keep you accountable. A few examples of how you can stay focused in nursing school include:

  • When you make a study schedule, stick to it. Don’t let yourself off the hook.
  • Study in a place conducive to learning.
    • Rather than studying in bed, have a desk and a set space in your home dedicated to class work.
    • Go to the library if you need a quieter place to focus.
  • If your phone is distracting you, place your phone in another room and reward yourself with phone time after you complete a set amount of focused studying.

5. Put School First

To have success in nursing school, it’s key to remember your priorities. During an accelerated program, your schoolwork needs to come first. You’ll need to get used to saying no to social activities, dinners with friends and carefree weekends.

The ABSN courses are intense and demanding, and you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time to your studies. Thankfully, with UIW’s accelerated BSN track being 16 months long, you’ll only need to put your life on hold for a short time.

It’s important to remember balance, however. While you’ll need to say no to many activities, you should make room in your schedule for the most important ones. Don’t miss a family wedding or your grandmother’s 100th birthday party. Just be prepared to adjust your schedule, study ahead and fit your studying in whenever you can.

6. Develop Good Personal Habits

One of the best nursing school study tips is to practice excellent habits throughout your life. Habits are the backbone of what we do every day, and they shape your life significantly. Therefore, diligently evaluate your daily patterns and assess which ones are helping and hurting your long-term goals.

By incorporating good study habits, you’ll spend more time in alignment with your career goals. In addition, adding healthy habits into your lifestyle will improve your wellness and help you feel at your best. If you want to learn more about how to harness the power of habits, read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Nursing students studying together with textbooks

Some good habits for nursing students include:

  • Consistent study habits: Study at consistent times each day.
  • Sleep habits: Go to bed and wake up at consistent times. Get 6–8 hours of quality sleep daily.
  • Morning habits: Start your day on a good track, such as making the bed, showering, making breakfast and coffee, etc.
  • Healthy eating habits: These will help you fuel your brain.
  • Regular exercise habits: These will help to improve your personal wellness and physical stamina.

7. Take Advantage of Campus Resources

You are not in nursing school alone. You have numerous people at your fingertips when you need help. At the University of the Incarnate Word, our ABSN students have easy access to instructors through discussion posts and forums, phone, email and office hours. If you’re struggling with a concept, consult your instructor and have your questions answered early. They welcome the chance to work with students one-on-one.

Other resources available to ABSN students include tutoring for those looking for more personalized guidance on the material. We also have success coaches, who can work with you to find tailored study strategies that will help you excel in nursing school. At UIW, we are here with you every step of the way. Make the most of your ABSN education by reaching out to campus resources when you need a little support.

8. Find Ways to Make Studying Enjoyable

Another valuable tip for how to study in nursing school is to make studying more enjoyable. Once students get settled into a study routine, they often find that they enjoy the learning process. Because they’re passionate about nursing, they often find the topics covered in the nursing school curriculum to be both relevant and interesting. Be intentional about thinking about what you’re learning more as something you get to do rather than something you have to do.

Other ways to make studying more enjoyable include setting up your environment in an inviting way. For example, light a candle, play relaxing music and arrange your home study space to be cozy and conducive to learning. You can also keep studying fresh by visiting a coffee shop or studying with friends.

9. Study in Groups

One great way to increase accountability and accelerate your learning is to study with peers. By studying alongside others, you’ll keep each other on task. You’ll have people to bounce ideas off of, and when questions arise, you can work together to answer them. You can also try quizzing each other and working through patient scenarios together.

UIW ABSN students sitting at a table and studying together

Studying with peers is a great way to make studying a dynamic, collaborative experience. If you are not a group studier, try studying independently alongside friends. This still gives the same benefits of keeping you on task and improving your bond with classmates.

10. Give Yourself Grace

Becoming a successful nursing student doesn’t happen overnight. It takes sustained hard work and dedication to gradually develop the knowledge base you’ll need to graduate as a practice-ready nurse. The beginning of nursing school will be challenging. You may feel stressed with classes, and clinicals may be overwhelming at first. Give yourself time to adjust to the new schedule and expectations.

If you don’t get it right away, be patient and kind to yourself. You will get there. Put in the effort and keep focused on your why. Remember all the reasons why you want to be a nurse. Let those reasons motivate you to put in the daily effort of learning. Ask for help, experiment with many study strategies, seek peer support, make time for your personal wellness and keep moving forward. You have it in you to succeed and reach your goals.

Ready to Get Started with Your Nursing Future?

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in nursing, and you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, getting started in the accelerated BSN track at UIW is a great way to earn your BSN in as few as 16 months. You’ll benefit from the flexibility of online courses and the interactive, real-world perspective of in-person labs and clinical rotations.

At the University of the Incarnate Word the accelerated nursing track offers three start dates each year — in January, May and August — which means you can start sooner. Our ABSN track is known for providing students with a top-notch clinical education that prepares them for their NCLEX and their nursing careers.

If you’re interested in learning more about how UIW can transform your future and provide the education you need to move forward with a rewarding nursing career, reach out to our admissions counselors to get started.