How to Be Successful in Nursing School

For those looking into nursing school, the rigor might be intimidating. However, with the right knowledge and preparation, success is within reach. Here are a few nursing school tips and things to look out for to help you know how to be successful in nursing school.

nursing students in classroom

Nursing school can seem daunting. It certainly is an experience that will challenge you in new ways, so it is crucial to be equipped with the right tools. If you wonder how to succeed in nursing school, here are some tips on how to be a successful nursing student and what pitfalls to avoid along the way.

Find a School-Life Balance

It might surprise you to learn how easy it is to lose balance in your life once you enter nursing school. Nursing programs can be very rigorous and take great mental, emotional, and physical energy. However, it is vital to your overall well-being to find a way to manage school and your personal life. This balance can directly impact your academic performance — an undue amount of stress can cause a decline in your grades.

In order to achieve this, you must start setting personal boundaries in your life. This might mean learning to say “no” more often. If you begin to feel burdened and stressed beyond reasonable expectation, it might be time to prioritize your workload to complete what is most important. Depending on your personality, this might mean learning to say “yes.” Maybe you are constantly rejecting invitations to spend time with people or denying yourself time to relax. Allow time for those things. Finding a balance that works for you might even improve the quality of your study sessions.

Build a Support System

three smiling nurses in different colored scrubs

Beginning nursing school is a season full of change and new challenges. You might feel lonely and isolated once your schedule starts filling up and you are heavily focused on schoolwork. With all the difficulties you will face, don’t neglect to build up your support system early on. This can include people within your nursing program and outside of it.

Keep in touch with family and old friends who will encourage and remind you why you chose nursing in the first place. Surround yourself with those who know you best to stay centered as you face challenges — but don’t forget to put down roots in your nursing program too. Your professors are there to help and provide support. Take advantage of office hours to build relationships with faculty. Make friends in your classes and sim labs as well. You will likely be put in a nursing cohort with whom you will complete most of your program requirements. Try starting a study group that will help keep you accountable and push you to be your best.


With nursing school being so fast-paced and rigorous, it is a common mistake to get caught up in the current and get lost. Nursing programs are built on learning and knowledge, but the ultimate goal is to prepare students for nursing practice. As such, it is important that you fully understand the material and how to apply it to real-world scenarios. You will have the opportunity to practice this in your simulation labs and clinical rotations, but if you don’t advocate for yourself, you will just go through the motions. Maximize your learning potential by being bold and self-advocating.

This might involve various strategies but start by getting comfortable asking questions. This means being an active listener. If you aren’t sure about something, chances are someone else in the room is also unsure. Jump in and ask deeper questions about why things are done in the way that they are. In your clinicals, you will be working in medical facilities that won’t slow down for you. If you find yourself being a passive observer, ask the other nurses or your preceptor how you can help. Communicate your learning goals for your shift, and the nurses will likely want to support you.

Stay Organized

Organization is key in nursing school. Not only must you balance classes but also labs and clinicals. These can sometimes become moving targets, and if you don’t have an organizational system, you might find yourself double-booking and becoming unreliable. It is also important to have a system for your work and belongings. A disorganized and cluttered lifestyle impacts performance in classes. Nursing students who struggle to keep track of assignments and due dates can have trouble turning things in on time and being prepared for exams.

Start tackling your organization system by creating a schedule. Plan your nursing school commitments, including classes, labs, clinicals, study groups, and office hours. Make sure you schedule time for transportation as well. Then find a way to systematically organize your schoolwork in whatever way works best. Try adding due dates to your calendar or creating a prioritized to-do list. Schedule study time throughout the week with intentional study topics so that next week’s exam doesn’t suddenly become tomorrow’s exam you didn’t study for.

nurse using laptop at desk

Prioritize Self-Care

Burnout is a very real danger in nursing school. Burnout results from extensive untreated high-stress levels and has been shown to negatively impact academics. Your mental and emotional health should always be of the utmost importance. Incorporating self-care not only boosts your performance in nursing school and helps you find a work-life balance, but it can help you stay fueled for your future career in nursing. These practices will stay with you throughout your life.

Self-care involves attention to your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual self. Try to get your body moving every day with yoga, a workout, or even a short walk. Find people to talk to about your struggles and remember the world outside nursing school. Give yourself time to relax and recharge by reading a book or watching your favorite show, making sure to step outside to give your eyes a break. Find whatever self-care habits make you feel like yourself and make time for them every week.

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What Not to Do in Nursing School

Now that you have some tools for success in nursing school, you must be aware of common pitfalls. Here are a few nursing school tips and tricks, including what not to do in nursing school so that you can avoid making the same mistakes.

Underestimate the Workload

Nursing is a highly trusted profession. To ensure that you become a trustworthy nurse, you must be able to retain information and perform well under pressure. This means the workload for nursing school is very heavy, but success is possible with a good work ethic. If you are someone for whom school comes easily, expect an adjustment period, as this will likely be quite a different experience.

woman sitting at desk studying with books

Overexert Yourself

Be wary of your abilities and limits. Overexertion can be devastating and difficult to recover from. Practice self-awareness and check in often to determine if you are reaching the point of overexertion, which can impact not only your academic life but your personal and social lives as well. Don’t wait until it is too late to start thinking about this. Remember that self-care works best when it is preventative and not remedial.


Procrastination might have been your friend in high school. Perhaps it even got you through college as well. Trust that it will not be your friend in a nursing program. Even if you are an individual who can cram a study session the night before and pass the exam, you will not retain that information in the long term, and your learning outcomes will be less than sufficient. The goal is not just to pass your classes but to grasp the knowledge and become a fully qualified nurse.

woman sitting at desk looking at laptop

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Surround Yourself With Negativity

Getting into nursing school is highly competitive, and you might be pitted against classmates. When you are admitted into a program, you will encounter many hurdles. Remember to focus on yourself and how to grow and improve. Don’t surround yourself with people who will discourage you and tell you that you can’t make it. Rather, focus on your aspirations and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Now that you have a better grasp of how to be successful in nursing school, are you ready to take the next step? We can help you find a program that is a perfect fit. Fill out our online form, and you can expect to be contacted by schools that fit your criteria. This service is free of charge and free of obligation to any of these schools.

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