What to Expect in Nursing School: Everything You Should Know Before Starting

student with backpack walking into building

When you get to your first day at nursing school, a mix of anxiety and excitement may overcome you. There’s lots to look forward to, but there’s so much you still don’t know about what to expect in nursing school.

The first year of nursing school is new territory, and it can take time to adjust to the demands. However, knowing what nursing school is like sets you up to excel and feel more comfortable at the beginning.

At Concordia University Texas, our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing is well-versed in helping students through the transition to nursing school. At CTX, those with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or at least 60 college credits who have completed the required prerequisites can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree in as few as 16 months.

Beginning accelerated nursing school is an adjustment for everyone. CTX is here to guide you through that transition so you can do well. Let’s get started by addressing all the questions you never knew you had about what to expect in nursing school.

Orientation: What Is Nursing School Like During the First Week?

During the first week of nursing school at CTX, we’re focused on orienting you and getting you settled. You’ll meet your instructors and the other students in your cohort. We will talk through logistics and go through how classes work.

The goal is to get you comfortable with the schedule, curriculum, and computer software. We’ll also let you know if there are any additional supplies to purchase. You will have the chance to ask any questions about logistics and classes.

You will begin your classes during the first week, but don’t worry. We’ll start off slowly and help you get acclimated. This first week, just focus on meeting people, settling in, getting organized, and asking lots of questions.

What Classes Will You Take First Semester?

The specific classes you take each semester depend on the nursing school you attend. The curriculum at CTX’s ABSN is four semesters, totaling 16 months. In the first semester, you’ll take the following classes:

  • Adult Health I Skills, Theory, Practicum, and Simulation
  • Professionalism in Nursing
  • Pharmacology for Nurses I

These courses build on each other, and you can expect to take the more advanced levels of adult health and pharmacology courses during the second semester. This is good for you because it means once you develop effective study strategies for your first semester courses, these can carry over to helping you master your studying next semester, too.

ABSN@CTX student

How Does a Hybrid Structure Work?

CTX’s accelerated BSN track uses a three-pronged approach to learning, which is termed a hybrid learning model. What is nursing school like with this model? The hybrid system uses online classes to give you more flexibility as a way to optimize your time.

Alongside your online education, you have scheduled in-person simulation labs each week, where you learn the hands-on aspects of nursing. The last piece of the hybrid model is clinicals, which give you the opportunity to gain real-world nursing experience.

Because these three learning environments complement one another, the nursing education CTX students receive is comprehensive and clinically relevant.

What are Online Courses Like?

At CTX, we are proud of how effective our online nursing theory coursework is at educating our nursing students. The online modules do not only include lectures, but they also use other forms of interactive learning, including:

  • Case studies and practice questions.
  • Cutting-edge graphic design.
  • Lifelike animations.
  • Simulation activities.

Through these online course elements, you will learn to understand and practice complex nursing concepts, such as:

  • Identifying changes in patient conditions.
  • Safe medication administration and dosage calculations.
  • Creating comprehensive care plans for patients from admission to discharge.

Another question students sometimes have about online courses is how exams work. To ensure the integrity of our exams, they take place in-person at our ABSN site. Testing on site also helps to ensure that you have someone immediately available to help you if you need technical assistance.

How Do Simulation Labs Work?

Simulation labs are the in-person application of what you are learning in your courses. You may learn about how to measure blood pressure or start an IV line in your online coursework, but in the lab, you actually practice doing it.

Nursing instructor with nursing students working with simulation manikin

Especially in the beginning of nursing school, simulation is a way for you to gain confidence in a safe space while also forming closer bonds with your instructors and peers. Our experienced instructors will be with you every step of the way as you practice.

Clinical Rotations: What Are They, and When Do They Start?

Clinical rotations are your time to put what you are learning to use. You’ll be paired individually with a preceptor, who is a professional nurse there to guide you through clinical nursing. You’ll start off by shadowing your preceptor, and as you learn more, you’ll gain more responsibility in caring for patients.

Step into the shoes of an RN - hospital hallway

Wondering about the benefits of clinicals and what they teach you? Learn more about why clinical nursing experience is important.

Clinicals start at different times based on what school you attend. Some nursing schools wait until the second semester to give you a clinical placement, but at CTX, we want you to get as much experience as possible.

Therefore, expect to begin your clinical placements in your first semester of the ABSN track at CTX. You’ll have some time to get settled into school before clinicals start, though, so don’t worry about being unprepared.

How Do You Study for Nursing School?

Studying for nursing school is different from the studying you may have done for your prior college classes. In accelerated nursing school, the material moves quickly, so it’s important to engage with the content and stay on top of your studies.

When it comes to studying for your first semester of nursing school, remember these principles that will help you find methods that work best for you.

  1. Make a study schedule. With nursing school, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with how much you have to study. By making a weekly schedule, you break up the studying into manageable chunks, and you also ensure you’re staying ahead. Block out your time to study each day. Don’t be afraid to adjust the length of time for studying once you get into your rhythm of knowing how much time you need.
  2. Identify and use your learning style. Are you a visual, auditory, reading/writing, or kinesthetic learner? Do you do better with group studying? Reflect on how you learn best, and use study methods that resonate with you.
  3. Use spaced repetition. Create flashcards with a phone or computer app like Anki. Repetition is your best friend with nursing school. You can’t expect that studying a concept once is enough to master it. Spaced repetition (like with Anki) makes your flashcards reappear at increasingly long intervals. For example, you may review a card at day 1, day 3, day 5, day 10, day 20, month 1, month 3, etc. With spaced repetition, you remember the information long-term.
How to soar in nursing school - CTX ABSN student in sim lab

Here are some more study tips on how to be successful in nursing school.

Is the Beginning of Nursing School Hard?

You are definitely not the first person to ask that question. Before you begin nursing school, it can seem intimidating to complete an entire BSN degree in 16 months. It’s true that nursing school is rigorous, and some of the reasons for that include:

  • Fast pace: The material moves quickly, and you’ll need to keep up.
  • Complicated nursing topics: Nursing is not an easy field of study, so it will take work to master the anatomy, pathophysiology, pharmacology, disease processes, protocols, and practical skills.
  • Time commitment: Nursing school will take a majority of your time, which can be a challenging adjustment.
  • Comfort zone: Nursing school constantly expands your comfort zone, so you’ll need to get used to being pushed.

As you can see, for these and many other reasons, nursing school is hard, but that doesn’t mean it’s unmanageable. Students of all backgrounds overcome these challenges and succeed in nursing school, and you can too.

Why nursing school is hard

Learn more about what makes nursing school hard as well as some helpful habits of successful nursing students.

Tips for Getting Through Nursing School

Now that we’ve covered what to expect in nursing school, you may wonder, with so many expectations, how do students succeed? The key is commitment with balance. Stay committed to your studies while also making sure to remember your wellness.

Spend enough time studying, but don’t study all day every day. It’s about balance. You want to do well academically but not at the expense of your mental health. With that in mind, here are some ways to approach maintaining a healthy nursing student lifestyle:

  • Stick to your schedule: You may be tempted to study all night and not take the break for dinner or the gym, but resist the temptation. Plan your daily schedule, including time for personal wellness, and then hold to it.
  • Get outside every day: Getting sunshine is not only good for getting your vitamin D, but it’s also a great way to relieve stress and elevate your mood. Go for a walk or run outside to keep you healthy and refreshed despite an indoor study lifestyle.
  • Eat and live healthy: Nourish your body and mind with nutritious meals as often as you can. Take care of your body and mind, giving it wholesome fuel that will keep you going. Exercise is also a great way to keep you feeling strong and mentally balanced during stressful times.
  • Talk through your feelings: Whether you confide in your roommates, siblings, parents, or friends, find someone to open up to. Talk about nursing school, your life, and how you are really doing. Sharing with people can help you feel supported.
  • Get enough sleep. This one is easy to overlook when you get busy. Get about 7–8 hours per night if possible. This will keep you sharp and help your brain absorb what you’re learning in nursing school.

Getting through the transition to nursing school is easier when you know exactly what to expect and you have strategies for success. Just remember: commit to school, but balance it with life.

Learn More about ABSN at CTX

Are you interested in learning more about how an accelerated BSN track can help you achieve your nursing goals? At Concordia University Texas, our ABSN track is an ideal way to earn your BSN in 16 months and graduate ready to take on a nursing career.

ABSN student standing in hospital

We offer three start dates each year — in January, May, and August — which means you’ll be able to start and finish school sooner. If you have a prior non-nursing bachelor’s degree or you have 60 college credits at an accredited institution, then you may be eligible for acceptance into the accelerated nursing track at CTX.

If you’d like to learn more about how getting a BSN at CTX can transform your life and career, reach out to our admissions counselors.