Tips on How To Prepare for Nursing School

By Courtney Johnson

GCU graduate ABSN nurse standing in hospital hallway

Nursing school is a difficult endeavor, whether you are earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree though an ABSN program or working toward your Master of Science in Nursing. Between going to class, studying for exams, completing clinical hours and managing personal responsibilities, it can seem hard to keep up at times.

Despite the hard work, a career in nursing is extremely rewarding, and earning your nursing degree is a major accomplishment. As an aspiring nurse, you may be wondering how to be a successful nursing student. If so, here are some tips on how to stay on top of it all while earning your nursing degree.

In this article: 

Choose the Best Program for You: Traditional BSN, RN to BSN or ABSN

With many nursing programs available, you may wonder what the difference is between them. Learning how to prepare for nursing school may differ from one program to the next.

A traditional BSN program typically requires four years of intensive study. These programs cover a lot of material, including necessary healthcare topics needed to prepare for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam and graduate as a job-ready nurse. Many students who enroll in a traditional BSN program are newcomers to college or college freshman, ready to become well-rounded healthcare professionals.

An ABSN program is ideal for anyone who already has previous college credits or a completed baccalaureate degree and would like to transition to the healthcare field. A range of material is covered that is needed to graduate and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Many people assume that it’s necessary to have a bachelor's degree to enter an ABSN program; however, people of all educational backgrounds are welcome.

Despite the accelerated nature of the program, ABSN programs thoroughly prepare students to serve as knowledgeable and skillful nurses. Students participate in instructional courses and hands-on, experiential learning opportunities like clinical rotations, patient simulations and skills labs. As a result, graduates have all the core competencies expected of practice-ready nurses.

An RN to BSN program is for registered nurses (RNs) who are looking to further their career in the nursing field. These programs build off the knowledge and skills that RNs already possess from obtaining their prior nursing degree or diploma. This helps them transition into a more advanced level of nursing education. This is also a great way to open further opportunities in the nursing field for current nurses.

Set Realistic Goals When Preparing for Nursing School

In preparing for nursing school, it’s important to stay driven and set realistic goals for yourself. Rather than holding yourself to an impossible standard, focus on doing your best whenever you can, and when you make mistakes, learn from them and move on. It’s not realistic to expect yourself to be perfect and study every second that you’re free — balance between your school life and personal life is important.

In addition, setting both larger and smaller goals will be extremely beneficial to your success as a nursing student. If you’re completing an ABSN program, you may have a larger goal to expand your career options and break into the healthcare field. However, when preparing for nursing school, you also have to look at things at a micro level. Setting small goals such as reading a few chapters of your work each week can help you stay motivated by giving you a frequent sense of accomplishment.

If you are planning on graduating with your ABSN degree or traditional BSN degree, your biggest goal while preparing for nursing school should involve getting ready to take the NCLEX-RN. This is the licensure test that aspiring healthcare professionals must pass to become registered nurses. Once you pass the NCLEX-RN, you will be fully qualified to pursue work opportunities as an RN.

Prepare for the Commitment

Having an intense workload while trying to balance a personal life can be challenging. However, to be a successful nursing student it’s important to prepare to dedicate yourself to the time commitment needed to be successful in your program. This may come in the form of shifting your current responsibilities.

For example, the ABSN program is a full-time commitment. Some students may decide to continue working on a part-time basis. However, juggling school and work can prove difficult because the ABSN coursework is quite rigorous. Make sure you have enough time set aside to complete your degree requirements, as every type of nursing degree will require you to commit yourself to your learning.

Manage Your Time Well

Time management goes along with preparing for the commitment that nursing school requires and is a necessary skill for any nursing student. In order to avoid burnout, nursing students must schedule time to relax as well as time to study. This means taking breaks from studying when you have a lot to do and making sure you get a good amount of sleep each night. Students often sacrifice a good night's sleep for a last-minute study session. This can seem like a good idea at the time but can have negative side effects.

When completing an accelerated program such as ABSN degree, you must also have excellent time management and effective study skills or be willing to acquire them. In order to graduate on an accelerated timetable, you will work through a rigorous curriculum on a full-time schedule.

Try to use a planner to schedule out your time in advance. Write down tasks you need to complete each day and stick to this list. This will help you to identify free time where you can prioritize other activities like working out, having dinner with friends or visiting family. Sticking to a schedule will not only help you feel more organized but it will help you minimize stress throughout nursing school.

Get Connected

Successful nursing students invest in their relationships, especially with professors and classmates. Not only can this help you make important connections that you can use throughout your career, but it can also help you as you earn your degree.

Forming connections with others can help you feel more comfortable asking questions, which is a necessary part of learning. It can feel intimidating to go up to your professors or another classmate to ask for help when you need it, but doing so will benefit you down the line. It will also help you to better understand your work rather than just doing it for a grade.

Although nursing school is time consuming, if you’re an on-campus student, getting involved in campus life can also be rewarding. Although it’s important to form connections with people in your classes, making friends with other students can also help to take your mind off your work if you’re stressed and can help you to focus on other topics. Making friends outside of classes may also help you to keep up with hobbies while earning your nursing degree rather than putting them on the back burner entirely

Stay True to Your Nursing Career Passion

Nursing is one of the most in-demand careers in the U.S. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 195,400 new jobs are estimated to open for registered nurses from 2021 to 2031.1

Your success in nursing school will ultimately be driven by your passion for the career. If you are a non-nursing professional with previous college credits or a bachelor’s degree and have a passion for the healthcare field, an ABSN program can provide an opportunity for you to help address the growing demand for qualified nurses.

The College of Nursing and Health Care Professions at Grand Canyon University prepares students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. To learn more about GCU's traditional BSN, ABSN and RN to BSN programs, click the button at the top of the screen.


1COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is effective September 2022, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses retrieved on Feb. 21, 2023.


Approved by the dean of the College of Nursing and Healthcare Professions on Feb. 6, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.