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What You Need for Your First Year in Nursing School

When starting the first year of nursing school, students can easily get overwhelmed. After working so hard to get to this point, it is completely natural to experience a wide range of emotions as the school year begins.

Here is a brief snapshot of what to expect the first year, including some nursing school tips that may ease the transition.

First-Year Expectations

The first year of any academic program can be challenging, and nursing is certainly no exception. Students pursing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) may have mixed feelings as the school year begins — excitement, nervousness and apprehension are common. Anxieties may increase if they find the degree program more challenging and time-intensive than initially expected. However, many students find that focusing on the end-goal — a thriving and fulfilling career — is a great motivator. The Bureau of Labor Statistics continues to rank nursing as one of the fastest-growing occupations, with anticipated growth much faster than average through the year 2024. And as of 2015, average annual wages for licensed nurses exceeded $67,000.

Another important first-year nursing school tip is to develop a clear understanding of the degree requirements and overall curriculum. This may serve to eliminate a substantial amount of anxiety. Programs are typically designed for students to complete their courses in a specific order, often with prerequisites required for each course. Establishing open communication with your student advisor is an excellent way to ensure that you follow the courses as outlined and do not waste time and money on unnecessary courses. The advisor can also assist with unexpected issues that might arise throughout the year, including scheduling conflicts or difficulties obtaining textbooks or other required materials. Moreover, research shows that students who are highly engaged with their advisors are more likely to graduate on time.

Establishing a similar level of communication with each instructor is wise, too, as they can be invaluable resources during the first year and beyond. There will likely be times when you struggle to fully comprehend a concept or subject. It is important to quickly address this with your instructor and ask for additional assistance. Since each course builds upon the next, delays in doing so can make it difficult to fully delve into the next subject.

Courses and Clinicals

Coursework the first year will cover a wide range of topics, such as mental health nursing, holistic health assessments and nursing research. Students should also be prepared to use several different learning formats. For example, BSN programs with online content delivery use a blended learning approach in which online courses are paired with on-site clinical rotations at local and regional healthcare facilities.

The series of first-year clinical rotations also presents a great opportunity to develop professional relationships with potential employers.

Even when coursework is delivered largely online, it is likely to be quite interactive. Many universities use enhanced platforms that allow for greater student interaction than in the past. These platforms are typically very user-friendly, although schools often offer tutorials to assist students in gaining its full benefits. Since students may need to collaborate with their classmates online to complete assignments or projects, a thorough understanding of the platform is essential.

A Successful First Year

The first year of nursing school can be intense, especially as students get acclimated to program and coursework requirements. By following the nursing school tips outlined above, a less stressful — and more successful — first year is completely possible.

Learn more about the UT Arlington online BSN program.


J. M. (2012, November 13). Student advising plays key role in college success – just as it’s being cut. Retrieved from

Occupational Outlook Handbook – Registered Nurses. (2015, December 17). Retrieved from

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