Let’s face it… Some semesters it’s simply unavoidable to have a heavy course load of classes. It may be that you have an extra clinical rotation, or the class you signed up for is jam-packed with information to learn.
For me, I’m in the thick of it right now! This semester I’m learning all about pregnancy, labor & delivery, and pediatrics, along with adult med-surg and a pharmacology class. (That’s three 5-week rotations and a ton of new skills to learn!) And no, it won’t be easy, but I’m determined to stay ahead of things and make it through!
Here’s how I’m planning to SLAY this semester!
#1 – Plan out your study time and stick to your schedule.
I like to use both a planner and an Excel spreadsheet to make my weekly schedule. I start with my class schedule and any other activities that have to be done at a certain time (your job, bringing the kids to school, etc.). Then I fill in the blank spaces with when I plan to study.
Make sure to be as specific as you can! In the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, he mentions that studies show the more specific you are about your plan, the more likely you’ll stick to it. His formula is: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]. For example: “I will study Pharmacology from 1 pm – 2 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the school library.” Once you’re done, look over your plan and make sure you’ve planned enough time to learn the material for each class.
#2 – Avoid putting classes on “the back burner.”
I’ve seen so many of my classmates fall into this trap! And I call it a trap because that’s exactly what it is… From what I have seen, this method usually results in failed classes or added stress as the student tries to cram the material they “put on the back burner” in time for the next test. Even if you can manage to fit in quick 30-minute study sessions a few times a week, you’ll be much better prepared than if you try to cram. Do your best not to fall behind, because once you do, it’s hard to catch up.
#3 – With heavy course loads, QUALITY study time (& adequate breaks) is essential!
There comes a point when, no matter how hard you try, your brain feels as though it’s at max capacity. It’s as if you can feel the words spilling right out of your head. So many times I’ve questioned how this much information is supposed to fit inside my brain!
At this point, your efforts to study are no longer effective. You have to stop and give yourself a break. Do your best to recognize your limits and use them to guide your study plan. Let me give an example.
Personally, I can study effectively between an hour to an hour and a half. So I plan my study time to be no more than 1.5 hours and then take an hour break. I feel best when I have longer study breaks with activities in between. I’ll study, then maybe watch an hour of my favorite TV show, then study an hour, then go to the gym and have lunch before getting back to my school work. It’s a way for me to break up my day and keeps my mind feeling fresh!
#4 – Once a week, get together with a study group to review the material.
In my opinion, it’s most effective to get together with your classmates at the end of the week to review. (Sundays are usually a good option.) Plan to study the material throughout the week and do your best to learn it. Then, get together to review with a few classmates. You can quiz each other, get help with something you don’t quite understand, and get a better idea of your strengths and weaknesses. Study partners might also mention things you didn’t pick up on in class or have a great memory trick or helpful hint. Weekly study groups can also be a form of healthy peer pressure to stay on top of your studies!
#5 – A heavy course load usually demands cutting back on work hours.
If you have a heavy college course load (especially if you’re taking all nursing courses as opposed to general ed or easy electives), then I highly suggest cutting back on your work hours! I know that many of us still have rent and bills to pay, but do what you can to make it work.
- Consider applying for scholarships or grants. Any extra funds can help make it possible for you to work one less shift or more per week.
- Take out a small loan to buffer your expenses.
- Cut back on unneeded expenses when possible. (like that Netflix subscription! You’ll be too busy to watch it anyways…)
- Depending on your situation, consider living with your parents or getting roommates to cut back on costs, and ultimately, the time you’ll have to work while in nursing school. Or ask if your spouse might be able to pay an extra bill or two for a while.
And if you’re lucky enough to be able to not work during school, take full advantage!
#6 – Be sure to use all of your resources.
Lastly, be sure you’re taking full advantage of what’s available to you. Some schools, like mine, have free peer tutoring and an academic coach you can talk to if you’re struggling. Don’t forget to reach out to your classmates and teachers for help as well!
YouTube is a great place to find free videos that can explain the same material to you in a new way. And there’s no shortage of excellent nursing YouTubers! I also use study aids, such as Saunder’s Review for the NCLEX-RN Exam. This book highlights the most critical info for you and has tons of practice questions, both online and in the book. Once you graduate, you can use it as a resource to study for your NCLEX. I highly recommend it!
And don’t forget to use this website as a free resource! Be sure to check out my other blog posts for more tips on getting through nursing, and check out the “free stuff” tab for free templates, cheat sheets, and more!