How to Prepare for Nursing School: The Ultimate Guide

To be successful in Utica College’s 16-month ABSN program, you must know how to prepare for nursing school. That starts with making all the right moves when working with admissions and completing prerequisites. It also involves knowing what to expect from the accelerated learning experience and networking with classmates and instructors.

preparing for nursing school and setting yourself up for success starts before day 1

Nursing is a demanding profession, with lives often left hanging in the balance. So it makes sense that nursing school, especially when completed at an accelerated pace, is one of the most challenging education paths you can take. But as you’ll learn in this post, you can achieve anything with the right amount of commitment and preparation.

That’s why we compiled this guide. We want to help you gear up for the rigors of accelerated nursing school, starting with telling you what to expect and offering tips from students who’ve walked in your shoes before. From the admission process to interacting with your instructors, you’ll find two constants throughout our ABSN program: one, you’ll never be in it alone, and two, you’ll have plenty of support resources to help you every step of the way.

Below, we highlight four action items you should take to prepare for accelerated nursing school and offer tips for how to succeed at each one:

  1. Contact an admission representative
  2. Complete prerequisites
  3. Know what to expect first semester
  4. Network with peers and instructors

1. Contact an admission representative

Your Utica ABSN admission representative is there to guide you through the process of enrolling in accelerated nursing school. This supportive relationship begins with your initial inquiry into our program and continues through to your first day of classes.

Your first interaction with a Utica ABSN admission representative involves a phone interview to determine if you qualify for our program. Your admission representative is also there to help you through:

  • Determining your eligibility for enrollment.
  • Discussing your education goals.
  • Creating an academic plan aimed at your program start date—January, May or August.
  • Staying on track during the admission and application processes.

Above all else, your admission representative is there to offer you personalized support and guidance throughout the nursing school admission process.

That level of support from the very beginning is important for students making such a major academic commitment toward achieving their goal of becoming a nurse, says Jorie Hutson, Utica ABSN site director at Miramar.

“Having direction from someone, and if they have a question, a direct contact, I think that really changes the admission process. It helps our students feel more confident and comfortable moving forward,” she says.

Sandra Aponte, ABSN Class of December 2019, can attest to that from personal experience. She says taking the stress out of the application process allowed her to focus on the challenging task to come — accelerated nursing school.

“Jorie did such a great job with following up with me,” she says. “If there was anything that was missing, whether it was a prerequisite or a question, she was always there to answer it. She even went as far as texting me to make sure I was getting all my paperwork together. She played a huge role in me getting through the application process. I am so grateful for that.”

Nursing School Tips: Working with an Admission Representative

You’d be wise to keep these pieces of advice in mind as you navigate the accelerated nursing school admission process.

Prepare for your first admission call. While Utica ABSN doesn’t require prospective students to complete an official nursing school interview as part of our admission process, we do like to determine your compatibility with our ABSN program through an initial admission call.

“In that first phone call, our goal is to make sure we are a good fit for the student as well as the student being a good fit for us. To figure that out, we get to know the student — their goals, their motivation, their education background, their support system and what they’re looking for in a nursing program,” Jorie says. “We take a lot of time to really dig deep and find out who this person really is. We want to really build that relationship right off the bat.”

While these initial talks tend to be more informal, to get the most out of your conversation you’d still be wise to do your homework before the call:

  • Research the school: Learn as much about the program and school as you can, including what the program’s academic requirements are. Doing so frees up time for you to ask thoughtful questions specific to your unique situation and goals.
  • Have access to your unofficial transcripts:  These are important because our next step after that first initial call is to make sure you meet out program requirements. “We can also see what prerequisite courses we can get transferred in so you don’t have to retake those courses,” Jorie says.
  • Know the answers to these questions: While every conversation with an admission representative is different, in general it helps to have responses prepared to these questions:
    • Why do you want to be a nurse?
    • Why do you feel you’re a good fit for our ABSN program?
    • How do you plan to manage your time throughout nursing school?
    • How will a B.S. in Nursing help you reach your future career goals?

Keep lines of communication open. While Utica ABSN offers a straightforward, supportive admission process, it still requires constant communication between you and your admission representative. They will be in touch with you regularly to make sure you have all you need for submitting your nursing school application. Plan to be on the phone with him or her more than once.

“Once we get in touch with a student, that is our first step, but we will stay in constant contact. Maybe we’ll be in contact every two weeks. Or, as we get closer to your program start date, we will be in contact weekly,” Jorie says.

2. Complete prerequisites

As mentioned above, your admission representative will work with you to assess what (if any) prerequisites you may need to complete before you’re eligible to enroll in our program. In this section, we’ll explain all you need to know about taking prerequisite courses for the Utica ABSN program. We’ll look at what those courses are, how and when to sign up to take them and how long it takes to complete prerequisites for nursing school. We’ll also share advice from former Utica ABSN students on how to excel at this step of preparing for nursing school.

Utica ABSN Prerequisites

To become eligible for the Utica ABSN program, you must meet the educational requirements (which differ if you plan to enroll in New York or Florida) and have earned a 2.8 minimum cumulative GPA on a 4.0 scale.

In addition to that, you must also complete the following prerequisites with a “C” or better for the general prerequisites and 3.0 GPA or better for the natural science prerequisites:

General PrereqNatural Science Prereq
StatisticsAnatomy & Physiology I + Lab
Life Span Development PsychologyAnatomy & Physiology II + Lab
 Chemistry + Lab
 Microbiology + Lab

It’s worth pointing out, too, that if you’ve already completed one or more of the science prerequisite courses, you must have done so within 10 years of entering the program. To ensure your past college credits are eligible for transfer, we encourage you to speak to your admission representative.

Also of note is what’s NOT required to enroll in our program. Unlike some other nursing programs, we do NOT require prospective students to:

  • Complete any entrance exams (TEAS).
  • Go through a formal admittance interview.
  • Submit letters of recommendation.

Nursing School Prerequisites through the Utica Prerequisite Priority (PREP) Program

While we know you may be eager to dive right into accelerated nursing school, fulfilling the prerequisite requirements first readies you for future success. After all, the material you learn in these courses sets the foundation for what you’ll study in our program.

When you’re ready to dive into your prerequisites for nursing school, we make them all accessible by offering them 100% online through our Prerequisite Priority (PREP) program. Choosing to complete your prerequisites through the PREP program has several benefits, one being that assuming you maintain the minimum grade requirements, you may earn contingent admission into our nursing program for your target start date.

Nursing School Tips: Prerequisites

Familiarize yourself with the e-Learning platform. You’ll access all components for your PREP nursing prerequisite courses through an online learning platform similar to what you’ll use in the Utica ABSN program. Giving yourself some time to acclimate yourself with the ins and outs of the platform will allow you to hit the ground running once you begin the online coursework component of our program.

Only bite off as much as you can chew. We understand you may have other responsibilities and commitments as you pursue your Utica ABSN prerequisites, but it’s important you keep your GPA up to a certain level to qualify for admission. For this reason, we recommend only taking on what you can reasonably handle to be successful. Your admission representative can help you make this determination and develop an academic plan that fits your timeline.

Know who to ask for help if you need it. Just because the program is online doesn’t make PREP courses any easier than courses taught in a traditional classroom setting. Because the concepts taught in these courses build upon each other, they typically don’t get any easier to comprehend as the semester progresses.

Not to mention, you’re squeezing a whole semester’s worth of information into a shorter amount of time. If you’re struggling with a course concept, don’t ignore it. Know how to reach out to your instructor with any questions. Your admission representative can also offer extra study resources if you find yourself falling behind.

3. Know what to expect from the first semester

The first semester of nursing school lays the groundwork for your nursing education, providing the knowledge and skills necessary for a smooth transition into later semesters — and ultimately your nursing career. But we’re not going to sugarcoat it: Nursing school is hard and requires a lot of dedication to succeed. However, knowing how to prepare for what’s to come can help you hit the ground running and set you up for future success.

While we can’t speak to the curriculum and structure of ALL accelerated nursing programs, we can give you an idea of what to expect from the first semester and how to prepare for each component of the Utica ABSN hybrid curriculum:

  • Online coursework
  • Skills and simulation labs
  • Clinical rotations

Online Coursework

A common question we hear from prospective students is, “Are online classes easier than traditional classroom-based courses?” Compared to most campus-based B.S. in Nursing programs, our ABSN program covers all the same material that will prepare for you for the NCLEX and your future nursing career.

What sets our ABSN program apart from these programs, besides speed (our program is 16 months, while most traditional nursing programs are 36 months), is the way we present the course material.

Instead of driving to a physical location to attend class, you’ll log into our interactive e-Learning platform to complete a majority of your nursing theory courses. Among other things, this online learning format allows you to:

  • Read and listen to material as often as you want.
  • Participate in simulated learning modules.
  • Complete course assignments and take practice quizzes.
  • Interact with instructors and other students on discussion forums and scheduled chat sessions.

During the first of four full-time semesters, you’ll complete the following theory courses 100% online:

  • NUR 311: Socialization to Professional Nursing
  • NUR 332: Pathophysiology

Over the first 10 weeks of the semester, you’ll also complete the following online didactic courses that feature concurrent in-person lab and clinicals components:

  • NUR 321: Foundations for Nursing Care (includes 45 lab hours at one of our program sites; 42 clinical hours at top area healthcare facilities)
  • NUR 326: Health Assessment (includes 45 hours at one of our program sites)

Nursing School Tips: Online Coursework

Get ready to live, eat and breathe accelerated nursing school for 16 months. Many former Utica ABSN students have compared our program to a full-time job. For that reason, we recommend holding off on extended vacations or working more than 40 hours a week during the 16 months you’re enrolled in the program. We understand accelerated nursing school is a major commitment, but even missing one week can set you back.

Identify your ideal study method: Your success in nursing school hinges on your ability to understand, not just memorize, the material. One of the most successful online learning strategies you can adopt is taking a VARK learning style assessment. Doing so early in nursing school can help you identify the best ways for you to retain material and apply those concepts in patient care scenarios.

Invest in a planner/develop a system for staying organized: The ABSN program packs a lot material into an abbreviated timeframe, making it that much more important to stay on top of your online coursework. If you’re wondering how to be successful in online courses, investing in an old-school paper planner to map out your daily schedule can certainly help. Taking advantage of our e-Learning platform’s calendar function is another popular strategy some of our students use.

Create a space at home where you can focus on your studies: One of the benefits of online learning is that you get to choose where your “classroom” is. Studying from home is certainly convenient, but to be successful in the Utica ABSN program, you’ll need a place where you can concentrate on your coursework. Investing in a comfortable chair and adequate desk in an area of your living space away from the daily household bustle will set you up for success.

infographic showing how students should prepare for their first semester of nursing school

Skills and Simulation Labs

You’ll log around 225 hours of skills and simulation labs, which take place at the program site that aligns with your location of enrollment: St. Petersburg or Miramar, Florida, or Syracuse, New York. We built these spaces to replicate a clinical setting for you to apply the nursing theories and interventions you’re learning about in your online coursework in a risk-free environment.

Under the guidance of faculty, during your first-semester skills labs, you’ll practice core nursing skills ranging from catheterization to wound care on a clinical task trainer or full-body manikin.

Then, during nursing simulation labs, you’ll put your skills and knowledge to the test as part of mock patient care scenarios. Here you’ll also gain valuable problem solving, collaboration and critical thinking skills, then debrief with faculty and classmates.

While simulated, these scenarios can still get intense. Rest assured that your lab experiences progress in difficulty as you make your way through the program. During your first semester, expect these labs to focus on nursing basics.

Nursing School Tips: Skills and Simulation Labs

Know what resources are available for help: We make the labs at all of our program sites available to you outside of scheduled course times for you to practice with our equipment — use them! Our computer labs and the student lounge are also there should you ever need them.

Map out your commute: You’ll be expected to be punctual for your scheduled lab times (and you’ll want to make the most of this time), so it might not be a bad idea to plan your route to the program site before the semester starts. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, it wouldn’t hurt to do a dry run before the first day of class.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes: Errors in skills and simulation labs are expected; actually, they’re seen as valuable learning opportunities. That’s why our simulation manikins exist — for you to practice vital nursing skills and learn how to make sound clinical judgements without fear of putting anyone’s safety at risk.

Clinical Rotations

The hallmark of any nursing school program, clinical rotations are your chance to apply what you’re learning in your online courses and practicing in labs in the real world.

Utica nursing students in skills lab

Clinicals are a valuable part of your nursing education, as they provide a deeper learning and understanding of the nursing profession. That’s especially true for this portion of the Utica ABSN program. As you make your way through your clinical rotations, you’ll get the chance to work with different patients in diverse medical settings and experience the day-to-day intricacies involved in today’s complex healthcare environments.

As far as your first semester is concerned, you’ll start with learning the basics of patient interaction, then work your way up to more complex interventions in later semesters.

Nursing School Tips: Clinical Rotations

Start a calming/self-care ritual. With all the balancing of studying and making the most of your clinical experiences, it’s easy for self-care to drop off your list of priorities during nursing school. Accelerated nursing school is a marathon, not a sprint, so it’s important to keep your mind fresh and recharge your batteries every once in a while.

Plan ahead the night before/set extra alarms. During clinical rotations, you’ll be working alongside a clinical instructor or preceptor who is a working nurse caring for real patients. It’s important to respect their time and arrive early for your shift if possible.

Learn to expect the unexpected. While it’s important to get into a good study routine and stay organized, it’s equally as important to be flexible. As a nurse, you never know what patients will be coming in during your shift, so it’s a good lesson to learn to be ready for anything in nursing school. By letting go of the reins and treating every unexpected situation as a learning opportunity, you’ll be that much more prepared to succeed in your career.

4. Network with peers and instructors

Accelerated nursing school can get to be a grind, so it’s vital to have people in your corner before Day 1, cheering you on if you want to give up or don’t think you can make it. Having a strong personal support network of family and friends in place before you begin in the program is definitely a great step to take. But no matter how supportive and encouraging they may be, they’ll never fully understand the rigors of accelerated nursing school because they’re not in your shoes.

That’s what makes developing a strong network of nursing school classmates especially important. After all, they are the ones who will be studying the same challenging material, participating in the same simulation labs and experiencing clinical rotations alongside you. As many Utica ABSN alumni have told us, it’s common for your lab partner or study group members to become some of your closest friends, even after graduation.

“You’re in clinical for seven hours with them, most likely carpool with them and spend the majority of your time and study with them. In my cohort, we always made plans with each other outside of school to keep us sane,” says Jill Kirchner, ABSN Class of December 2017.

Besides cohort members, you also need to talk to your professors and create relationships with them. They’ve been nurses before and can connect you with the knowledge, resources and opportunities to set your career on a trajectory toward success. Knowing when to ask them for help could be one of the greatest keys to succeeding in accelerated nursing school.

Of course, this relationship goes both ways — you should always be willing to give 110% effort to your coursework and clinical shifts. Your instructors will remember that you worked hard, that you asked for help and that you didn’t just do the bare minimum.

Nursing School Tips: Networking

Introduce yourself to instructors early (and stay in touch often)
Make a point to reach out to your nursing school instructors early in the program and contact them with questions as they arise. They’re not just there to teach you nursing theory; they want you to succeed in the program and in the profession once you graduate.

Besides, whatever situation you’re going through with your coursework or in clinicals, your nursing school instructor has likely been there before. They can help you see different perspectives and give you advice on how to be successful.

“I literally have had a conversation with each and every one of them about life, not always about school. What should I be doing? Where do you think I should be in five years? Instructors have this experience. I love to gain that knowledge. They’ve been always super helpful,” says Lester Anim, ABSN Class of August 2017.

Form study groups with classmates
Many Utica ABSN students say some of their closest relationships with their classmates started during nursing school orientation. So it’d benefit you — and your classmates — to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you at this session and suggest the creation of a study group.

“We shared our notes on things. We made sure we all understood and could get through the program,” says Stacy Law, ABSN Class of 2018. “Ultimately, you’re going to depend on one another whether it’s in school or out in the field practicing. You’re going to be helping each other out.”

Get Ready to Accelerate into Nursing

Now that you know how to prepare for nursing school, what’s holding you back? As we mentioned earlier in this post, the first step involves speaking with our admission team. This is the best way to determine whether our accelerated nursing program is the best fit for helping you reach your career aspirations. From there, we can tell you more about how to enroll in and complete prerequisites and navigate each component of our hybrid curriculum.

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Our ABSN has three start dates a year, so you can begin nursing school whenever you're ready.

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