[Infographic] What is Nursing School Like? What to Expect First & Second Semester

Ask the question, “What is nursing school like?” to working nurses and they will likely tell you it to you straight — it’s tough. You’ll learn quickly during your first semester that it requires you to work hard and study even harder, leaving you little time for much else.

While accelerated nursing school can get intense, the whole experience can seem much more manageable if you know what to expect. The Utica College Accelerated B.S. in Nursing program compresses the traditional nursing school experience into 16 months using a blended curriculum model. That means you’ll complete the didactic portion online, skills and simulation labs at our ABSN program site and begin your clinical rotations at area hospitals starting your first semester.

If you think that sounds like a lot to do in a short time frame, you’re right — it is. To set you up for success from day one, we assembled this semester-by-semester guide to help you understand what you can anticipate. Below each section, we also included key takeaways for success from Utica College ABSN program alumni. If they could do it, so can you!

First Semester: Innovate

what is nursing school like during the first semester

Rethink how you learn

You may think you know what you’re getting into with nursing school beforehand, but you have no idea until you’re actually doing it. Accelerated nursing school requires a new way of thinking than you’re probably used to.

Alumni advice

“Set time throughout your day to sign in and get your work done. If you let it slide, you’re going to be really behind. In this program, it’s easy to get behind because it’s a shorter program. We cover a lot of content in a week.” —Jill, ABSN Class of December 2017

“You can’t just cram the night before an exam. You have to make sure you’re on top of your stuff. Do something little every day. You can’t take a full day off.” —Lester, ABSN Class of August 2017

“If you think you’re organized and want to go back to get your second degree, this is the program for you. It’s just more directed. You have to step up your game with time management and organization. … It’s on you to stay on top of things. Study groups are my lifesavers to stay on top of assignments.” —Terence, ABSN Class of December 2017

To be successful this semester, you should:

  • Focus on your education >> While it may be possible to work while you’re an ABSN student, we typically recommend students treat their participation in our program as a full-time job.
  • Get organized >> Strike a balance between school, family, and work. Once you find out what method of studying works best for you, stick to it. Jessica Dvoracsek, a success coach for our accelerated program, recommends blocking out time in your schedule every day for online coursework and keeping a weekly planner to manage assignment deadlines, test dates, lab days and clinical hours.
  • Use on-site resources >> These include our computer labs, the student lounge, lab simulation classroom during open hours and visiting instructors and success coaches during their office hours. They all exist to help you succeed!
  • Make friends with fellow members of your cohort >> Set up study groups and take mental breaks together. Having the support of your family and friends certainly helps as well, but no one else will know better the stress of nursing school than your peers.

Second Semester: Interact

what is nursing school like during the second semester

Recalibrate and get into the rhythm of clinicals

By now, you’ve probably established a study routine, which will come in handy once you start delving into more advanced nursing skills and concepts this semester. You’ll also have face-time with patients during clinical shifts right off the bat — and more of it as the weeks progress.

Alumni advice

“Second semester, you start to understand what nursing school is like and what instructors are asking of you. …now we’re putting all these puzzle pieces together and they’re starting to make sense.” —Denise, ABSN class of December 2016

“The skills lab solidifies what you’re learning online, but to actually be in skills lab and do it hands-on really solidifies it and brings it all together.” —Dia, ABSN class of August 2017

“In clinicals, I like that you get to focus on one patient. In real-life situations, the ratios aren’t often one-to-one. Even though we’re shadowing a nurse, I’m focusing on one patient. I get to know that patient on a personal level and let them know that even though i may not be as knowledgeable as their actual nurse, I’m really there to help them and make their experience, condition and overall health better.” —Terence, ABSN class of December 2017

To be successful this semester, you should:

  • Practice, practice, practice >> practicing nursing skills like setting IVs and catheters on manikins before doing them on an actual person will help you build confidence working with patients. Dvoracsek says while skills labs typically last three hours, most successful students spend even more time in the lab during open hours to get in extra practice time.
  • Learn the ins and outs of patient care >> take notes on how staff nurses interact with various patient populations. For example, you’ll talk differently to an elderly patient than you would a new mom.
  • Schedule time for self-care >> you’re in nursing school to learn how to take care of people, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect yourself, either. Try to do something for yourself to get through the intensities of studying and clinicals, even if it’s just making time to watch a favorite tv show, Dvoracsek says.
  • Treat clinicals like a 16-month job interview >> act professional and be proactive — you could someday end up working in the same hospital as one of your clinical rotations!

Now that you know what to expect during your first two semesters, are you ready to start planning your accelerated nursing school journey? Reach out to one of our admissions representatives today to begin.

Don't Wait on Your Nursing Future

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

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