Everyone has a memorable first-day-of-school photo from their childhood—fresh new clothes, shiny tennis shoes, a back-pack far too big and a missing-tooth grin. And though you may not remember much about what you did that day or who you met, you probably remember the feeling: a fluttering sensation in your stomach and a light excitement in your head.
The nerves and uncertainties were warranted back then and they still are today. Those feelings are bound to resurface as you prepare for your first day of nursing school. But at the same time, you don’t have to go in blind. If you want to know what you’re getting yourself into, who better to ask than those who have gone before you?
Nursing school is notorious for being demanding, but there are many who have forged the path before you and came out in one piece. But don’t take our word for it—hear from a nurse and a nursing student who can tell you what to expect on your first day of nursing school.
4 Things to be prepared for on your first day of nursing school
Though every school and program will be different, there are some common denominators. If you don’t want to be blindsided on your first day, read up on what these veterans have to say about what you can expect and how you can prepare.
1. Be prepared to feel overwhelmed
It’s your first day of nursing school. Like any first day of class there will be an overload of information, new people to meet and things to remember. But before you turn around and head for the door, take a deep breath and remember why you’re there.
“I can't speak for everyone, but I know a majority of my class, including myself, was a mix of excitement, anxiety and eagerness on our first day,” says BSN student Nicolette Oster.Kati Kleber, BSN RN, agrees that the first day was undoubtedly overwhelming. She advises nursing hopefuls to make sure they are truly committed before enrolling in nursing school. She started her program with 40 people and graduated with only 16.
“This is not to scare you, but to let you know that nursing school is no joke,” Kleber warns. “You have to be serious and committed to make it to the end.”
2. Be prepared to dive right in
Typical college programs begin with a day dedicated to introductions and reading through the syllabus, but you’ve probably figured out that nursing is not exactly a “typical college program.” Kleber says you should be prepared to start working on your first day of nursing school.
"Don't be surprised when you get homework on the first day."
“You’ll get your syllabi, break open your textbooks and jump right in,” Kleber explains. “Don’t be surprised when you get homework on the first day.” Oster recommends getting organized before the first day of class. She recommends investing in a quality planner and recording any important dates for the semester upfront so nothing falls through the cracks.
3. Be prepared to seek support
Nursing school is not a solo sprint, but a marathon run with countless others alongside of you. There are no extra credit points awarded for going at it alone, so you might as well find a support system. Your classmates are going through the same situation, so leaning on each other can be helpful.
Kleber says it’s also important to enlist the support of your instructors. She recommends working to make a good impression right away. Take time to listen to everything they’re saying before jumping in with questions and be up front with them about any issue you may be experiencing.
If you struggle with anxiety or any other health or learning issues, speak to your instructors privately so they’re aware of your situation and can support you appropriately. At the end of the day, they are on your team and want to see you succeed.
4. Be prepared to succeed
The truth is that nursing school is not for everyone. But if you’ve decided it is for you, why go into it half-heartedly? A good athlete does not play afraid to lose, but rather they are motivated by the success of winning.
Don’t be motivated by your fear of failure. Instead focus on the final product—the degree that will unlock your career dreams. You will likely run into minor obstacles along the way, but do your best to learn from them and keep your eyes on the prize—graduation!
One way of staying focused on success is to write down your accomplishments. Many people make to-do lists but get in the habit of making a “done” list. No matter how small the victory, write down the things you are proud of so they can fuel you to keep forging ahead.
A day in the life…
Now you should be a bit more prepared for your first day of nursing school. These expert tips should help you feel confident that you can make it through just like the many nurses before you. Check out this video for a firsthand glimpse of a day in the life of a nursing student!