Survival Tools for First Semester of Nursing

Cohort 72 of APU-SD has officially finished Semester 1! We had an awesome beach bonfire to celebrate 🙂 As promised, here is what I wish I knew going through Semester 1. I made a list as a went through the semester in hopes that I might save you some time and energy. No matter what semester you are in… it is never too late to apply these!

Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail:

  1. BUY A PLANNER! Before the Semester, put every exam date, assignment due date, quiz date,etc. I even put what we’re going over in each class for the week so I know what slides to review.
  2. Build rapport with your professors. What are their expectations? Ask them: “How would you study for your class?” Don’t wait until you’re barely passing to ask them how to do well in their class.
  3. Warn all your loved ones you’re “going dark”. Let them know to expect when you’re in nursing school. I study best when I completely separate myself from my phone. This means some calls and texts will have delayed responses and very occasionally go missed. This way they won’t take it personally can be patient and supportive of you on your journey. Also, let them know you may be saying “No” to outings for awhile.
  4. Get down the following as early as possible: VITALS & ADPIE & SOAP
  5. Get down common meds and lab values. For those of you attending APU, look in the back of your TLAN book! I made flashcards to memorize and related the ranges to silly meanings to help me remember. If you want to know my tricks, let me know!


We spend our entire academic careers in competition to get into one of the most competitive and selective programs not just in healthcare but in general. Once you’re in, YOU’RE IN. There are no curves. There is no trophy for who gets the best grades. Helping each other be the best nursing students now means helping each other be the best nurses to work with later. Collaboration begins now. You don’t work your fellow health care workers to struggle in the field because it means you will struggle in the field. In healthcare, you work in teams so in the program you should work IN TEAMS.

What my cohort did that saved me so much time…

  1. Make a Cohort FB page! This is so useful to work together on any assignments, quizzes, projects, etc. that you are allowed to work on together! It saves everyone time! It also offers you a resource if you forgot a due date, have a question on a concept, etc.!
  2. Make a Cohort Google Drive! We share PDFs of books, make study guides together, share notes from lecture, etc. This is great for working on group projects too! I love being at home. This way you can work on a powerpoint together without actually having to physically be together!
    1. In the Google Drive, make a google doc of all the meds you frequently come across in the hospital. This will help everyone including yourself on care plans. Why type in multiple times when you are already familiar with the drugs? It’s tedious and a poor use of your time! COPY AND PASTE!


  1. DON’T read every word of every chapter. It’s impossible and you will fall behind. If you learn by reading,  read the parts that the professor covers in lecture. For me personally, I barely use my book. I will use it if I am not quite grasping what we went over in lecture OR if the professor recommends a helpful diagram/visual aid/etc. in the book. I like and breath study guides and lecture notes!
  2. DO make study guides from the lecture notes/slides! I find many schools (not just APU) heavily focuses exams on the material covered in class. Yes, there may some questions not covered in class, but that is usually because they expect you to know it. If you understand the lecture material, 9 time out of 10 you will be able to apply it to cases and scenarios not covered in lecture.
  3. DO find out your study style. I really like SEEING (visual) and DOING (kinetic/hands-on). I retain very little with someone talking to me without something to visually aid it simultaneously. How do I study? I go through the lectures and focus on what the professor emphasized. If I really want to solidify it in my brain, I write it out on a white board and make connections based on how I understand it. If this doesn’t make sense, or you want a specific example… let me know! I often take pics of my white board when I’m all done!


I never get less then 6 hours of sleep. It is usually more like 7-8 hours of sleep a night. If you’re an night owl and you study well at night, do what works. However, most of my clinicals are during the day like 630-1930. It is best to train yourself to be a morning person. It is dangerous for you and your patient to go into clinical on a  few hours of sleep. You also will be less likely to retain what you learn while making more errors. During classes, this may not seem to affect you so much. Key word… seem.

If you wake up right before class at 9AM, get out of class at 5PM, and then do whatever/study until 2AM. I can promise you that you’re wasting precious time. Why? If you are actually paying attention in class, you’re ability to retain and recall will get progressively worse up until 2 AM. Meaning you will be studying longer and harder to get the same results as I do when I wake up at 5/6AM study until class at 9AM. Am already familiar with the information and therefore making critical connections with the material until 5PM to which I can go home relax and make do some easy, tedious assignments until bed around 10PM. Remember what I said? Study SMARTER! Not HARDER!


  1. Epocrates App and Davis App for Meds
  2. NCLEX Mastery (Yes, I know its $30, but so worth it to prepare for your NCLEX)
  3. Clogs. Ugly.. I know! They are the nursing version of Uggs, but they will prove to be great for your back and knees once you learn to wear them right. Also, they are needle proof! I will probably switch to really nice Nikes, but when you’re a nursing student you have to follow the rules
  4. Buy a “little black book” for clinicals. Right down anything you find interesting, need to memorize, or want to look up later. I do this because you can’t be on your phone where I usually write my notes.
  5. Buy a NANDA book and an APA book. These will help immensely for care plans, SOAP notes, and essays until you get used to a nursing style of thinking and writing.
  6. Find/Make a nursing brain that works for you. TLAN (Think Like A Nurse) has great examples in the back of the book. If you like, comment below and I will upload the one I made for my first semester.
  7. ATI videos. WATCH THEM! Most of them are actually very helpful. Although not necessarily realistic, they show you the perfect way to do it (IRL, many steps will happen simultaneously). Use the ATI skills checklist to study for you skills testing! Practice actually going through the motions out loud!
  8. For Health Assessment, watch the Sarah Obermeyer videos!