First Year Reflection

As one of the student representatives of my year in nursing school, I was invited to speak at the first year orientation about my experiences and tips on adjustment to university. In trying to think of talking points I ended up doing a lot of reflecting on how my first year went, and what I wish I would’ve done differently.

Truth be told, I adjusted quite well to university life. Living at home and commuting to school meant my life hadn’t changed as drastically as the students living on campus. However, university is a different world from high school. Being responsible for your own education is a massive change from the coddling of elementary teachers.

I decided to keep this post simple, and paste in the tips and tricks I shared with the first years:

Just a year ago, I was sitting in this same room listening to two girls from second year talk about their experience with the first year nursing program. I remember feeling completely terrified for the coming year and honestly a little cold, since apparently Academic South is located in the arctic.

Orientation does a really good job of covering the basics of what to expect in your classes but I know that personally, I was still left with tons of questions. There’s just so much to take in that it’s hard to catch everything. To keep it simple, Kristen and I thought we’d put together a list of things we wish we’d known a year ago and some helpful hints.

1. I wish I had known not to try to do bio labs in one day. 

So you’ll have bio 3 times a week and every other week, you’ll have a lab. The lab write-up will be due the next time you have lab, so you’ll have 2 weeks to do it. Sounds easy enough right? It’s not. Bio labs are made up of five parts and quite a bit of research. I thought it would be a good idea to do it in one day. It’s not. I’d sit there working on it for eight or nine hours, finish and have no idea what day it was. Start it as early as possible, and get a little bit done each day. You won’t be stressed out, and you’ll probably be done ahead of time.

2. Don’t be afraid to talk to professors. 

Before I started university, I had five different people tell me that it’s nothing like high school, and I’ll only just be a student number to my professors. Everyone says they don’t care about you, they’re just here to do a job. But that’s not true. All of your instructors want to see you succeed. With small class sizes, it’s easy to ask a lot of questions and get the clarification you need if you’re confused. If you got a bad grade on a major assignment, book an appointment and ask about how you can do better. If you find that you’re struggling with the material, ask your professor what other resources you can use to learn. As long as you’re willing to put in the effort, the professors will want to help.

3. Eat breakfast and take lots of snacks to clinical. 

Through the semester, I had three people from my clinical group pass out. All of them hadn’t eaten breakfast. It gets hot on the unit, you’re doing a lot of work, and you’ll see some pretty gross stuff. Even though 6 AM is really early and you won’t feel like eating, try to have something small. I used to make smoothies and just drink them on my way to the hospital. Seriously don’t skip breakfast. And don’t pass out.

Tips on How to Do Well

1. Time management.

The most important skill. Even though there are a lot of readings and assignments, there’s a ton of time during the day where you’re not in class. Try to get work done during the day so you can take nights off without falling behind. I know procrastinating is tempting with so many distractions. I’ve honestly done it too many times. But I’ve regretted all of the hours I wasted each of those times. Do work and take social media breaks, but don’t be on social media and take work breaks.

2. Learn how to use the library database.

You’ll use it for all of your labs, papers, and assignments. If you learn how to use it and narrow down results properly, you’ll get your work done faster and find the best articles to use. Being able to use the database from home and not having to be in the library is extremely helpful, and you’ll find that writing papers will come easier when you have a greater knowledge of the topic at hand.

3. Get organized. 

Grab one the big calendars from the campus store and write all of your due dates down. This way, none can sneak up on you. Going back to time management, it’ll help you plan your weeks and get everything done in time, while still having a social life. The syllabus for each class is your bible, and you should keep it close. Know what to expect so that when something is due, you’ve completed it well ahead of the deadline.

– S.

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