Study Tips for the Busy Nursing Graduate Student

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Being a successful student in a BSN to DNP online or other graduate nursing program takes excellent study habits. However, everyone learns in different ways, and you might need a mix of study skills to get you through nursing graduate school. Fortunately, you have plenty of options from which to choose.

Learn to Read Effectively

In an interview with Margarita Tartakovsky for Psych Central, author and graduate school expert Carol Williams-Nickelson calls reading a “skill unto itself.” She notes that reading a text from beginning to end doesn’t prove effective in graduate school. Instead, she urges students to “read with purpose.”

Williams-Nickelson says students should note the most important parts of the text, starting with chapter and section headings as well as bulleted and numbered lists. This strategy can help you organize your notes more effectively and retain the most important information.

She also notes that unnecessary reading can waste students’ time. If a passage doesn’t seem relevant to your coursework or the paper you’re writing, skip it. Focus your attention on reading materials that provide insight, essential information, and context.

Williams-Nickelson encourages students to check in with their peers when they’re struggling. If you don’t understand a text, or if you have questions about an assignment, reach out to your fellow graduate students. You can also communicate with your instructor when you need some direction.

Tackle Big Projects in Sections

Graduate nursing school might also include large projects that you must complete by a specific deadline. An article on recommends breaking up big projects into smaller parts so you don’t find yourself struggling to complete them at the last minute. Rushed assignments are obvious to your teacher, so you don’t want to risk poor grades.

This strategy also allows you to devote more time to studying. Projects can help you learn faster, but only if you keep up with the reading material and lecture notes. Try setting a timer as you work. When the timer goes off, switch to something else. This can help keep your mind active and avoid monotony. For instance, you might study for one hour, and then work on a big project for an hour.

Find the Relevancy

Whether you’re working on a big project or reviewing your notes from yesterday’s lecture, studying can become tedious if you don’t relate it to your life. Specifically, how will you use the information in your nursing career? While working toward your advanced degree, Winston Sieck of the Thinker Academy recommends associating your notes or lectures to real-life applications.

This shouldn’t prove too difficult for nursing graduate students. You might already work in a hospital or clinic setting, so you know how you will use the new material. However, it’s easy to forget about relevancy while you power through several pages of notes, so pause every once in a while to ask yourself how you will use the information later.

Finding relevancy can make studying more effective and enjoyable. Because you know the material will come in handy at some point during your career, you might view studying as a critical investment in your future instead of a vehicle by which to pass the next exam.

Take Notes Your Way

Sieck also recommends finding your own note-taking strategy. Maybe the traditional outline doesn’t work for you, or perhaps you’re not inspired by mind maps. Your notes serve as an essential study aid, but they’re not meant for anyone else’s consumption. You can take notes however you like.

For instance, Sieck suggests drawing diagrams instead of simply writing out information. If you’re learning about anatomy, you could sketch different parts of the body and label the relevant parts instead of just writing them down in list form. You don’t have to possess art skills to make this strategy work. Your brain will connect the imagery with the words, which can help with data retention.

Study Together

Even if you’re getting your BSN to DNP online, you can still connect with other students. You might even live near some of the people who are enrolled in your graduate program, which means you can meet up in person to compare notes, challenge one another, and keep each other accountable. U.S. News & World Report contributor Dr. Don Martin recommends getting to know students in your class and working together as the program progresses.

Martin says students can often get in touch with other students before the program even begins. However, it’s never too late. Reach out to your peers when you have questions or if you want to plan a virtual study session. You can find many online tools that allow people to communicate online and privately.

Give Yourself Tests

Studying the material you learn in class can make you a better student, but quizzing yourself on that material might help you retain the information faster and for longer periods. American Psychological Association staff writer Lea Winerman encourages students to test themselves regularly. You can do this by yourself or with study partners.

Winerman says quizzes help students shift from reading material to retrieving it. In other words, you’ll find out whether you’ve retained enough information to retrieve it from your memory. She also says that regular tests and quizzes improve long-term learning, which might help you after you leave graduate school.

You can quiz yourself in several ways. Ask a study partner to put together a 10-question quiz, for instance, and you do the same for your partner. You can also create note cards with questions on the front and answers on the back. Some graduate programs also offer tests for students to take themselves as they work toward coursework completion.

Graduate school requires significant study time, but even if you’re busy, you can master the material using the above tips. If you are interested in putting these tips to the test in a BSN to DNP online program, visit Maryville University’s Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice program.


Psych Central – 12 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Grad School

Global Cognition – 21 Study Tips: Learn the Strategies that Set Top Students Apart

U.S. News – 5 Tips for Preparing to Begin Graduate School

American Psychological Association – Study Smart