How to Prepare for Graduate School: Tips for Nurses

Posted February 27, 2019 | By csponline

Illustration of graduate nursing students sitting for a presentation by their instructor.

If you’ve made the big decision to go back to school or are currently considering doing so, I’m sure you weighed the pros and cons of this life commitment. For many, finances are of concern, while others wonder how they will ever find the time to fulfill the obligation in light of family, work, etc. Grad school may seem like a challenging task, but once you’ve conquered the fear of the unknown, you realize your dreams aren’t as far out as you had thought. Regardless of where you are in the process, here are five tips for nurses on how to prepare for graduate school that can help guarantee your success!

1. Invest in a Planner

Managing your time wisely is grad school gold. With hectic workweeks and piling school assignments- procrastination will get you know where. Neither will long weekends of partying in an effort to save your social life. Don’t be the one to realize you have a major assignment due the night before its deadline. Round up your syllabi and take account of all due dates. Then, keep a planner and stick to it!

Writing your obligations down will help to maintain structure as well as your sanity. Placing your tasks, assignments, and work schedule in a planner is not only therapeutic, but it allows you to get through very heavy loads without missing a beat. Come up with a plan for self-care and social life that does not interfere with your school obligations and watch it all come together seamlessly.

If your planner is not enough, grab a wall calendar or dry erase board to hang in your bedroom or kitchen. These are great for planning out your semester and having a visual for your biggest tasks for the day, week, and month. In addition, speak with your employer as soon as possible about your tentative school schedule and options for flexibility.

2. Create an Organization System

There is not one grad student who will disagree that organization is hands down one of the most important necessities for your journey to advanced practice. So, break out all the binders, wallboards, highlighters, dividers, reminder apps, colored pens, and sticky notes you can find!

But seriously, when preparing for graduate school, you should develop your own system for note-taking and studying to increase absorption of materials. Colored pens and highlighters can make the difference in outlining critical information and test material. You may find using separate binders to keep coursework enables your flow, while others may prefer one large binder with dividers. Whatever is best for you, find your process and perfect it.

“Whatever is best for you, find your process and perfect it.”

Keep all important books and materials in an easy-to-locate spot. Identify your storage and study corners to save yourself the headache of losing important documents and assignments. Eliminate clutter on your computer desktop by creating themed folders. If your grad program is online, even better! Most academic digital platforms are user-friendly and will help keep you organized.

3. Explore all Financial Options

The thought of accruing more debt for grad school can be scary, so if you have plans to further your education, a financial assessment cannot be forgone. Go forth, but do your research! By knowing your funding options, you can minimize and possibly eliminate how much you pay out of pocket.

Advance Your Nursing Career

Our MSN program is designed for working nurses like you who are ready to advance their careers and need a flexible schedule to continue nursing practice.

Explore Degree

Most health care employers have some form of tuition reimbursement for nurses interested in advancing their degree. There are also loads of scholarships for mothers and minorities seeking post-secondary education. If you are a nurse willing to work in underserved and rural areas, you should look into the various grants available for that service. No matter who you are, there are tons of local and national scholarships that you may qualify for.

Lastly, and importantly, be sure to place your current loans in deferment while in school.

4. Find Your Tribe

We all have that one work bestie who makes us feel at ease with their presence, no matter how demanding the shift may be. Well, there’s good news. The same sentiment applies to grad school.

Lucky for you, most programs actually incorporate quite a bit of group work, which allows for regular exchanges within your cohort. Study and group partners are great motivators, and they can really help to keep you on your toes. After all, two heads are better than one. Be intentional about finding classmates who bring out your best critical thinking skills and hold you accountable.

“Be intentional about finding classmates who bring out your best critical thinking skills and hold you accountable.”

5. Align Your Resources

Finding the support that you need isn’t as hard as you might think. Grad school programs are very aware of the potential challenges that students may face and are really good about creating an environment that’s conducive to success. Online programs are sure to have an abundance of resources and staff available to guide you seamlessly through the process.

Assess possible needs and blockades ahead of time and be prepared when in need. Whether they be book or tuition assistance, childcare, transportation, or tutoring, get your ducks in a row and plan for both the seen and unforeseen obstacles.

+ Bonus

Find a good read! An inspiring daily devotional or fiction piece can be just the escape or reality check you need to keep striving towards graduation and your goals.

Advance Your Nursing Career

When you’re ready to enroll in a grad program, consider earning your masters in nursing online with Concordia University, St. Paul. Their program is designed for working nurses like you who are ready to advance their careers but need the flexibility of going to school around their schedule. Plus, alumni of CSP’s graduate programs rank in the top ten for earnings among alumni from Minnesota colleges and universities.


Julia Eze, MSN, RN, NP-C is a board-certified nurse practitioner and registered nurse. Follow Julia on her blog or Instagram.