Nursing School Survival: How Hard Is It and How To Succeed (2023)

  • Jane Hudson, M.S.N
  • Published:May 1, 2023
  • Last Updated: May 1, 2023

Nursing School Survival: How Hard Is It and How To Succeed (1)

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(Video) How to Succeed in Nursing School | 4 Strategies to Help You Pass Nursing School

Nursing school is rigorous and demanding, but you can succeed by staying organized, managing time effectively, seeking help, and prioritizing self-care to avoid burnout.

Welcome to our latest blog post! In this insightful read, we’ll delve deep into the world of nursing education, addressing the burning question on every aspiring nurse’s mind: How hard is nursing school?

We know that nursing school can be an intimidating and challenging experience, but with the right guidance and determination, it is possible to not only survive but also thrive. Join us as we explore the difficulties you may encounter during your nursing journey and share practical tips, strategies, and advice to help you succeed in this noble profession.


Nursing School Survival: How Hard Is It and How To Succeed (2)

Nursing school is like a long and challenging hike up a steep mountain. To deal with the obstacles you’ll encounter as you climb, you need the right attitude, equipment, and support system to navigate the terrain. Although the incline becomes steeper with each step, once you reach the top, the sense of accomplishment and ability to make a difference in your patients’ lives is worth the effort.

Nursing School Admission

Getting into nursing school can be highly competitive as the thousands of programs available get plenty of applicants each year. According to the latest survey data released by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there has been an enrollment increase in nursing entry-level programs as more and more people become interested in the field. So, it’s crucial to understand the admission requirements in order to stand out from the competition and improve your chances of acceptance.

GPA requirements

The first nursing school admission requirement you must consider is the GPA. Generally, each school sets a minimum GPA required for admission—most commonly a 2.5 or 3.0 GPA. However, keep in mind that some programs, especially the more competitive ones, may require a higher GPA. That is why it is also important to research the specific requirements of every program you’re interested in to find the one you would more likely fit into.

Prerequisite courses

The next requirement for nursing school admission is completing prerequisite courses. Biology, chemistry, psychology, anatomy, and physiology are among the most common prerequisite courses. By completing these courses before applying to a program, you’ll demonstrate to the admission committee that you have a strong foundation in the areas related to nursing and are well-prepared for the academic challenges of their nursing program.

TEAS scores

Although, once again, it depends on the specific school and nursing program you are applying for, you may have to submit your Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) scores. The scores from this standardized test help the admissions committee assess your preparedness for nursing school. Thus, they are among the most common factors used to determine admission decisions.

Application and essay

Last but not least, work on the application and essay component of the admission process. Take your time and carefully craft your essay, proofread it for grammar and spelling errors several times, as well as have someone else review it and provide feedback to ensure clarity and coherence.

At this point, you’ll have the best opportunity to showcase your personality, individuality, academic achievements, relevant experience, and passion for nursing. So make it count!

Competition for Seats in Nursing Programs

Nursing School Survival: How Hard Is It and How To Succeed (3)

Competition for seats in nursing programs can be intense. There are many applicants seeking a limited number of spots due to the high demand for nurses, the students’ surge of interest in the field, and the rigorous admission requirements.

In recent years, the acceptance rate for nursing schools in the United States has been approximately 66%. Determining a precise average is challenging since acceptance rates differ significantly depending on the program and selectivity of the schools you apply to.

To increase your chances of being accepted into a nursing program, it’s important to carefully research the requirements for each program you’re interested in and seek out any opportunity for improvement in the field.

Nursing School Curriculum

The typical curriculum for nursing school consists of a blend of classroom lectures, lab work, and clinical experience.

Students learn the fundamentals of nursing in the classroom, whereas laboratory work enables them to practice several practical skills. Then, nursing students also have the chance to apply their knowledge and skills in a real-world setting during clinical rotations. In such cases, they work and learn under the guidance of experienced nurses in various healthcare facilities.

Nursing School Exams

As with most other fields, nursing programs also use exams to assess the knowledge and understanding of the course material. Exams in nursing schools focus on the theoretical and practical sides of nursing.

(Video) Tips for surviving through nursing school | How to succeed in nursing school

The exam questions may require students to write down information from books and apply their knowledge and critical thinking skills to real-world scenarios. On the other hand, practical exams typically assess the student’s ability to perform hands-on nursing skills through various nursing procedures.

What Makes Nursing School Hard

Nursing School Survival: How Hard Is It and How To Succeed (4)

Nursing school requires a significant amount of dedication, hard work, and perseverance since several factors can make it challenging. Below we go through some of the main ones.

1. Extensive coursework

Nursing programs require significant work on courses like anatomy, physiology, nursing theory, and ethics. The coursework can be challenging for students who are not used to the volume and complexity of the material.

2. Clinical rotations

Nursing students must complete clinical rotations, which involve working in hospitals and other healthcare settings under the supervision of a licensed nurse. These rotations can be physically and emotionally demanding but necessary as students apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-world situations.

3. High-stakes testing

Nursing programs generally involve high-stakes tests, like the NCLEX-RN exam. Such tests can be stressful and require significant preparation and study time.

4. Emotional toll

Nursing students face a range of emotional experiences while caring for patients, including those who are critically ill or dying. This emotional strain can be challenging to process and is a major contributor to academic burnout and compassion fatigue.

5. Time management

Nursing students must know how to balance their coursework, clinical rotations, and personal lives. If they struggle with time management, their productivity and well-being can suffer.

Nursing School Tips for Success

Nursing School Survival: How Hard Is It and How To Succeed (5)

Some essential tips every nursing student should know include the following:

  • Stay organized—make a schedule, keep track of assignments and due dates, and prioritize your tasks.
  • Stay focused—eliminate distractions in your study area and reduce multitasking.
  • Follow the exam study guides.
  • Avoid cramming before exams.
  • Discover your learning style and use it to study more efficiently.
  • Utilize tutors, study groups, and academic advisors.
  • Take care of yourself—eat well, get enough sleep, and make time for exercise and relaxation.
  • Ask for help when you need it—your peers, instructors, and clinical mentors are there for you.
  • Get involved with extracurriculars—join various committees, research, or mentoring groups.
  • Remember to take breaks in order to avoid burnout.

Is Nursing School Worth It?

Nursing school is definitely worth the investment of time, money, and energy required to earn a degree. In addition to the emotionally rewarding aspect of it, nursing as a career offers many other benefits too. For example, the average annual wage for registered nurses (RNs) in the United States is $97,828. There are also excellent salaries for various nursing specializations, such as:

Additionally, the nursing school prepares you for a field full of opportunities for growth and advancement. The healthcare field is growing, with employment in nursing expected to experience a 6% increase from 2021 to 2031, with 203,200 openings for registered nurses projected each year.


Nursing school, while physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding, can be immensely fulfilling for those committed to the profession. By staying organized, focused, and effectively utilizing available resources, you can excel in your educational journey. This preparation will ultimately equip you to confidently face the diverse challenges that come with a nursing career in the future.

Nursing School Survival: How Hard Is It and How To Succeed (6)

Jane Hudson, M.S.N

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Nursing School Survival: How Hard Is It and How To Succeed (9)

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Is nursing school actually hard? ›

Nursing school is competitive to get into and challenging to get through. Because programs require many credit hours, nursing students sometimes end up taking multiple difficult courses in one semester. Think of late nights studying for exams in addition to clinicals where you'll gain hands-on nursing experience.

How do you stay successful in nursing school? ›

8 Nursing School Tips for Success
  1. Find Effective Study Habits. ...
  2. Get Organized. ...
  3. Ask Questions. ...
  4. Set Goals. ...
  5. Treat Nursing School Like a Full-Time Job. ...
  6. Establish Support Systems. ...
  7. Take it One Day at a Time. ...
  8. Maintain a Healthy Balance Between School and Life.
Oct 7, 2022

What is the hardest thing in nursing school? ›

Pharmacology. Pharmacology, or the study of medication, can seem scary because of the sheer scope of the course. "It becomes one of the hardest classes for nursing students due to the depth and amount of knowledge needed," says Megan Lynch, RN and instructor at Pima Community College.

Can I survive nursing school? ›

The short answer is, YES!! You will survive nursing school if you buckle down and weather the storm. Nursing school is challenging, but with perseverance you can succeed.

How common is it to fail nursing school? ›

Nursing school is difficult and will be hard to pass. Most students pass their nursing program, so you can too. How many nursing students fail? According to the National League of Nursing, the dropout rate for nursing programs in the United States is around 20%.

Is it OK to fail nursing school? ›

You Can Still Become a Nurse, so Don't Give Up

Maybe you can retake a class over the break, file an academic appeal, or take some other action to get reinstated in the program. Many failed nursing students have done this successfully. If that doesn't work, you can apply to another school with a nursing program.

What makes nursing school so hard? ›

Why is nursing school so hard? The top 6 challenges of earning a BSN include the rigorous curriculum, fast pace, need for multitasking, time commitment, personal sacrifices, and NCLEX preparation. However, despite these rigors, it's possible to rise up and master how to succeed in nursing school.

How many hours a day should you study in nursing school? ›

How many hours a day should I study for nursing school? Everyone is different, but in general, it is recommended that nursing school students study anywhere from 2-4 hours a day. Committing class material to memory is essential to becoming a registered nurse, so the more time studying, the better!

Do nursing students have a social life? ›

Yes, you can have a social life while studying to become a nurse. Despite the hectic schedule, there is a way to make time for loved ones and keep up with relationships. With the right tools, it is very well possible to live a balanced life between nursing school and family and friends.

What is the hardest skill in nursing? ›

Time management. Most nurses aren't able to identify which task is time consuming, has high priority or which tasks to complete first or later. There's a lot of multitasking in nursing which makes it difficult for nurses to manage their time. I would also say critical thinking mainly relating to time management.

What is the easiest class in nursing school? ›

Sometimes the difficulty of a class is determined by the professor (some are hard, whereas others are easy).
The Easiest Classes in Nursing School
  • Social Sciences (Intro Psychology, Sociology, etc.)
  • Humanities.
  • Intro to Speech (or Communication)
  • English Composition.
  • History.
  • Using Information Technology.

What is the hardest thing to do for a nurse? ›

Here are some of the challenges nurses face in their profession:
  1. Long shifts. Nurses often work 10- or 12-hour shifts. ...
  2. Changing schedules. ...
  3. Emotional involvement. ...
  4. Physical demands. ...
  5. Exposure to illness and chemicals. ...
  6. Lack of nurses. ...
  7. Changing technology. ...
  8. Poor treatment from patients.
Mar 10, 2023

Does everyone pass nursing school? ›

Unfortunately, not all students who start nursing school pass nursing school. Successfully getting through nursing school is tough, and below, I have listed six common reasons students fail to pass nursing school.

Is nursing school worth the stress? ›

Asking me if nursing school is worth the stress is like asking if childbirth is worth the baby. My answer is unequivocally, "Yes!" All jokes aside, if you have a genuine desire to care for others and help improve the quality of life for others, nursing is worth every moment of nursing student stress.

Does nursing school ever get easier? ›

Nursing school will have semesters that are easier than others. The good news is that the longer you are in nursing school, the easier it gets. The coursework may remain about the same, but it will get easier due to: The fact that you'll be used to it after a semester or two and you'll know what it takes to succeed.

Why do nursing students quit? ›

The most recurrent themes regarding the reasons behind BSN drop-out were: understanding that they were not suited to be nurses, perception of missing/lack of psychological, physical and practical resources needed to successfully cope with both nursing school and the nursing profession, inconsistencies between the image ...

What is the dropout rate for nursing students? ›

According to the National League for Nursing, the national dropout rate for nursing programs in the United States is 20%, and this high attrition rate is considered problematic.

What is a bad GPA in nursing school? ›

While most nursing schools set their minimum GPA requirements at 3.0, there are accelerated nursing programs out there that accept students with 2.7 and 2.8 GPAs. Keep in mind that this doesn't mean you'd receive a lesser nursing education with these programs.

How many times can you fail nursing? ›

If they fail, they'll need to wait 45 days before retesting. After failing three times, though, they'll need to complete a board-approved remediation program before the next retake. test-takers have six attempts to pass in total.

What percentage of people fail out of nursing school? ›

Facts About Nursing School That Might Surprise You

In fact, looking at the student-retention rates of nursing programs might be one of the best ways to ascertain how difficult they are. According to a National League for Nursing study, the national dropout rate for nursing programs was 20 percent.

How many times can you fail nursing exam? ›

Though the vast majority of candidates pass the exam the first time, those who fail are permitted to retake it after 45 days from their original test date. Candidates may retest as many as 8 times in a year. Candidates must pass NCLEX within three years from when they graduated nursing school.

Why is the first year of nursing so hard? ›

The first year of nursing school is hard because you're starting a new venture. Not only are you learning new information specific to your industry, but you'll also be putting that education into action. Learning facts is much different than practicing them, so stretching yourself in this new way can be demanding.

Why is the first year of nursing school so hard? ›

For some, nursing school may be hard to pass because pursuing your nursing degree involves studying complex nursing topics for exams, completing assignments, preparing for skills and simulation labs, and participating in clinical rotations.

What is the hardest year of a nursing degree? ›

It is said that up to 90% of what you do on the job after graduation was not learned while in nursing school. I'm not convinced the learning curve is that high, but there is a lot of on-the-job training required. Nursing is a complex profession.

Is there a lot of homework in nursing school? ›

Homework and Assignments

As a nursing student, you'll have a lot on your daily schedule. You may be busy with lectures, labs, assignments and projects. Nursing students can expect many hours of reading, independent case studies and presentations during their time at school.

Is there a lot of memorization in nursing school? ›

Memorization is a major component of nursing school, but there's much more to a nursing education than remembering facts. While you'll definitely need to recall a wide range of information at the drop of a hat, memorization will only take you so far.

How do I prepare myself for nursing school? ›

8 Strategies for Preparing for Nursing School
  1. Take Care of Your Finances. ...
  2. Study According to Your Learning Style. ...
  3. Build a Support System. ...
  4. Find Relatable Resources. ...
  5. Build Healthy Habits. ...
  6. Get Your Vaccinations. ...
  7. Know What to Expect in Nursing School. ...
  8. Know What it Takes to Succeed in Nursing School.
Feb 10, 2023

Can an average person pass nursing school? ›

The national pass rate for the NCLEX-RN ranges around 85%. So does this mean that nursing school is easy? Nope. In fact, nursing school has to be challenging because life as a nurse is challenging (but rewarding).

Can you enjoy life as a nurse? ›

Being a nurse is one of the most challenging jobs someone could do. It's physically and mentally demanding at times. However, at the end of the day, you feel amazing satisfaction and pride. Being able to help those in need for a living is unlike any other profession."

How old are nurse students? ›

The average nursing student is 25 or younger, but that doesn't mean there aren't other nursing students who are older, too. You'll also find that nursing school is physically demanding. You'll spend 30 to 40 hours a week doing clinical rotations.

What is your weakest nursing skill? ›

Examples of common nursing weaknesses our experts say they hear include: Paying too much attention to detail. Wanting to do everything at once. Spending too long on paperwork.

What is the fastest way to become a nurse? ›

The fastest way to become an RN is through an RN diploma program, which can be completed in as little as a year. While completing this program does not lead to a degree, it does make the individual eligible to take the NCLEX and earn their RN license.

What are the weakness in nursing career? ›

Spending too much time on paperwork. Paying too much attention to detail. Attempting to complete too many tasks at once. A lack of clinical experience, which may apply to recent graduates or new nurses.

Is nursing school harder than med school? ›

However, don't take it for granted that nursing school will be much easier than medical school, especially in an accelerated format. Both offer a unique set of challenges and demand the utmost in student commitment and work rate.

Do you need math in nursing? ›

Nursing in the "real world" generally requires very basic math skills, but almost all programs require at least one college-level math class — usually algebra. Some nursing schools may require a basic statistics course as well, so if you know what schools you're applying to, be sure to check for this requirement.

What is the shortest nursing course? ›

One of the shortest certification programs is the certified nursing assistant (CNA) training program. Some CNA programs last as little as 12 to 18 weeks. Others may offer up to one year of training. The requirements of your state and the program you attend can affect the specific length of attendance.

Can you be a nurse if you are an introvert? ›

Introverts can make excellent nurse leaders because they excel at mentoring and empowering others. There are other reasons why introverts can be amazing nurses. They have strong listening and observation skills which often translates into rewarding relationships with others.

How stressful is it to become a nurse? ›

Nursing is an incredibly stressful career. From the moment nursing students start their education program when they retire, they face difficult situations and stressors on a daily basis. In fact, stress and burnout affect 10-70% of nurses.

What percent of nursing students never pass the NCLEX? ›

All nursing students dream of graduating and passing the NCLEX. Unfortunately, more than thirteen percent of NCLEX-RN candidates fail the exam on their first attempt.

How do nursing students make money? ›

10 Ways a Nursing Student Can Make Money in School
  1. Use Financial Aid.
  2. Apply for Scholarships.
  3. Consider Help From Your Current Job.
  4. Work From Home.
  5. Consider Night-Shift Jobs.
  6. Ask for Work Study Programs.
  7. Take Out Loans.
  8. Consider A Military Nursing Career.

Is crying in nursing school normal? ›

In fact, it's pretty common for nursing students to cry at some point during the whole nursing school experience. Few people like to admit that they have cried because it makes them feel weak or overly sensitive.

Does nursing school affect mental health? ›

It is normal for nursing school to cause depression issues. You are not alone. Nursing school poses a physically and mentally challenging environment. There are many resources to help manage depression in nursing students.

Is nursing school extremely hard? ›

Nursing requires more dedication than many other careers. However, it's one of the most rewarding jobs you can have. Nursing school is notoriously difficult—and it's not for everyone. Graduate school is challenging as well.

How do you know if nursing is not for you? ›

I would have to say being selfish, anxious, unreliable, and impatient are some signs that would indicate a person is not cut out to be a nurse. If you find yourself not being able to put others needs before your own it would be hard to deal with a patient population.

Are nursing exams hard? ›

NCLEX Pass Rates

The second-attempt pass rate for domestically-educated students taking the test was 45.56%. These results demonstrate that it is a pretty difficult test. The questions are designed to test your critical thinking, knowledge of the nursing process, and assessment skills.

Why is nursing school so hard? ›

The main reason why nursing school is challenging is because it involves learning about complicated nursing concepts and practical skills, then applying that information into diverse patient care scenarios — going well beyond memorizing facts. While it is challenging, nursing school is not impossible.

Is nursing school harder than regular college? ›

While it is difficult to compare nursing school to other degrees, it can certainly be considered one of the harder programs. However, in the end, nursing school is definitely worth the time and effort you put into it.

Why does everyone say nursing school is so hard? ›

Why is nursing school so hard? The top 6 challenges of earning a BSN include the rigorous curriculum, fast pace, need for multitasking, time commitment, personal sacrifices, and NCLEX preparation. However, despite these rigors, it's possible to rise up and master how to succeed in nursing school.

Is nursing career worth it? ›

Becoming a Registered Nurse is a solid career choice when it comes to job security, salary potential, and fulfillment. For nurses who plan to work in California, the rewards and opportunities are even more promising. The average registered nurse salary in California is often higher than any other state!

Is nursing school a lot of math? ›

Nursing in the "real world" generally requires very basic math skills, but almost all programs require at least one college-level math class — usually algebra. Some nursing schools may require a basic statistics course as well, so if you know what schools you're applying to, be sure to check for this requirement.

What part of nursing is the hardest? ›

7 hardest parts of nursing
  • Losing patients. ...
  • Being judged for their career choice. ...
  • Working long hours. ...
  • Experiencing physical/verbal abuse. ...
  • Navigating hospital politics. ...
  • Using outdated or time-consuming technology. ...
  • Feeling pressure to know everything.
May 31, 2019

Which is harder becoming a nurse or doctor? ›

In sum, the path toward becoming a doctor can take up to 13 years. In contrast, to become a Registered Nurse (RN), you can opt to earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), which takes two years, or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), which traditionally takes four years).

What's the hardest degree? ›

What are the hardest degrees in the world? Ranked by Experts
  • Chartered Accountancy.
  • Astrophysics.
  • Quantum Mechanics.
  • Law.
  • Aerospace/ Aeronautical Studies, Engineering.
  • Biomedical Studies, Neurosciences, Biochemistry.
  • Nursing.
  • Dentistry, Medicine.
Dec 16, 2022

Will nursing school ever get easier? ›

Nursing school will have semesters that are easier than others. The good news is that the longer you are in nursing school, the easier it gets. The coursework may remain about the same, but it will get easier due to: The fact that you'll be used to it after a semester or two and you'll know what it takes to succeed.

Has anyone failed out of nursing school? ›

Students may fail nursing school for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's a personal reason, and other times, the individual is going through some kind of health issue.


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