Preparation is the key to being successful in a RN to MSN program. And with each new term is another chance for you to evaluate how well prepared you were and where you could have done better. This kind of honest reflection is key to working smarter, not harder – and working smarter may be the difference between triumph and struggle when you’ve got a busy schedule outside of graduate school as well.
Each individual’s version of being prepared can look very different. What works for someone else may not work for you, but you can always borrow another’s tactics to try them out until you’ve found your optimal strategy. Here’s what I do to prepare myself at the beginning of each new term of my RN to MSN program:
Let go of last term’s mistakes. Once you’ve had a moment to think about what worked and what didn’t, it’s best to make like Elsa and let it go. There’s no going back to do this differently or handle that better. I find the more I dwell on past mistakes, the more discouraged I start to feel. Instead, focus on the future and what you can do.
Knock out pre-work before your class even starts. Online courses often open two or three days before your actual first day of class. Take advantage of this time to check things out and familiarize yourself with the new course format, materials and syllabus. Knock out any orientation courses or get-to-know-you assignments. Not only are they easy, but doing them early will save you time once the class actually starts.
Schedule your work time, not your deadlines. Looking at your syllabus and make a tentative plan for when you’ll work on each assignment. Focusing on when you’ll do your work instead of when the deadline is gives you a more concrete idea of how you’ll be using your time week to week. This will hopefully prevent over-scheduling, working on an assignment too early or starting a project too late.
Allow school and work to help each other. I’m guilty of temporary learning. What I mean by that is, I can learn and retain just long enough to get through a difficult course. However, I’ve found that when I allow what I learn in school and experience at work to influence each other, I perform better in both arenas. Embracing my RN-MSN courses as tools I apply to my current practice allows me to better retain content from my coursework. I also complete assignments better and faster when I can draw from personal nursing experiences.
I’ve yet to meet an RN-MSN student who isn’t a little intimidated by each new term. That’s completely understandable, given how much we are expected to learn. That’s why we should take advantage of every new term as a fresh start and take steps to prepare for what we can. As long as you work smart, you’ll find yourself saying at term end, “Well, that was easier than I expected!”
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