Returning to School: How to Overcome Non-Traditional Nerves
Life is full. You’re juggling work, home, family, and a social life. Adding one more thing to an already busy schedule can seem like one too many responsibilities.
And yet, you can’t get the idea of returning to school out of your head.
Perhaps you dream of earning another degree, one that could take your career to the next level and open up new possibilities for your future. You are passionate about your work, and you love the idea of honing your skills and becoming the best nurse you can be along the way.
Take heart: there are many ways to make those returning-to-school dreams come true.
Flexibility With Online Programs
For working professionals, online courses offer freedom and flexibility that was previously thought to be impossible. With world-class faculty and programs available to you from the comfort of your own home, returning to school has never been easier. You won’t have to move to a new place, sacrifice your job, or work the night shift to attend daytime classes. Online education is at your fingertips.
Take Advantage of Technology
As technology constantly improves, online education gets better and better. In fact, a recent study showed that 85 percent of students felt that their online courses were the same, or better than, their previous in-class experiences. Studying online won’t compromise your education in any way, and for working nurses returning to school, that’s great news.
Don’t Be Intimidated by Younger Students
Has it been a few years since you were in a traditional learning environment? You’ve been considering returning to school, but you’re worried you’ll struggle to keep up with the students around you?
Don’t fret. You can do this.
Younger students might have the advantage of more energy or fewer responsibilities, but they don’t have the same years of hands-on life experience as their older counterparts. If you’ve been in the industry for a while, you understand exactly what your professional goals are and you’re more than capable of achieving them.
Don’t let fear or insecurity dissuade you from returning to school.
Don’t Worry About Older Students
On the other hand, maybe you’re a younger student who is feeling intimidated by those older, wiser, impressive nurses who have already proven themselves in the field. Don’t be discouraged by their wealth of knowledge and experience. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to surround yourself with skilled and helpful classmates who are able to offer guidance and advice.
Ultimately, the age and experience of you and your fellow classmates doesn’t matter: returning to school is about pursuing your goals while working toward the career of your dreams.
Create a Designated Workspace
While it might not work for everyone, most online learners find it helpful to create a dedicated space for study. This could be a desk, the kitchen table, or a nook in your hall closet—wherever you can eliminate distractions. Creating boundaries around that space will train you to enter into “work mode,” leading to greater focus.
Consider exploring the power of deep work with Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work. According to Newport, deep work is “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.”
Establish a Time to Study
Many non-traditional students returning to school continue to work full or part-time jobs, so scheduling a time for study can help prioritize education. For example, a lot of non-traditional students recommend getting up early. For night nurses or working parents, rising extra early might not be possible, but the key is to find what works for you and stick with it.
Focus on One Thing at a Time
As hard as it may be to separate work, school, and life, make an effort to concentrate on the task in front of you at any given moment. If you allow yourself to be distracted by an upcoming exam, your patients could suffer. On the other hand, if you find yourself worrying about a problem at work, you’ll struggle to retain information.
When you’re on the clock, work. If it’s time to study, get down to business. And when it’s time to take a break, focus on connecting with friends and family who support your dreams.
Organizing your time is one way to be an exceptional and healthy human, nurse, and student.
Take Advantage of Digital Tools
Online programs offer built-in digital tools that are designed to help you succeed, so it's worth the time to acquaint yourself so you can utilize them to their fullest. Check with your admissions advisor to gain a better understanding of the support available to you through your university, and ask your classmates what tools they find most effective.
Merge your calendar, set reminders, and consider other apps and tools that can make returning to school a little bit easier.
Make Time for Yourself
A frazzled, exhausted, unhappy you isn’t likely to get good grades, be a kind caregiver, or excel at work—which is why it’s important to practice some self-care.
Try to strike a happy balance by being intentional about your sleeping, eating, and exercise habits. Caring for your physical and mental health will go a long way for you and those around you.
Discover What Kind of Learner You Are
At this point in your life, you’ve likely heard that there are different kinds of learners. Visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing learners—there is no wrong way to absorb knowledge. But have you ever taken the time to understand how you learn best?
Visual learners respond to photos and colors, kinesthetic ones to movement and touch, reading/writing through written words, and aural through sounds like music and rhymes. Knowing what kind of learner you are could inspire you to change your study methods and habits, leading to more efficient study sessions that will free up time and energy for other important things in your life.
If you’re returning to school, now is the perfect time to figure out your learning style. Read about the different types here, where you can also answer questions that will help you find the answer.
Get to Know Your Cohorts
Putting the time and effort into truly engaging digital discussions, forums, and other class communication will take your learning experience to a whole new level. You’ll gain valuable perspectives and extra tidbits from your classmates, which is arguably one of the best parts of returning to school.
Remember, even though you may never meet your classmates face-to-face, they are real people going through the same thing you are. Tapping into that network will prove to be an invaluable resource and a source of encouragement. Not only will you get more out of your coursework, but you might find some friends (or your next employer or new hire) along the way.
Time Management is Key
Making the most of every moment is crucial. Forbes recommends planning ahead, sticking to your schedule, and not being afraid to say “no.” Returning to school and the joys that come with it is worth making small sacrifices for a year or two.
You may also need to cut out things that easily soak up more time than intended, like social media, gaming, or TV. Turn your phone on airplane mode, delete certain apps, or set a time limit to guide your study habits.
Give Yourself Grace
When returning to school, do what you can do every day. Sometimes you’ll feel like a champion, and other days you’ll get the assignment done with whatever time you have and be satisfied that it's finished, even if not perfect.
Some days you won’t get it all done, and that's okay, too. As important as your education is, you have to prioritize your loved ones, your physical and mental health, your sanity, and your life as a whole.
Give yourself the same grace and understanding that you would extend to your loved ones if they were returning to school. And remember that a bad day now and then does not define you as a student or a nurse.
Let Us Help
At Global Health Education, we are experts in the world of nursing education, especially when it comes to online programs. We’re ready to help find the perfect program for you, and to help guide you on the path to success.
If you’re considering returning to school or simply have questions, get in touch with us.