How to Survive Nursing Prerequisites Part II
Find the other parts under the “How to Survive Prereqs” tag
Like I said in the previous post, you need to learn and understand the material well enough to teach it to someone else. It’s not just a matter of getting those A’s. You need to comprehend what’s being thrown at you and eventually be able to use your knowledge to solve problems.
This starts with a good foundation.
I'm not the kind of person that reads before lectures. It's just not my style. However, I am attempting to change that with my nursing courses. I've been warned to read by everyone who is/has taken nursing courses, and that's what I've been doing.
So, before lectures, now I:
- Read my textbook.
- Underline sections and definitions that I think are important.
- Place post-it tags on pages with figures that might be helpful to draw into my notes or to refer back to later on during revision.
- If there are questions after a section, I answer the questions either on the textbook itself or on a post-it.
Again, this isn't my usual style, but in my aim to get A's in all my nursing courses, I'm doing this to ensure that I get the grades I want but also understand what I'm supposed to learn.
For your prerequisite courses, it's your choice if you want to do this. Of course, the sensible advice is to tell you to read anyway, but I think that you can get away with not reading for these prereq courses.
Skim the chapters, so you have a clue, but unless lecture isn't clarifying things for you, then don't worry too much about making time to read your textbooks beforehand.
Record, record, record
I know some professors don't allow recording, but I say try to record lectures anyway. It's so helpful to be able to play back the lecture when you're sitting down at your study space even if you don't plan on setting a time to listen to your recorded lectures, having it as a safety. Better safe than sorry.
My classmates and I in our prerequisite courses had a system where we would try to record every lecture so if someone was absent, we could send the recording to them and they could listen to lecture recordings to catch up.
Also, take good notes
Handwrite them. Type them. Doesn't matter how you take those notes, but take good notes. Do not rely on powerpoint printouts to get you through lectures. Write/type your notes and then condense them/rewrite them later on when you have the time because you’re going to study from them.
It is so important that you take the time to take notes rather than just read through the powerpoints. I can't stress it enough that you need to have a notebook or a binder or a laptop/tablet (with clearly marked folders for each semester/class) where you can take notes on because taking notes will help you learn the material. Powerpoints are great to refer back to but don't rely on them. It's so much better when you take notes in class because your brain is processing the information as you try to write/type what the professor is saying, rather than it just being eaten and forgotten straight after class.
I'll make a post about the programs I've used for taking notes, but generally speaking, I stick to OneNote. Because I am always forever terrified of losing notes, I copy&paste the notes from OneNote into Word and then save copies of the files on Google Drive and OneDrive.
I'll also make a post about note-taking or at least how I take notes as well in the future.
Take photos of all diagrams and stuff on the board
If your professor draws something or writes something on the board, take a photo of it. Save space in your notebook and draw it later, so it's prettier (& cleaner). If you're a laptop user, same thing. Draw it later and then scan the image into wherever you have your notes, so it's there with your “straight from lecture” notes.
If you're not allowed to use your phones in class, make sure to do a quick sketch with a pencil on a sheet of paper, clearly labeling the date and what this drawing is so you know. Later on, redraw it and make it look nicer so you can understand it when you're studying.
But you need to draw. If there's something on the board that your professor wrote or drew? Draw/write it because this means that it's important and you have to have it in your notes.
Don't rely on printouts of powerpoints or notes by your professor
I sort of said this above in this section, but I'm going to repeat it anyway.
Don't rely on printouts of powerpoints to get you by during lectures. Take notes. Type them. Write them. I don't care.
But do not have printouts of powerpoints or notes typed up by your professor. While they're helpful to have – especially if you're not a great note taker – it impedes in your ability to learn the material because you're not writing down the information. Yes, powerpoints are meant to be guides and whatever, but you're not embedding the material into your brain unless you put the material into your own words as you take notes.
I've seen it so many times where people will print out their powerpoints (or have the powerpoints in front of them on a laptop or tablet) and then sit there in class. Yes, every so often they'll write something, but all the other information? They're not bothering to write anything down. You could get away with this in certain classes, absolutely. However, for A&P and chem? Write everything down.
Go ahead, have your printouts so you can follow along better. But don't rely on them and skimp out on actually taking notes. It is imperative that you take notes during class. Do however you want and are comfortable with, but take notes.
Do your homework!
Seriously, do not wait until the hour before next lecture to finish your homework. Start the homework as soon as you can. I know, we all hate homework. But finishing assignments can be what makes or breaks you. They’re practice and practice makes perfect, so just get it done. When you’re in chemistry or any math class, you’ll thank me that I told you to do your homework.
Also? Read through your notes
I know, shocking right? What helpful advice, V. But okay, in all seriousness, you need to read through your notes. It doesn't matter if you do it immediately after class (I know I don't) or if you wait a day or two (which is what I do).
All that matters is that you take the time to read through your notes and maybe listen to lecture notes if needed. This way, you’re reinforcing lessons AND you’re figuring out whether or not you really understand something. This allows you to figure out if you need to go to tutoring before you start revising for exams.
In terms of rewriting your notes, that's really on you and your decision.
Some of my classmates had what they called their “messy” notes which were their notes that they took in class. When they got home, they would rewrite the information in a much neater fashion into another notebook.
I like rewriting my notes in general, regardless of whether or not the notes I had taken were typed or handwritten. It encodes the information deeper into my brain. It also gives me an opportunity to pause and figure out what I don't understand as well as how to comprehend them. It's usually this time that I'll watch YouTube videos or listen to lecture recordings if needed. I'll even open the dreaded textbook at this time if needed.
Some people say it’s a waste of time, but it has helped me so much more when I rewrite notes than when I just straight up try and study from the notes I took in class. This is because of the fact that the rewritten notes end up being neater, cleaner, and easier to follow whereas the notes from class are often a jumbled mess.
Again, like I said above. Notes are personal. My way of note-taking and rewriting notes may be different from your own. If what you're doing works for you, then keep at it.
Still, if you do decide to rewrite your notes, do it sooner than later. Trust me, rewriting notes from four lectures is not fun and you’ll get hand cramps.
When you don’t get something, the sooner you go to tutoring, the better. When you need help understanding a concept, don’t wait until you have to start studying for an exam to go for tutoring. This is why I say to read through your notes BEFORE it’s time to study for exams because it helps ensure that you know whether or not you can understand something on your own.
Remember that concepts build on each other. If you’re not understanding something and you do nothing to fix that, you will be screwing yourself over in the long run.
Don’t be ashamed if you have to go to tutoring. No one will keep count of how many times you go and hold it against you. What will be held against you is your grades. If you are so desperate to get into a nursing program or any program for that matter, you need to put the time and effort into understanding what you’re supposed to be learning. If you can’t be bothered to make the time to go to tutoring when you don’t understand something, don’t come crying to your professor, advisors, peer advisors, and anyone else who has to learn to your whining.
Schools give you the resources when they have study halls and tutoring labs. Use them.
In the next post, I’ll be talking about studying for exams and dealing with stress.