What to Expect in the First Semester of Nursing School

Notre Dame of Maryland University ABSN student in sim lab

If you’ve recently been accepted into nursing school, congratulations! In the Notre Dame of Maryland University Accelerated 2nd Degree Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, we truly believe you’ll find nursing to be a fulfilling career.

Your admissions counselor has likely given you a general sense of what’s to come over the next several months. Now that reality is setting in, you may be looking for more specifics on what to expect during your first semester of nursing school.

Let’s talk about how to prepare for nursing school, take a look at what your first week in the ABSN program might be like, and discuss what to expect during your journey to become a nurse.

How to Prepare for the First Week of Nursing School

The first week of the program is going to involve a lot of information that will come at you pretty fast. After all, the Notre Dame ABSN program packs the material that would be dispersed over a traditional four-year period into just 15 months. To prepare for this, you’ll want to make sure you have all the necessary materials to keep you on track and organized.

We recommend showing up to your first day with a planner, some folders or a binder to organize syllabi, and anything else you’ve been directed to purchase.

It’s also a good idea to come with pens, highlighters, and notecards. Assigning a color to each category you need to plan for, such as tests, assignments, and study time, is also a great way to visually block out the time you’ll need to get prepared.

What to Expect During Week One

Your first week of nursing school will focus on three major areas:

  • Orientation will help you understand how your courses will run and give you a general overview of what to expect moving forward. You’ll also get acquainted with any software or online platforms you need to use. We’ll take time introducing you to the equipment you’ll be handling in the program, and you’ll also get the chance to ask questions.
  • Syllabus distribution will give you an idea of the pace and content that will be encompassed in your nursing courses. You’ll get a feel for the standards your instructors expect and how they grade assignments. This will also show you when to expect exams and help you plan your studying time.
  • Networking will also be important during your first week. Getting to know your instructors and meeting your cohort of peers is key to your success as an ABSN student. You can create a study group together, lean on one another for support, and make lifelong friends and colleagues.

Now that you know what to expect in your first week, let’s look a little further down the line and discuss what you can expect over the next 15 months in the Notre Dame ABSN program.

What to Expect in Nursing School

The Notre Dame accelerated nursing program offers a rigorous curriculum that includes online or in-person coursework, hands-on skills and simulation labs, and real-world experience through clinical placements.

You can expect a comprehensive nursing education over as few as 15 months that prepares you to sit confidently for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX).

Our in-depth program takes you through nursing theory coursework that helps create a solid foundation on which to build your nursing education.


The Notre Dame ABSN program offers two ways for students to complete nursing theory coursework: online and on-campus.

Online Courses

In our Hybrid Accelerated 2nd Degree program, you’ll learn coursework through an online learning management system. The online courses feature a series of learning modules, each with a list of activities to complete, ranging from watching a video to completing a simulated case study.

two people meeting at table with laptop

On-Campus Courses

If you prefer a more traditional learning method, our on-campus Accelerated 2nd Degree BSN program covers the same curriculum; the only difference is where and when you attend class. Through this learning option, all lectures take place at our main campus in Baltimore.

Students who choose our on-campus ABSN program can expect regularly scheduled face-to-face interactions with instructors in real-time to help them focus and establish a routine.

First Semester Curriculum

No matter which path you choose to pursue your accelerated nursing education through NDMU, you can expect a rigorous curriculum, a high level of instructor support, and plenty of opportunities to connect with your nursing school peers.

You can expect to complete the following courses during your first semester as a Notre Dame ABSN student. These include nursing coursework either online or on-campus, onsite labs and, in some cases, clinical rotation components.

  • NUR 301: Holistic Health Assessment
  • NUR 303: Nursing Informatics
  • NUR 305: Foundations of a Caring Profession
  • NUR 310: Pathopharmacology

The coursework you complete in the first semester of nursing school sets the foundation for the rest of your nursing education. Whether in our online or on-campus classroom, expect instructors to throw vast amounts of material your way through lectures, reading assignments, and other learning activities.

You’ll need to build on and apply all the information you learn during this content-heavy semester in later semesters, so it’s important to develop study strategies early that fit your unique learning style.

Skills and Simulation Labs

Your first semester of nursing school will also involve skills and simulation labs, which you can expect to participate in multiple days each week. If you enroll in our hybrid ABSN program, you’ll complete them at our program site in Elkridge; students in our on-campus ABSN program attend labs at the Center for Caring with Technology lab at our main campus in Baltimore.

In either case, you can expect these labs to feature hospital equipment, medical supplies, and full-body manikins. They’re meant to provide a contextual learning environment for you to combine your foundational nursing theory knowledge with hands-on skills practice.

three NDMU nursing students with lab coats working with a simulation manikin

It’s during this portion of your accelerated nursing education that you’ll learn how to develop and apply such basic nursing skills as wound care, intubation, and head-to-toe assessments — the kinds of skills you’ll need to have as a professional in the field no matter the area of practice.

In this learning environment, you’ll also have the chance to get as close as possible to all sorts of real-life clinical situations that you may or may not be exposed to during clinicals rotations. You’ll develop your clinical judgment and problem-solving skills and build your confidence in the process.


The hallmark component of any nursing school experience, clinical rotations involve putting nursing skills and theories into practice in a real-world setting. They’re probably the closest experience you’ll get to what working as a nurse is really like, giving you the chance to interact with health care professionals and perform care tasks for patients.

Clinical rotations begin in the first semester of the Notre Dame ABSN program, giving you opportunities to apply the nursing theory and skills you’re learning about throughout our ABSN program. But don’t worry — we won’t throw you into the deep end of patient care on your first day. Working under the guidance of experienced clinical instructors, common clinical tasks you can expect to perform during your first semester include taking vitals and performing head-to-toe assessments.

Our clinical partnerships include some of the region’s most prestigious health care providers. This means you’ll have the opportunity to work alongside and network with some of the best and brightest health care professionals in the greater Baltimore area.

Are You Ready to Start Accelerated Nursing School?

Are you feeling more prepared about what to expect in your first semester of nursing school? Then you’re ready to begin your first semester at Notre Dame of Maryland University’s ABSN program. Contact us today to learn more about our accelerated BSN program in Baltimore.