The Best Time to Study Was 3 Months Ago…

“The best time to plant a tree is 20-years ago.  The second best time is today.”  Chinese Proverb

“The best time to study properly is at the beginning of the semester.  The second best time is today.”  Your Nursing Tutor Proverb


We all have regrets.  Often, those regrets have to do with something we wish we would have done sooner so that we could be reaping the benefits now…like studying!  In nursing school, it’s too easy to focus on what is urgent, instead of what’s important (I talk in more detail about this issue of urgent versus important in the PASS Program).  It’s kind of like collecting acorns instead of planting them, where acorns are nursing facts and planting them is good study habits.

Yeah, I like corny analogies.  It’s part of my charm as a tutor.  Or so I tell myself whenever I create corny analogies.

In any case, it may seem urgent to grab as many acorns as possible when there are millions of them scattered all over the ground (and in your textbook).  After all, you never know how many you will need!  What if you plant some and they never grow?  What if the squirrels get them first?  What if???  And why won’t anybody even tell you how many acorns you need, anyway? Is this some sort of strange, nursing school conspiracy to make you…nuts?!?!

So you run around like a crazed squirrel collecting acorns.  Unfortunately when you follow this plan, all you’ll end up with is a handful of these:

3 Loose Acorns
A bunch of random nursing facts that you may (or may not) remember by the end of the semester.

You probably felt busy collecting them (and you were busy).  You probably felt like you were doing a lot of work (and you were doing a lot of work).  But now the semester is half over, and you feel like you’re still struggling through your classes without much to show for all of your efforts.

Meanwhile, if you had spent less time collecting acorns and more time planting the acorns, then your results would look like this:

Oak Tree
Your future nursing knowledge, rooted in a strong foundation of understanding that will last for a lifetime.

Notice my corny analogy continue:  a planted acorn stays hidden in the dirt while it continues to soak up sunshine and water.  You don’t see any immediate results.  In fact, everything still looks a lot like dirt.  Did you waste your time planting that acorn early in the semester?  It sure feels like it, especially when you see all of your classmates still running around collecting as many acorns as they can.  But no! Hidden underneath the ground, that acorn you planted early on has been growing an incredible root system that will become the foundation for an amazingly strong tree someday.  You can’t see the results at first, which is why studying this way is counterintuitive for most students.  But before you know it, you’ll see the small, green leaves pushing their way through the ground.

The most successful nursing students study with long-term results in mind.  These students choose to grow big oak trees full of nursing knowledge.  When the end of the semester rolls around, they can confidentially rely on their extensive root system to help them critically think like a nurse.

Struggling nursing students, on the other hand, are often studying with short-term results on their minds.  Since they run around like squirrels, trying to gather as many acorns as they possibly can, they’re always going to be afraid that there’s one more fact they should have memorized.  But they never pause long enough to plant any of their acorns, so they never give their nursing knowledge an opportunity to take root and grow.  At the end of the semester, they can barely remember what they tried to memorize at the beginning of the semester, much less be able to use that information to critically think.  So they are forced to repeatedly cram all the same information into their heads for finals.

Would it be too cliche to suggest that studying with a short-term perspective is, perhaps…nuts?

If you are facing the end of the semester and realizing that all you’ve got to show for it is a handful of acorns, I’m not going to lie to you…it might be too late to grow a good foundation for this semester.  Anything’s possible depending on your situation, but I don’t want to give you false hope.

But I DO want to give you real hope…because even if you happen to be in a situation where it might be too late to see success this semester, I can promise you that it is NEVER too late to grow a strong foundation for becoming a successful nurse.  Your journey into nursing may not be as quick or as easy as you imagined it would be.  It’s always easier to beat yourself up because you wish you had been studying with a long-term perspective from the beginning of the semester.  But you know what?  The second best time to start studying that way is right now.

Tell the truth…have you ever been nuts? 🙂  What are you going to start doing differently to stop collecting and start planting your acorns?

5 thoughts on “The Best Time to Study Was 3 Months Ago…”

  1. Trise

    your information was very helpful..I just finished my first & second quarter..&heading into the third & fourth quarter with a more positive aspect & helpful hints of yours Nicole, Thank you

  2. so humbled by da advise ive gotten from u.and felt so encouraged coz right now am a2nd year drop out but am continuing to build my knowledge even if am at home.thanx

  3. Carolyn shavers

    I am in that place now I am scheduled to take semester exams in two weeks I am so nervous I hardly know what to do

  4. Jasmine

    This article was VERY helpful and encouraging! Thank you for writing it and including all your little analogies, they’re actually helpful 🙂

  5. desiree

    Hi, Do you offer tutoring in critical care? please call 480 217 17 14 thanks!

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