1. Find a study group!
You will never 'get' all of the concepts right away the first (or second) time. But if you can find 2-3 like-minded people that have the same study habits as you, the semester is easier because you all share the load. It's so nice to have others to bounce questions and ideas off. They stress 'critical thinking'....this phrase will get drilled into your brain by mid-semester. It basically means being able to look at things from many different perspectives and being able to weed through the not-so-important and identify the important. Nothing was as helpful as a good study group to chat/argue points with!
2. Go to class!
I am amazed over and over at how there are a handful of students in my class that seem to find time to 'go out' all the time, drink on the weekends, endless exploits ad nauseum but can't make it to class and become a burden on other students. I have become great at telling these people 'no' when they try to beg class notes. Believe me, the instructors notice also, and they will hone in on you and 'beat you down' in clinicals. The partying happens *after* you pass boards.
3. If you made it into nursing school, you are smart.
So many people have their confidence shaken the first semester or so of nursing school. This is NOT an easy course of study. There is a reason why the grading curve is 78+ to pass your classes. Do you want a D or F student hanging an IV for your comatose mom? If you suffer a setback with a test, TALK TO YOUR INSTRUCTOR IMMEDIATELY. Most instructors are glad to give feedback on tests and welcome the opportunity to help you. Don't abuse the privilege by being unprepared for class. Don't wait until the night before to study for a test. You will not be 'cramming' for tests, you really need to set aside time each day to review and read. Don't get behind, it will snowball.
4. If you don't understand something, say so.
Ask questions in class (but don't waste class time arguing with your instructor, huge class pet peeve!). In clinical, don't ever feel pressured to do something that you know you don't understand. I guarantee that any instructor valuing his/her license is much happier reviewing skills/situations with you.
5. Don't get scared off by tales of evil instructors.
Keep an open mind and be open to new experiences. I have a pharmacology teacher this semester that I've heard horror stories about in the past, but has ended up being one of the most informative and wonderful instructors I've had in the program to date.
Well, that's all I can think of atm. Back to the books!