OP to add to your story, I know of a nurse today who received her Externship and a spot in a New Grad Residency Program as a Student Nurse despite submitted her applications to both programs late! I know because I helped her fill out her applications after the deadlines, per the request of her supervisor, who was also one of my clinical instructors. I know that this does not sound fair to you, but the hiring manger asked me to help her out because she was a good tech on the unit and everyone on her unit loved her!
With that said, OP and others: Some of your classmates who seem like academic failures are landing jobs because he/she succeeded in another area of the job search
arena. More than likely those classmates have friends who recommended him/her to the hiring managers and/or recruiter’s in-person. I know that this may be a surprise to you since you did not go into nursing thinking that who-you-know-in-nursing will matter over what-you-know as a nurse, but unfortunately it does when seeking a job.
In fact, although I had a good reputation for academic success and hard work when I was a Student Nurse and a New Grad, I landed my externships and to residency because of who I knew too. In addition, almost all of the nursing positions I have received throughout my nursing career were based upon who I knew. Thus, do not stop working hard and representing yourself the best way you can, but be sure to get to know people (Nurses) that are connected to future employment opportunities. Good Luck.