finally able to go back to school for RN, but now paralyzed by algebra/chemistry fear

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Hi Everyone,

I've wanted very much to go back to school to become an RN for years now. I've finally figured out how I can do this (financially). This has been quite a hurdle financially for me to get to do this. Now that I can, and I'm planning going for ADN and planning which courses for my first semester, etc, I feel this paralyzing (((fear))) regarding having to tackle algebra, and chemistry.

I did ok in pre-algebra, ok in algebra 1-2, then I tanked in algebra 3-4 in high school. I also got a what I call a 'mercy' grade of C in chemistry. The thing is, I did quite well in English, biology, etc. Basically I had all A's and the occational B in high school, except for the dreaded algrebra and chemistry. I don't think I tried too hard in algebra or chemistry because I just hated them, and couldn't understand how I would ever use them in life.

I guess now that I've finally made a way to go back to school after years of desire and planning, I'm terrified of getting past these courses. I had an assessment a few years ago with a psychologist and my IQ came out at 114. So I'm not a bump on a log and I'm not a genius either. I have this secret fear that I have some sort of 'hole in my intelligence' that I won't be able to get past these courses.

So if anyone has felt this way, and has any words of wisdom or experience with this, I sure would appreciate it. I just can't believe I finally have the ability to go back to school, and now I'm afraid of doing it!


53 Posts


Algebra kept me from pursuing a degree for many years, but now I only have 3 tests left and I am done! I took Chem last winter, it is not as bad as you think. I would recommend memorizing anything the instructor tells you to, and study hard. You need some math, but it is the same few formulas over and over, so when you "get" those as you go, it is okay. (I actually ended up really enjoying it, and it is fun to read a shampoo bottle and recognize some of those ingredients.)

I put it in this perspective- a semester is only about 15 weeks, it is not forever, a drop in the bucket. What's the worst that could happen? You take it again and understand it the second time. You don't have to be a genius to take these, otherwise there would be only a select few people becoming nurses, or anything else that requires these classes.

Just decide that this is what you want, and that you are going to do it, and you will be fine...


17 Posts

I agree, just make sure you have enough time to study and you'll be fine. I spent more time studying for Chem than any other class. Also don't fall behind on material and if you have questions, don't be afraid to ask the teacher, maybe even form a study group. I have a group of friends who made up my study group for the entire last year. We all applied for the nursing program this semester so it helps having a group already put together. Make your class load light when you take those 2 classes and you'lll be fine! Good Luck and good for you for coming back.


141 Posts

I am a complete math rock. Took my compass (placement test) and scored in the 98th percentile in English and reading, and scored so low in math that they had me take it again to make sure. I scored *lower* the second time :imbar

Try not to psych yourself out so much. Don't go in it with the attitude that you are doomed to fail, but try to talk yourself into success. I know that sounds corny, but attitude really is everything (or at least a lot of it ;)) Does your school have a math lab? Are there tutors available? Make use of your resources! You CAN make it through! Ask your peers about who the best instructor might be, too, because that can make a WORLD of difference. Make sure that instructor knows who you are once you are there, too, and don't be shy about asking for help, as much as you need. That's what you paid tuition for.

Most of all, have faith in yourself that you CAN get through those two classes. If *I* can, I bet you can too..I'm the "worst case scenario" :chuckle


Hey! Hellloooo from a fellow Arizonaite!

Math is not that horrible. Ok, yes it is pretty bad but you will be suprised at how much you remember. Chem is not a big deal at all after algrebra! Plus, it is beginning chem. I had to take several semesters of lower algebra classes in college just to get to college algebra and pass. It payed off though as I know algebra operations better than simple math. Go figure!!LOL!! You will do fine, just keep plenty of time to focus on those classes. Good Luck!!



510 Posts

I was real bad at Chemistry, too. I didn't like it at all especially Organics, and that was the bulk of it. I decided I wasn't going to let it lick me and I passed the class with a decent grade. I had a really good teacher who kept us late every class, but he had a way of explaining the material that made it much easier to learn. You have to really put yourself into it and you'll find that the more you study it the more it makes sense. I missed an "A" in chemistry only by 2 points, and considering how bad I was at it when I started the course, I think that if I could pull it off then anyone can.

As for the math, I find that its best to find a method of doing the calculations that works for you and stick with it. Get a nursing math textbook and go over every single example for every type of problem, step by step. Then practice, practice, practice the questions until it all becomes second nature. Make sure you understand what the question is asking and then follow all the steps you practiced to set up the problem correctly. Be consistent, don't use short cuts, and don't let anyone confuse you with their method of working the problems if their method is different from yours. At my school they insist in teaching only the ratio and proportion method but I prefer to use the formula method because it just seems easier to me.

Maggie in NC

1 Article; 392 Posts

My advice: Take them in a summer semester/quarter when the classes are shorter and smaller. It really does take the fear out. I also found that the shorter course interval/longer class time REALLY helped me. There is LOTS of help on this board too!! Do a search for chemistry threads, you'll find LOTS of help and great suggestions!

Good luck!

I am a complete math rock. Took my compass (placement test) and scored in the 98th percentile in English and reading, and scored so low in math that they had me take it again to make sure. I scored *lower* the second time :imbar

A kindred spirit! :rotfl: I too scored in the 98th percentile in English, reading, and writing! But get me near math and I tank quickly!

I do think part of my problem is simply math/chemistry phobia. I was reading an algebra practice test the other day, and within 20 seconds of reading it, the anxiety was overwhelming. So that's more fear than lack of ability. In high school, truthfully I never tried to get past those feelings to understand the subject.

If I could just understand how these abstract calculations/formulas apply to REAL LIFE I think it would help. Do they explain at all in college what these complex calculations actually represent in the real world? I can only hope.

I've been out of school since age 18. I'm 31 now. My first semester I'm taking Chemistry (5 credits) and Beginning Algebra (3 credits). That's it. I'm not working, just taking those two courses. I figure that's a good way to start out, since I've haven't been in school in ages. That way I can study and study and study as much as I need to. Does that sound like a good plan?

Thank you everyone. I just needed to see others who felt the way I do, and have gotten past it.

Specializes in NICU.

Hello from a fellow zoni here too!!

You can do this!! I know how you feel, chemistry was a NIGHTMARE for me, in high school. I failed chem the first semester and barely passed it the second semester, it was awful. From then on I just kept saying *I hate chemistry, I just can't do it*. I just had it in my mind that my brain wasn't able to comprehend chemistry.

So fast forward about 5 years later....... I have to take chemistry for a prereq in college. I'm thinking this is just my worst nightmare..... I failed it in high school, there will be NO way I can do well in a college chem class, right?! WRONG! I got an A! I had a really great professor. From the very start of the class, if there was something I didn't understand.... I'd go to her office and get help, she explained it to me until I understood it. It was fine. I could do it, and I did..... with an A to show for it!

You can do this too. Just go into the chemistry and algebra classes in the right mind set. Go in there telling yourself that you WILL pass the class. Get as much help from the professors as you need ... that's what they're there for. I can't stress that enough.... it's so important to get help from the professors..... if you don't understand something from the start, go to them and make them explain it to you until you understand it!

Good luck with everything! You'll do fine!

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

97 Articles; 21,237 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

I too did poorly in algebra in the BSN completion program - ended up with a C+ one class and B- the next! However, I will say that you really don't use algebra in the nursing world. What you do use though is ratio and percent. If you know dosage calculations, you'll do fine. Take care.


627 Posts

Some people in education believe that you can't really learn algebraic concepts until your brain is ready for it. And our students start off learning those concepts at such a young age that many develop math anxiety and subsequently don't learn it either because they avoid it or their fears get in the way.

All I know is that I had much more success with math as an adult than when I was younger. :)

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