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What do I do if I'm struggling in the easy classes?

Hello everyone,

A little about myself is I'm a full-time employee with a fire department. I actually decided I wanted to leave the fire department to pursue a degree in nursing since I enjoy the medical field and I had a few family members that are nurses. The reason I am posting this is cause I am not sure what to do. I am currently enrolled in the pre req Anatomy and Physiology part 1 for the summer semester. Im not going to lie when I say the the fire chapter was super easy cause it was basically me schooling for becoming an EMT. The first chapter basically was anatomical terms, locations and planes. Now what I am struggling with is chapter two and three which is Chemistry comes alive and Cells: The living tissue. I have a midterm exam coming up on chapter one through three in six days and my issue is I am still stuck on chapter two trying to comprehend the chemistry comes alive and all these amino acids, Proteins, Enzymes, Monosaccharides, Disaccharides, Polysaccharids, Lipids, Carbs and so on. The teacher wants us for one part of the test to draw Dehydration synthesis and Hydrolysis for all of these which I don't even know where to begin. For example I understand that dehydration synthesis is the removal of water to bring two elements together and hydrolysis is the adding of water to break it up. But when you ask me to draw it thats when I get so damn confused and Im feeling so rushed to learn all this stuff. For example my teacher is already moving onto chapter four and I'm still stuck on chapter two. I study almost 12 hours a today not including the time spent in class and I just struggle to comprehend all this information which is leaving me lost, stressed and getting seconds thoughts.

The reason why this is all feeling like its coming down on me is cause from what I have heard this class is supposed to be the hardest of the pre reqs but the easiest compared to nursing school cause i heard nursing school is so much harder and the chemistry involved in it will just get harder. This scares me cause if I can't even comprehend the basics then how the heck am I supposed to move on? I feel so left behind that its hard for me to get back and catch up. Seems like everyone else in the class is getting and understanding this so easily and I'm like dude what the heck are you talking about. I never took biology and chemistry in high school so I don't have anything to fall back on and on top of all this i tried to see if my school has a tutor and my school notified me saying that they have no tutors available for my subjects and are currently looking for some but not sure when that will be. Im already seeing myself failing this test cause I have such little time that I don't know what to do but study but my studying is not good enough.

My dream is to become a nurse practitioner but this is holding me up =(. Im the kind of person where I don't want to just memorize this material but to learn and understand it. I hate getting b's and c's as a grade cause thats not good enough for me and I don't just want to squeeze by in nursing cause I heard if you get below a 75 they kick you out.

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

You need to find resources -- and unfortunately, your school doesn't have any tutors available right now. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

1. Maybe you need to do some remedial work in biology and chemistry before you tackle college-level science classes. Frankly, I am surprised that you got accepted into those classes without any high school background. That would delay your academic progress, but it might be necessary. Talk to your academic adviser or counselor about possibilities for remedial classes in your community.

2. You seem to have talked to students who have taken that class in the past -- because you knew it was going to be difficult. Could one of them give you some help?

3. Talk to your instructor and explain your situation. Maybe he/she would have some good suggestions for you.

Good luck!


Thanks for answering my question and giving some advice.

1. Honestly I was really surprised that I was accepted into these courses as well see that I literally have no background in any of these classes. I really would love to understand this but as you already know from my previous post its just not coming as easy as it is for the other students. Now my main issue is that I have already started this class and I can withdraw from with without receiving a W but that will show up on the report card and I just don't like that. Also my nursing instructor or future instructor said I need to get "at least" a A or higher in this course to get accepted into her program and at first I was like well okay it can't be that hard then if thats the requirement. Boy was I wrong. For the summer semester she was having me take AP1 with a lab of course and English with Medical Term. Medical term is east and I have a 99.7 overall in that class right now but the English I thankfully was able to drop without getting a withdrawal cause that class started the 30th. For a summer semester and it being so short I had to drop one class cause I need to concentrate on AP.

The pre reqs required to get into this nursing program are AP 1 & 2, English 1101, Math 1111, Psych 1101, Biology 2117 and Biology 2117 Lab.

2. I should of been more specific and I apologize for that, I actually never talked to current students but rather the guys at work who became nurses. Majority of my fire department has nurses but they started out as paramedics who did the bridge program and did majority of there stuff online. They also told me that nursing school is not as hard as AP is and if you can pass AP then you can pass nursing school cause its easier but honestly I'm not sure how true that is cause just like I heard that I have heard the opposite. I think its more along the lines as an opinion.

3. Im planning on emailing my instructor right now and hopefully he can help me out with some information. The last time i sought out his help though and asked a question he kinda talked and looked at me like I was stupid. Thats why I don't really like and feel comfortable asking him anything and he seems like he just wants to rush through this course cause its the summer.


Specializes in ICU, LTACH, Internal Medicine.

You are probably not going to like what I'll say but I'd seen so many people struggling through the same situation that I repeat:

- your dreams/wishes/dedications/hard work/other excellencies taken by themselves are never enough. Correct about nursing, as well as about any other field of human occupation.

I would suggest speaking with your instructor AND academic advisor, if you have any, face to face (not email) ASAP and either get every available help you can get there, or withdraw immediately. "W"will be staying in your college record but it still looks better than "F" and being canned out, plus you won't spend any more money, which you'll need later. Do not throw away or sell your textbooks!

The fact that you study "12 hours a day" and still cannot understand the basics of chemistry means that you do not have baseline knowledge for college-level coursework, and probably studying skills as well. In many communities, the help is available through high schools, community centers, libraries and community colleges. If there are no such opportunities where you live, you can find a kid taking Chem, Physics and at least Geometry II in 9 to 11 grade of good public school (preferably STEM or Blue Ribbon, with at least 70% of students being accepted to colleges within the last 3 years) and ask to copy his homework in all subjects except, perhaps, social science. Then buy used textbooks and do the same stuff using your young friend as tutor/resource. The kid can later claim it all as volunteering experience for his college application, it will look really cool there. Or you can buy textbooks and use Khan Academy Khan Academy | Free Online Courses, Lessons & Practice Take as many different tests as you can find for free or very cheap. Used book sales in public libraries during summertime are great for finding SAT books for $1 or so. You won't need SAT but you need to get your test taking abilities up to the level of nursing school, and that's a pretty high one.

Do not forget about English - nursing school requires a whole lot of papers writing.

After you feel that you mastered high school subjects, you can dust off your current textbooks and see how it will go. I would suggest doing them through on your own before you attempt to reapply.

There is a nursing school entrance exam named TEAS. Pretty much every public library has review books for it. After you read through high school courses and your current books, try to get one of these books and "take the exam" on your own. Your goal should be having less than 25% of material there as something you know nothing at all about, and being able to take at least 100 questions in 100 min with half of them going on like "I know it, here, next one". This is the level which would pretty much guarantee no serious struggle with pre-nursing courses.

As the whole program will take probably at least couple of years, you can in the meantime do tele tech, phlebotomy, C(E)NA, ultrasound tech or hemodialysis tech course. They are available through community colleges and many other avenues, cost not that much and have much less "scientific" component. Plus, you will get a foot in the door and a chance to decide if you really like to go further with your healthcare career. I am not sure if you can work as EMT with your current education; if you could, that would save you some trouble and money as well.

Edited by KatieMI

Hello KatieMi,

Well I guess I can say thank you for the advice even though it wasn't what I was hoping. Now don't get me wrong at least you were honest and I do appreciate that cause in todays world some things are sugar coated which shouldn't be so I again appreciate that.

Now don't get me wrong here when I say I don't believe withdrawing right away is a good idea without at least trying to pass the test. The teacher allows us to stay in the course but if we decide to withdraw then we need to do that before the final exam. Trust me when I say this I would love to have face to face with the instructor but seeing that he is never in the office I decided to at least email him notifying him of my current situation so we can meet up in person. Well The textbook I have is rented so unfortunately if i withdraw I will need to give the book back to chegg.

Don't get me wrong I do study about 12 hours a day and its not that I don't understand literally anything. I do comprehend some of it but I feel like I am not comprehending the amount I need to pass the test if that makes sense. For example if you were to act me what Dehydration synthesis or hydrolysis is I can explain it to you but drawing it is my issue. Same thing with Lipis, I can show you explain to you what a triglyceride is which is just glycerol and 3 fatty acids coming together to form it. Just like Phospholipid is just basically a non polar tail more specially 2 fatty acids, glycerol and Phosphorous group coming together or a steroid for example cholesterol, Sex hormones, vitamin. I can explain to you that carbs are just simple sugars for example a monosaccharide is just a simple sugar for example glucose. Then you have your disaccharides which are two pairs of simple sugars linked together. For example two glucose's make up maltose. Like I can explain certain things but drawing them is a different issue. I should of explained that more clearly and I apologize for that. I do understand certain things like bonds. Just drawing certain things confuse me and thats what is going to be on the test.

Not trying to sound rude but I'm not worried about english to that extent cause I have always been good in english and writing essays is pretty simple as long as you enjoy a topic you are writing about. Im not saying I'm taking that course lightly when the time comes but what I am saying is that I feel like I won't struggle as hard in that class compared to AP.

I find it so said that for me to get a nursing degree I basically have to do high school over again just to get a basic concept. Correct me if I am wrong but that should be that teachers job to help certain students understand. Like for example some students are visual learners and listeners where they can sit in a classroom and just listen and understand. Im not that kind of student, I need to actually put my hands on the idea and actually do it so I comprehend it. Im what you call a tactile learner. Some students learn differently and some teachers just don't understand that today. I shouldn't have to feel like an idiot going back to 9-11th grade to try and learn something a teacher should be explaining a bit better.

I will certainly go to barnes and nobles and pick up the TEAS exam study guide and start practicing. All those mini courses you just said are literally compacted into my EMT course I took a while back. Don't get me wrong those are great ideas but I don't see a need to restudy them. See I'm not weak in the anatomy aspect and learning the systems per say. I can explain to you the systems and the basic functions along with certain detailed concepts of each one but its the chemistry part I'm just little off from.

Like I said this is nothing against you and I did not mean this post in any harmful or mean way towards you. Im just really stressed out right now and Im a smart dude I really am. It just hurts knowing that my dreams of becoming something I know I can be really good at probably won't happen cause I'm not "smart" enough for the school aspect.

roser13, ASN, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg, Ortho, ASC.

"Im just really stressed out right now and Im a smart dude I really am. It just hurts knowing that my dreams of becoming something I know I can be good at probably won't happen cause I'm not "smart" enough for the school aspect."

I am not out to burst your bubble, truly I'm not. But to "be good at" nursing involves, at its very core, a solid basis of knowledge & education. It's not that you may not be able to achieve decent grades in elemental courses, it's that those elemental courses are the basis upon which you build your nursing knowledge. A house will fall down if its foundation is not strong. You cannot build a solid foundation of nursing knowledge without understanding the basics.

Yes, instructors have an obligation to honor various learning styles, but sometimes that is not enough. It may well be that you are best suited for a different career. Unfortunately, sometimes simply believing that you are meant to have a certain career is not enough. You must look to your strengths and work with those.


Specializes in ICU, LTACH, Internal Medicine.

Dear OP,

nobody here says that you are not smart. You are just not ready for colleg-level coursework, that's it.

If you can say that glucose + glucose = maltose, it doesn't mean that you understand chemistry. Try this:


NOT LOOKING ANYWHERE ELSE, explain why: 1) both things taste sweet; 2) sucralose doesn't increase blood sugar.

I am not joking. These are things you are supposed to understand as a nurse. Ms. Jones, 56, uncontrolled diabetes and morbid obesity, comes to you for advice. She was told by doctor to give up sugar but she can't understand why she needs to spend much more money on Splenda - they are both just sweet, after all!

The problem with "drawing" is typically solved with drawing one molecule some 10 times in a row, first from book, then by memory. If you just can't draw hydrolysis as a process applied to an abstract molecule your instructor gives to you, that means you do not actually understand what hydrolysis is and how it works, even if you memorized definition from the book just fine. Sorry. Look Khan academy or here:

Regarding English - that's the problem... the subjects of essays and papers are 95%+ cases are absolutely not enjoyable and in 50%+ are not less than downright silly. Right now I am struggling with one I feel passionate against, yet I've got to write it as supposed to. Plus, they have to be written in APA syle - that means endless number of ridiculously stupid rules (yes, I mean it - "stupid" is the word in my book for all that), yet they must be followed to the last comma, literally.

Throw away the idea of your teachers being responsible for any part of your education, from now on. You are an adult, going to enter a challenging, forever changing field. Your education is your responsibility. You are supposed to be at certain level to do the course - if you happen not to be ready for it, that's not your teacher's mistake. For the future, your head will be stuffed with all kinds of information till you feel it bursting, yet you feel like you know nothing at all. We all went through that sort of "knowledge shock" right after school. It gets better with time (which is measured in months and years for that situation), yet comes back full blown with every single next degree and every single next job.

Likewise, nobody will ever care if you are "tactile learner", "just do not have a good test taking skills", "do not learn well alone", etc., etc. Learning is not turnout, one doesn't born with it or without it. It is evolving process, and it is, again, your responsibility to learn how to learn most effectively within the system.

Again, sorry for being rather blunt but I just do not like to see young smart people on all sorts of meds for depression, anxiety, insomnia and so forth simply because they fearlessly embarked on college journey not having a slightlest idea what they would encounter and after some time they just feel like they are being pulled by an avalance. All that would be easily preventable if only they would prepare themselves for college - level workload BEFORE they applied, or have courage and wisdom to tell themselves to stop and withdraw before it gets too late.

P.S. do not "take" TEAS without at least a good study first, or you'll get a pretty wrong impression about the process, as well as about yourself.

P.P.S. try not to use Chegg and the like services. I know, it saves some money but you need basic books available till you know that you truly mastered them.

I will also say "the chemistry part" is what everything you're about to learn is based on. You need a solid foundation in chemistry to be successful (IMO, many here disagree). Everything that happens in a persons body is a chemical reaction, so you really do need to understand how and why things happen the way they do. Is Chemistry not a pre-req for A&P?

No they did not have chemistry as a pre req for AP. They just sent me straight into it. Honestly I just been sitting here all day figuring things out and even though this is a tough decision for me I don't think I'm going to pursue a degree in nursing even though i would love to be a nurse and become a nurse practitioner, i just don't think I'm cut out for the schooling. I think I'm going to try and purse something in the fitness field but I'm not sure what that will be. Other than nursing I love the gym and fitness but there are no good fields in that.

They have a lot of the "For Dummy" books that help you navigate things like acids and bases and chemistry etc. it really helped me when I was learning about electrolytes.

Honestly, A&P is hard. It builds upon what you learn in other prerequisites, namely chemistry and biology. It sounds like you're struggling with the chemistry part if it. The good news is that this is as in depth as you'll get with human biochem. Nursing classes are difficult too, but they just require a lot of memorization of facts, which it doesn't sound like you struggle with.

It stinks that no tutor is available. Are you able to get into or form a study group? That really and truly saved me for anatomy (route memorization is my weakness... got a failing grade in the first exam but, with the help of a biweekly study group, pulled up my grade to an A). I'd look into that. Also go to office hours regularly. Definitely don't lose heart.

Edit--just read your last follow up. They really did you a disservice sending you to this class without any background in bio or chem. No wonder you're having difficulties. Talk with your advisor about postponing this class until you have your other sciences under your belt.

No they did not have chemistry as a pre req for AP. They just sent me straight into it. Honestly I just been sitting here all day figuring things out and even though this is a tough decision for me I don't think I'm going to pursue a degree in nursing even though i would love to be a nurse and become a nurse practitioner, i just don't think I'm cut out for the schooling. I think I'm going to try and purse something in the fitness field but I'm not sure what that will be. Other than nursing I love the gym and fitness but there are no good fields in that.

You're going to give up so easily?

I'd keep trying. Take an intro to Chemistry class. Get a good, solid foundation for your future. If you want to be an NP, you'll need Chemistry regardless. If this is something you want, don't let a few internet strangers talk you out of it. Fight for it.

I hate to see you give up so early...I think you just need to take a step back and take some more basic courses before diving into A&P. I took A&P many, many years ago, have a Master's Degree in Fish and Wildlife Administration (a lot of biology courses) and well developed study habits but it still took A LOT of work for me to get A's in my A&P courses. And sometimes it isn't how much you study but how you study. I think a combination of stepping back and taking some lower level courses that will cement your understanding of these concepts and also learning what kind of studying works best for you...maybe you need to work with others and talk it out, maybe you need to listen to verbal instructions...those are things you need to figure out and take charge of, not the instructors when you are in college. One of my courses I took in my Master's program involved not only stats but also learning a programming language. I spent so much time with the instructor and was horribly struggling...barely getting a hang of the material before the next week hit and I had to learn new stuff that I barely understood. He finally told me he didn't think I was going to make it...it was a required course and I was crushed. I went crying to my program head and felt totally defeated. Turned out that all of the Master's students had dropped the course and I was the only one left among a bunch of PhD students. The professor that designed it told her it was never meant for MS students...just for PhD students writing their dissertation. I guess my point is that I struggled alone too long before trying to get help and could have ended up with an F...since it was their mistake for not investigating the course they removed it from my record completely and I didn't get a W. It sounds to me like you did not get good advice on what to take and should have not been allowed straight into A&P! Good luck and search out help from the school, advisors, and anyone else!

Perhaps you are trying too hard. 12 hours a day? No way the rest of your class is doing that. I found that for CERTAIN classes, reading the book cover to cover was impossible. For example, in pathophysiology I was struggling and getting a C. I decided to stop reading the book, and taped the lectures instead. After school, instead of attempting to read every page of the horribly long and detailed chapter, I listened to the tape and took good notes from the lecture. I only looked in the book to fill in missing pieces or if a certain page was mentioned in the book. Then my grade changed from a hard C to an easy B, with a lot less studying. I don't know if this is the answer for you but something to consider. In high school I always read the book page by page but like I said, there were a couple classes in college where it was impossible.

Hey CalArmy,

Im going to barnes and nobles today to look for some of those books to start reading. Thanks for the advice.

Hey Cleback,

Yes this AP is really hard for me and honestly the truth is when I gradated EMT school I really enjoyed the whole aspect of learning about the body systems and how they function but we never learned about the chemistry part of course. Now I was planning that my Pre Reqs for college basically are going to build upon those systems and the last thing I was expecting was chemistry and all these protons, neutrons and electrons honestly. It completely through me off guard and made me feel like an idiot honestly.

Im really hoping this is as tough as it will get cause once I fully understand this I feel like it will be a breeze. I can't say I will not struggle in nursing school "if" i get in but if it requires remembering body parts and the functions of the system then I believe I can handle that pretty good cause of my education in EMT school and being in the field. Its just the chemistry part that is throwing me off but no matter how stressed out I am I just cant let it ruin me. I just don't understand how when I'm treating patients I need to remember the protons, neutrons and electrons.

Yeah I was really depressed about no tutor being available cause I felt like that was my last hope but thats life and I got to figure something else out. Stud groups in class aren't really being formed cause everyone seems to know what they are doing but that doesn't me I can't ask for help. Monday I'm going to find a student to talk too.

They really did do me a disservice cause they not only gave me the hardest class for summer but they forced me to take more classes to stress me out even more and its so hard for me to even keep up on everything. I told my nursing teacher I have no background in bio and chem and she seemed like it didn't matter. The only way I will be able to postpone this class its to withdraw and get a W on my card but ill see what I can do.

Hey ItsThatJenGirl,

No I'm not giving up, I was just so stressed out yesterday that I was just talking stupid. I been under a lot of stress lately. In just one week my 2015 Scion Frs got into a car accident which is my first one so I had to get it fixed but the issue is no tow company was able to come until yesterday to pick it up. Well since my car sits low they literally tore off my whole front lip while towing it so I got beyond pissed off and now they are acting like they didn't damage it so now Im constantly calling the company explaining top them that they damaged my car and vehicle and have pictures of it so now I needed to make another claim on this and I can't cause I'm trying to get this companies information for my USAA insurance. So I'm dealing with all this bull crap with my car that is just stressing me put more but I don't want to sound like I'm just whining on the internet about this. I just wanted to say that due to all that stress and many other stuff I was just saying stupid stuff yesterday and I apologize for that.

Yes I truly want to be a nurse practitioner and work in the orthopedic specialization cause it really is my dream to work with athletes who have injuries or veterans coming back from war with injuries. That stuff really warms my heart and I truly would have a passion for that and can see myself doing that.

I think i did let the internet get into my head cause it was making it sound like I'm not cut out for nursing and should just quit which was hurting me cause i started second guessing myself but I'm going to try and stay with it. I appreciate you.

Hey Lisacar130

Well it would sound odd studying to hard but you might no be wrong. Yes I do study 12 hours a day rereading the powerpoint's and rereading the chapter but I think its quite obvious that this is not helping me and I should of figured this out a long time ago cause I never been that kind of student to read or listen to a teacher about the text. I physically need to test myself over and over again and perform it so what I decided to do was create an account on quizlet and making flashcards from the powerpoint. So I'm going to study it like that and keep testing myself until I master it and then move on to chapter three and do the same. Drawing the diagrams I think my best option is to try and remember the diagrams in my class and then just put those on my test.

I actually use evernote and record my teacher as well and it does help a little but its like sitting in lecture all over again lol but at least its like a refresher so I will stick with it.

I completely agree with you that reading a whole chapter consisting of over 60 pages is just way to much and some of it is to hard to grasp in such a short amount of time so I think picking out the main details is the way to go. I BELIEVE MY MAIN ISSUE IS IM JUST TRYING TO BECOME A MASTER OF THIS WHOLE MATERIAL OVERNIGHT WHICH IS IMPOSSIBLE AND THAT IS STRESSING ME OUT CAUSE I THINK TOO HIGHLY OF MYSELF. SO WHEN I FAIL I HIT ROCKBOTTOM IN MY MIND.


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