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5 tips to help you prepare for graduation

Is graduation in sight? Can you finally see the light at the end of your nursing-education tunnel? Are you looking at dates and locations where you’ll be taking the NCLEX?

It may be tempting to get distracted when your nursing-career dreams are about to come true. But don’t lose your focus. Now is the time to stay on track and ensure you end your education with confidence in your accomplishments. Impress future employers with good grades, a high NCLEX score, and proof of your grit for being a successful new nurse.

We’ve got some tips to keep you on track:

1) Write out what you’ve achieved so far. Having a list of your accomplishments will not only serve as a reminder of how far you’ve come, but it will be helpful when you’re talking to future employers. When asked to describe examples of challenges you’ve overcome, for example, you’ll be prepared to describe the details of your successes. You also can use this information to explain how you learned from mistakes and used the experience to become a more competent nurse.

2) Put together a checklist. You’ve got a lot to juggle in the weeks before you graduate. Rather than worry you might forget an important task or get sidetracked with other distractions, rely on your to-do list to keep you organized. Include details such as how many hours you need to study for the NCLEX, whether you’ll need to order a moving truck, where the closest Pearson Vue center is for your board test, and when you should register for the exam. You’ll get a great sense of accomplishment as you check off each item.

3) Create a schedule. With your checklist at the ready, you can create a plan for the weeks ahead. A schedule of what you should accomplish each day will keep you on track and help you avoid procrastinating. But if you know that’s a weakness of yours, give yourself some grace, and build in the occasional day without any plans. You can use it for catching your breath or catching up on tasks.

4) Give thought to your job search. What’s the best source for finding job openings? How can you identify which employers offer the best benefits? Does your resume detail your accomplishments — how you’ve made a difference? — and isn’t simply a list of classes you’ve taken or jobs you’ve held? Begin considering these aspects of your job search now and focus on how you’ll present yourself in the best possible light. And get some examples of great cover letters you can emulate. While many job listings may not ask for a cover letter, sending one anyway — and using it to specifically show how you meet the position’s requirements — will set you apart from other candidates. (And don’t forget to send a follow-up thank-you note, too, whether by the post office or email. Don’t think that’s important? You would be surprised at what a difference such small efforts make in others’ eyes.)

Already prepared for the job search? Read up on 6 Tips to kickstart the search for your first nursing job.

5) Begin networking & developing contacts. You can gain some of the best insight into what you want for your career by talking to nurses you’ve met during nursing school. Ask them how they got their first jobs. What attracted them to a certain employer? What do they wish they knew then that they know now? And mention what your career interests are. They might know of an opening or have a contact with someone else who is willing to discuss your career goals. You’ll not only gain some great advice, but you’ll be energized in learning how others progressed in their careers so you can begin to strategize your own job path. (Don’t forget to consider all the possible career paths you can take — including becoming a nurse educator!)

One last thought: After the arduous path you’ve been traveling to reach your goal of graduating from nursing school, don’t forget to treat yourself. Take a walk to that great gelato spot. Relax for several hours in the park with a book or some music. Shop online for a new pair of scrubs. It won’t be long before you’ll be wearing that mortarboard, passing the NCLEX, and beginning your career as a nurse. All your effort will soon be worth it.

 Getting prepared to take the NCLEX, visit the NCLEX Support Center for advice and resources.