After shakedown in the North Atlantic, Nicholson operated in the Caribbean and along the East Coast until the United States entered World War I. Nicholson sailed from New York on 15 May 1917, arrived Queenstown, Ireland on 24 May and began escorting convoys in the Irish Sea. Her aid to SS J. L. Luckenbach after the merchantman had been shelled by a U-boat enabled the damaged ship to rejoin the convoy and enter port safely.
From February to November 1918, Nicholson escorted convoys along the French coast from her base at Brest. She arrived New York on 10 January 1919 for East Coast operations until going into reserve at Philadelphia on 27 November.
From May 1921 to 26 May 1922, Nicholson was reactivated with a reduced complement, then decommissioned at Philadelphia. Struck from the Navy List on 7 January 1936, she was sold for scrapping on 30 June.