Episode 128

Episode 128: CRNA School Requirements That You May Not Know About

Aug 2, 2023

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Many CRNA applicants tend to overlook, misinterpret, or make wrong assumptions regarding school admissions. If you push through your application without ample knowledge of the right CRNA school requirements to prepare, you may be setting yourself up for disaster. In this episode, Jenny Finnell breaks down the most important things you need to consider if you want your CRNA application to be approved and finalized in the smoothest way possible. She explains which grades you should maintain, the courses you must take, and the professional experience you need to secure. Jenny also emphasizes why you should do due diligence per school and the importance of getting gleaming references to back your application.

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CRNA School Requirements That You May Not Know About

In this episode, we’re going to cover some CRNA school requirements that you may not know about. Through my time mentoring over the last almost four years now, I have discovered some nuances in the CRNA requirements that a lot of applicants tend to either overlook or they may be misinterpreted or they make assumptions that can lead them down a path of some obstacles. We are going to reveal what those requirements are, and maybe some things to start thinking about now prior to applying to CRNA school. Hopefully, when you get to your application, you are ready to go. You’ve jumped all those hurdles and know what to expect. Let’s go ahead and get into the show.

We’re going to discuss CRNA school requirements. Welcome back to those who have been tuning into the show, I appreciate you very much. If you’re new, welcome. I’m happy to have you here. For those of you who missed my announcement back on July 12, I am on a hiatus from the show. Even though I’m here, I have prerecorded some episodes because I wanted to make sure you still heard from me on occasion. We are in the process of welcoming two wonderful little miracles into the world. Two little girls are twins. They are high-risk twins. By the time you’re tuning in to this, I may already be in the hospital or getting close to going to the hospital for continuous monitoring until they are born hopefully in October.

In case you don’t hear from me or I become sporadic on the show, that is why. We are adjusting to our new life and trying to make sure that we are welcoming these girls into the world as safely as possible. I have prerecorded several episodes, I hope you guys are enjoying the guest episodes that are occurring. I hope you have found a lot of value in those as I know I do and our guests, Cori, David, Cordero, and Monica. They have been wonderful. I hope you are enjoying those. There are going to be more students in the future who are going to be recording as guest hosts. Let’s go ahead and get into the good stuff with CRNA school requirements that you may not know about.

Exam Scores

One of the first things I wanted to cover is exam scores. Keep in mind, all of these things that we’re covering are going to be different, depending on what school you’re applying to. Don’t take this as a blanket statement that’s going to be a one-shoe-fits-all kind of thing. Know that every school is very unique and the requirements go into how they evaluate you as an applicant. I am going to share some little nuances that I have picked up on through scouring probably hundreds of websites at this point to dive into school requirements because I see there are little tiny differences between them all. It can cause applicants who are applying to several schools to miss little nuances and think, “This school doesn’t require that. This school won’t require that.” That’s not the case.

The CCRN score is an exam score. Some schools want to know if you have it. They want to see the certificate that you have completed that exam and have passed it. Other schools want to see what your passing score was. I have emphasized this on the show before where I’ve heard students say they take it to see how they do. If they fail, they plan on taking it again and studying.

That’s a not-so-good approach, especially if you’re pre-CRNA because your score could matter. If you have to take it and then you barely pass when you’re up against candidates who pass with flying colors, it might inaccurately display your ability to perform on a science-based test. If you put all your effort into taking the test and scored very well, you’re going to put your best foot forward and put on a better show or picture, and paint yourself a prettier picture as an applicant for these CRNA schools.

Don’t wing the CCRN. Plan on studying the first time around when you take it. Hopefully, you only have to take it once. If you take it again, don’t worry. It’s okay. Do the best you can to pass it. I’m not trying to make you feel bad if you’re struggling to pass it. I know there are a lot of people who decide to wing it and see how they do. If they don’t pass, they decide, then they’ll study. That’s a poor approach. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to do that. It’s the same with the GRE. Don’t do that.

Next, some schools will look at your ACT and SAT scores. You thought those were behind you. This is not the majority of schools. The majority of them will not look at your ACT and SAT scores. Very few schools will do this. I know I have run into it. Those may come back to haunt you. I don’t think there’s a lot of weight put on those exams, but it’s more about seeing consistency. Similarly, the same school that does this looks at high school grades. Not the majority of CRNA schools will care about your high school grades, but there’s one school that does it. There could be another one out there.

There are over 130-some schools. Your ACT and SAT scores and then your high school grades potentially could come back. Typically, when I have asked programs to explain why they look at those types of things, it’s to see the trends. They want to see, “Were you a strong student in high school? Did you drop off in college but then you picked back up towards the end of your college career? Were you a mediocre student in high school and then you’re at the top in college?”

Ultimately, what I’ve been told is they want to see a trend upwards. They do not want to see the opposite. A trend downwards means you were a great student in high school, and then you never got it in college. That could be a red flag for them that maybe there’s something going on. Maybe you’re not going to be able to handle or cut it in grad school, whatever it may be. They like to see the trends. If the trend is going in the right direction, that’s what they look for or a steady trend. Meaning you’ve always consistently been this type of student, but if you have bounced up and down, they at least want to see that trend going up and to the right versus down to the right.

There’s that explanation there, then we have the GRE. The GRE is broken into multiple parts. It’s a graduate examination. Not all schools are requiring this anymore. I would say most schools are eliminating this test because it has not proven to be statistically significant in the overall first-time board passing rates of their students. There are still some schools that require it, then there are some schools that only require the GRE if you have a certain GPA. If you have a 3.2, 3.4, or 3.5, they’re all different. I would say the majority of them only make you take the GRE if you have probably less than a 3.3 overall GPA around there. That’s probably like the average school. There are some schools if you have a 3.5 or less, then you have to take it still.

Know that this depends on the school and that a lot of schools are eliminating this test. I at least want to explain it to those of you who may need to be taking this test in the future or who are unsure and want to know what this test is all about. There is a quantitative section and a qualitative/verbal section. There’s also a writing section. It’s pretty general knowledge. A lot of it is stuff that may even be from high schools like Geometry, old Math, and Algebra. The verbal is a lot of analogies and different types of writing as assessments but there’s a writing portion where you have to write on-the-spot essays. They score you and grade you and things of that nature.

To point out an average from a school, TCU reported this as their average score for their admitting class. I wanted to share this because I thought this was helpful to see where their benchmark is. With all this benchmarking being said, I also want to point out that most schools will have a minimum requirement for the GRE. Some schools take that minimum very seriously. Meaning if it’s a 300 and you score 299, you didn’t meet the minimum. It is similar to how they have a GPA minimum of 3.0. If you don’t hit that minimum, some schools are like, “We won’t even consider your application.” Some schools are a little more lenient. Some schools are like, “They shine everywhere else, let’s go ahead and give them an interview.”

A nurse reviewing information on a computer

CRNA School Requirements: Most CRNA schools will have a minimum GRE requirement. They usually take this very seriously, and they will not accept you if you fail to meet it.

If you didn’t meet that GRE minimum, maybe they’d still give you an interview chance. I’ve also had schools interview students who have less than a 3.0, maybe a 2.9. That doesn’t happen at all schools. Some schools will not interview any candidates below even a 3.4 GPA. This is school-dependent. The best way to find out this information as far as what their average admission scores are is by going to open houses and specifically asking, “What’s your average science GPA for your last admitting cohort? What’s your average GRE score for your last admitting cohort?”

Asking these questions by going to the open houses is the best way to find these things out. These change every year. It’s these statistics that once you hear it one time does not mean it’s going to be the same every year forever more. It fluctuates, especially if they get a new program director and things of that nature who maybe see different qualifications differently. Back to TCUs averages. To paint a picture, even though their minimum score is 300, their overall average with those who were admitted to their last cohort was a 309 GRE score.

Even if their minimum was 300, their average or the majority of their students had at least a 309 total GRE score. That’s pretty competitive for the GRE. If you’re getting above 305, you’re doing very well on that test. It’s not an easy test. I feel you, it is painful. I had to take it twice too. I had to pay for a tutor because I got below 300. Luckily, with my tutoring, I got up to 311. I was able to do well. I focused mostly on the quantitative, which is the Math portion, which I knew was going to be the most bang for my buck to get that boosted.

I also knew that CRNA schools value the quantitative score because it’s a heavy science. That mattered a lot to CRNA schools. When I got tutoring, I scored average in verbal in the 150-some range. I left it alone. My quantitative could have used a lot of work. I was a little bit below average on that. That’s where I put my work when I studied. I got the tutoring and then I was able to improve that quite a bit for the retake. The verbal average for TCU’s last cohort was 155. That’s definitely above average overall if you look at the big scheme of things, then the quantitative for their cohort was 154. That is right around average. I know you’re probably like, “They’re looking at averages across all the students in the entire country who take this test.”

Again, 154 is average, although it’s easier said than done. If you get 140, don’t feel bad about yourself. I did too. These are Math concepts that you may not have learned since high school. For me, it was hard because I didn’t even learn Math that well the first time I learned it in high school and things of that nature. There were a lot of things I had to go back and relearn because I never truly ever learned it great from the beginning. The average for their writing portion was a four. My recommendation is, for verbal, to be between 152 and 155, and quantitative, to be at least 150. If you can get up to 160 on the quantitative, that would be amazing. I aim for at least 150 on the quantitative score.

Aiming for at least a 305 is a nice way to know that you are going to be within that ballpark of the majority of students who are being evaluated based on their GRE scores. I don’t remember my score perfectly on writing. I want to say 3.5 was my writing. It’s not the best, but back then it wasn’t a DNP project or program. We didn’t have a DNP project.

There was writing but it wasn’t as heavy as it is today. Now, I’ve heard they put more emphasis on writing because of all the writing you will be doing for the DNP scholarly project. They do like to see 4 or 4.5 for the writing section on the GRE. If you do get a 3.5, it doesn’t mean your game is over. It means that compared to what they’re looking for, they’re looking for a solid 4 on the writing to know that you’re going to be able to handle the scholarly writing that you’re going to be in store for as you get your DNP. That’s the GRE.

GPA Breakdown

Now, we’re going to go from exam scores to GPA breakdown. This is another area that is stressful for many people applying to CRNA school. This has to be the biggest pain point that I see students struggle with who are wanting to become a CRNA. My heart goes out to the students who have a lot of backtracking to do because it is a very painful process, but it’s the reality of things that you have to face, which is that it’s a very competitive program based on GPA.

I also want to leave you with the hope that it is possible. There have been many success stories of students who have been rejected multiple times. They work hard to prove they can get A’s in graduate-level science courses. There are schools out there that will give you a chance. You have to be a fighter. You have to be willing to do some extra work and not let “no” stop you. No doesn’t mean never. If this is you, I’m speaking to you. A big hug, first of all. Second of all, know that this is not the end for you. You have growth ahead of you, but it is going to take some elbow grease to get there. Let’s go over how they break down your GPA.

A lot of applicants who approach CRNA school look at their overall GPA and they make a blanket statement about whether they’re okay or not. In their mind, they’re like, “My overall GPA is a 3.6 between my Associate’s degree and my BSN. I’m good to go. I’m above the average 3.5, I’m good to go.” Unfortunately, they don’t realize that schools don’t just look at an overall GPA. If you have scoured enough CRNA application websites, you will equally see that they also mentioned science GPA almost in every requirement.

Maybe you’re like, “I don’t know what that is. I don’t understand what the science GPA and what that breakdown looks like.” You see things like hard sciences and core sciences. You’re like, “What is that? I’ve never taken a core science.” Actually, you have. What hard science and core science mean is it’s pretty much outside the College of Nursing. Things that start on your transcript with “Bio,” Biology, Math, or Chem. Those are called hard sciences and core sciences. Those are usually things you do prior to even being accepted into nursing school.

The unfortunate part about taking these classes early in your college career is usually we’re all eighteen years old. We’re away from home and we get to drink whenever we want. Maybe it’s not even that, but sometimes it’s hard to be out on your own, adjusting to living on your own, and doing all the things. Maybe you make some poor choices that reflect negatively on your early Science grades. A lot of this comes back to haunt you later on because CRNA schools will look at that.

A lot of people think, “My first degree was fifteen years ago. It was Biology but it was long ago. They won’t care.” That’s not always the case, unfortunately. Schools will know that was fifteen years ago and they do know that you have grown a lot since then, but it’s important that you provide proof. You need current proof of who you are as a student to show that you’re not that student anymore. At the end of the day, there are some schools that will not budge. If you have a very low GPA and a science-based degree, even if it’s from twenty years ago, they may still worry, “Are you going to cut it in grad school because this is a very heavy science-based degree that you’re going back for.”

A person handing a sheet of paper to another person standing over top of a desk with a laptop in the background

CRNA School Requirements: If you cannot provide current proof of how to perform in a graduate-level science course, the CRNA school you are applying to cannot know if they can trust your knowledge and abilities.

If you don’t provide any current proof of how you can perform in a graduate-level science course, they’re not going to know if they can trust that you can do it. The biggest takeaway is you have to provide proof of your current ability to do well and not just the science course, especially not an undergrad course. They don’t care. They want a rigorous graduate-level science course like Advanced Pathophysiology, Advanced Pharmacology, and Advanced Health Assessment.

A graduate-level science course is going to pull away more weight than just retaking an undergrad Biology course that you got a C in fifteen years ago. They won’t be as impressed with that as they will with you getting an A in Advanced Pathophysiology at a very well-known rigorous school. As far as taking schools or classes at community colleges versus brick-and-mortar colleges, a lot of people will tell you it doesn’t matter as long as it’s an accredited school. At the same token, I have also heard a program saying that they do understand that there is a more certain rigor to a brick-and-mortar school than a community college.

However, they also understand that finances matter. They don’t want you to pay three times as much for a brick-and-mortar school, then you can go get the same course over with at a community college. A lot of us are working full-time and can’t go to class three days a week. Do what you can. Don’t beat yourself up if all you can do is a community college course. That’s okay, but make sure that the course you’re picking is a good one by talking to current students. There are some community colleges that not only will not provide you with a good learning experience but could maybe even hinder you because maybe it’s getting very difficult to get the support you need to get a good grade.

You can get yourself hosed by taking a current graduate-level science course and not performing well. In a lot of these online courses, you have very little touch points with a professor if any. If you’re picking a subject that’s hard for you and you don’t have any touch points or a way to get quick mentoring and tutoring if you’re struggling, you could be setting yourself up for not doing so well.

Paying extra for an in-person course once or twice a week may be worth it so you can get those extra touch points. Know yourself the best and your study techniques and what you need as far as support the best and go that route. I know it’s expensive to do all this. I’m not saying go out there and take any course. Before you take any course or anything, please go to the open houses, talk to these program faculty, and get guidance from them.

Before taking any course for your CRNA application, go to open houses first. Talk to program faculty members and get guidance from them. Click To Tweet

Sometimes these faculty will take you into their office outside of open houses and help guide you on this or they’ll at least answer your emails. Make sure you’re being very specific and say, “These are my sciences. This is when I took them.” These are all your core sciences and say, “Is it worth retaking the Biology course that I got a C in? Would you prefer me to take an advanced level Pathophysiology course at this college that I’ve looked up? I have this college and this college to pick from. Do you have a preference?”

If you make the email very targeted and specific so that they can quickly give you a reply, the better. If you ask an open-ended question where they have to be like, “I’m going to have to write a whole paragraph,” they more than likely may or may not get back to you, especially not in a timely manner. Do your own research and know what you think you may need and where you stand. Let them know exactly what your current thoughts are, which allows them to give you an easy yes or done. That’s going to allow them to get back to you quickly and easier and probably more likely to get back to you.

A lot of schools will have admissions counselors or things like that. Take advantage of those resources and make sure you’re reaching out before you sign up for any course because you could potentially take a course that might not matter as much to them versus putting all your time and energy into a course that will move the needle for you. Science courses are where it’s at.

Even if it’s an anesthesia course, there are colleges out there that offer pre-anesthesia courses. I don’t remember what they call it, Intro to Anesthesia or something like that before pre-matriculation. That’s not a science course. That’s not going to count toward hard sciences. It’s a fluff-like look-good course, but it’s not going to move the needle for you when it comes to boosting your science GPA. Don’t be fooled by just taking that course. You still need advanced Pathophysiology. Taking an Intro to Anesthesia is not going to say, “They can do this. They can definitely do all this Chemistry and Physics, and all the hard things that we’re going to have them do inside anesthesia school.”

Make sure you’re understanding the difference between the caliber of the courses you’re signing up for so you can make sure that you’re painting a good solid proof and picture of the student you are today. Last but not least, don’t be afraid to move on. Don’t marry this dream CRNA school in your brain. Leave room for other options because the reality is you might have this dream school in mind, but if their average admission GPA is a 3.7, 3.8, and you have a 3.2, there might be another school out there that would give you a shot, but it might not be that school that you want so bad. They may never even interview you because they await that GPA. The more transcripts or the more credit hours you get under your belt, the harder it is to get that GPA to budge.

You could take six classes and still barely budge your GPA. At the end of the day, it’s about trying to see what other schools are out there to see who will give you the time of day to give you an interview. Talk to these faculty. Especially if you have a lower GPA, you need to be communicating with the faculty to see what you can do to boost your odds and understand that some schools are not going to work with you. You have to be willing to move on to other options.

Over to the breakdown, the fact that overall is not necessarily the say-all, be-all. You have to look at your hard sciences and if you have other degrees. Especially if they’re science-based degrees, know that some schools are going to look at that and some schools may be like, “Okay,” but you don’t know how heavily they’re going to look at that Biology degree until you communicate with them.

If you’re having Ds and tons of Fs in a Biology degree from fifteen years ago, it may still, unfortunately, haunt you when it comes to CRNA applications, but not always. You have to see how your school sees it. At the end of the day, almost all schools will say, “You need to provide me current proof of what kind of student you are today,” even if it was a long time ago.

Retaking Courses

Next, since we’re on the topic of GPA and coursework, I want to go into how some schools look at retaking courses. This is the stuff they don’t typically put on their CRNA requirement page. It’s things that you find out after you apply. I’m all for going to an open house, go if you can. If your school offers one, it’s gold, you should go. I’m also supportive of going to conferences to touch base with programs like our CSPA conferences. It’s also another great way. Any way you can have some more touch points program faculty is always going to work in your favor.

There are different ways that schools can see and look at retaking courses. Some schools will not consider any retakes. They physically may say on their website, “We will not consider retaking courses.” Meaning whatever you did round one is where you’re at and that’s how they see it. They don’t care if you’ve gotten A after A and all these retakes. They will go by your original grades, which sounds harsh and it is. That’s the school that you should move on from if this is not going to be a good fit for you.

Other schools may not list that type of information on their website, but you may find out after the fact or after they look at your transcripts and give you this GPA. You’re like, “How’s my GPA that when I calculated it, it is this?” It’s because of the way they see you retaking courses. Some schools will take a retaking course and average the lower grade and the higher grade. Some schools will take that retaking course, and omit the lower grade completely, which is the best-case scenario if you got a lower grade. That’s the best-case scenario. The majority of them, average the two, then you’ll have colleges who won’t even consider that retake. You might as well not even do it. Ultimately, those are the schools that you should probably not be applying to and being able to better pick for your own success.

Those are how different course retakes could be considered. Not all schools take transfer credits. A lot of people are like, “Let’s take all these graduate-level courses, try to get my MSN, and then transfer them in.” It doesn’t always work that way. Don’t do that because sometimes it may work in your favor only a little bit. Usually, most of the courses are taken for a family nurse practitioner degree. Very few of them will ever transfer in and that’s not going to move the needle for you because they are not science-based courses. They’re overall GPA courses. If your overall GPA is low, it’ll help. If your overall GPA is above 3.4, you’re wasting your time. You’d be better off taking some core sciences that boost your science GPA than taking all of the Family Nurse Practitioner courses. You wouldn’t need to get that degree.

Application Limits

I can go on a tangent on that, but I’m not going to right now; that’s enough. Now to the application limits. This is something else you may not know when it comes to applying to CRNA school, that some schools have a limit. Meaning if you apply to their school even once and you’re not asked to interview, you can’t ever apply again. This is harsh and a painful way to find out if you’re not selected for an interview and then you realize that you have no other shot of ever applying to that school. The reason why I want to point this out too is I’ve heard people say, “I want to throw my first applications in, see how it goes, and if it doesn’t go well, I’ll get feedback and I’ll improve.”

I don’t think it’s the worst technique in the world because getting feedback is a great way to know how to improve. Equally, I think you should be doing your own due diligence and trying your best before you submit even your first application. I’m not trying to scare you off from submitting an application, but understand and make sure you fully have met their requirements as much as possible and have gone over and beyond their requirements. That way, you can at least know that, especially if you have a limit. You would find this out by going to open houses, talking to faculty, and things like that. If they don’t have a limit, then do that. If they have an application limit, don’t wing it.

Most schools have more than that. That’s not the norm. They only have one application limit and are done. I know a lot of schools that have maybe a 2 or 3-application limit. That is more common. Some have unlimited. You can apply as many times as you want, but I will say a good chunk of schools will cut you off at some point from being able to apply to their program if you’re not selected to interview. If you’re selected to interview, you’re welcome to apply back as many times as you want.

Essentially, if you don’t get an interview, what they’re telling you is, “You don’t even meet the requirements to interview. This is not the school for you.” I’m not saying that to be harsh, but when schools have these application limits, essentially, what they’re trying to convey is that “If we haven’t sought you for an interview after 1, 2, 3 applications, then this is not going to be the school for you. You should move on.”

When CRNA schools have application limits, they are essentially saying that you should move on and try applying for another school if you are still not called for an interview after a set number of applications. Click To Tweet

Pass-Fail Rate

I almost wish they would say that. Maybe they do. I don’t know. I’m just trying to be upfront. Get everything out in the open so you know what you’re up against. Not all schools do this. The only way to know is to go to an open house and find out through current students, talking to faculty, etc. I wanted to let you guys know that that does exist out there. Next, we’re going to go into pass-fail. A lot of you may already be aware of this, but if you go to a pass-fail nursing program, if you pass, you get a 3.0. That’s passing. That’s like a B or at least that’s how these CRNA schools look at it in terms of GPA, which is going to hurt you because if the average GPA is a 3.5 for CRNA school admissions and you have an entire nursing degree as a 3.0, it’s going to be hard for you to ever be competitive on the GPA scale.

If you dig through the previous episodes, you’ll hear my discussion with Sabrina. She’s a current SRNA and also someone who had a pass-fail Nursing degree. However, in that episode, we discussed what that was like and also reveal why she was probably still successful regardless of that. Dig back through my episodes. Search pass-fail. You’ll find it on YouTube.

Regionally Vs. Nationally Accredited Programs

Next, I want to cover regionally and nationally accredited BSN nursing programs. Be very careful with this. If you’re already there, make sure you’re connecting with your future CRNA schools very early discussing what your background and situation is. It may turn out that you may not be able to apply to that school. Usually, the students who I see have issues with this are ones who go to a regionally-only accredited nursing degree, and they’re trying to get admission into a nationally accredited doctoral degree program.

A group of people sitting around a table with cell phone and laptop talking and smiling

CRNA School Requirements: CRNA applicants who are having issues are those who only go to regionally accredited nursing degree programs, and then try to get admission into a nationally accredited doctoral degree program.

Most nationally accredited nursing colleges will not take transfer credits from only regionally accredited colleges. The majority of schools are both regionally and nationally accredited. Even then, you have to be careful. These are nuances that you have to research and do your homework on. The fact that this happens usually after it’s too late or after you usually realize, “My degree is set in stone now. I didn’t know this was going to be an issue.” While I know I’m not going to reach everyone in time to help them, my hope is that by spreading this knowledge we can get it out there early. If you’re tuning in to this early on, hopefully, you can spread the word that where your school is accredited does matter.

Research even three CRNA schools. Even if you have no idea where you want to apply to a CRNA school, pick any three. Research them and see what they require for their accreditation. Sometimes they’ll specifically say where they require their accreditation from. It’s almost always going to be from some type of nationally accredited program, but a lot of times, they’ll list nationally and regionally accredited bodies. Look that up for your own peace of mind going forward.

Prerequisites for CRNA School

A lot of students think that once they get their Nursing degree they’re covered as far as “I got my Nursing degree. I must not need anything else. I’m good. I’m a nurse. I did it,” which is true for a good chunk of people. Unfortunately, colleges of nursing have warped into everyone having various types of classes to get a nursing degree. They have become different. Some colleges don’t ever require a Math course for a Nursing degree, while some do. Some never require more than an Intro to Chem and some require Chem 1, Chem 2, or even O-Chem. College of Nursing is very vast as far as the types of courses that are required to get your degree.

Because of that, some students applying to CRNA schools don’t even meet the undergrad requirements to apply to CRNA school because their undergrad never required that requirement from the beginning. They have no idea because they assume if they have their BSN and they’re working as an ICU nurse, they’re good to go. I want to at least point this out now so you can start doing some homework to see if this is you.

A nurse anesthetist and other nurses talking in an operating room

CRNA School Requirements: Some students applying to CRNA schools don’t even meet the undergraduate requirements because their undergrad course was never a requirement from the beginning.

These are the two most common classes that end up becoming problems for CRNA school applicants because they didn’t have to take them to nursing school. That’s some type of Math course like Algebra. Some type of pre-Calc is usually required. Algebra usually counts for pre-Calc. It could be pre-Calc but a Math course. Not all Colleges of Nursing require a Math course of any kind. The next most common one and probably almost the most common one is Chemistry. They may only require an Intro to Chemistry or Chemistry 1, but maybe they don’t have you take anything else. The majority of CNA schools are going to require Chem 1, Chem 2, or even O-Chem.

Maybe you only took Chem 1 and Chem 2 but never took O-Chem. Your CRNA program requires some type of O-Chem or Biochem. These are the types of things that if you find this out early before you’re ready to apply, it’s going to save you so much headache because it takes time and money to take courses. Plan for that now. Other courses that are commonly potentially mentioned or required are things like a graduate level Stats course, yours may not be graduate level, but sometimes for their Math requirement, it’s a Stats course they require.

Not all nursing degrees take Stats courses. I was one of those. I took an Algebra but I didn’t take Stats. My program required graduate-level Stats to even be considered for admission. Before I even interviewed, I had to have a graduate-level Stats course complete. Some undergrad or grad require Stats. It depends. Another course that I’ve heard of is Physics. It is more uncommon to require Physics, but there are schools out there that want you to have a Physics course under your belt before you start the program. Physics was definitely a course that I had never had since high school. You do a decent amount of Physics in CRNA school. I was surprised and learned a lot about Physics. It’s a very fascinating stuff, but nonetheless, very new when you’ve never had it before.

Having a Physics course is going to help refresh some of that. You’re not going to cover everything in a general Physics class. Anesthesia Physics is very specific. If you are planning already to do our Nurse Anesthesia Resident bootcamp, we cover physics that you need to know for anesthesia. That’s why we also broke down Chemistry that way too because if you look at Chemistry and Physics as a whole, it’s very overwhelming. You’re never going to know everything about those topics. What you need to know for anesthesia-related physics and chemistry is incredibly narrow. In our bootcamp, we break that down to help refresh you and also share the knowledge you need to know, not all the other junk to clutter your brain.

Health Assessment

Last but not least is health assessment. Most of you will have this in nursing school. On occasion, you don’t. Some schools require you to have this. It’s not very common, you’ll run into this, but it does not happen on occasion. At least, I want to mention it to make sure you’re having at least a health assessment type of course in your Nursing degree. Some schools require a role-specific health assessment course that’s graduate level as a prereq. Not the majority of schools, but at least I know of one school that does that. Maybe more exist out there.

Recommended Vs. Required

Let’s get into recommended versus required. This is one I have preached about before. That is tricky. I get why they do it, but it stinks because it leaves a lot to your own imagination and assumption. I think it can hinder applicants from understanding how competitive CRNA school is to get into and why if it’s recommended, it technically should be done if possible.

Something like the CCRN for example- if you don’t meet the CCRN requirements but you can apply to a program because they only require a year of ICU. By the time you start, you’ll have a year. Especially if they have no application limit, do it. Just apply. That being said, the majority of applicants will have the CCRN. It’s not like this giant weighted thing where it’s going to make or break you. It’s going to add to the robustness of your application when almost everyone else is going to have it. When they have recommendations versus required, know that if they recommend it, they recommend it for a reason. If you can have that recommendation, I recommend that you have it to make sure that you are trying to put your best foot forward or to be as competitive as possible.

When a CRNA school has a recommended item for their application process, they included it for a reason. Even if it is not required, make sure you put your best foot forward and be as competitive as possible. Click To Tweet

I talk to a program director who told me they had 450 applicants and they took 34 students. This was a new program, no marketing, nothing, and then this happens. We shared that online. I had someone on Instagram message me back saying their school had 400 applicants and they took 45 students. Four hundred applicants for one CRNAs program cohort- that is a lot of applicants. There are some schools that get more than that, but then there are other schools that get way less than that. I would say the average these days is 200 to 250 applicants per cohort is what the majority of schools are seeing.

On average, most schools have anywhere between 25 and 35 seats per cohort. You’re looking at a ballpark range of 12% to 20% acceptance rate overall if you’re painting a big-picture scheme of things, maybe even less than that. When you take 34 students and 450 applicants, that’s way less than 10%. Anyhow, the TCU school shared the averages for the verbal and quantitative, and GRE scores. They also shared that their average GPA for admission was 3.7 or 3.6. If you’re a part of CSPA, make sure you’re utilizing our private Facebook community because it’s full of so much great knowledge here. People share helpful things.

Math and Science GPA for TCU average was 3.55. That’s the core science and hard science. Their overall GPA average was 3.6. That says to me that they put a lot of emphasis on the science GPA because you could have had a 3.2 overall but a 3.6 science GPA and they still would’ve given you an interview even though you had a 3.2 overall GPA. That’s a very high Science GPA, the average for their admission. I would say the majority of schools have right around a 3.4 or 3.3 science GPA. The 3.55 is pretty high. I took this picture and I posted all the applicants for CRNA schools.

The program I applied to got 400 and accepted 45, and I was one of them. They interview 150 and they said the 100 people on the list still had a GPA of 3.7 and 3.8 average. It was very competitive that year. I’m not trying to scare you off. I’m just trying to let you know some of the stuff that’s out there. You are realistic going into planning for extra additional science courses and things like that, and can’t hurt you for the most part. I’m not saying if you have a 3.7, take a science course. I only recommend going above and beyond like that if your science GPA is 3.3 or less. If you have a 3.4 science GPA, in my opinion, you’re right around the average of most schools, you’re going to more than likely get an interview.

Try to take a deep breath and breathe. I’m not trying to say all this to scare you. I don’t want you to go out there and spend extra money and time that you don’t need to. This is where it’s always important for you to communicate with your program faculty, go to open houses, and see where you stand with them. Recommended versus required is where we left off. Things like the CCRN. If your school only requires a year of ICU experience and you know you’re going to hit that benchmark by the time you interview or by the time you start your program, you want to give it a go, but you haven’t met the hours to take that test, that’s okay. Just apply.

Especially if they don’t have an application limit, just do it. Know that the majority of applicants are going to have the CCRN. You’d be better off spending your time and energy getting a well-run application than trying to get the CSC, CMC, CCRN, or TCN. There are one million out there. You don’t need to take all those. You’d be better off putting your time and energy and taking a graduate-level science course than continuously taking more and more certifications.

Getting one more certification or maybe even two is not going to hurt you at all. That’s only going to hurt you if you’re neglecting other areas of your application that are weak, like your science GPA. Make sure that you’re making sure you’re touching on areas that you are weak and not just putting all your effort into one area that you know you’re good at, like taking extra certifications. Make sure you’re boosting the areas that you know need extra help. If you have time to take extra certs, cool, but don’t beat yourself up over needing a bunch of extra certs to stand out. Getting good leadership roles, going to conferences, and taking extra science courses are good ways to stand out. If you neglect all of those areas and all you have are certifications, it’s not going to help you stand out.

Do not beat yourself up to get extra certificates just to stand out in your CRNA application. Getting good leadership roles, attending conferences, and taking additional science courses are good ways to stand out. Click To Tweet

Current ICU Experience

Current ICU experience is another one that gets people in trouble. They recommend current ICU experience or they’ll say ICU experience within the last 2 to 3 years. I wish they almost wouldn’t do that. I get they do it because they don’t want to eliminate those applicants because they may still qualify for an interview and they may be good applicants. They want to interview them potentially. However, the majority of schools who tell you that you don’t have to be current in ICU or you only have to be current within the last 2 to 3 years, the majority of their applications will be current in ICU. You’re going to stand out like a sore thumb like, “Why are you not current?”

Some of the other scenarios I’ve run into are students who were current at the time of application and then they left the ICU- when they interviewed, they got called out on that. They wanted to give them a seat in the program and said, “Unless you can go back to the ICU within the month you are going to forfeit your seat.” In the situation that this happened, this student luckily stayed PRN in the ICU that he left. He was able to get back in full-time and provide proof that he was full-time in the ICU so he didn’t lose his seat in CRNA school.

It’s a big deal. My heart goes out to you. ICU stinks, but if you could hang in there and make sure you understand how seriously your school takes current ICU experience before you potentially damage your potential going forward all because of that, that is my recommendation. Make sure you don’t risk losing your seat in CRNA school because of ICU experience and staying current to the day that you start your program.

A nurse anesthetist and another nurse speaking with a patient in a hospital bed

CRNA School Requirements: Don’t risk losing your seat in a CRNA school because of ICU experience.

It’s okay if you leave the ICU 1 or 2 months before you start your program, but check with your school and ask them if it’s okay, “I’m burnt out and fatigued. I need a mental break. I have two years of solid ICU experience. Is it okay if I leave the ICU in the next 6 to 9 months leading up to CRNA school so I can focus on my mental health?” Explain why you want to do it. They’ll either say, “Yes, it’s okay. “ or “No, we do require you to remain full-time. We’re sorry.” Just find out. Make sure you don’t lose your seat and then find out inadvertently; know what their policy is on that.

Emotional Intelligence

Some schools will have you take an EI assessment, which is an Emotional Intelligence assessment. Casper is one of the popular ones. They’re going to have you do this before you even interview. They may not even interview you until you take that test, knowing that may be something. Start researching and understanding your own emotional intelligence. What is emotional intelligence? How do you get scored on emotional intelligence? Having an understanding of what that is can help you versus being blindsided by an EI test that you’re like, “What’s that?”

We do a lot of EI coaching and teaching inside CSPA. Dr. AuBuchon is wonderful. She’s a CRNA faculty member. She’s been doing this for over twelve years, I believe. She’s wonderful. She teaches a lot of this inside CSPA. If you’re part of CSPA, we got you covered. If you go into the Nurse Anesthesia Resident portion of the academy, you’re going to find some EI for clinical scenarios. They’ve also done group EI coaching sessions. Look for those resources inside of CRNA School Prep Academy to help you with EI and how to start assessing yourself for that.

Some schools also have you take a CCRN-style test. Even if you have the CCRN, they’re going to be like, “Here’s another one. Here’s ours.” It’s like, “Dang it.” Brush up on CCRN type of material. It’s never going to hurt you. In fact, a lot of students will tell you how they studied and prepared for the interview is brushing up on the CCRN type of material. Not all schools will hit pathophys and pharm on the interview, but some do. Knowing what interview you’re in store for is a great way to prepare. Understanding and connecting with current students is the best way to know what you’re in store for. However, interview styles can also change from year to year. Connecting with students from the last couple of years is probably the way to go to understand what you’re going to be up against in the upcoming months after you apply.


Lastly is the references for CRNA school. I think a lot of people are blindsided by references because of two things. One, it has to be a current nurse manager from the ICU. If you’re not current in the ICU, you’re like, “What do I do? I’m not current in ICU.” Maybe you’re a traveler and you don’t have a home base. It’s hard to get a current nurse manager. Some travel nurses have had to hunker down and bunker down in an ICU they like on the rotations so they can get 6 to 9 months in one ICU to start developing that relationship with that nurse manager for a reference letter.

Some ICUs are not CRNA-friendly. I’m sure you’re aware of that, but I want to point out there that some will be anti-reference letters. Run if you find this out, hopefully, early enough to where you can make a decision to get to a different ICU. You need to because you don’t want your whole future hindered because someone is bitter or angry that they failed CRNA school ten years ago, and they don’t want to help you do it. Who knows why people do that?

I don’t know. It is awful to hear students say, “I’m only being held back because my nurse manager hates CRNAs and doesn’t want to give me a reference for CRNA school.” That is toxic. If unfortunately, you’re finding yourself in that situation, you need to get a new unit. That shouldn’t be a reason why you’re held back. If it is, make sure you’re vocalizing that to your CRNA programs and maybe they’ll be okay with the CNS for a reference letter, the clinical nurse specialist, or a different maybe charge nurse instead.

That could be an option if your nurse manager is not cool. Knowing that hopefully, it doesn’t hinder you completely, but you have to let schools know what’s going on if you’re running into those situations. References from current managers. The other one that throws people is professors. You’re like, “I have been out of school for ten years. No one is going to know who I am.” This is also why taking current Science courses is a great way to refresh being around professors again. Make sure that if you’re taking a current course, you’re getting to know that professor. Let them know where you’re at. Let them know you’re in pursuit of CRNA. Share that you want to work hard in this course. You’re working hard to get an A and why you’re doing that and why you want to be a CRNA.

At the end of that course, when you get that A, you can say, “Would you be willing to be a reference for me for CRNA school? I would greatly appreciate it.” They’re used to this. Professors are probably asked for reference letters quite often, but let them know ahead of time that you’re here to work hard, show up, and ask questions. Let them know who you are, then at the end of the course when you get the grade that you were striving to achieve, it sets you up for a good reference letter. A lot of schools are requiring a professor for a reference letter.

Hospital staff in a hallway talking

CRNA School Requirements: Let your professors know ahead of time that you work hard, show up, and ask the right questions. At the end of the course, you are set to get a good reference letter.

I took a graduate-level class. I don’t remember knowing about the professor at that time because I took that during my senior year in nursing school. By the time I found out I needed a professor for one of my references for a CRNA school, I was already working as an ICU nurse. Luckily, when I was in nursing school during my senior year, I shared my ambitions with my assistant professor for my ICU rotation. She was my clinical coordinator situation for my ICU rotation. She taught that portion. I shared with her what I wanted to do. She helped me get set up in the SICU for some ICU experience as a student. She was very supportive and wonderful.

I reached back out to her. She remembered me even though it had been like almost three years. She was kind to write me a reference letter. She remembered the conversations that we had and how I shared what my ambitions were and things of that nature. If you don’t have that, I’m not saying you need to have that, but keep that in mind if you have time to start thinking about those relationships now with professors because it can come back to help you when it comes to applying to CRNA school.

That wraps up this episode. I hope you guys understand the standard requirements better and some of these little nuances that I feel like a lot of people make assumptions or overlook or maybe get wrong because the schools can be different. I hope you enjoy it. As always, I appreciate you. If you have not already, please leave a review of the show. It helps the show to find more people and to reach more people. I would appreciate that. If you find the show helpful and it’s helped you, I would appreciate you sharing it with whoever to let them know that there are resources out there that can help them in their CRNA journey. Thank you much. Until next time, take care. Bye.

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