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Episode 27: How & When To Reach Out To Your Future CRNA Program With Expert Guest Richard Wilson MNA, CRNA

CRNA 27 | Future CRNA Program

Reaching out to your future CRNA program can be hugely beneficial for helping you to stand out against the crowd of applicants- getting you into school sooner and fast-tracking your success!

Today we are joined by Expert Guest Richard Wilson MNA, CRNA. He answers your burning questions and details how applicants should go about reaching out to your CRNA programs (without feeling like you’re being a nuisance)!

In this episode, Richard brings his 11 years of experience to the table and lays out-

  • The best times to reach out to your program to ensure your success

  • How reaching out to your program at the right frequency demonstrates persistence and dedication

  • Who to reach out to (and what professional information you should have ready for your conversation)

  • The vital importance of looking at the program’s website (and researching key people ahead of time!)

  • Best practices for utilizing open houses and networking to your advantage

  • The best questions to ask and which ones to avoid

  • How to best follow up after a conversation with a program faculty member

Happy listening, and go send that email, future CRNA!

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How & When To Reach Out To Your Future CRNA Program With Expert Guest Richard Wilson MNA, CRNA

We have another guest for you guys and he’s back again. This is my friend and an expert contributor to CRNA School Prep Academy, Richard Wilson. Welcome back, Richard.

Thank you. It has been a pleasure being a part of CRNA School Prep Academy. I’m looking forward to this episode.

Richard has eleven years of faculty experience in the anesthesia program. He brings so much tremendous value to CRNA School Prep Academy. He does transcript reviews, one-on-one consultations, essay edits, and resume edits for our students. He also does monthly guided Q&A sessions. He has increased content for the academy. Thank you so much for all that you do. For those of you who are not familiar with CRNA School Prep Academy, check it out and read more. For this episode, it’s a unique topic because it’s something that people don’t even think of until they’re in it.

We’re going to discuss how applicants should go about reaching out to their programs. We stress that a lot. You need to be asking about your programs. You need to be going to these open houses. You need to be communicating with them to hear from the horse’s mouth. If you want to get tailored advice, you need to make sure it’s tailored to your program. We’re going to discuss some key points with that. Is there anything you want to add to that, Richard?

You have hit the nail on the head there. It’s not something that a lot of people do talk about, but it’s something that could be important to the whole process of getting accepted into anesthesia school sooner than later. This is key with some of the topics we’re going to discuss. It is going to set them off in the right direction. The quicker you can get to anesthesia school, the quicker you can reach your dreams. Let’s go ahead and get them off.

A lot of applicants wonder when’s the best time to reach out to the programs and introduce themselves. What would you recommend timing-wise? Should it be earlier on their career path or should it be during their application process?

I recommend reaching out during both processes. When you look at it, there is a benefit to an introduction and doing the right introduction to yourself. As you’re introducing yourself, it’s finding out what the programs are about, what they like, and what they’re looking for. There’s a lot that can set yourself up for success by doing this early in your career path. When I say early, I’m referring to maybe even towards the end of your nursing degree. Even in that scene, you’re reaching out to program directors and program faculty members to say, “Here’s who I am. Here’s what I want to do. I want to make sure that I am on the right path as we move forward,” so that you don’t delay admission possibly into a program.

You’re getting to know the right steps, whether it’s taking the GRE, whether it’s academic courses, whether it is clinical experience and shadowing. All of that can start as early as middle or late nursing school versus waiting until after you graduate. To those of you who didn’t think about this in nursing school and it’s something that you thought about after nursing school, then I would say as quickly as possible, reach out, introduce yourself, get to know more about them, and let them get to know a little bit about you. You don’t want to share too much, but let them get to know a little bit about you during the application process.

A key fact is reaching out because that’s when your name is going to pop up. That’s when they’re going to be looking at files, your personal statements, and so forth. It can be beneficial. I’m not saying blow every program director and faculty member’s emails up all the time over everything. There are some benefits to reaching out when you’ve got some good information to share. We’re going to talk about good information to share versus bad or just being a nuisance of blowing emails up. There’s a benefit when you look at reaching out or contacting programs early in the process and also a little bit later.

This makes a lot of students nervous because they don’t want to cross some boundaries. Maybe they don’t want to seem annoying. For me, the fear would probably be, “What if I ask them something that’s clearly on their website and somehow I missed it and they get annoyed that I asked what I should already know?” You have to do your due diligence and skim through their website already. This is a good opportunity for stuff like open houses. That’s also a good way to get some facetime and get some of these questions answered without blowing up someone’s inbox all the time.

The quicker you can get to anesthesia school, the quicker you reach your dream. Click To Tweet

That’s a great point. Open houses are not always advertised well. If you are reaching out to some of the faculty members or programs and asking about open houses or information sessions and they’re not having one, sometimes they’ll open up and say, “We’re not having one, but send me some questions you’ve got or call me. Let’s set something up.”

Even that short introduction there asking generic questions can set you up for more conversation moving forward. It may give the program an idea to start open houses or information sessions to share their information. There’s so much to gain by introducing yourself early and re-introducing yourself during the application process. That sets people up for success in the long run.

I agree, and not being afraid to attend those open houses even early on like while in nursing school. They’re not going to turn you away.

I’ve seen people come to those as early as their senior year in high school. They were interested because they knew they wanted to do this. They attended it to see what they could find out to be successful while they attended nursing school. I don’t think you can ever start this process too early. You talk about reaching out to them early and a little bit later. It is also showing that you have persistence.

This is something that you want to do. This is not a fly-by-night thing. This is not all of a sudden, “I don’t want to do nursing. I’m going to nurse anesthesia.” It shows persistence. I remember Jenny talking to me a few years ago. I remember who she is. She’s still reaching out to me. She has been on the path the whole time. I’ve seen her persistence and her willpower to get to this point.

When an applicant is reaching out to programs, who should they be looking to contact?

Almost everybody says, “I want to reach the highest level. I want to reach the program director. I want to make sure that they know my name.” That’s great. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, the program director may have their hands in so many hats and so many ponds. They may not be able to get back to you quickly. They may not be able to get back to you at all because that may not be their responsibility.

When you look at faculty members and programs, sometimes programs have boxes that they work in. Specific ones might be responsible for contacts and for reaching back out to applicants or potential applicants. The first thing you should do is look at the way that the program is set up. Sometimes the program director is not the first contact or they may not be the contact at all. There are so many people that overlook the other faculty members. They overlook the assistant directors, the general faculty members, the associate professors, and so forth.

They’re usually a part of the admissions council and admissions committee. Therefore, they will also have an input and a good knowledge base about what the goals are or what the requirements and criteria are for getting into school. You want to look at the website. The website usually has contact information associated with it.

It may have the program director, assistant program director or faculty members’ names. It may have, “If you’ve got questions, email this email address.” It’s a general email address. What they’re saying is if you’ve got questions, don’t bother the faculty. Let’s go to the general one first, and then whoever filters that general one will send it to the appropriate person.

CRNA 27 | Future CRNA Program
Future CRNA Program: There’s definitely a benefit when you look at reaching out or contacting programs early in the process and also a little bit later.

It may be a question about clinical experience. Let’s say we’ve got seven faculty members and my responsibility is to answer questions on transcripts and academics, not only clinical experience. You’ve emailed me because you saw my name on the website. That’s not my responsibility. You didn’t know that of course. That’s why they sometimes go to that general email address. Whoever is managing that and monitoring it can then forward it out to the appropriate person that it should go to so that you can get the best answer.

I always say to go to the general one first. The problem with the general one sometimes is you don’t know who was seeing that and reviewing it. It may be an admin assistant for the program. It may be one of the faculty members for the program. It may be a general person for the university who’s not with the program themselves. I understand why some people want to reach out to faculty members because they know it goes straight there.

I always recommend sending it to the general email address first, and then you never know who’s going to be monitoring that. If you can’t find a general email address, send it to one of the faculty members, whoever is listed on the website. It usually will be pretty clear on that. That’s always a good reference point for me. Go back to the website and see what they recommend.

I’ve looked through quite a few websites at this point and they vary. Some of it, you have to dig. Some of it, you can’t find anyone. Some of it, all you get is a general school inbox where it said, “If you would want more information, send us this,” or you fill out your information, and then they email you a school brochure. It’s not like you get to contact anyone. It can feel frustrating for a student where you’re like, “I have this particular question, but I can’t get ahold of anyone to ask it.”

That’s why open houses are key. Networking and utilizing resources like CRNA School Prep Academy are also key. Sometimes you have that little question. It might not be a huge deal, but it still will make you feel better having an answer. You’re not always going to have an easy time getting in contact with someone from your school.

The other avenue, when you look at electronic communication is if you have developed a relationship or contact with a program faculty member, that’s okay too. The scenario I was giving is if you have no relationship with any program faculty member. You’ve not met any of them in this program XYZ in Midwest, United States of America. You don’t know anything. You’re just applying there. That’s how you do it.

If you develop a relationship or if you’ve had contact with one of the program faculty members, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to them and say, “I have a question regarding GRE scores. Who would be the appropriate person within the program to contact?” I’m not saying dump everything on them immediately with your questions. Ask who’s the appropriate person and they may say, “I can answer that. Send it back to me.” They may say, “I’m copying Jenny on this. She’s the one who’s going to be your best resource.”

That’s a good point. Let them choose who answers email versus dumping everything on automatically. You guys can get these connections by trying to get shadowing experiences. A lot of faculty members work in the local hospitals around the university. It’s a great way if you do get a shadowing experience.

Maybe ask, “Is there a program faculty from XYZ University that works here that I can maybe set up my shadow day with?” That’s gold if you can get a day with someone from the school because now you know them face to face. They know you. There will be less pressure on the interview because you’ll recognize them. Keep in contact with them too.

Let’s expand on that a little bit. You bring up a great point about faculty members working within the hospital system because they do. It may be an assistant director, a faculty member or a program director. If you’re shadowing or even if you don’t get to shadow a faculty member, talk with the CRNAs that you’re shadowing. Let them know that you’re interested, “If you know the faculty member, could you please introduce me to them? I would love to meet them face to face.”

Applicants need to think much about how they communicate initially with faculty members who are of a different generation and have different expectations for communication. Click To Tweet

That’s not going to be a 45-minute conversation you’re going to have with them. It may be passing in the hall. It may be that during a break, the CRNA takes you in there and says, “I want to introduce you to Jenny. Richard, this is Jenny. Jenny is looking at applying to anesthesia school. She’s here shadowing. I wanted you to meet her while she was here.” That’s all it takes. I may remember Jenny the next time that she comes around. A lot of these CRNAs want applicants to get into school. That is their goal too. They’re so excited about it. They won’t hesitate either to find the faculty member and say, “Let me introduce you real quick to this individual.”

You guys are going to find when you’re starting to get into this community that we look out for one another. We’re a close, tight-knit network of CRNAs. We’re small, so we all try to help each other out. I’ve heard that over and over again from students who start researching this profession. It’s going to be different, probably from your experience and nursing in general. CRNAs are very much like, “Let’s build each other up and help each other as much as possible.” They were in your shoes once. They remember what it was like. They needed that help as well. They’re happy to give it back someday. The next question is, when reaching out to a program electronically, how should they approach what information they include?

Electronic communication is always tricky. I always tell people, especially students that we mentor and individuals that are applying, when you set up your electronic communication with a program or a faculty member, there are several things you need to take into consideration. One, make sure you’re keeping a professional approach the entire time. There’s nothing wrong with Mr., Ms., Dr., To Whom It May Concern, or whatever it is. That bodes better than calling a faculty member by their first name as some of your initial contact with them.

The reason I say that is some may not mind it, but some do. Therefore, you don’t want to leave that up to them to determine whether they like it or not. You want to take the high road and always address them with a professional title. That sets you up for success down the road in a professional setting. I always say to make sure you address them in a professional manner. How do you do that? You may not know their degree off the top of your head. This is taking that time to research before you start firing emails off and trying to find information.

We live in a society, and I can be part of this myself, where I need that instant gratification and answer. If it’s on my mind, I got to send it out before I forget because I’ve got 25 other things on my mind that I’ve got to take care of. We fire an email or an electronic communication off real quick. We don’t think about the details of it. Do your research. Dive into the website and find out what their title is, if they have one. If not, it’s just a Mr. or a Mrs. and a last name to be professional about the initial communication that you’re having with them. That’s how you want to start off.

The other part that I look at is tone. You have to be careful because electronic communications are so tricky with a tone that can be interpreted from them. It was something that we were talking a little bit about before we joined here on the show. Our faculty members throughout the nation are either teaching, in meetings or in the operating rooms about every single day.

We don’t know how that person handles it. You can have a bad day in the operating room. Maybe it was a touchy situation with a patient, a surgeon or a care team member. Who knows? Maybe the meetings that you were at, you didn’t get the answer you wanted and you are a little bit edgy or a little bit distraught from that. You can interpret somebody’s communication in a different manner than what they meant.

That’s why I always tell people to be careful about the tone or the words that they use so that it doesn’t have an opportunity to come off in a specific tone. What you have to do possibly is write the email, sit on it for a little bit, and then go back and read it again to make sure that your initial communication was what you intended it to be. Any communication you send to any email address, whether it’s a generic email address or a faculty member’s email address, could be forwarded up to the president of the university. If you take that approach, then you look at it completely differently.

I always tell the students, “Anything you send to me, assume that it’s going to get forwarded to the president of the university or the president of our hospital.” If it’s a question that needs to be asked, I’m forwarding it straight over. I’m not cleaning it up for you and having to correct the tone possibly on it. If you think about it in that manner when you write it, then you take a different approach. I do. When I’m sending something to you, I have a whole different approach. When I’m sending it to one of my colleagues around here where I work, I think this has enough of a question to it that may get forwarded along down the line.

That’s a good way to think about how we move with our electronic or email communications. In email communications, you need to be in the basics. A lot of people want to explain their entire story over email. I don’t think that’s the place to explain it. You want to give some high-level information if they ask you some things. I don’t think you have to get into a thesis on why you didn’t do well in your first semester of undergrad school or why you didn’t go into the ICUs initially.

CRNA 27 | Future CRNA Program
Future CRNA Program: One thing that you have to think about when you’re communicating with the program faculty members is the generation you’re communicating with.

I don’t think you have to get into all of that because of the tone of conversations. We can interpret the tone, but when you look at email communications, that’s where people share a whole lot of information. It can possibly be misinterpreted in the manner of what you originally sent it. You share some information, the basics and the needed information, and then say, “If you need further information because it is detailed, I’ll be glad to set up a time to speak with you if that’s okay.” That way you can get the right information and tone across. It doesn’t come across in manners like excuses, whiny or the things that people want to make sure that they avoid when they are communicating with faculty.

It’s putting it back on them to see whether it’s okay for you to share all this information, “This is a basic background of mine. If you have time, we can maybe go into more details. Let me know.” That way it gives them the choice to say, “Let me have it, I’ll take your whole story. Let’s set up a phone call so we can discuss it.”

They may not be the right person to address that with. Maybe they simply don’t have the time. When you’re putting that on them from the get-go, it could turn them off like they’re expected to evaluate your whole life scenario right then and there on the spot versus starting a relationship with them and then building up to that massive question.

As nurse anesthetists, we are trained on the clinical side. Find a problem, address it, fix it now and move on. That is how we are trained clinically. We have a lot of clinicians who go into academics. What are they usually trained on is, “I see the issue, let’s fix it and let’s move on.” If you send them a lot of information, they may try to fix it and do that really quickly so that they can move on to the next task.

You may not get the full answer of what you need when it’s in an electronic format like that. You explain everything. However, if you ask them and let them forward it to the right person, that person will spend time on it. If you set up a phone conversation, they’ll make sure they set it up where they have time to talk to you, get to know you, communicate, and get you all the right information versus part of what they are trying to move on to.

I love how you started this off with, “Be professional.” I made that mistake. It’s so easy to be casual in email, especially when you’re used to emailing your friends. I was in wedding planning mode. I should have been more professional with my wedding-planning emails, but you send out so many emails when you’re in wedding planning mode. For whatever reason, I didn’t think and plan. I addressed the program director informally and made him upset. He came back at me and told me how the Millennials and Generations X, Y and Z were rude. He asked me to write a paper on Millennials and Generation X, Y and Z.

I thought I totally messed up my chances at ever getting into that program. I apologized as much as I could. I wrote this five-page paper researching Millennials. He was impressed with that paper. We got off on the right foot. We laughed about it. We ended up being on good terms. I got married and so my last name changed. I should ask him because we chatted. He’s now retired. I was never sure if he would remember who I was in the interview since I had a different last name at the time. Be formal. It never hurts to be formal. It can hurt you to be informal. Keep that in mind.

I don’t recommend that take for everybody. It seems like it worked out well for you but I wouldn’t recommend that.

Trust me. I thought it was earth-shattering. I was like, “What did I do?” It worked out well, but it could not have.

You brought up a great point with that too that I would love to touch on. One thing that you have to think about when you’re communicating with the program faculty members is the generation you’re communicating with. One thing that I always encourage people to think about is that the program faculty members are truly the ones in charge. They’re the ones that are going to decide who gets into programs. They’re the ones going to decide your education and potentially your future, which is life-changing when you think about going from a nursing degree to a nursing profession.

Networking doesn't hurt. Network with more people. Click To Tweet

You have to communicate with them and play on their field. They’re not going to play on your field because they’re having anywhere from 5 to 6 times even more applicants than the positions they have available in their programs. They will be able to choose from a lot of different people. Therefore, if you’re not communicating with them in the manner that they want you to or that they expect or in an unprofessional manner, they’re going to pass you up to go to somebody else because they have so many. We have to think about that.

As much as faculty members have to think about the education we’re providing and the teaching methods we’re using and how the new generations like to learn. As much as we have to think about that while we’re delivering our content to them, applicants need to think just as much about how they communicate initially with faculty members who are of a different generation and have different expectations for communication. You become successful when you start thinking in those manners. There’s a lot of emotional intelligence associated with it that you have to think about.

Generations are different. You have to think about that. Do you think it’s okay if students were to call the program offices themselves and ask to speak to someone?

It is. First of all, you go back and look at the email communications. Maybe you haven’t gotten a response from email communications. Maybe the response you got did seem like it was from somebody generic at the university instead of from somebody within the program itself. Maybe the question that you raised, you got a response back and it was not quite the detail you were hoping for or didn’t quite answer the question. It seemed the question might have been confusing to the program when you were asking it.

I don’t think you call and ask, “I want to speak to the program director. I want to speak to this individual.” You do it just like what we’re talking about with the emails. You can call them, “This is Richard. I am interested in your program. I am from your area. I was wondering if there was somebody I could talk with about the requirements and/or somebody that could help out.” You briefly mention what you want to talk about and therefore, you can get forwarded to the right person. Maybe there’s somebody available right then.

That’s the other part I was going to mention. When you call, when you’re ready to talk to somebody, don’t call with the anticipation that you’re going to get put on hold. You never know. It may be that everybody is out of the office except the program director. That’s the one that answers the phone and now you’re on the spot. When you call, be prepared. Be ready. We’re going to go into some detail on that. It’s okay to call the program offices with the anticipation that they may forward you to somebody else. They may put you on hold. They may ask you to call back or set something up, but also with anticipation that somebody may be there right then to talk to.

If you do get a chance to speak with a program faculty member, what information should they have ready to talk about at that time?

The first thing you should have ready is all of the requirements. You should have viewed the website. You should have known what was going on with their program. You should know what the requirements for the program are. If you want to talk about your application and you’re going to be a competitive applicant, they’re going to ask you, “What does your transcript look like? What is your GPA? What is your Science GPA? What is your last 60 hours?” That’s what they like to look at.

They’re going to ask you, “What did you make in certain courses? What is your GRE score? What is your clinical experience? What is your leadership? What certifications do you have?” They may ask you all of that. They may ask you what drew you into the field of nurse anesthesia, “What drew you towards this field?” You need to have almost an interview mentality already set up. I’m not saying that it is an interview per se or that they’re going to ask you interview questions. It becomes an informal interview at a certain point of what they’re asking you.

If you call them and they ask you, “What is your GRE score?” “I can’t remember or it was a 305.” “What did you get in Verbal and Quantitative?” “I can’t remember what the breakdown was. I just remember it was a 3.” You now turned into wasting some of their time, which is not going to be looked upon highly by a lot of faculty members. Come with and have the information ready. Have the GRE scores. Have your transcripts. Know what your overall GPA is on the roundabout.

CRNA 27 | Future CRNA Program
Future CRNA Program: If you’re asking questions that are easily found on their website, there’s a possibility you’re creating a negative impact on the rest of the conversation or a negative vibe that may play into your application overall.

You may not have to know it’s a 3.2 now but if you can say, “It’s around 3.2 or 3.3,” that gives them an idea versus it’s a 3.7 or 3.8. “My sciences are around a 3.4,” versus a 4. You need to have a good idea of where you sit versus saying, “I’m not sure. I’ll have to get back in touch with you on that.” Have that information ready overall. That’s one of the things to be ready for your conversation.

The second is viewing the website. A lot of them have their faculty members listed and a little bio about each of them. I don’t think you have to remember their bios, but you need to know what the roles of the faculty members are. In case they say, “I’m going to forward you over to John Smith.” John Smith is the assistant program director and you know that. You don’t have to say, “What was your role again?” You should have already done some research behind that to know that you’re talking to the assistant program director, not to the admin assistant.

Sometimes the admin assistant knows more than the program director. I understand that. You want to know who each person is. It may be that you’ve got it written down on a piece of paper, sitting right there in front of you. They’re not going to have to see it since it’s a phone conversation. When they say the name, you can look down real quick and then go, “John Smith is the assistant program director. I know who I’m talking to.” That’s key information to have available when you start to have phone conversations with them. It’s anything that you can anticipate that they may want to know about you.

It’s a chance to meet with the program faculty. For those of you who don’t know, we do have a private social community for our Academy members. There was a student in that community who had an opportunity to go to an informal lunch with the program director and some friends. Can we speak about maybe a formal meeting in the office versus maybe a casual meeting like that, what you should carry with you?

A casual meeting would scare me. Whether it’s casual or formal, you’ve got to come with the same information. You address it the same way. When you are preparing for anesthesia school and meeting with a faculty member who is potentially going to be a part of making a decision of whether you get into school or not, I don’t think you can be too formal. You can be too casual, which may set you up poorly. If you’re looking at a business casual type of environment, even if you do business with it, they’re going to look at you in a positive manner overall. If you go too casual with it, you take the risk of being perceived as not caring as much or not taking it as seriously as they would like you to.

In either environment, as you look at the dress code on that, always go with a business casual, at least if you’re showing up to the office or showing up to a lunch overall. What do you bring to it? You bring a copy of your transcripts in case they say, “Can I take a quick look at those? Let me take a quick look and I can give you some advice on some of the courses and tell you what it means.” Bring your GRE scores with you so that they can take a look at them. Bring your resume or your CV. It never hurts to bring your copy of that in case they want to take a look at it and dive into it.

They’re not going to do a formal review necessarily as they would for your application itself, but they may give you some good hints and tips. They may look at your resume and say, “This looks great, but this is a lot of busyness right here. I see what it says. Before you submit the application, I might recommend cleaning this up a little bit, including some more in here, or rearranging it a little bit here. We don’t even need this right here.”

They may give you some informal feedback on it, as long as you have it with you. If you don’t have it, they can’t do that. What’s the worst thing that could happen? They say they don’t want to look at it, then you have a piece of paper with you. If they ask you to look at it and you don’t have it, then you look unprepared. I don’t think you have to have a personal statement with you at the time, but the three major ones that most people look at are the GRE, if they require, transcripts and a CV.

At least they may be able to speak to your essay in the sense that you come prepared knowing what you would say to why CRNA or whatever their prompts may be. You’ll be able to speak to it a little bit.

If you know they’re prompt, you are set because then you’ll be able to have a good conversation about that. That is a good point. If you know the prompt for the essay, focus on that a little bit and bring that up in your conversation.

Share any information that you may not have had that they asked for. Click To Tweet

That would be impressive too. What questions should they ask program faculty members either when talking to them over the phone or in person? What should they not say?

We’re not going to say this enough times on this show, but you have to research that website. You don’t want to ask them basic information that can be found on their website because they’re going to wonder, “Did you do any research? Did you do anything to find out about our program? Are you just calling us up clear blue because you saw our name pop up on a Google search somewhere?” If you’re like, “What’s the minimum GPA that you have to have? What is the minimum GRE score? What’s the minimum number of years of experience? Do you accept ER? Do you accept PACU experience?” Most of that is found on the website overall.

If you’re asking questions that are easily found on their website, there’s a possibility of creating a negative impact on the rest of the conversation or a negative vibe that may play over into your application overall. Make sure you look at the website. Any basic information that it has on there, especially if it’s cut and dry- I would stay away from asking those types of questions.

The only times I would ask questions about some of that stuff is if they said, “It’s considered on an individual basis.” If they said, “PACU or ER experience is considered on an individual basis,” then that’s okay. If they say, “We don’t consider ER. We don’t consider PACU,” don’t ask if they do because it’s already on the website. That’s why you want to view the website. Don’t ask about basic requirements. Don’t ask for stuff that you should have researched before. If it’s found on their website, ask for clarification, but don’t try to convince them that they should accept or they should take a look at it.

Sometimes we’ll see people say, “I have got ER experience, but it’s a Level I trauma center. We get all of this and all of that.” Programs are like, “I don’t accept ER experience. You’re not going to convince me to. It’s in our program. We don’t accept that.” That’s where applicants possibly get into some awkward conversations. To me, what makes the train off the rails is when they start trying to say, “I have this. Why won’t you accept this?”

They’ve got 5, 6, 7 and 8 times the number of applicants that they need to fill the spots. They can move on to what they are getting that meets their requirements. Ask about specific structures of the program. Sometimes that’s not completely listed on a website. Some programs are still listing themselves as integrated while they’re transitioning to the doctoral degree.

Ask them, “What does integrated mean to you? How quickly do your students get into the clinical setting? What courses are to be taken online and not taken online? What are some of the distanced type courses that you’re providing? What’s in your research? What are you focused on in your research?” Some of those things are not clearly found on the websites because it varies from program to program, and it varies within the program from year to year at times. Those are some questions to focus on.

Ask about students currently in the program and what they like about the program. What’s going on with maybe some of the research they’re doing overall? This may be a difficult one to ask at times but, if you are meeting in person with them and it’s near the classroom or near the simulation center, ask them, “Can I go take a look at the classroom? Can I take a look at the sim center? Will you take me on a tour of that?” If they have time and can do it, that’s going to be a meaningful impact on them because they will remember, “Jane Doe asked me to take them on a tour while they were here.”

It’s not only that. When you do get to write your personal essay for the application and get to an interview, there are going to be great things to bring up that you’ve already seen within their program. Those are some key things to ask for. Don’t get too detailed with trying to explain things. A lot of people want to say, “Here’s why I want to go to your program. Here’s why I would be a great candidate for it.” They’re already trying to sell themselves on initial conversations and get too detailed about that sometimes.

Stay away from all the details. You want to give them a consensus of why they want to consider you as an applicant. It’s because you met the criteria of what they’re looking for to get within the program. You’re not trying to gain admission through that conversation. It doesn’t matter how much I sell myself to you. I’ve got to sell myself to the committee when the interview comes across. If I sell myself to you now but I can’t sell myself to the whole committee, the committee may override that one conversation from a year ago where you sold yourself.

CRNA 27 | Future CRNA Program
Future CRNA Program: When you do get to write your personal essay for the application and when you do get to an interview, it’s going to be great to bring up what you’ve already seen within their program.

That’s a focus overall. The biggest mistake I see people make or hear from other faculty members that I speak with from across the nation is people trying to explain why they didn’t do well in their first year of the nursing program, why they didn’t do well in GRE, why they may not be in the ICU now, or why they didn’t start off in the ICU. They start fumbling over it or trying to explain it too much. It’s almost like they’re trying to justify where they’re at and what they’re doing to convince the faculty to accept it. That’s not what you want to do in initial conversations or in early conversations. That’s more of trying to get to the interview and explaining that in the interview.

Those are all excellent points. I love how you pointed out how you have to sell; it’s the whole committee that makes a decision, not just one person. I’ve routinely had students who try hard to network with the program director. That program director leaves and they feel defeated. They spent years trying to get to know the program director, only to have them leave and have to start all over again. If you take that approach, you got to keep in mind that this interview process is going to be a whole committee of people making a decision, not just one person.

If you approach it this way, you might do well. You want to base your application on your acceptance of who you are and what you have. Networking doesn’t hurt. Don’t get me wrong. Networking is important and can be beneficial. If you’re basing getting into school often on the networking you’re doing instead of the qualifications you bring, then you are set up for failure. What if that program director leaves? What if that assistant program director leaves? What if somebody comes in with a whole different mindset?

What if you and I have not seen eye-to-eye in a clinical setting? Now I am on the committee, and I wasn’t years ago. You want to make sure you make yourself the strongest. Include networking in there to help but make sure you’re the strongest applicant you can be. Network with more people. If you get to talk to a director, great. If it’s the assistant director or a faculty member, great. Get into a conversation.

Should they plan on following up? If so, how frequently should they do that?

I don’t think you have to follow up immediately after you walk out of the office or you hang the phone up. Give it 24 hours and follow up with an email. We all live in a society where it used to be a handwritten card was what they wanted to see, but there’s a lot to say about email communication now that is taking the place of having to do a handwritten card. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you send one, that’s great. People will accept it. It will stand out.

Follow up via email. Thank them for their time. They had to take some time out, whether it was a phone call. You don’t know what they were in the middle of. They could have been in the middle of redesigning an entire course. They took time out to talk to you on the phone. They could have been in the middle of a meeting coming up. They took time to meet with you before that. Always follow up with some communication. Thank them for the time and the information they shared with you.

They could either help you be a stronger applicant or get to know more about the program. Those are key phrases that are great to use within these. If they asked you for any information and you didn’t have it, maybe you didn’t have your GRE score written down. Maybe you didn’t have what year you did something, what certification or how well you did on the CCRN that they may have asked about.

Make sure that when you communicate back with them, you send that information back to them. They like to see that follow-up. Not only did I ask you and you didn’t know, but you went and researched it, found it out and sent it back to me. Usually, within about 24 to 48 hours, communicate back with them. Thank them for their time and what they shared with you. Share any information that you may not have had that they asked for.

Thank you, Richard, for taking the time to do this episode with us. It’s packed full of so many great golden nuggets. You guys want to download this and save this episode. Thank you for all you do for CRNA School Prep Academy. Richard, you have played an integral part in spurring the motions of this conference. Thank you, Richard. Enjoy the rest of your busy day. We’ll bring you back on the show down the road.

Thank you, Jenny. I enjoyed it. Thanks for what you’re doing for all the ones that are trying to get into anesthesia school. The community has been great. I’ve been excited to be a part of it.

Thank you so much. Guys, thank you for tuning in. As always, go ahead and leave a review in the comments. I love to hear your feedback. Take care.

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