It is frustrating when your CRNA application is rejected. However, if you prepare for the application process, your chances of being rejected become slim. In this episode, the host Jenny Finnell discusses the requirements you need to prepare. You should identify the nuances of the requirements to avoid rejection. She also talks about how you can prepare your resume, CV, interview, et cetera. Tune in to this episode and learn from Jenny hot to ace that application.
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Breaking Down Your CRNA Application
What does it take to apply to CRNA school? In this episode, we’re going to reveal and unravel some of the little nuances around applying to CRNA school and exactly what you will need when that time comes, so let’s dive in. Thank you so much for tuning in if you’re a loyal reader. If you’re new to the show, welcome. I’m excited to have you here.
In this episode, we’re going to talk about unraveling the CRNA application process. I also look forward to sharing some nuances about little individual aspects of the application because I typically see a lot of students go into the application process without knowing these little nuances. Sometimes it can cause some roadblocks or setbacks. I hope, by the end of this episode, you can get past these roadblocks and go into the application process knowing what little things you need to look out for. That way, you don’t have any hiccups along the way.
First, let’s outline what some of the aspects of the CRNA application are and what you will essentially need to apply to CRNA school. Starting with the basic stuff, you will need your transcript whether that’s an ADN plus a BSN, Bachelor’s in Science plus an ADN, or Master’s degree. In fact, this is where the little nuances come in. Some schools even require high school transcripts. I would say not the majority, but you will find, on occasion, some programs will require high school transcripts, even high school ACT and SAT scores.
I know it seems a little ridiculous, but I’m letting you know that’s what you will find. I would say those schools are more of the minority as far as the ones that require high school transcripts. Again, they’re going to expect all your transcripts, whether you have a one-off course at a college. They’re going to want them all. Be prepared to send everything you have to these schools.
The next thing you need to be prepared for are references. References vary depending on the school. Some schools are very specific as far as who they want references from. You might be thinking, “References, okay. I’ll ask my coworkers and my nurse manager,” but some schools require a professor. This is a little nuanced at some schools that you might be caught off guard. You’re like, “I’ve been out of school for eight years. I don’t know any of my old professors.” That’s why I like to give students a heads up about that.
How you can get around this if you’ve been out of school for a while is that you may potentially have to retake a Science course, or maybe you want to take a graduate level Pathophysiology course to boost the competitive nature of your application. Make it a point to get to know that professor. Let them know your career goals. Go above and beyond in that class, get to know them, and then ask them for that reference letter. That could be a good way. That way, you could have a fresh reference that is also a professor.
Me, myself, I had to get a reference from a professor. I didn’t know that, to be honest with you, going into my application, but I was fortunate enough to where I was only about two years out of school when I asked for this reference. In my senior year in nursing school, I got close with my ICU Clinical Coordinator professor. She only taught the ICU course. At that point in my nursing journey, I knew I wanted to pursue CRNA.
I shared this with her, and she helped me get a shadowing experience in the OR when I was on my ICU rotation. She also helped me place for ICU when I was a nursing student. I shared this with her. She knew it was my goal. Even though I didn’t know it was needed as a reference, I connected with this educator.
When I reached out to her two years later, she remembered who I was, and she was happy to write me that reference. That was a blessing in disguise. Had I done my due diligence and researched my school, I would have known this ahead of time. That’s why I’m sharing this with you because I don’t think a lot of us think, “I need to know exactly who my references are when I’m still in nursing school,” but it can benefit you, especially if this is the case.The schools will want all your transcripts, so be prepared to send everything you have to them. Click To Tweet
A lot of schools, I would say on average, three is what they require. They require at least 1 of those 3 to be from a current nurse manager. That’s another thing that students get hung up on, because a lot of nurses these days are traveling. It’s hard to find a long-standing, long-term nurse manager anymore. A lot of times, what I’ve seen students do to get around this is they keep their foot in the door at their long-standing place of employment.
Maybe they worked somewhere for two years prior to traveling and they stay contingent or moonlight in between assignments back at their home base. Technically they still have a long-standing nurse manager. I’ve also had students who were like, “My long-standing nurse manager left. Now I have a brand new nurse manager. They don’t even know me. I work night shift. I never see them.” That’s unfortunate.
I would suggest that if you can anticipate something like this happening or you even get word that your nurse manager is leaving, ask them for that reference. If it’s still a year before you apply, that might not work, but if your application window is opening within the next few months, go ahead and ask them to write that reference, even if it’s six months prior to you getting your interview and things like that.
If the application window is open within the next few months, it’s not going to hurt to go ahead and get that reference letter. A lot of times, you can have them type it up on a Google document. That way, you have it at the time your application window opens, and you can go ahead and submit that from a current manager technically. Now when they leave in the process of you interviewing, that’s out of your control. If that’s at the time that you asked for a reference from your current manager, that usually can be something you can work around. I also recommend for you to reach out to your programs if this happens to you and see what they recommend.
Most of the time, they’re still going to say, “We need a current nurse manager,” so you have to ask the new one. I also have had students who tell me, “They don’t know me that well. They don’t know what to write,” or maybe they do know you well, but they’re not comfortable writing a reference letter, so provide them some guidance. Give them your resumé and personal statement. Give them something to work with so they can understand why you’re pursuing your graduate degree. Giving them some highlights of what you think your attributes are is helpful when they’re writing the reference letter.
That’s enough on references, but usually they require a current nurse manager. They may or may not require a professor and then maybe a peer. The other thing that they may require between an educator and a current nurse manager is a CRNA. I’ve had some people say they required a CRNA. If you literally don’t know a CRNA and you haven’t been able to find a job shadow experience or maybe you did, but it was a while ago, and you don’t have the contact anymore because you didn’t know you needed a CRNA reference, it can be a big barrier.
Make sure you’re researching as soon as you possibly can who your references have to come from, so you can plan accordingly. It stinks to get all the way to the application and realize you need these things, and now you have very little time to make those things work out. That’s transcripts and references. We’re going to go into a little more detail.
The next thing I want to point out, and this goes back almost to transcripts, is that depending on where you received your Bachelor’s degree or any of your degrees, but mostly your Nursing degree, you need to consider where it’s accredited through. There are some nursing programs that are only regionally or nationally accredited. It seems so silly to me.
I don’t get it, but it’s the accreditation body that approved the curriculum for that school. CRNA programs sometimes get very particular on where they want that accreditation to be through. Most schools will say that they want it through the CCNE and NLNAC. What this means is the Commission on College and Nursing Education or the National League of Nursing. That’s what those bodies represent. They want them to be from a regionally or nationally accredited program.
Some nursing programs are only one or the other, so that’s why some require them to be both regionally and nationally accredited or nationally accredited but not regionally accredited. I don’t know. Research your school’s requirements. If they say something about the accreditation bodies, make sure that your nursing programs are as such.
I had a student who was applying to schools. I believe it was in Florida. His nursing program was nationally accredited but not regionally accredited, and his program required a regional accreditation. He was limited. Out of the ten schools that he could have applied to, he was only then able to apply to two CRNA programs because of that. That stinks. There’s nothing you can do about it once it’s said and done or you have your Nursing degree, but it does make a difference as far as where you can apply. Make sure you’re researching that.
If you’re still early enough in your nursing journey where you haven’t received your Bachelor’s yet or your actual Nursing degree, research that ahead of time. Same thing with your ADN degree and undergrad degree. Make sure that you’re researching what the accreditation bodies are prior to picking that university.
I was trying to research more on what the difference is. It seems so silly to me, if I’m being perfectly honest because this is what I found. It says, “Nursing programs strive to be accredited by the Commissions on Collegiate Nursing Education, the CCNE, and the Accreditation Commission for the Education in Nursing, which are two national credentialing organizations. While regional and national accreditation has many factors in common, the biggest difference is that students can’t usually transfer credits from a nationally accredited institution to a regionally credited institution due to the higher prestige of regional accreditation.”
Anyways, I digress. I think that’s so silly. “Credits can often be transferred between regionally accredited schools and nursing schools can usually transfer credits between accredited programs.” Feel free to google more of that, but that’s what I found. I think it’s silly, but it’s something I want to point out because that could be a big roadblock. It has been, unfortunately, for some students inside CRNA School Prep Academy. That was worth mentioning here on the show.
Next, we’re going to talk a little bit more about GPA. While I did mention transcripts, let’s get a little bit further because these schools will have a requirement about GPA. Depending on your CRNA program, they may say Nursing Courses 3.0 and Science Courses 3.0. They usually break down more than your GPA because all schools will look at not only your overall GPA but they’ll look at your science GPA. Some schools will say a 3.0 GPA with a minimum of a 3.2 Science GPA or recommended 3.2 Science GPA. It could be any variation of that.
I’ve seen other programs that say 3.0 on all undergraduate courses or a 3.25 on the last 60 credit hours undergraduate courses on a 4.0 scale. This can vary. They’re all relatively the same, but they all could be a little bit different, which is why I want to make sure I’m pointing this out. For the most part, you’re looking at the average applicant who gets an interview to have right around a 3.5 and gain acceptance to have a 3.5, both Science and overall GPA.
If you have less than that, please don’t be discouraged. I had less than that as a Science GPA. My Science GPA was a 3.4, and it’s okay. I’m not saying you need to have a 3.5. That’s the average. It’s half above, half below. If you’re on the half below, you still have a chance because half gets in below, half gets in above. Understand that that’s an average, a smack dab in the middle number. Don’t be discouraged, but know that if you have a 3.0, even a 3.3 or 3.2, you probably need to do some additional things to boost the competitive nature of your GPA.
I can’t stress enough that taking something like Informatics or Theory is not going to boost your GPA. Yes, it’ll probably be an easy A, but it’s not going to play in the overall picture because it’s not a heavy Science course. Taking a graduate-level Pathophysiology, on the other hand, and getting an A is going to boost your GPA because it’s going to go into your Science GPA. They care a lot about your Science GPA.If you've been out of school, retake a science course to boost the competitive nature of your application. Click To Tweet
They know it’s a harder course and it takes more effort to get earned an A in a Pathophysiology course than it does in Informatics or Health Assessment course. Be aware that when you’re picking the courses you want to take to boost your GPA, the other general courses are not going to do as much for you. It might boost your overall, but if it doesn’t boost your Science, it may not help you get an interview is what I’m ultimately saying.
Also, don’t overload yourself. I’ve seen students who are like, “I’m taking Chemistry, CCRN, and the GRE. I’m also taking a Biology course.” I’m like, “What?” Ultimately, you do not want to take a course and not try to get an A. You need to be making sure you’re putting all eggs in that basket. The last thing you want to do is have a current Science course and get a C. Gosh forbid you get a C or, even worse, a D because that’ll hinder you from going forward. Keep in mind that if you want to boost your GPA with a course like this, you have to get an A or an A-minus. A B is a 3.0. A B-plus is a 3.3.
If you have a 3.4 and you’re thinking about taking a course to boost your GPA and you get a B-plus, that’s about 3.3. You’re going to be bringing your GPA down versus up. You have to be getting an A or an A-minus in these courses. Otherwise, it’s not going to do you any good, so plan for that when you’re taking these additional courses to boost your GPA. You have to make sure that you’re giving it your all. Don’t spread yourself too thin by doing so many things. This is why the runway leading up to applying to CRNA school needs to be long. I say the most successful students are planning 2 to 3 years prior to even applying to CRNA school.
That is where I see students have found the most success, meaning these are the students who are getting in on the first attempt. They are the ones who have been spending the last 2 or 3 years planning for their CRNA journey. This means if you want to get one year ICU minimum and then get into CRNA school, this means that when you’re a sophomore in Nursing school, you are planning for CRNA. That’s what I mean.
It usually starts pretty early on if you want to gun it to CRNA school. Don’t get me wrong. There are people who come into the CRNA world after they’ve already started working in the ICU, and they decided to go ahead and go for it. Some of them do find success, but I will say from my three years working with students very closely and heavily that I see more of those students find roadblocks, and then it delays them. Sometimes it discourages them altogether. I want to stress enough that you have to be researching your school’s requirements and planning for your road ahead. Give yourself enough time.
Don’t stress yourself out because, as I said, if you were to wait until the last minute to try to do all these things and end up getting a C in a grad Pathophysiology course, how’s that going to make you feel? How are you going to feel about moving forward? You could, but now you’ve put another barrier in front of you, and it’s going to be even harder. It’s going to take more grit and perseverance to push through that shortcoming at that point, where if you had planned for it and put not so much on your plate at one time, you could have made a point to strive to get an A in that course.
That is all I’m saying. Use caution when you’re taking graduate courses to boost your GPA. You have to make sure you’re putting it at the top of your priority list to do that. Same thing with the CCRN and GRE. When I hear students say they’re going to wing it, I’m like, “Why would you do that?” Maybe it’s not how I am because I’m way too OCD to wing anything. Don’t get me wrong. I wing things. I also equally, if I’m working towards something, I put in the work. I have done it for a long time. Why take that risk of not doing well when you can prepare and hopefully do well. If you prepare and you don’t do well, now it’s time to strategize on how you can do something different so when you try again, you do better.
I think that’s so bad if you take the GRE, even if it’s not required. I’ve had some students who were like, “I’m going to take it to see if it boosts my application.” I wouldn’t do that, by the way, but I’ve had students who do, and then they don’t do well. When you have your GRE, you now have to report it. That’s not good. When they’re like, “I’ll take it and see how I do,” it’s like, “Why? Only take it if you need to, first of all.” I know I’m going off on a tangent, so bear with me on this tangent lane here.
Same with your CCRN. Some of these programs will want to know your score. If you’re like, “I’ll wing the CCRN and see how I do,” you have to report your score. If you barely passed versus you prepared for it more, maybe you could have scored better, and now your score would show the programs. “They scored about B-plus on their CCRN. We know there are a lot of B-plus students. Cool. We need a B-plus to stay a current student in our program.”
The reason why these schools care a lot about GPA and things like that is because in order to maintain your student status in their program, a lot of them require to maintain a B average in all of their courses. That’s what they look for. They look for students who have a history of that. It reassures them that they’re picking someone who can be successful in their program. If they don’t, then they have a high attrition rate. The students are flunking out of their programs. I am a firm believer that just because you have a low GPA in your undergrad or whatever the reason may be, whether you went through some traumatic life experiences, I know you can do it, but you also have to equally prove that to the programs.
They will not take your word. They need proof, which means you need to take a current Science course, whether that’s graduate or undergrad level, and get an A. That’s proof. You’re saying, “I know my past shows that I’m more of a B and C student, but look here. I’ve taken three Science courses, and since then, I’ve gotten A’s in every single one of them. I’m ready.”
They’re like, “You’ve proven to me that yes, you are ready. Let’s let you in.” That’s all it takes. It’s to show your work ethic and where you currently are. Don’t let your past hinder you. Just prove where you currently are to the programs, and you’re going to be okay. That being said, if you have a lower GPA, you probably will still face more rejection than not. You have to go into it with the expectation that it’s going to be okay. Getting rejected after an interview is not the end of the road. It’s a stepping stone. It’s one piece to get you to where you ultimately want to go.
You take what you learned from that, you add it, and then you grow from that, and you come back with more. You’re then able to show up better, more prepared, you rock it, and then you get in. It’s meant to be a stepping stone. This whole entire process is baby steps. A consistent small action will get you to your finish line, but it’s about staying the course and being persistent.
That’s enough on that. We touched on GPA. I’ve already mentioned the CCRN and GRE; we’ll go more into that. Some programs still require the GRE. I feel like every year, we get several programs that are opting out of the GRE, or they do not require everyone to take it, meaning they only require students to take it if they have a lower GPA.
Some programs will say, “If you have less than a 3.2, then you have to take the GRE.” Other programs are opting out of it altogether. I definitely see that as a trend. The reason for this trend is not because they decided to be nice, although that would be nice. If they’re like, “It’s okay, you don’t have to take it.” They’re looking at data and statistics. Statistically, what we’re seeing is the GRE is not a good indicator of how successful you’re going to be in the CRNA program.
In fact, a better indicator is your undergraduate GPA. The reason why that’s a better indicator is that that’s a display of your persistence over time versus the GRE is a one-time test. An actual GPA from four years in college shows how you performed over time. That’s a better indicator of how you’re going to perform in grad school versus a one-off test. That is ultimately why these schools have decided to get away from the GRE because it’s not been proven to be a good indicator of success in their program.
That’s also why they do the interview process, look at GPA, and break down your GPA. Keep in mind that when you’re looking at GRE, what’s competitive? How should I do? A lot of these schools will give you a score to aim for at minimum. I read somewhere that other schools will say there’s no minimum score. “This is official GRE scores. No minimum score is required. Scores are evaluated among the pool of applicants.” I read that on a school’s website.
I was like, “That’s unfair,” because then you’re like, “I have no idea what they are looking for, but I know I’m being compared to everyone else who was applying.” With that being said, what is a competitive score? Some programs will say get a 290. Some programs will say score 305 as the minimum. Those are the ranges I’ve seen as far as the low range of acceptable and the high range of acceptable. That’s 290 between the quantitative and verbal. Quantitative is the math section, which is more indicative of your science courses’ performance. Definitely aim to do well in the quantitative section. It just so happens that it is also the easiest one to boost quickly. It takes time.Reach out to your programs if your reference leaves from nurse management during the application process and see what they recommend. Click To Tweet
Verbal is hard. I struggled with verbal. I was like, “If I score average, I’m going to be good.” I focused all my energy on improving my quantitative score. I did tutoring and things like that. I did dramatically improve my quantitative score to where I ended up. Initially, when I took the GRE, I had a 295 or something like that, which was not high enough to apply to my program. When I retook it after I paid for tutoring, I got my entire score up to 311. That being said, my verbal remained the same, which I was fine with. I’m like, “I am average on my verbal.” At that time, it was also not a doctoral degree. There was writing, but it wasn’t the way it is now with all the doctoral papers.
I knew if I scored average on my writing and my verbal, then I would be okay. I mostly put all my energy into preparing to boost my quantitative score, which is math. A lot of math and science stuff. Some schools require 305 or 300. I’m giving you a range here. If you can get a 300 or a 305, I would say you are going to be good. If you get higher than a 305, now you’re competitive. Bear that in mind. If you are over 305, you will be competitive for CRNA applications. The writing, to be competitive, I would say aim for a 450 or 400. Some schools require a 400 at the minimum.
Don’t get too crazy about not getting a 405. As long as you have over 305 on the overall and 400 on the writing, which is what they require, that’s fine. If you get a 450, that’s pretty impressive. Some schools only require a 300 on the writing, which is low. 350 to 400 is average. Getting a 300 is slightly below average. I have seen some programs only require a 300 but know that a 350 to 400 is what an average writing score is. Aim for 350 to 400. I think I had a 350. I didn’t do anything spectacular on the writing. It is what it is. I rely heavily on Grammarly to proof my papers.
That’s breaking on the GRE. If a school doesn’t give you a score to aim for, try to aim for at least a 300. That would be my recommendation. Don’t be afraid to pay for tutoring. A lot of programs will guarantee your score. You have to be realistic. You can’t say, “I want a 320” if your first attempt was a 280 to improve that to a 320, I don’t know if that’s realistic. If you’re the 290 or something like that, it’s definitely realistic to expect to get to 300 or even 305.
I went from 295 to 311, which was a pretty big jump. That was about three months of additional preparation and tutoring. It can be done, but that’s breaking down the GRE. Unfortunately, if it’s a hoop you have to jump through, it’s a hoop you have to jump through. It’s not a fun test. I’m sorry. Don’t blame the messenger.
Let’s jump into the CCRN. Some programs will require the CCRN. Some will say recommended. Whenever you see recommended on a CRNA school application, what does that mean? It means do it. Keep in mind, that these programs are incredibly competitive. You’re going up against a lot of different applicants. Why would you not do a recommended thing? When I hear students say, “They only recommend it,” I’m like, “If it’s recommended, it means you need to do it.”
Take that approach and you can’t go wrong. If you don’t have the hours in ICU for the CCRN, don’t lie. Please don’t do that. You can get audited and lose that, and that would be devastating. It’s okay if you don’t meet the hours. You can still apply even if you don’t have your CCRN as long as it’s only recommended, not required. If it’s required, then it’s required, and you have to do it. I’ve said this numerous times. These schools don’t make exceptions. If you don’t meet a requirement, a lot of times, they’re not going to let it slide. That being said, I’ve had some students who maybe are missing the benchmark on the GRE by a point or two, and their programs are like, “Okay. Still apply.”
When I missed the benchmark, my program’s requirement was 300, and I got a 295. When I called about that, they were like, “No, you can’t apply here.” The admissions coordinator was insulting about it. I was like, “Have you taken the test? It’s not a fun test.” Anyways, that being said, some schools are more lenient with certain things, but something like the CCRN, probably not. GRE is one of those tests where they know it’s not a great indicator. They may be willing to make an exception if your overall application is great and your GRE score is slightly under. For the most part, other things that are required are going to be required. They’re probably not going to bend at all for you to apply to their program.
The CCRN, again, if it’s only recommended and you don’t have the hours to sit for the test, just apply. See what happens. Know that if you don’t get in, the plan is to take the CCRN and come back the following year. There are still plenty of students who get in without it. It is a good test because it’s going to test your ICU knowledge. In general, it should be something that you strive to do regardless. At least that’s my humble opinion. You get $0.50 more an hour. I don’t know. I forget the raise I got when I got my CCRN. It was pretty minor, but it adds up. I remember thinking it was $1.
I’m not poo-pooing $1, so I’ll take $1. Also, you need a valid state nursing license. If you’re applying to schools out of the state, make sure you have a license in that state. Keep that in mind. One of these programs said a background check of less than 180 days old. That could be something you also have to do.
A lot of programs usually require a BLS and ACLS. They don’t all require PALS, but I think it’s a nice one to have in addition. Typically if you’re getting your BLS and ACLS, it’s not super difficult to go on to get your PALS. Some schools don’t require it. Some do, so again, keep that in mind when you’re researching your school’s requirements. They will all require the ACLS and BLS, and ICUs will require the BLS and ACLS, but having your PALS is something in addition that I do recommend that you get.
Let’s go into pre-reqs. Not all schools require pre-reqs, but here’s where the hang-up can happen. Nursing schools these days are so vast as far as what they have you take to get into nursing school. My own cousin is in a very well-known nursing program, and she didn’t even have to take a real Chemistry course. It was like an Introductory Chemistry course, and she got into nursing school. She doesn’t want to go into CRNA. I’m trying to convince her, but she doesn’t want to.
If she does decide to go into CRNA, she’s going to have to take a legit Chem 1 and Chem 2. It goes to show that it doesn’t matter. Even good nursing programs sometimes are like, “You can get into nursing school. You don’t need a Math course.” Some programs require a Math course. We had a CSPA student who’s now an SRNA. He had tested out of his Math course for nursing school when he was in high school. Kudos to him. I myself had taken the Algebra course in college to get into the College of Nursing, but this is my school. Not all schools require that. He had even tested it out.
When he applied to CRNA school, he had tested out of this Algebra course. They required it, but he’s like, “I tested out of it. It means I don’t need it.” Wrong. His applicant got put in a pile of not-qualified applicants because he simply didn’t have a college-level Algebra course, even though he tested out of the college-level Algebra course. He was not able to apply to that school so then went on to interview another school and got in because the other school didn’t require that. That goes to show that even a good applicant can get rejected because if you don’t follow these little nuances to a tee, they’re going to put you in a not-qualified applicant pile, even though everything else is pristine.
Those are the little nuances you need to be aware of when you start thinking about your CRNA application. You may have to take a Math course is what I’m ultimately saying. You may graduate and then be working on your BSN. If your program requires a Stats course in undergrad, but you never had a Stats course, plan on taking one.
I knew I needed a Stats course for my graduate program because I did my research ahead of time. Not just any Stats course. I had to have a graduate-level Statistics course. I was a fifth-year senior because I got rejected my first time applying to nursing school. In my fifth year, I had extra space in my schedule, and I petitioned so I could take a graduate-level course in my undergrad and have it count towards graduate credit.
It did take some work for me to get a petition and get signed off to do it. I did it because I had the room on my schedule, and I figured, “Why not get it done?” I did, and then I was able to use that to apply to grad school. That was because I had done some research prior to ever graduating from my nursing program. I was able to get that done, which freed up my space to do my CCRN, my GRE, and focus on my ICU time. Also, we got married and all other things in life. I was plenty busy, but it was nice to have that course done.
Prior to starting my program, I took an advanced Pathophysiology course. It freed up my time to do some additional extra things like that. Keep that in mind when you’re looking at your CRNA school. Not only do they require a pre-req, like do they require a graduate level pre-req of some kind, but do you meet all the other requirements based on your undergrad degree?Be aware that when picking the courses you want to take, the other general courses will not do as much to boost your GPA. Click To Tweet
Do they require a math course? Do you have a math course? Do they require a physics course? Do you have a physics course? As I said, you may have to take some additional coursework. Even if you didn’t do bad in the course in undergrad, you might not have it. You may not have the Chemistry courses that are required to apply to grad school. You may have to take it after the fact. If that happens to you, get to know the professor.
For example, if I hadn’t known my clinical coordinator so well and that academic educator during my time in nursing school, I could have also used my Stats professor for that reference letter. I did take that in my undergrad as well, but if you take any classes to get into CRNA school, get to know the professor because you may need a reference from a professor.
I think I’ve gone over that, but let’s go over some courses that are more common to be expected for pre-reqs. Obviously, you need Pharmacology, Anatomy, and also keep in mind labs. Not all nursing programs make you take these science courses that have labs built into them. Some of these schools will require a lab.
If you took an Anatomy without a lab, you might have to figure out how to get a lab and retake the course that has a lab. It’s the same thing with General Chemistry. If you took a Gen Chem with no lab, some of these schools require a lab portion of that to count to apply to their program. General Chemistry, sometimes it’s Biochemistry, Chem 1 or Chem 2, Organic Chemistry, and Microbiology.
Another thing too, which is interesting, is sometimes Anatomy-Physiology is separate and sometimes it’s combined. I also had someone tell me they had a Physiology course combined with a Pharmacy course. I was like, “What?” I didn’t know they even did that, but apparently, they do. She didn’t do very well in it. I think it would be incredibly hard to learn Physiology for the first time along with Pharmacology all in one course. That sounds like a lot. She went back and repeated the Physiology and Pharmacy course and did very well in both of them. The school accepted that and it was fine.
The other thing to keep in mind about courses and CRNA programs, and the nuances of CRNA programs, is if you don’t take that exact course and repeat it, it usually won’t replace the grade. Not all programs will replace the grade. Let’s say you took a Chemistry course in your undergrad, and you got a C. If you want to replace that C with an A, you’d have to take that same course from the same institution over again. Potentially, if your program allows it, they will then replace that with the A.
Not all programs will do this. That’s what I mean. Some programs average the two courses. For some of them, you don’t have to retake it at the same place. If you take another Gen Chem and you have another Gen Chem, they’ll take the two, and they’ll average them together. These are little nuances that you have to find out. You know how it’s going to work in your favor. There are also CRNA programs that do not take retaking courses. Meaning if you’ve got a C in Chemistry, even if you retake it and get an A, they’re not going to consider the retake. They’re going to consider your original grade. That’s unfortunate. I would say that’s in the minority again, but I know there are programs that don’t consider retaking courses.
What’s set in stone is set in stone. They go by what you have, and any new courses you take, like Advanced Graduate Pathophysiology, will go into your Science GPA, but trying to retake a course to try to get a better grade is not going to reflect. They’re not going to average that into your GPA. Know that. I would say the vast majority of schools tend to average the two to balance things out.
If you know that’s a weakness of yours and like, “I didn’t do great on Biology or Chemistry, my Science GPA is barely a 3.0, but I retook both those courses, and I got A’s,” find a college that will omit the lower scores. Now your Science GPA is more like a 3.6 versus if they were to average them, you might be looking at a 3.2. Keep that in mind when you’re applying to CRNA school. Do what’s going to work best for your situation.
Next, we’re coming onto the resumé. People ask all the time, “They’ll say a curriculum vitae. What is the difference?” I do get there’s a difference. I understand that. You can Google the difference. It’s just that one is more meant as a longer form resumé for people who are getting their PhDs, who have tons of doctoral research papers to put on there. It can be like 20 to 30 pages long. Don’t give them a 30-page curriculum vitae. For the most part, CRNA programs, when they put that on their website, they’re using the terms interchangeably. The other reason why I think they use curriculum vitae versus a resumé is because a resumé is usually for work. CVs are usually for grad school. CVs are usually for education and resumés are usually for work experience.
That is the only other minute difference between why a program would say CV versus resumés, because CV is highlighting your academics, first and foremost, with your experience to follow. A resumé highlights your work experience. They don’t care what kind of student you were for the most part. When you’re applying for a job to be a nurse somewhere, they’re going to look at your work experience. If you got a 3.2 in nursing school, they’re not like, “I don’t think we can have them work here. They got 3.2.”
In a graduate program, when you’re entering an academic arena where you have to perform academically, they’re going to care about that 3.2. That is the reason why I see schools use the term CV because technically, the CV is highlighting someone’s education first and foremost versus just their clinical experience. CRNA schools want to know both. They care about your academic performance and your clinical experience. Don’t get too hung up on the difference. If you want to go to my Instagram, which is @CRNAPrepSchoolAcademy, you can watch some Reels.
I made about quick tips on resumés. I also have an entire episode on it. I’m not going to beat this topic over anymore, but definitely make sure you’re doing your due diligence and being thorough on your resumé preparation. Trust me when I say they have hundreds of applications come in sometimes. Their first impression of you is your resumé and your personal statement.
They literally know nothing about you. If you’re changing your text fonts and your bullet points are off center, all are not matching up, and you’re going from saying 3/16/2022 to April 22nd, instead of using a three, you’re using the word April, it’s going to look sloppy, and they might think maybe you’re a sloppy student. I hate to say that, but it’s the truth. We’re humans. Humans make quick judgments. They say on average when you meet someone, you judge them in six seconds. I’d love to say, “I’m better than that. I don’t do that,” but they’ve studied this and humans do it. We all do it. I know I’m guilty of it. Everyone’s guilty of it. Six seconds is all you got.
Be aware of that. The same thing goes when someone’s reading your resumé or personal statement, they judge you pretty quickly. I’ve had students reach out to me, and they’re like, “Jenny, after I submitted it, I realized I made a typo. I feel like if they’re going to throw my resumé in the trash.” It’s okay. Also, we’re all humans. I make typos all the time. If you’ve been following me for a long enough time, I guarantee you’ve read plenty of typos that I’ve made. It happens. What I will say is do your best when you’re doing something like that and make sure you’re proofreading it over and over. Use Grammarly. Have it read by your coworker and peer. Use a service inside the CRNA School Prep Academy.
We’re taking services inside the CRNA School Prep Academy and moving them outside of CRNA School Prep Academy. If you’re a current CSPA student, have no fear. I’ve got you. I thought about this. I want to make sure that you guys are getting a perk to being CSPA students, which you will. You’re going to get a discount on services. However, I couldn’t keep doing it the way I was. I was not able to grow the services the way it was. It was too cumbersome for me to do. Every year, especially in the fall when interviews season happens, we get slammed with people who were like, “I want a mock interview.”
I’m like, “I only have twelve people.” You guys were cranking out over 100 mocks sometimes a month. That’s a ton. The need and demand were probably for 200 or 300 mocks in one month. I don’t have enough people for that. There aren’t enough hours in the day, and keep in mind that everyone who’s doing mock interviews are also full-time students and CRNAs. They have a life. This is not their full-time job. Their schedule, when they can fit in mocks, is around their regular obligations. That being said, I’m launching a website called Nurses Teach Nurses. If you go to NursesTeachNurses.com, it is essentially private as of now because I didn’t want to get overwhelmed, if I’m being perfectly honest. I wanted to grow it slowly.
It’s going to be open to the public to book services, but providers are going to be by invitation only. If you’re reading this and you’re like, “I’d love to be a provider. I’d love to share what I have to offer,” if you’re an ICU nurse, whatever specialty you’re in, you could already have your Master’s. You’re like, “I could help mentor other nurses.” By all means, apply to be a service provider with Nurses Teach Nurses. I can post the signup link. It’s a waitlist link. That being said, all the services are moving to this new platform. I built it custom with you in mind, knowing that we need to be able to easily reschedule. You need to be easily able to find your service. We’re going to be able to have testimonials and reviews on there.A better indicator of how you'll perform as a student is your undergraduate GPA because that's a display of your persistence over time, instead of the GRE which is a one-time test. Click To Tweet
It’s going to be like a job board, but for services that you can book, that are going to help you. It’s a community mentor site called Nurses Teach Nurses. I’m hoping what this means for you is we should have a lot of additional opportunities to get resumé edits, personal statement edits, and mock interviews. I could now have 100, 200, and 300 providers and never have a shortage of people to offer these services for you. You’re going to have testimonials and reviews so you can pick and choose different price points, whatever it is. Overall, it’s a good thing. I promise you that I did this with you in mind to make it better for you. That’s enough of the tangent on that.
Make sure you’re doing your due diligence in reviewing your resumé before you hit submit. It’s okay if you make a single typo or even two typos. It may or may not even be noticed. I’ll also come on this one last thing when I apply for a job. I know better. Here I am preaching this to you. As I usually say, I’m telling you things that I’ve done and screwed up before. I’m human too and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Trust me.
I made a typo on my resumé, and this anesthesiologist pointed it out in my interview. Before he pointed it out, I didn’t even notice it. Instead of saying arterial line, I said atrial line. It didn’t catch in the spellcheck because atrial is a term, but it was supposed to read arterial, so it happens. We had a laugh about it. It’s okay. I still got offered that position, by the way, but I did not take that one.
Let’s go into the essay. The essay can vary depending on your school. In some schools like this one I wrote down says three short essay questions that have to be 100 to 200 words each. That’s not long. In fact, that’s a challenge in itself. Be sure when they’re putting these directions that you’re following the directions. If they say 100 or 200 words, if you go to 205, it’s probably not a huge deal, but if you go to 300 to 400, you didn’t follow the directions.
Right there, they’re like, “They didn’t follow the directions.” I think that in itself is meant to be a challenge to see if you can follow directions and stick to it. It’s a quick brief summary, but the questions are as such. Why do you wish to join X DNAP program? What is your proudest professional moment? What do you anticipate will be your biggest challenge as a nurse anesthesia student? That’s it. Those are the three short essay questions that this program asks its students. Other programs have, “Tell me about your professional and academic goals. Why are you picking x program? How do you foresee yourself in the future during your time in the CRNA?” That can vary across the board. Some of them are open-ended. Write a personal statement, and then you’re like, “okay.”
What I want to say about personal statements is don’t regurgitate your resumé. It doesn’t sound good. Essentially if it’s like, your essay is reading your resumé, that’s not going to play well in your favor. I’ve read essays that are almost bullet point essays where I’m like, “That’s not an essay.” I always suggest my students come up with the body and outline it first. I always suggest writing your intro based on the body and then writing your conclusion. When you do it that way, you’ve thoroughly outlined your body and you know what highlights, or what key points you want to speak to in your body. Your introduction can then lead segue into that body. Your conclusion then summarizes those key points.
I think starting with the body of your essay is always the way to go. That way, it’ll help you stay organized and on point versus all over the place. I know me. The way I speak and think is all over the place most of the time. I’m usually not very concise and matter of fact. I can go in 10 million directions. Organizing my body first allows me to stay on task. That’s my recommendation.
If they give you a generic open book, highlight your strengths and talk about them a little bit. You don’t have to, again, regurgitate your resumé, but if there’s something on your resumé you want to highlight in more detail, maybe you got a Daisy award and it’s a good opportunity to explain why you got that Daisy award. Things like that.
Is there anything else? I think the last thing I want to mention in this episode is that some schools, after you submit your application, will have you do things like the Casper Test, which is an emotional intelligence style test that asks you clinical scenario questions. Other schools will have you take a CCRN-style test prior to your interview. Some schools will have you take these tests before even offering you the interview, meaning you’re not even qualified to get an interview until you complete this additional portion of their application. That’s why I wanted to bring it up here. I didn’t mention the ICU experience. One last thing on your CRNA application that I want to mention is your ICU experience.
Most schools require a minimum of one year. Now some schools require two years. I know I’ve recently done an episode on how to gain acceptance into a school with less than one year. You’re like, “That’s not right.” Chill a little bit. What I was getting at with that is I have had plenty of students who are successful with less than a year. In fact, one of my good girlfriends, who’s a CRNA, had only six months when she applied to CRNA school. Before you freak out, by the time she started the program, she met that year. Trust me when I say this person is gung-ho, rock solid. I don’t know how she does it. She’s a mom of four now. She’s a total rock star.
She always has been on point, is what I mean. She’s a preceptor and an educator. She’s an amazing person. She applied at six months and got in, and she did fine. As I said, she’s a rock star CRNA. That being said, a lot of my students have a similar experience, whether they have 8 or 9 months or whatever. By the time you interview, maybe you don’t hit that one-year mark, but they know by the time you start your program that you will hit those one-year minimum requirements. You will always need to have at least one year of ICU experience before starting CRNA school.
That being said, a lot of these programs will make you sign some document saying you will stay or remain full-time in the ICU up until you start school. You do meet that requirement because it’s not fair. They have to require it. If it’s a requirement, that’s a requirement. Don’t get me wrong. You have to meet that requirement.
There’s a program that’s almost two years out. When you apply to the program, you have to wait almost two years to start their program. That’s not super common, but it does exist. On average, in most programs, you’re waiting 6 to 9 months to start the program. If you met that one year and you interviewed, you’re going to have more like 1.5 to almost 2 years prior to starting the actual program. Keep that in mind. ICU experience again, if they say two years, it’s the same thing. You can maybe apply at 1 year and 6 months.
By the time you start your program, you’re going to have two years, but also equally know that if you apply to a program with 6 or 9 months or a year and a half of ICU experience, you don’t meet that minimum, you may face rejection, and that’s okay and to be expected. You may also be given a chance. It’s worth the chance that you could be given. If you get rejected, then cool. You’ll come back next year.
One other thing I want to mention when I say come back next year is to make sure your program does not have a maximum time of applications. Some programs limit you to two applications only. In some programs, if you apply twice and you don’t even get asked to interview, you’re not allowed to apply anymore. Some are once. There are not very many schools like that, but some only allow you to apply once. If you don’t get an interview, they won’t ever reconsider your application.
There are other programs where you can apply as many times as you want. You can apply ten times. That’s what I’m saying. There are lots of little nuances to find out about your CRNA program prior to ever getting to your application phase. What I’m trying to caution you is don’t waste your applications. Don’t apply to apply. Make sure you’re giving it your full effort. If you’re applying before you meet a requirement, make sure you can speak to that because they may say, “You’re the only applicant that we’re interviewing that has less than the one-year minimum ICU. Why should we pick you?”
I’ve also had students tell me that when they go to interview, maybe they’re not currently in the ICU or they had 2 or 3 years. They left and went to the PACU Path lab. I hear all those units all the time. They go to apply, and they interview, and they’re like, “Why should we let you in when you’re the only application who’s not actively in the ICU?” You have to explain yourself. It’s okay as long as you can sell yourself and why you can equally rise up to the occasion because you’ve been out of the ICU for a year. Speak to the strengths you have about adaptability. Maybe you’ve been a traveler. Speak to the strengths you have and let these programs know it’s not going to be a problem.
That’s simply all they’re questioning. They’re saying this is going to be a problem. Should we be concerned? As long as you can address that question in a way that reassures them, “No, you don’t have to be worried about me. I’m good,” then they’ll let it slide. If they’re like, “I don’t know if you’re quite ready yet, but you need to maybe come back next year,” that’s an acceptable answer. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure, not qualified, good enough, or whatever might go through your brain. It means to come back next year after you’ve gotten the full year or a year and a half of experience under your belt.
Let’s also quickly dive in briefly because I’ve had whole episodes on this before, as far as ICU. This is big because so many people make assumptions. If you’re making an assumption, that’s a red flag right there. Don’t make an assumption. That’s where you go wrong. Probably the biggest unit that gets conflict most of the time is ER. Some schools will accept ER. I know that because they’d say, “I had ER experience.” I know a lot of you have but have you also had ICU experience, or has your school open-heartedly said, “We take ER,” then you’re good. If your school says on an individual basis or says, “No, we don’t take ER,” then you need something other than ER.
Let me read a statement that I read on a site. I found some good information online. If you start peering over the school’s website, some websites will have literally nothing. Some CRNA school program websites will have no advice. It’ll say, “Contact for more information.” I’m like, “Okay.” Other schools will pour into you and give you all kinds of FAQs and guidance. Look around. If your school is one of those schools that gives you no guidance on their website and you’re like, “I don’t know, but I’m going to apply anyways.”
Go to an open house. That is by far the best way to find out information. Try to look around other schools and see what their requirements are. It’ll at least get you an idea before you willy-nilly apply without much guidance. Obviously, if you reach out to them, they’ll probably give you what their requirements are. I don’t know why some websites keep the information somewhat hard to find or private. It’s just the way it is.
This school says, “A minimum of one full year of critical care experience within the past three years as a registered nurse.” Keep in mind that you’re going up against people who are probably going to be current. If it’s in the last three years, you can still apply, and you may still get an interview, but are you going to be the most competitive applicant? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. It’s like you’re taking a chance at that if you’re asking me. This includes emergency room experience (high acuity). Flight nursing particularly with a high volume of seen calls. ICU, high acuity adult ICU, ICU-CCU, CV-ICU, Neuro-ICU, Pediatric ICU, PICU, etc. They did not mention NICU.
You’ve got to peer over your school’s requirements and consider their requirements, but some schools may not even give you that much information. You may not know until you go to an open house and ask. “The applicant can demonstrate excellent experience or knowledge and caring for children and young adults who are on ventilators, have invasive lines, have a variety of experience with medicated infusion, as well as medical conditions common to adults.” That was after the pediatric experience explanation. “Emergency room. High acuity emergency room experience, particularly where there is a critical care area within the ER.” I’ve had nurses tell me, “Jenny, my ER has an ICU holding area.”
Some schools will say that doesn’t count. I’ve had programs that are like, “No, that doesn’t count. We need a true, traditional ICU.” I’m just letting you know what I’ve heard. Other programs will say, “If you have this critical care holding unit within the ER, that counts.” That’s why I want to let you guys know that there are so many little nuances and differences between each individual school that you have to do your due diligence and research the school. Flight nursing was another FAQ they had on here. It says, “We accept flight nursing experience, particularly with a high volume of seen calls,” is what they said. That’s cool. Not all programs will, though. Some will say while flight nursing is a great experience, we also equally require ICU experience.
If you’re currently a flight nurse but you have ICU experience, we would take that into consideration. If all you had was flight nursing and no ICU experience, I don’t think it is very common. Usually, to do a flight nurse position, you have to have an ICU background, but don’t quote me on that. If it’s your sole experience or the only experience you’ve had in the last ten years, some schools may not like that. It’s more like the ER. You’re only managing a patient acutely versus for a twelve-hour shift day in, day out. You’re stabilizing and you’re letting go. When you’re in the operating room, you’re stuck.
You’re in there for the full twelve hours. Whatever’s going on, you’re managing from start to finish. That’s why they like the ICU because you’re essentially doing the same thing. You’re managing a patient long-term and seeing how what you’re doing is affecting the patient’s outcomes, as long as you see the long-term management of a drip or a ventilator and see the adjustments, gauging the changes in ABGs based on the ventilator changes. When you’re stabilizing them, you don’t have time to see what you’re doing and how it’s affecting the patient. That is why some of these programs don’t consider ER true critical care experience.
I think I covered everything. I hope I didn’t miss anything. This was a lot. I know this is a heavy episode. I hope you guys enjoyed it nonetheless. If you have not yet, please leave a review. I would love to hear from you. Also, if you want to hear something, you can reach out to Hello@CRNASchoolPrepAcademy.com. Let me know what you want to know. I equally love when you guys send me an email and let me know what your big win was from an episode. Thank you so very much. You guys take care. I’ll see you next time.
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