Applying to CRNA school can be a pretty hectic experience. You need to know what to study, prep for your interview, go on campus tours, and much more. It’s easy to lose track of what you really need to be focused on.
Listen to this episode to know the facts from the fiction when applying for CRNA school. Do schools really just recycle the same questions every year? Are waitlists numbered? Do you need to attend program open houses? Learn all these things and more today with your host, Jenny Finnell.
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Applying To CRNA School Fact Versus Fiction
What CRNA Schools Do Not Tell You About Applying To CRNA School
Applying to CRNA School, fact versus fiction. In this episode, I’m going to share ten things that most candidates do not know when applying to CRNA school. Let’s get into it.
If you stay around to the end, I’m going to make sure I share the two things that you can do that don’t require you to do more or to know more that will help your odds of getting into CRNA school. Make sure you stick around all the way to the end.
If you’re new to the channel, welcome. Be sure to hit subscribe so you don’t miss out on future CRNA career guidance. The number one that I am going to advise you on is if you contact a school or you go to an open house, and you get some feedback on your application and they give you some recommendations on things to do to help improve, you have to take those recommendations.
A lot of people think, “They recommend it. They don’t require it. Because it’s recommended, I don’t have to do it.” I’m not saying you have to do everything. There are going to be some things you should probably rank in order of importance to do. I do understand there are some of you who are under time constraints.
Maybe you have all these things you would like to do that was recommended, but maybe the time window you have only allows you to pick from that list. You are going to have to be able to decipher from the things that were recommended for you to do, and what are the things that you can do realistically within your timeframe.
However, if time is not a constraint in your application process and they give you recommendations, I am going to let you know that I do think that you should do all of the recommendations as much as possible anyways. They’re not recommending for you do something if they don’t truly feel that it’s going to put you in a better position to gain acceptance.
Many times, I hear students come back to me. They either get an interview for the second time. They don’t get in or get a wait list again, and they feel defeated. When I start digging into it a little bit more and I ask whether they have reached out to these programs, they usually say they have because they take me up on that advice. If you haven’t reached out to your program, you should! Or, maybe they’re not getting feedback. Sometimes that happens too. The programs say, “It’s a competitive application cycle. Come back again next year. You’re a great candidate, we just didn’t have room for you.” It’s great that they feel that way about you, but it also leaves you not knowing exactly where to go next.
That’s where CRNA School Prep Academy can come into play and help you. All that being said, I find a lot of students who get recommendations from their program, but they don’t necessarily follow them to the tee. Do some of the things, but not all of the things. I think that’s such a huge missed opportunity.
If they recommend a certain course or that you get more shadow hours or different ICU experience, you’re like, “I have ICU experience. Maybe it’s not what they prefer but I’m getting ICU experience.” They recommended that you advance in your ICU career in a different way and you didn’t do that. When you come back next year and you apply and you interview again, they’re going to see and keep a record of the fact that they gave you this specific advice, but yet you didn’t do it. It’s ultimately not going to show them that you really want this position, whether that’s true or not.
I’m not saying that’s not true, I know you want to become a CRNA. You would not be tuning in to this show if you were not serious about becoming a CRNA. That is why I’m here to help you and let you know the fact that you have to take their recommendations seriously. I also had a student who was trying to gain re-admittance to CRNA school after a poor performance in a certain course.
We worked with him. He was given real specific advice on a course they wanted to see him take. I forget the exact reason why. It had something to do with him missing the deadline to apply. It had something to do with the deadline to apply to take this course and he didn’t feel like he was going to have the stuff ready and time to do it.
He didn’t do it but he applied and he interviewed. They were so let down by the fact that he didn’t repeat that course. He didn’t get into the school that year. He was bummed about it. He even questioned whether he was going to keep going on. Ultimately, he’s like, “I didn’t do what they asked me to do so I’m going to do what they asked me to do. I’m going to come back and try again for the third time.” He did that and he got in.
They were excited to see him back. It goes to show that if these schools are willing to give you their time, guidance, and recommendations, make sure you take them to heart. That’s my number one piece of advice. A lot of students think, “They’re recommended. They’re not required.” You should take the recommendations seriously if they were to give you that advice.If a school is willing to give you their time and recommendations, make sure you take them to heart. Click To Tweet
School Open Houses
Number two, I don’t know where people get some of these numbers from. I know there’s a lot of misinformation out there on the internet. I’ve fallen guilty about that many times myself. I try to help my students figure this stuff out so when I’m searching for them, I equally find misadvice. By far, to get the most accurate information, you have to go to school open houses 100% every single time and time again.
For example, how many people apply to this program? I’ve had students reach out to me and say, “This school has 50% odds of getting in so that’s a pretty good odds. I’m going to apply here.” I’m like, “There is no school that has 50% odds of getting in. I’ve never even heard of that.” Obviously, it’s more digging. I’m like, “This can’t be true.”
They’re going off something they’ve seen or purchased on the internet that tells them all these stats or whatever you want to call it based on the COA’s website. The COA’s website is not always up-to-date and accurate. Unless you’re specifically talking to the program director themselves, the information is not accurate or a current student who has gone to an open house or a student who’s gone to an open house who heard it from the program director, that’s a legit source.
If you’re finding someone who’s not taking the effort to reach out to the programs and talk to current students at the programs, be careful. Don’t apply to a school just because you think you’ll have the best odds of getting into this program. Almost all schools will tell you across the board that the stats fluctuate year to year.
A school is not going to have a 30% acceptance rate every single year. Some years, they get more applications than others so the acceptance rate is going to fluctuate. That is also why it’s hard to pinpoint an exact number. Know whatever stat you hear is always going to fluctuate year to year. Regardless, after I investigated and put a post out into our community, I had a student and I said, “If anyone is going to an open house, please ask this question because I’d like to clear the air on this.”
I’ve heard more than one person for this particular school that has heard that there’s a 50% acceptance rate or something. Maybe it was even higher than that like 75%. I’m like, “It cannot be true.” It wasn’t after they went to an open house and they asked this question, and sure enough, the school falls more in the range of a 25% acceptance rate, meaning they get 100 applicants and take 25 students.
The information that they got was not accurate. If you go to the COA’s website and look at this particular school, it said something like, “What’s the average class size.” I think it said sixteen. How many applicants? Sixteen. There was a 100% acceptance rate on the COA’s website. It’s not accurate. I don’t know why those numbers get there. Sometimes, the numbers can be relatively accurate but other times, they’re way inaccurate. They’ll say, “Board passing rate is 0%.” I’m like, “That’s not accurate. They have someone passing boards.”
Take it up with a grain of salt and go to the open houses. That’s always the best way. What I will say as far as applying to schools because you think you have a better chance of acceptance is not all schools are created equal in that sense. That is 100% true. Some schools are 10%. Some schools are more like 30%. Probably, the highest I’ve ever seen is 30% to 35%. If you look at the number of applicants to the number of positions available or spots or cohort seats, the highest I’ve ever seen is about 30% to 35% as far as the overall acceptance rate.
I’ve never seen anything close to 40% or 50% unless it’s a brand-new cohort or program. You can get closer to a 40% acceptance rate with a brand-new program. I know a lot of students will question, “Jenny, it’s brand new. I don’t know if I want to go there or if they’re going to have things figured out yet. What if they have a terrible board passing rate?” Yes, there’s always some risk involved in going to a new program. With that being said, they wouldn’t be able to open their doors and have you into their program unless they’ve gone through a pretty grueling process to get approved by an accreditation body, which is what all the other more established schools have to do.
Every 4 or 6 to 8 years, they have to get re-accredited. When a new school opens, you’re guaranteed to get through that cohort based on when they’re going to be due to be re-accredited again through the accreditation body. Unless their program fails miserably in the first few years, you’re more than likely still going to graduate.
That being said, even established CRNA programs can go through staff fluctuations, which can cause a lot of turmoil with the cohorts themselves. You can have very well-known or good programs that get new faculty or have come up among the dean of the College of Nursing, the program itself, and all kinds of back and forth. It can cause a lot of disruption to the students even though it’s a well-established program with historically good board passing rates. Maybe they have a bad year where it tips the scale and goes way down because they had a lot of faculty shifting going on. That can even happen in a good school.
Taking a risk on a new program is a risk worth taking. I never see a problem with it. What is exciting about new programs is they’re excited. This is brand new. The faculty come in. They are fresh, excited, and motivated to connect with you and help you through this process. At least that’s what I see. The newer upstarting programs come in with a raw, exciting, and vibrant outlook on starting their program. That feeds into the overall picture and success of their students.
Keep that in mind. That’s the benefit of a new program, not to mention the higher acceptance rate because the word of mouth has not gotten out there yet. If you get word of mouth that a program near you is opening, that is your sign to apply, so start working all your stuff now. There always seem to be programs that are opening and popping up all across the country. Unfortunately, sometimes, there seems to be almost every year, at least a program or maybe two that shut down. Make sure you’re staying on top of that.
The best way to do this is by staying on top of going to program open houses. Go every year. From the time you’re in high school all the way through to when you apply, go to the program open houses. Know when their next program open house is. That is the best way to stay up to date with all of the changes that the program may be going through.
If you want ballpark numbers other than brand new programs that may have a closer to 40% acceptance rate, maybe even 50%, typically you have 4 to 6 applicants for every seat. For the ballpark figure, you’re looking at 20% to 25% across the board as far as a blanket of people applying based on how many seats they have. If a school gets 240 applicants, maybe out of 240 applicants, 30 of them don’t qualify. They’ve missed or didn’t do something in the requirements, so they’re thrown into the pile of not qualified.
I know you might be thinking, “Those are probably the students that don’t even have the required GPA.” Some of them may be, but some of them maybe don’t even meet the requirements. They may be don’t even have a Chemistry course and somehow maybe they missed the fact that they need a Chemistry course to apply to CRNA school. Otherwise, they would be a great applicant.
I’ve had so many times where students would otherwise be great candidates, but they somehow miss a pretty big part of their application. A lot of times it comes down to the course requirements to apply to CRNA school. I had someone post in the community that she had Intro to Chem and Chem 1 but she was rejected because she didn’t have Chem 2. She was shocked and like, “I have Intro to Chem and Chem 1. I thought that would satisfy the Chem requirements.”
Some schools do not. Some schools want a true Chem 1 and Chem 2. Some schools don’t even consider an Intro to Chem a Chemistry course at all. I have a cousin. She’s not going to CRNA but she’s in nursing school. A very reputable BSN program here in town was her experience. She didn’t have to do an actual Chemistry course. It was Intro to Chem or I don’t know what she called it, but it was not a true Chem course. She was like, “This is so easy. It was like high school Chem all over again.” I’m like, “If you go to CRNA school, you’re going to have to do a legit Chem course 1 and 2.” She’s not going to CRNA, but it’s interesting.
Nursing schools tend to be different as far as what courses they require you to have. I had to have an Algebra course for my nursing program. I don’t think most nursing schools require you to have any Math courses, but there are some CRNA programs that require you to have a Math course. You have to be aware of these types of things when you’re going to apply. Unfortunately, if you don’t investigate this type of information early on in your CRNA journey, you could be left with no time to do it because courses take a while to complete.
Think about that, but the typical is about 25% acceptance across the board if you were to pick a ballpark number. That’s pretty much for all established CRNA programs. The only exception would be relatively new programs for the most part. This one program that’s supposed to have a 100% acceptance rate or over 50%, but the reality is 25%. The myth was revealed.
Number two was the fact that the average ballpark number for the acceptance rate is about 25%. Although if you’re part of CSPA, you jump up to 65%. I have some exciting news I’m going to share in the coming months. I guess when this episode is published, it’s going to be in mid-November 2022. For CSPA students, you’re probably going to know this when this episode comes out, but we’re sharing something exciting- a new program that we are launching come 2023. If you’re a CSPA student, look out for that email. That’s an exciting opportunity for you. Overall, our students find a lot of success in getting into CRNA School; way more than the average acceptance rate.
Number three is that schools may tell you that students who participate in the interview day have no say in the selection process. While they don’t, technically, they can’t pick a candidate. It still comes down to the admissions panel committee to select candidates to be considered for admissions. They do, however, consider the feedback if they were to get feedback on some type of interaction they had with you. I know this because I know programs that use this strategy and they tell me about it, so I know it’s true.
I can’t speak for all programs across the board. Other than being nice and creating a more laid-back environment and friendly environment, I would say most schools are using students to gauge cohorts’ compatibility by getting some feedback, whether that’s good or bad or nothing from their interaction with the students during the interview day.
Let’s say there are a group of fifteen students who are coming in for the interview that day. They have two student volunteers and they take you on a tour. They show you a simulation lab, help answer questions, and are chatting friendly. What if they ask a question to a particular person and they get defensive: “You work in the ER. I’m surprised you’re going to interview.” What if you took offense to that and you’re like, “I’m here, aren’t I? I got an interview.”
I’m just trying to throw an example out there of an interaction that could be seen as slightly defensive or negative. Maybe that caught them off guard by how you reacted to their commentary on your ICU experience. They were like, “That was defensive.” Let’s say later on down the road, the faculty say, “Are there any insights or feedback you can give on anyone in particular, anyone who stands out, or anything?” They are like, “So and so got defensive when I asked about their ER experience and why they don’t have true ICU experience.” The faculty, depending on how your interview went, could say, “That’s interesting because we had the same experience with our interviewer. We gauged that too.”
Who knows? I don’t know. I’m just throwing out random potential things, or vice versa, they struck up a conversation with someone and they were like, “Why do you want to become a CRNA?” You shared your story and it was personable. You laughed and chatted about it, and then when the program is asking the students after the fact, they’re like, “What could you tell me about any of the students you interacted with today?” They will say, “So and so shared these unique things about her. She showed me some of his or her personal sides. They were friendly and easy to get along with and easy to chat with.” They’re like, “We gather the same thing based on this person’s interview.”
They don’t say yay or nay, but if what that student tells them is being reinforced by what they experienced in the interview, it may push them. Maybe they already thought this person was slightly defensive. By asking that student about their interaction during the meet and greet, they could say, “Our suspicions were confirmed,” versus the other way. It’s not like they’re the ones making the decisions. That is true, but they can gauge what they’re already thinking based on their interview.
Be aware of that when you go in for the meet and greets. I’m not trying to make you more nervous. You’re probably like, “I know I’m going to sweat buckets.” I hope that’s not the case, but I’m simply trying to give you a friendly heads-up to make sure that you’re treating that as almost like an interview in itself. I’ve also heard some unfortunate experiences where these students are let in for an all-day event and they sit in a room and do nothing. They’re like, “Why is this booked for six hours? I’ve been sitting here for four hours doing absolutely nothing, staring at people who are also waiting to be interviewed.”Make sure that you're treating on-campus tours almost like an interview in itself. Click To Tweet
I don’t know if all schools have that figured out. I don’t know if that was done intentionally to see if they can figure out who’s going to crack first when they just sit there and wait. It’s like watching paint dry. I can’t speak for all the rationales and reasoning behind the interview process. I would like to think it’s thought through but it’s not always. Maybe sometimes it doesn’t work out as convenient or as nice of an experience. I’ve had other students who were like, “The day I spent touring the facility, it was amazing. They give us so much information.”
Some schools will almost give you a full-blown open house. They’re going to give you all kinds of information, which can also lead to a challenge in the interview when they say, “What questions do you have for us?” It almost tests you on how well you were paying attention and what notes you took. If you ask a question that was blatantly answered during that introductory period, they might be like, “I know I answered that.”
That’s why I always encourage my students to think of questions that are a little bit off the beaten path, and not the standards that you could ask. At least have one unique question. That way, if they do address it in the open house, you’re like, “I still got the backup question that I can ask and inquire that’s a little more unique.”
Waitlists Are Numbered
Number four is that all waitlists are numbered. That’s a myth. A lot of students think there’s a number to a waitlist. I’m not saying that some schools don’t have a numbered waitlist, but there are a lot of schools that do not. Even the schools that have a numbered waitlist, if you’re the number two candidate, there could be an exception. They would take you versus number one. What if there’s something that comes up and number one does something? Maybe they find out something that they left the ICU.
Maybe they had a candidate who was in the number one spot on the waitlist, but they found out somehow that student no longer works in the ICU and that was a contingent thing. They had to stay working full time in the ICU, and now you’re in the number one spot. Even though you’re number two, you’re the one following up every month. You’re doing extra things and more shadowing opportunities. You’re going to state association conferences, networking, and meeting faculty. They’re like, “You’re on the waitlist. Look at this person who’s on the waitlist number two and number one hasn’t done a thing. We’ll bump them ahead of number one.”
Maybe that has happened. I don’t know of that happening. For most humans, if they meet someone who’s going above and beyond, and they’re number two on a list and the number one person on the list is doing absolutely nothing, human nature would say, “Let’s give number two a shot.” They want it bad. My biggest takeaway from this is don’t remain still on a waitlist. I’m not saying you have to email them every week. Please don’t interpret it that way.
I have a lot of students who are like, “Jenny, how often should I touch base? I don’t want to annoy them.” I get it. I would say at least once every 3 to 4 weeks or so. Don’t just email and ask them, “What’s the status?” Try to email with a little more thought than that and express how you’ve been educating yourself. Read a current ANA journal. Find an article that strikes you. Maybe you can let them know some insights you gathered by either going to state association meetings or getting shadow experiences. Maybe you retook your GRE and you want to update your score.
Show that you’re still making movement because that is important versus just asking, “What’s the status? I need a status update.” Say, “I shadowed a CRNA at whatever hospital. They asked these great questions and I found that experience valuable. It makes me more and more excited to become a CRNA. I’d love to check on the status of the waitlist.” It shows them a little bit like, “That’s nice. You’ve been doing these extra things.” It shows them that your heart is in it and you’re wanting this so bad versus someone who doesn’t reach out at all or who reaches out and says, “Can you give me an update?”
That’s my piece of advice if you get waitlisted and you think, “If I’m number eight, then what’s the point of even doing anything else?” The thing is you don’t know. I don’t know of any schools that tell their students what their number is. Part of the reason is that they want some flexibility in that. They don’t want it to be super rigid because they know that this type of thing happens where certain candidates may be bumped ahead of other ones depending on how they express their interest in the program going forward.
They don’t disclose where you were on the waitlist. I’ve had students who are at number 10 but they still get in. It does happen. If you’re on a waitlist, you have to take that as, “I’m going to CRNA school. It’s just a matter of getting that phone call.” You have to let go of it in the sense that you have to keep moving forward. You have to still have a plan for what’s next if I were to have to start all over again, apply somewhere else, or reapply next year.
You equally have to be as prepared to pick up a phone call and accept that seat. I’ve heard stories of students getting a phone call a couple of weeks before the cohort starts. That’s a little crazy but I have heard of it happening. Would you say no? I wouldn’t. I’d be like, “I’ll call my boss today and I’ll quit. You don’t ever have to rehire me. I’m going to make it through CRNA school” and off I go. Most people would be willing to drop all their things and try to figure out how to make it work. I can only imagine that would be stressful. Hopefully, you have more than a few week notice. That was number four.
Number five. If you give wrong answers in your interview, people a lot of times think they’re doomed. I’ve had so many students that are like, “I don’t think I did well enough in my interview. I totally shot my chance. They come out of the interview feeling awful. I will tell you right now, I didn’t come out of any of my interviews feeling like I made it right. I knew I did better on my second interview, but I still was like, “I know I didn’t answer where the platelets were made correctly.” “Jenny, where are the platelets made?” It was like rapid fire and I was like, “Liver?” As I said, I was questioning it but I didn’t have time for it. They were like, “Are you sure?” I was like, “Yes.” Of course, they moved on after the fact.
I made mistakes in my interview. The reality is everyone is going to make some mistakes. It’s more about how you go with it. Does it get you so rattled and shaken up that you can’t move forward? They probably see students who if they can’t find an answer or don’t know the answers, they get stuck. They’re like, “I can’t give you an answer.” They can’t keep moving on.
Don’t worry about perfection. Consider what would you do if you were proven incorrect. What would you do if you were wrong? What would you do if you don’t know? Those are more important than knowing everything because they’re going to test you until you don’t know something. They’re going to test your knowledge base and see how far they can take it.
If you know something, they’re going to go a little bit further, and if you know that, they’re going to go a little bit further. They’re going to see where you get tripped up. That’s where they’re going to gauge where you end, and they’re going to see how you handle yourself when you don’t know. Focus more on that aspect of practicing versus trying to know everything because there’s too much.
We’ll never know everything. If you need to know everything, you need to question yourself why that is. Why do you have to know everything? What is so important about knowing everything? Are you afraid that you’re going to make a mistake? Are you afraid that you won’t have a resource?” Get to the root of that. What’s so bad about making a mistake? You don’t want to hurt anyone. That’s a pretty big mistake but with most mistakes, you’re not hurting someone. How do you prevent that from happening? You use your resources. That’s always what you fall back on if you’re ever questioning it.
The biggest key to not making a mistake that’s harmful is slowing down. That’s the number one thing. It is taking that extra second to double and triple-check what you’re doing and triple-check your math. I don’t care. Unless the patient is actively dying in front of you, you can take an extra second to look and confirm your dose of the medication and all that stuff.
Focus on slowing down. If you’re distracted while you’re doing something, you’re more likely to make a mistake. Number two is knowing when it’s okay to question your knowledge, and being okay with and accepting of needing to question your knowledge. They’re looking for things like that too. That makes a safe practitioner, knowing someone is willing to say, “I don’t know this. I need to figure this out. I need to ask someone before I guess. I’m not going to take a wild goose guess. This is what I do know, but this is where my knowledge is falling off. How can I get even deeper on this so I can make sure I’m making the right decision?” Don’t worry about knowing all the right answers. Worry more about how you handle yourself in the face of not knowing.
Prepare For Different Questions
Number six is they will ask different questions every year, even in one interview to the next interview. I see so many students focus on, “They’re going to ask me this because so and so had this question last year.” Even from interview to interview, meaning, “So and so interviewed yesterday and I’m interviewing today so they told me the questions.” I hate to break it to you if you don’t already know this, but they know that you know the questions.Don't worry about knowing all the right answers. Worry more about how you handle yourself in the face of not knowing. Click To Tweet
Don’t get me wrong. Schools tend to have favorites. They tend to ask those almost all the time, give or take, a few favorite questions. For the most part though, they know students talk so they do change it up. They do that by bringing in different interview panels from year to year, even from day to day. They have a huge bank of questions. In my opinion, practice as many questions as you can. I’m not poo-pooing that but don’t get hung up on practicing the exact question. It’s more about practicing the style of question and gauging where your weaknesses are within those styles.
If it’s Pathophys Pharm, where are you finding that you don’t know how to advance your knowledge and speak to certain things in pharmacy or Pathophys versus emotional intelligence? Are you having a hard time talking through a difficult time with a coworker and why is that? Are you getting defensive? Are you darting your eyes across the room? Are you clicking your pen? Focus on things that you can adjust and become more aware of versus focusing on exactly what they’re going to ask you.
I feel like 9.9 or 9.5 times out of 10, you’re not going to get what you think they’re going to ask. You might get 1 out of 10 questions that you’ve prepared for. Maybe two if you’re lucky, but the rest of them are fair game. I see students focus so much on, “I have to know what the school asks.” It is nice if you have someone to talk to. I always encourage you to find out the style of interview and potential questions that they were asked because it does give you an indication of the style of questions they tend to ask. I wouldn’t count and bank on them asking you the exact same questions though.
Don’t let that knowledge hinder you from practicing more questions is what I’m getting at. It should not stop you from getting a big-picture practice of questions all across the board, even if it’s only personal questions. If you 100% know that they never sway in their style, cool. Don’t worry about Pathophys and Pharm if you feel okay with that. I do think at a minimum, you should at least know your ACLS drugs by heart. I feel that’s such a fair game. What if they want to throw you a curveball and they have you tell them a challenging time that you made a clinical mistake? They then start going to that clinical mistake as far as the pharm behind it or whatever it ends up being. You never really know. I don’t think you should neglect brushing up on your Pharm and Pathophys knowledge.
I know some of you are like, “Jenny, what if I’m in a time crunch?” I get that. I’m hoping you’re reading this episode in time to where you plan it well enough ahead to where you won’t find yourself in a time crunch. What I want for you is that when you study for the CCRN and interview, I want it to make you a stronger student. CSPA gets you into the school. Our mission is to get you in because that’s what you want. I know that and I wanted that so bad myself too.
What I then know you need is you need to be a successful student. I want you to graduate. We need to get you through the program. Inadvertently, a lot of what we teach and what we do for our students is to get them into school. Ultimately, it’s making you a good student both mentally and physically and growing your knowledge base.
We try to do all those things because we know it takes everything to make a solid student and get you through school so you’re not miserable and stressed all the time. You’re probably going to be anyways but if you have a good foundation, you’ll be able to breathe a lot more than your classmates who don’t.
I’m going off on a tangent now, but back to not focusing on specific questions. Try to improve your knowledge overall, and that speaks to your emotional intelligence as far as everything like why you want to be a CRNA, understanding this profession, why you want to be in the profession, and understanding different political things that are going on. It’s all-encompassing.
I have four left. I’m going to go over two and then the last two are the ones I saved for last. The next thing I want to share with you is they will not always ask about your specialty. I can’t say that they won’t because most of the time they do. If I had to put a percentage on it, 90% of the time I would say they’re going to ask you about your specific specialty.
There are these 10% stories I hear where students are like, “I’m a CVICU nurse and they asked me neuro questions. That goes back to not just having laser or tunnel vision when you’re preparing, go for the whole picture because they want to see it. That’s them testing you. Did they just focus on the CV or cardiovascular knowledge? Do they have a decent understanding of other knowledge too? They don’t always pick your specialty.
If you’re a peds nurse, for example, don’t just prepare for them to ask you peds questions. You have to prepare for them to ask you about adult physiology. They may ask you some peds questions, but they may equally ask you some adult physiology as well. You have to make sure that your knowledge is well-rounded because they could throw anything at you.
They Won’t Always Ask About Your Specialty
The next one is they may ask you questions that you would never in your wildest dreams think you’ll be asked in a CRNA interview. I’ve told this story before, so bear with me. My girlfriend got asked in her CRNA interview, “If you tell me any animal you could be, what would it be and why?” She said she’d be a butterfly because they were pretty and she could fly away. That’s what she said and I crack up. She didn’t get into that program but she’s a CRNA now. A happy ending to a funny story.
I was not asked that question myself but I don’t even know what I would’ve said. It totally will catch you off guard. They’re looking for why so you could be pretty and fly away. Maybe that was an indicator that she was a little flighty, she has a fear of commitment, or she was shallow because she cared about beauty. Who knows how they interpreted that? I have no idea why they even asked that. That’s all I can think of, but they could ask you some oddball things.
I’ve had a student tell me they were asked, “You’re stranded on a frozen lake and all you have is a stick and a piece of string. What do you do?” They’re trying to see how are you going to rationalize this tough situation What are you going to come up with? It’s gauging your wittiness and thinking on your toes. Sometimes, they’re asking you questions that completely seem like it’s left field. It’s this emotionally intelligent style of questioning that’s gauging who you are as a person, which is why it’s so important to hone in on that prior to your interview.
Start Interview Prep Early
I saved the best for last. These two things that I’m going to share with you are things that if you were to do, they don’t require more courses, more money, more effort or more of anything. It’s just simple decisions. One of them is timing, but actually, both of them are timing. The one I’m going to share with you is when you were selected to interview, I’ve had a lot of students who are like, “Jenny, I have this pick of interviewing Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I could go Monday or Wednesday, but I don’t know which one to do. Wednesday is giving me more time to prepare so I’m going to go with Wednesday.” I’m always like, “Go with Monday. What’s an extra two days?” The reason why a lot of students get trapped in this, “I need a few more days to prepare,” is because they weren’t preparing all along.
Before you apply to CRNA school, you should be preparing for your interview. Your interview preparation needs to go in line with your overall application. You can’t neglect your interview prep until you’ve clicked submit on your application. Even then, I have students who even after they submit their application, they’re like, “I won’t get asked. I’m not going to interview.” They don’t prepare and then they get invited to interview and they’re surprised. Don’t let that be you.You can't neglect doing your interview prep until you've submitted your application. Start prepping while you're working on your application Click To Tweet
If I’m speaking to you right now, I’m telling you, promise me that if you are actively applying to CRNA school, you are taking the interview process seriously and you’re preparing from day one. I’m not saying you have to spend three hours a day studying for the interview from the time that you know you’re going to CRNA school, but make a conscious effort to do little things in your daily routine. For me, it was making a notebook in the ICU when I had a patient with a certain disease process or on a certain drip trio type or whatever it is.
I would Wikipedia that drip or that disease process. I’ll look it up and find out how the mechanism of action works with that drug. How I dose it and why, and all the things. If I had a question in rounds, I would pick the fellow’s brain about it. I made that my prep and it felt minor because it wasn’t giant chunks of my time. It was as I worked but then intermittently at the weekends, I would study that binder. I would quiz myself and I would have my husband ask me a few questions.
I found ways to incorporate interview prep as I went along. That was a year leading up to CRNA school. I didn’t wait. I probably actively studied for my interview for nine months prior to my first interview and I still didn’t get in, but then I got into my second one. I can’t speak for everyone. Everyone is so different and sometimes it’s getting that experience.
If I had an opportunity to have a mock interview back when I was applying, I probably would’ve gotten in my first time. That’s a huge tool. For those of you who are maybe not aware, we have now opened up that service to anyone who wants it. It’s now on a website called Nurses Teach Nurses. We’ll be able to provide more resources for this type of service.
It’s on NursesTeachNurses.com. You do have to create a free account to view people’s availability. Their availability is going to put you on a loop and kick you back out of the website. We do have to protect who’s on the website and who’s purchasing the services. We want to make sure that they are real people and they’re not robots there booking our availability because that happens.
Anyway, it’s Nurses Teach Nurses if you are looking for a mock interview. I suggest doing one at least a couple of months out from when you anticipate your actual interview. This gives you time. Time is your friend. I said these last two tips are about timing. The reason why this first tip is to prepare early and pick the first date available when offered is that the interview panel can fatigue. When someone says, “I want a few more days to prepare,” interview on Monday. They are fresh.
You can get in the very first day to interview before they get fatigued and burn out from Monday and Tuesday. By Wednesday, what if they’re already over this? Not really but they are humans. They’re not robots. It’s a lot of work to interview 100 people for a few spots. My friend and colleague, I’m not going to disclose the school but it’s a school in South Carolina, said he got 140 applicants and they spent about a month and fifteen people a day interviewing.
Can you imagine a month, fifteen people a day, Monday through Friday? I cannot imagine. That sounds incredibly exhausting. Maybe not every day. I forget how many days a week they would hold interviews but it was almost an entire month of interviews to get through all. They interviewed about 100 people for 36 spots out of 240 applicants.
It’s very competitive. You had a chance to be at the front of the pack to interview towards the front end of that. They put you in clusters. They had the top 10, 15, 20, 30, or something like that. They are clusters of people that are for sure going to get in. They had them ranked in the top ten. They had 36 seats so when they get to the top 30, then it’s like, “Who are these other six seats going to go to? How can we wean through some of these people who are iffy?”
Picture it this way. If there are 36 seats and you’re interviewing for 36 seats, what if you interview last and they already have their top ten? Those top ten more than likely are not going to budge. Had you been at the beginning? Maybe or maybe not, you could have fallen in the top ten. I’m not saying that they don’t consider you for the top ten if you interview and you knock it out of the park. You could bump someone from the top 10 into the top 15 or whatever the next rank was. It’s a little bit less likely because now you have a lot to compare to. Also, they’ve seen a lot now.
Go as soon as possible and don’t let this make you feel discouraged if this is not possible for you. You’re like, “Jenny, my school is rolling admissions. I know I’m not in the first rolling session or cohort.” It’s okay. Go do the best you can. It doesn’t mean that you’re doomed. Please don’t take this as doomsday. I’m saying if you have the choice, go early. Go first thing in the morning, get your spot early, and go in one of the first days to prevent any human error of fatigue or whatever.If you have the choice, go get your interview spot early. Try to be one of the first. Click To Tweet
I have been told that sometimes, if they come out of a bad interview, the interview didn’t go well and they left the interview panel feeling crummy, then they go to interview the next person, and they’re already not in the best mood. That stinks to walk into a room where people are already like, “I’ve got to interview again. I just want to be done because they had a bad experience.” That stinks but I think they all do the best they can by not letting that bias or whatever affect them in their next interview. Ultimately, human nature is human nature, and it is what it is.
The last one is early applications get preference. Not all schools do this, but I will say the vast majority of schools that I have come to know do prefer early applicants. What I mean by that is if the application cycle opens on August 1st and closes on August 31st, the student who applies on August 1st versus August 31st is usually two different students. Not always, obviously, because there are always outliers or people who don’t fit the mold, but they know the student who comes in first is the go-getter. The ones who are like, “I’ve been planning for this. I’m ready. Let’s do it,” versus the person who’s like, “I waited too late. I’m scrambling. I made up my mind last minute to do this. I’m going to do it now. I’m barely getting in.”
It shows a better planner or someone who has anticipated and who has planned a little bit better. Sometimes, they get preferences like a preference for the first interview spot or a preference where they’re going to fill the first ten seats with this first round of admissions or interviews. Some schools do these rolling interviews where they fill seats. Not all schools fill the seats. Some schools will wait to the very end and look at everyone as a whole, while other schools actively fill seats. They don’t typically remove people from seats once they fill them. Meaning if there are 36 seats and the first run of interviews, they fill ten of those seats.
Now, the next people who go in the interview are interviewing for 26 seats versus 36 seats. That’s why I want to stress to you the importance of timing and trying to plan your CRNA progress such that you can get the application done early. It doesn’t have to be on the very first day but as early as possible in the rolling application process if that’s the case or as early as possible when they open their window to apply. You don’t want to be waiting until the very last day to submit your application.
Here is the biggest kicker. There are two things that people fall off of when it comes to meeting the deadline. One is courses. Two is references. Put that in the back of your brain. Those are the two things students struggle with the most because they plan a course a little bit late. It doesn’t finish in time and they hold off on their application.
If that is you, please reach out to the school. If it’s not a requirement, you can apply and then submit the course after it’s done. Don’t delay your application if you’ve met all the requirements because of an elective course you want to take. Submit it after the fact. It’s worth getting your application in early versus waiting for the very last day and barely missing the deadline when you’ve had it ready all along. You wanted to finish that course.
Let them know what’s going on so they can help you make that decision. If it’s a requirement, that’s a little bit different story than you don’t want your application to be thrown out. Reach out and let them know, “I have one requirement. It’s finishing up right at the wire. Is it okay to still apply? Would you still consider me for an interview once I can submit my official transcript?” Go from there.
The next one is references. Sometimes, you ask too late, meaning you ask a month before the deadline, and you have people miss their emails. I know I’m guilty of it. I’m sorry, I’m human. At this point in the day, if you email support at CRNA School Prep Academy or Hello@CRNASchoolPrepAcademy, I have a whole team that manages that. I don’t check my private DMs. Depending on how you reach out to people, whether or not you get ahold of them. You’re like, “I’m waiting on an email back from them.” They may never get it.
If you’re asking for references, ask in person. These are your coworkers. These are people that you should be in connection with. Maybe it’s a CRNA you shadowed though. Do you have their cell phone number? If all you have is their email, then stay persistent and reach out early, like three months before your application’s deadline and ask for a reference. That way, you give them at least a month to do it. Some people need to be stayed on as far as, “I still need this reference.”
Incentivize them a little bit. Give them a Starbucks thank you card and say, “Thank you so much for doing the reference. I appreciate it.” That puts a little bit of jab in their side to say, “I’ve got to get this done. That’s so nice of them to think of me to give me a Starbucks gift card. I need to get this reference done.” It’s human nature. I’m speaking to most humans who need to be pushed a little bit. I push you guys to become CRNAs. I’m like, “I know you can do this. It’s going to push you a little bit.” You equally have to push people whom you ask for favors from. Keep those two things in mind.
That sums up this whole episode. I hope you guys enjoyed and thank you so much for tuning in. I appreciate you so much. I’m so excited about your future. Keep at it. Keep up the hard work. It will pay off. This is playing the long game. If you want something to happen right now in 2022, I sure hope it does. Know that when you’re embarking on the journey of becoming a CRNA, you are taking on the mindset of this is a long-standing journey. It’s training for a marathon. It’s going to take some commitment and time to get to the end result, which is crossing the finish line. I know you can and you will. Thank you. Until the next episode, you guys take care.
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