Mastering Your CRNA School Application
Standing out through your CRNA application is much easier than people think!
Let's begin with the most time consuming portion; the dreaded essay. It's not just you! Every nurse despises this part. We usually aren't crafty writers and when we do write, it's typically the short handed, choppy medical lingo. Unfortunately, we all have to start somewhere and graduate school is full of writing. Remember, every program is different with their essay requirements so make sure you research how long your essay should be, how many you need, etc. Like many novice applicants, I failed to do this and when I was applying to MCG, they wanted two. One essay about my failures and how I've grown from them. The other essay about why I wanted to be a CRNA. Usually you can just use your "Why I want to be a CRNA" essay for all your applications and be done, but some schools like to make you work a little harder than others.
My advice would be to open your essay with how you were exposed to the anesthesia world, focusing on a particular situation or a CRNA who left an impression on you.
Hint Hint, this is good place to insert one of your shadow experiences and don't hold back on the details!
I concentrated on a particular shadow experience with a pediatric CRNA who sold me years ago. To bulk up your essay, be sure to include your achievements through nursing school and especially your nursing career. Don't hesitate to brag on yourself! You've worked hard to get where you are!
Well, I used pretty much an entire paragraph stressing the high acuity ICUs I've worked in and the amount of experience I have with various gtts/meds, vents, and equipment (iabps, vads, impellas, ecmo, crrt, and so on). I also spent a good portion of my essay focusing on my leadership skills and positions I held like relief charging, precepting, and committee involvements. For my last paragraph, I took some of my own personal qualities and related them to what I think it takes to become a successful, well-rounded CRNA. I also talked about the kind of CRNA I wanted to be for my patients, using your typical "nursey" adjectives. Once I was finished, I forced several coworkers and family members to read it and give me their opinion on grammar and fluidity. To me, it was also really important to let my personally shine through my essay. Don't forget, you want to stand out any way you can!
Moving on to your resume/CV...
Through my research, several websites recommended to avoid making your resume and essay too similar; however, I found this near impossible. Afterall, you're going to want to stress all your nursing experience and achievements on both. I also think it's irrelevant whether you choose to have a resume versus a CV. Obviously you're already going to have a resume made from when you applied for your ICU position, so you might as well just tweak that a little and move on. Make sure to add all of your certifications, including your CCRN. If you don't have your CCRN yet, make sure to write "scheduled" next to it so they know you intend on taking it. I can't stress it enough… get your CCRN!! It's shows you're serious about your career and not to mention, most schools won't consider you unless you have it.
GPA, you say?
Depending on where you're applying, the GPA recommendations will vary anywhere from a 3.0 to 3.4 minimum, and a 3.5 or higher to be competitive. But again, this is all school dependent. You'll also find some schools calculating a separate GPA just for sciences and statistics. If you received a "C" in any of those classes, I would strongly consider retaking them at a local college if you have time. If you don't have time, don't worry. Just focus on the other important pieces of the application and emphasize all your amazing strengths!
Okay, so now let's talk GRE.
Oh the agony! I hated this test. Absolutely hated. From my experience, the GRE isn't anywhere near as big of a deal as people make it out to be. Honestly, I think it's just one of the many hoops graduate schools make you jump through to weed out the "not-so-serious" applicants. Unless you're applying to a top-notch school, don't sweat it. My score was nothing impressive- a 150 in verbal, a 152 in quantitative, and a 4 for writing. The school where I accepted, UT- Memphis, recommended a 144 quantitative, a 153 verbal, and a 4.5 writing to be a "competitive" score. I had friends who scored anywhere from 307 to 311 with 4.5 writing scores, and they weren't asked to interview at the same places where I was... so who knows. Bottom line, just don't kill yourself stressing over it. Study wise, I seriously studied for maybe two months and lollygagged for atleast five. I used two Kaplan books but spent most of my time reteaching myself formulas and completing Kaplan's online practice tests. Personally, I learn best by answering practice questions and then reviewing them afterwards, even the ones I got right. Additionally, I've heard good things about Barry's review for the quantitative section, and then the yearly ETS review books for overall study material and practice questions.
With all that being said, here are a couple more suggestions... Apply early, early, early! I truly feel like this makes a huge difference. The schools look at applications as they receive them. You don't want to be that person who applied the last week and sadly slipped through the cracks because they already had enough qualified applicants to interview. Also, be mindful that some schools, like MUSC, require the CRNAs you shadow to fill out a special "proof of shadow" sheet while you're there. And like I said in my previous post, you should be requesting your recommendations before the applicantion portal even opens. Leave yourself plenty of time to have all your paperwork turned in so you aren't stressing yourself out over something that was easily preventable.