So you’ve decided to be a CRNA/CNS/NP. You’re tired of toiling away on 12 hour shifts.
What follows is a list of action points on how to get into graduate school for nursing. I got admitted into several graduate schools, and these are the strategies I personally used. I’ll give you a heads up: some of my advice sounds manipulative and downright inauthentic. But that’s the entire point! I wish I could say that graduate schools admit nursing students based on objective criteria. The reality is that you will get admitted if the gatekeeper likes you.
That said, this blog post is dedicated to reality, not fantasy.
1) Shadow the type of nurse you’re thinking of becoming.
Shadowing is the first step because it prevents you from looking like a dumbass in interviews. More importantly, it allows you to ask questions to your mentor and assess if a particular type of nursing fits your personality.
So how do you even begin?
Assuming you don’t have any advanced practice nursing friends, I’d advise you sign up for LinkedIn Premium. It will allow you to send InMail to people with whom you’re not connected. And if you’re cheap like me, just use the 30 day free trial and then cancel your membership before you have to pay.
Once you’re signed up, look up the type of nurse you want to be in the search bar. Then, use all your allotted messages to send InMail to nurses. As of April 2018, you get to send 20 messages with the free trial of LinkedIn Premium.
Use the rule that 10% of the people will respond to your InMail. This means you need to use all your allotted messages!
Here’s a template of what I sent. Notice how it’s short and to the point:
Subject: request to shadow from a fellow nurse
Hi (nurse’s name),
I got your information through LinkedIn Premium.
I’m a Registered Nurse in Southern Arizona and I’m seriously considering becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner.
I wanted to ask if you’d be open to me shadowing you? Even if I could just shadow for half a day (or less), I would appreciate it.
Just a little background on me: I graduated from X nursing school in 2015 and have been getting critical care experience since then. I’m looking forward to the next step of my career and believe becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner would be a good fit.
Thanks in advance for getting back to me,
If you don’t get any responses through LinkedIn, then the next best bet is to call individual hospitals for shadow experiences.
Once you’ve reached the shadow day, try your best to NOT be a pussy. That is, ask as many questions as possible. This is the list I used when shadowing NPs/CRNAs:
-How did you like your experience at X school? Would you recommend it?
-What are some things you don’t like about this job?
-What kind of relationship do you have with doctors?
-Do you have any advice when it comes to applying for grad school?
-What do you wish you had known about this career before applying to school?
-What’s the best thing about doing this job?
If you’ve completed AN ENTIRE DAY OF SHADOWING and can honestly see yourself doing the specialty nurse’s job, then go to step 2.
2) Go to your state’s BRN site, which lists all the advanced practice programs in your state.
For instance, California’s site is this: http://www.rn.ca.gov/education/apprograms.shtml
If I’m interested in becoming a Family NP in the state of CA, then I’d scroll down to the NP area of the above website. I would then click on each individual school’s site to see if the school offers a Family NP program. If it does, I proceed with step 3.
3) Create a google spreadsheet with the following categories:
a) school name
b) deadline to apply
c) prerequisite classes
e) work experience
f) contact information of decision maker
g) notes (e.g. MSN vs DNP option, how much it costs, etc)
Add information in each category for each school that has the specific nursing program you’re interested in.
Step 3 is intimidating because you’ll see fancy words on the schools’ sites, such as doctoral, terminal, scholarly, advancement, and advanced practice. If you’re intimidated, then I’d advise that you give up the story that step 3 is hard. All you have to do is fill out the spreadsheet for each relevant school!
4) Have a one on one appointment with the director of the program (aka the one that makes admissions decisions).
This is the most important part of the application process! Do whatever it takes to set up a one on one appointment, even if it means you have to email/call the director multiple times. Making your presence known is the most vital action you can take in making your graduate nursing dreams come true. Think of it this way: if you were a director, wouldn’t you appreciate a prospective applicant asserting himself and asking questions? If I were a director, I’d immediately think “wow, this guy really wants a spot. I will probably admit him.”
I was pretty nervous whenever I talked to the school gatekeepers, so I always had a list of questions ready:
-How do I stand out in the applicant pool?
-What kind of work experience are you looking for?
-What are the biggest mistakes you see people making?
-What kind of diversity are you looking for in each class?
-Do you prefer to see the Letters of Recommendation from specific people?
-What exactly are you looking for in a candidate?
Remember: the director will subconsciously make a decision to admit you within the first 90 seconds of interacting with you. It needs to be clear in the first 90 seconds that you’re both informed and likable.
In order to maximize my agreeableness/likeability, I’d use some tricks I learned from the book Influence.
-Trick 1: give something to the director. This was usually a compliment intentionally designed to inflate his ego. If I was meeting the director face to face, then I’d give him a thank you card or a box of chocolates. The secret is that the director’s subconscious mind was motivated to give me something in kind, such as admission to his program.
–Trick 2: stress your similarity. If the director was Indian, I’d stress that I was also Indian. If the director had a big dick, then I’d say “look at how big mine is as well (are you getting the picture yet?).” The key is that people like those who are similar to them.
-Trick 3: get the director to comply with a request, such as reviewing you resume. The director’s concession in helping you will activate the consistency principle, which mandates that human beings act consistently with previous acts. So if a director helps you in one instance, he will be more inclined to help you at a later time (and thus admit you to his program).
Step 4 is all about stroking. So swim your laps and get ready to stroke!!
5) Only apply to 3-5 schools.
Start applying the moment the online applications become available, because administrators start reading applications the moment they are submitted.
Every school you apply to should fulfill three criteria: it is close to home (so you can see loved ones often), it is public, and it offers a program that you can excel in/get a job with.
I know some people will read this and think I’m crazy for only advising to apply to 3-5 schools. These people are missing a key point, though. If a guy applies to 30 schools, it’s because he’s compensating for deficiencies in his application. If he applies to 30+ schools and gets admitted, he will still carry the story that he is deficient.
Psychologically speaking, it’s better to apply to schools as a non-deficient applicant. So when you actually get admitted, you won’t carry the story that you got lucky or are deficient.
More importantly, if you’re applying to 30+ schools, you’re wasting your money. Assuming a $50 application fee for each school (which is a gross underestimate), you’d be spending at least $1500 on the application process. A more efficient way to get into school is to fix your deficiencies before applying to 3-5 schools. For example, if your GPA is low, you can take classes at a community college to pad your GPA. If that’s not an option, then you just have to apply to lower-tier schools with lower admissions standards. The moral of the story is that having a low GPA is not an excuse for having to apply to 30+ schools.
If you have low GRE scores, then you can take private prep classes for the GRE to help boost your score. The classes will likely cost less than $1000. If the classes don’t work, then you’d need to apply exclusively to schools that don’t require the GRE.
If you don’t have relevant work experience and hope to compensate by applying to 30+ schools, you’re also wasting your time. All you have to do is apply to jobs until you get a gig that’s relevant! Once you secure a job that’ll actually matter in the admissions process, you’ll likely be a contender. Applying to 3-5 schools should be good enough thereafter. Hint: apply to jobs using this strategy.
In summary, only applying to 3-5 schools is the best strategy. When you apply to so few schools, you ensure that the quality of each application is higher than the quality you’d see if you spread your attention across 30 different applications. At the end of the day, you can only go to one school. Do yourself a favor and fix your deficiencies before applying to 3-5 schools. Save money and your sanity while you’re at it.
One Sentence Summary
Only apply to 3-5 schools once you’ve shadowed nurses and talked with each program director.
1) Information sessions are GOOD for you. You get to introduce yourself to the graduate directors, who oftentimes play key roles in admissions decisions.
2) The world of graduate nursing school is dominated by females..surprise surprise! The point is that word spreads like wildfire. So if you make a certain negative impression on a secretary, for example, then she will likely tell her superiors that you’re dumb/gay. Negative news will color professors’ view of you, even though they may have never met you. This means you need to be respectful/courteous to all staff members, including the ones you think have no power. Remember that everyone talks, especially women.
3) Remember to stroke the secretaries/admin assistants. They hold a great deal of clout (aka soft power). Compliments about how great/helpful they are should be good enough. Remember that people really like to be stroked, even if they know the stroking is fake. It’s just human nature.
4) Go for public schools rather than private ones. I’m not even speaking to the differences in tuition, which should be obvious to you. Rather, I’m saying that private schools can be detrimental to your career.
As someone who went to a public undergraduate institution and a private graduate school, I can honestly say that private schools have no advantages over public ones. What follows are some reasons people choose private schools, along with my analyses.
a) You get more attention in private schools. This may be true, but it also works to your detriment. For example, I made some mistakes as a graduate student. Because I was at a private university, the director was informed almost immediately. From that point onward, I was placed under a gigantic microscope, to such an extent that preceptors would text my director if I left my knees on the floor when grabbing supplies (I kid you not). In private schools, the attention administrators give you can easily transform into annoying micromanagement and, ultimately, expulsion.
b) The quality of education at private schools is superior. This belief is complete bullshit. In my private school, the administrators were cheap as hell. Half the time, the printers didn’t work. The students also struggled with test taking because our third-party test administrator didn’t have a clue on how to administer tests. Worst of all, my professors were dumbasses. Can you blame me for thinking “this school is a complete fucking joke!”? The lesson is that the quality of your education is completely independent of your university’s private/public status.
c) You get to build closer relationships with professors at private schools. This belief is also complete bullshit. The reality is that if you want a relationship with a professor, all you have to do is email him. And you can email professors regardless of if your university is public or private.
5) For those of you interested in looking good, here are some top lists of nursing schools.
-Best nursing schools for the DNP:
-Best MSN programs:
6) As a man in nursing, you’ll be competing against women with unimpressive GPAs. So if you’re an undergraduate reading this post, make sure you maximize your GPA. Your undergraduate record will follow you for your entire life.