If you are in the process of applying to nurse practitioner programs, you’re being asked a lot of questions. “Tell me about yourself…”, “Talk about a time when you overcame a challenge…” and “What kind of nursing experience do you have?” are the types of responses you are thinking through. From filling out your address to drafting a perfectly crafted personal statement, the application process is all about sharing yourself with nurse practitioner program admissions staff. But, there is a time in the admissions process to turn the tables.
When you interview for a coveted seat in your nurse practitioner program of interest, preparation is of utmost importance. As part of your interview prep, it’s important to come to an interview with a few questions of your own on hand. These should be questions whose answers cannot easily be found online and that cannot be answered with a simple response in a follow up email. Think deeper. Asking questions not only gives you more information to help you select the best nurse practitioner program for your needs, but can also make a positive impression in your interview.
Here are a few questions you should consider asking in your next NP program interview.
1. What challenges do students in your program most commonly face?
The response you receive to this question gives you a heads up as to what frustrations you might experience as a nurse practitioner student. If your interviewer notes that NP students in the program find completing the program on time difficult or landing preceptorships nearly impossible, this is a red flag that the program may have some logistical or organizational problems you should be aware of. If your interviewer responds by saying that NP students find holding a full-time job while completing the program impractical, be aware that you will likely have to cut back your hours at work as well.
Inquiring about challenges students face may also be your chance to shine. If admissions faculty comment that NP students find the amount of graduate level writing challenging, you can take the opportunity to bring up that research study you published as an undergrad.
2. What makes your program different from others? What makes you stand out?
Most nurse practitioner programs have similar curriculum. The quality of classes may vary as will your overall experience, but a simple review of course titles online tells you little about a prospective nurse practitioner program. So, ask why this particular program is different. The environment and added offerings of the university you attend can be an asset to your NP student experience. Perhaps the program offers unmatched career guidance upon graduation. Or, maybe planned social events help connect students and alumni. Whatever the answer, this question helps you go beyond statistics in assessing the quality of an NP program.
3. What are some qualities you observe that make NP students successful in your program?
This question helps you get to the core of what admissions faculty are looking for in prospective nurse practitioner students. If your interviewer responds that “successful NP students build upon prior nursing experience” and you’re a newbie RN, it may be a sign you will have an uphill battle to climb should you be admitted. If your interviewer responds by saying that “successful NP students take advantage of optional learning opportunities like faculty office hours”, this is a heads-up that you should be knocking on your professor’s door day one.
4. What do you like most about working/teaching here?
Asking your interviewer a question about him or herself can make your interview conversation more casual and comfortable. It gives some opportunity for back-and-forth allowing you to share why you might be a good fit for the NP program and the location of the school within the context of a more natural conversation. The response you receive also gives you insight into the program’s positives. Are the faculty committed to teaching? Does the program have a supportive community environment? If your interviewer struggles to come up with something they like about working at the university, you probably aren’t going to find anything positive about your experience as a nurse practitioner student there either.
5. Now that you know my qualifications, do you have any concerns about my ability to succeed in this program?
Be open to honest feedback when asking if your interviewer has any concerns about your ability to succeed as a nurse practitioner student. And, most of all, avoid responding defensively. Willingness to learn and be coached is at the core of the student experience and room for improvement personally and professionally is something we all have. Use your response to express interest in improving your skills. Ask your interviewer if they can suggest anything you can do to help overcome these shortcomings to help your chances in the admissions process.
Don’t forget that technically you are the one being interviewed in the application process. These questions are best used sprinkled throughout the interview saving one or two for the end of the conversation when the interviewer asks “Do you have any other questions for me?”. Come prepared with your questions written down ahead of time. Don’t forget to take a few notes as your questions are answered. Your interviewer will be impressed by your foresight and engagement.
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