In two weeks I will be starting a new journey at Cal Poly, SLO as a dietetic intern. I can’t believe that I am about to live the life I have dreamed about for the last 5 years! With this new journey beginning I thought it was the perfect time to look back on my journey here. In August of 2013 I started my long road of becoming a registered dietitian. I had no idea what I was getting myself into! I sat in the library of Fresno State searching through every. single. major. Fresno State had to offer. I was a biology major in pursuit of medical school, desperate to find my calling and a career that would interest me and pay my bills. Thankfully the major Food Science and Nutrition didn’t take long to get to, since the list of majors was in alphabetical order. I looked through the course work, the overview of the career options, and instantly fell in love. Like many of you, I loved the science aspect of nutrition but was pulled in by the cooking classes and community options. I ran over to my new adviser to get my paper signed off and quickly became a nutrition major. Little did I know the next 4 years would be filled with hundreds of volunteer hours, countless group projects, and science classes that would bring me to tears. Looking back at the journey, I don’t think I would change a thing.
Now that you know a little bit of my back story, let’s jump into how I got matched to Cal Poly, SLO’s dietetic internship program. There are a few things that I am going to highlight but I will go into more detail in upcoming posts.
I know, I know, you have heard it a THOUSAND times…get your volunteer hours. It’s so much more than the number of hours you earn. When I first started collecting my volunteer hours I heard a dietetic intern speak at a Student Nutrition and Dietetic Association meeting. She explained how she signed up for every volunteer opportunity that crossed her path. After hearing that, my mind was set on accepting every invitation I received. I quickly realized that if I wanted to have a social life, keep up with my grades, and sleep more than 6 hours a night I couldn’t accept every opportunity that presented itself. It worked for that specific intern and got her matched her first time around but for me, that wasn’t going to fly.
When I finally decided to place Cal Poly as my first choice on DICAS I went and spoke with Kati Fosselius (my awesome DI director) to make sure she could put a face with the name when my application showed up on her desk. She explained to me that she wanted interns with experience that showed both breadth and depth. I loved the way she put this concept. When applying to your dietetic internship it’s not about having 200 different volunteer opportunities that are only an hour each. It’s about having 4-5 volunteer opportunities that equal 200 hours or more. I will go into greater detail about this in a coming post on volunteering.
Letter of Recommendation
Looking back over my DICAS application, there were a lot of contributing factors that went into my match. I think one of the strongest areas were my letters of recommendation. One of my goals in college was to get to know my professors and I am so proud to say that I accomplished this goal. Leaving high school I didn’t really know my teachers on a personal level like many of my friends did, so I was determined for college to be different. Through office hours, sitting in the front of the class, and working with my professors on outside projects and grants I was able to build up a list of professionals and teachers that were more than willing to write stellar letters of recommendation for me. I will also be writing a more detailed article about letters of recommendation and the etiquette that should accompany them. For now start thinking about professors, RDs, volunteer coordinators, and advisers that you could build a relationship with. Building these relationships are essential for personal letters of recommendation but the benefits of knowing these professionals do not end at an incredible letter of rec. Creating relationships with my professors and other nutrition professionals has promoted maturity, responsibility and accountability in me. I have been given the opportunity to participate in three different research studies, 3-4 different grant funded community projects, and was often recommended to tutor my classmates. Knowing your professors makes a world of difference in your college experience and in your applications.
Writing has always been a strong suite of mine. But writing a personal statement literally took the life out of me. You could be the strongest writer with the most expansive vocabulary and still find yourself staring at a blank Microsoft word document for hours. Personal statements are not essays. Internship directors do not want flashy vocab words, descriptive language, or a fancy medical jargon – they want to know you…in 1,000 words or less. I have written six different drafts of my personal statement, sat down with 7 different people, and still didn’t feel confident when I submitted it. Don’t take this as a discouragement though! It is so difficult to write about yourself! The best advice I can give you (until I write an entire blog post on this) is to be yourself. Write down why you wanted to be a dietitian in the first place. Think about who you are when you started this journey and who you are now. Look at the volunteer and work experiences that you have and relate them to strengths that internship directors are looking for. Personal statement writing is a beast but you can totally do it successfully! I will share a copy of my personal statement soon and I will also try to dig up my first draft so that you can see the incredible difference that editing and some soul searching can make.
Meet the Internship Director
My DPD adviser pushed all of us seniors to go and visit our perspective internships. I don’t know how big of a difference this makes in the overall acceptance into an internship because you’re either qualified or you’re not. Going and visiting and internship director isn’t going to change the fact that you have a 2.9 GPA. If you are a competitive applicant though, going and visiting a school shows that you are serious about that internship and you are willing to sacrifice your time and money to find out more. Internship directors are able to put a face to the name on the application and they will remember that you went. If meeting the internship director face to face isn’t an option, then set up a phone or Skype meeting. Taking initiative to meet a director says a lot about your motivation and drive.
These are the four things that I believe made me stand out as an applicant. I was fortunate enough to receive an interview for each internship I applied to and got matched my first time with my number one internship. Out of 144 applicants I was one of nine chosen. I don’t share this with you to brag but to give me some credibility on the subject. I didn’t get into Cal Poly because I’m a genius or because I’m some amazing applicant. I got in because I listened to the advice of my mentors, put in the effort to make myself stand out, and communicated with past and present interns. This is just an overview of what a successful application looks like. I will be posting articles in greater detail about the application process, volunteering, letters of recommendation and so much more! I will also be uploading some printable resources to help with the personal statement writing and resume building. Be sure to comment with questions below! My goal is to make your DICAS application a simple process so let me know how I can better serve you!