Blog re-posted from Food and Nutrition Magazine, November 2015, by Valerie Agyeman.
The journey to becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist is a years-in-the-making process that takes advanced preparation. One part you can’t avoid — and which can make or break your future success — is getting successfully matched to an ACEND-accredited dietetic internship. Here are nine tips for undergrads to help you position yourself as a future intern.
Volunteer and Gain Experience
Don’t wait until your junior or senior year to get experience, start now! How will you know if the RDN path is for you if you don’t stick your foot in the door? Waste no time; start by shadowing a dietitian, get hours in a variety of settings that RDNs work in. Gain new skills such as professionalism, communication and multitasking. One more thing: Keep a log of your hours. You will need this record for the DICAS applications your senior year. If you expose yourself to a variety of settings, your internship rotations will be less intimidating. You can use the experiences you gain for the personal statement you will need to write. Search for unique experiences that will make you stand out from the crowd.
Study — GPA Matters
While 3.0 is the minimum GPA requirement for most dietetic internships, a higher number is better. GPA isn’t the only factor considered by internship directors, but sometimes it is highly weighted. If your GPA isn’t competitive, consider retaking courses. But don’t wait until the last minute — aim for As now.
Get Involved with Leadership Opportunities
Universities offer hundreds of organizations to get involved with on campus. Find one that sounds interesting to you. Then, take on a leadership role. As a campus leader, you have the opportunity to impact your community. This is also a great way to enhance your résumé and personal statement.
Learn Time Management
As dietitians would say when speaking to a patient, “It is all about balance and moderation.” Balancing school, work, volunteering and extracurricular activities may become challenging, but organization and time management are key. Day planners, calendars, sticky notes, to-do lists —find out what works for you and use it.
Build Relationships with Your Professors
They are there to help you become successful. If you are struggling in a class, don’t wait until the end of the semester to ask your professor for extra help. Instead, visit his or her office hours or email immediately. Also, keep in mind that you need several letters of recommendation from your professors for internship applications.
Use Breaks Wisely
Try to gain as much experience in the field of nutrition as you can during summer and winter breaks. Look for any undergrad internship experiences as they will be very valuable to your DI applications. This is also a perfect time to retake any classes you didn’t do so well in.
Join Your Affiliate
Network, network, network! What’s better than being around people who also love nutrition? You don’t have to be a dietitian to be a part of these associations; there are plenty of student opportunities, conferences, events and more.
Prepare for the Costs of Senior Year
From graduation costs to dietetic internship application fees, your final year of undergrad can be expensive. Start saving now. You won’t regret it.
Remember to Have Fun
The whole point of the tips above is to help you study and position for the future. But college is also about living the present. If you never have fun, you’ll burn out. Make time for yourself: go for a run, bake cookies or hop on a plane to a sunnier climate!
Valerie Agyeman, a native of Ghana, graduated from Radford University and is a 2015-16 dietetic intern at the University of Maryland, College Park. Follow her on Twitter.