How to Strengthen Your Dietetic Internship (DI) Application
Did you know the match rate for a dietetic internship is about 60%? Dietetic internships are competitive. This means that of the thousands of applicants each year, a good portion of students will not get matched to a DI on the first try.
The good news is, there are ways to make yourself a strong candidate for your dream internship. Crafting a strong resume and a stand-out application can help you get closer to matching to a dietetic internship and pushing forward towards becoming a Registered Dietitian (RD)! Let’s explore some of the ways you can strengthen both your resume and your overall application for a dietetic internship.
Your resume is one of the first things that shows up on your DICAS application, meaning it is often the first impression a DI director has of each applicant. It can be difficult to get dietetics experience during school, but it’s not impossible. Here are some ways to strengthen your resume during undergrad in order to stand out to DI directors.
1. Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer
Volunteering is an excellent way to not only test out different areas of dietetics, but also to stand out to DI directors. Some dietetics-related areas of volunteering include working at food banks or soup kitchens, teaching cooking classes, WIC, extended care or nursing facilities, interning for or shadowing a Registered Dietitian, etc. Joining your university’s Nutrition Club is a great way to get volunteer experience in, and running for office within the club looks great as well (and if they don’t already have one, create one! That’s one more impressive thing to add to your resume). Knowing the focus areas of your desired internship is helpful, too. If you want to apply to programs with a clinical focus, try getting volunteer experience in a hospital or long-term care facility. If you want a more community-focused internship, WIC or a food bank may be a good choice.
2. Paid Experience
Paid experience during undergrad is beneficial for a multitude of reasons. Your supervisors can write a great reference letter, and you gain consistent experience in different areas of dietetics (plus a little extra spending money). Relevant experiences in dietetics include food service, such as working in a cafe, restaurant, or your university’s dining halls, working at a community-based location such as WIC, or working in hospitals or nursing homes, and more.
I worked the same university dining hall job all four years of my undergraduate degree. Come senior year, I was panicking that I did not have enough work experience in other areas of dietetics, and that my resume would not look as impressive compared to my peers. My DPD director gave me some great advice - working at the same place and working my way up through promotions showed that I was hard-working, a quick learner, and a leader, and these were things DI directors would understand despite that being my only paid experience. Some students choose to get experience in a lot of areas, while others choose to work one consistent job and gain experience in other ways, such as interning in the summer or volunteering. There is no Golden Rule for gaining dietetics experience, so find what combination of paid, volunteering, and interning works for you!
3. Highlight Your Skills
Think of skills interns are taught that you already possess - for example, add leadership to your list of skills if you have held demonstrable leadership roles. Communication, teamwork, creativity, time management, organization, and adaptability are some skills that interns need, so if you can show that you possess them, add them to your resume! Stay away from listing generic skills like Microsoft Word, as this is something you are already expected to know.
4. Get Certifications
Certifications are a great way to show your dedication to the dietetics field. If you earned a ServSafe certification during undergrad, be sure to include this in your resume. Other certifications you may consider getting include the Dietetic Technician, Registered certification (DTR) or a personal training certification.
DI directors want to see relevant experience on your resume. This shows that you have the skills a dietetic intern needs, some working knowledge of dietetics, and that you are actually interested in working in this field. Dietetic internship resumes should look a little different than your typical job resume. For example, all paid and unpaid work should be listed in the same section. Add as much experience as possible, and try to keep it to one page unless you have tons of relevant experiences. Other items to include would be any dietetics associations you are in, such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics or a state affiliate, and any study abroad experience you have. You may want to include your GPA if it is over a 3.0, but this is not necessary as directors will have access to your transcripts.
Strengthening the Rest of the Application
You will put all your experiences into DICAS as well as on your resume. Within DICAS is where you can truly dive in and make your experiences shine. Avoid repeating exactly what is on your resume in the experiences section of the application. Instead, use this space to expand and highlight what you accomplished and learned. Use action words to describe what you did, how you did it, and what the result was. Think the who, what, when, where, why, and how of each thing you list. Your application is your highlight reel, and you want to sell yourself as someone with the experience, determination, and skills needed to make a great intern. Your DICAS application is one of the only times you are encouraged to brag about yourself, so take full advantage. DI directors didn’t watch you throughout undergrad, so they won’t know what you’ve done unless you tell them!
By Elizabeth White, MS/DI at Eastern Illinois University.
Edited by Jacob Martin, RDN
If you’re interested in increasing your clinical nutrition knowledge, take the time to check out our Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) Guide of 100 Common Conditions for Dietitians. This reference guide is over 70 pages long and is the perfect resource for nutrition and dietetic students, dietetic interns, those studying for the RD Exam, or even Registered Dietitians. The Guide curates the MNT recommendations from all available peer-reviewed sources into one searchable, downloadable document. This resource can be invaluable for your growth as a RD or future RD!
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