Choosing the right dietetic internship can be overwhelming. Every program will offer unique opportunities, and choosing the internship you will thrive in is an important part of the process. There are some things you will want to have figured out before you begin looking at programs, such as location barriers, costs and funding plans, and whether or not you will complete your Master’s degree at the same time. Once you have these factors figured out, it’s time to begin researching programs you may want to apply to!
The best place to start is the Accredited Programs Directory from ACEND. This directory lists every accredited dietetic internship in the country. You can filter your search by location, offered degrees, and program features to help narrow down programs you may be interested in. Start with 5-10 programs and begin narrowing down your choices the more you research. Visit in-person or virtual open houses, and if you can arrange a meeting with the program director to ask questions, do it!
The Application Process
Now that you have an idea of what programs are available and what dietetic internships you may be interested in, it’s time to begin the application process! Most programs will use DICAS, so we will be walking through the DICAS process here. Be sure to thoroughly review program websites, and pay attention to their specific application requirements as well.
Most dietetic internships will use DICAS, or Dietetic Internship Centralized Application Services, for their applications. There is a lot of information to fill out, so it is best to start working on DICAS early. There are some key pieces of information you will need to upload to DICAS.
You will need to upload a current resume. DICAS only allows one resume to be uploaded, so avoid making your resume specific to just one program.
You will also need to write a personal statement for each program. Because you can upload a personal statement for each program you apply to, you should absolutely tailor each statement to the program you will send it to. There are five questions on DICAS to guide your personal statement, but programs may have specific requirements or additional questions, so be sure to double and triple check their website.
Letters of Recommendation
Each program will also require letters of recommendation, and will specify who they want these letters to come from. We recommend asking for recommendation letters from your DPD director, a professor who knows you well, a volunteer supervisor, and a boss. This will help ensure you have a letter from anyone a program may request. You will need to generate an email request through DICAS to each person writing you a letter, so give them plenty of heads up.
Order transcripts as early as possible in case any issues arise. If you are in your senior year of undergrad when applying, make sure to select the “hold for final grades” option so DICAS receives a transcript with all your grades on it.
You will also need to put in past volunteer and work experience in DICAS. Input this information even if it is on your resume - within DICAS is a great opportunity to expand on your experiences and highlight your strengths. You will also need to put in all your DPD coursework. Be sure to enter this information exactly as it is on your transcript! DICAS also asks for information regarding any past convictions. Ensure that your application is as accurate as possible!
There are 4 steps to submitting your DICAS application:
Designate programs you would like to apply to. Four to five programs is the sweet spot. Remember there is a $45 fee to apply to the first program, and an additional $20 fee for each program after.
Attach the correct personal statements and recommendation letters to each program.
Pay your fees.
Note: It is helpful to print out a physical copy of your application and review it with a pen before submitting. You may even want to ask someone familiar with the process to review your application. After submitting your application, you will need to register and put in some information on D&D Digital. There is a $55 fee for D&D Digital, which is the matching service that matches applicants to dietetic internship programs.
In the meantime, you can sit back, relax, and be proud of yourself for completing this beast of an application! Check your phone and email frequently in case programs want to arrange an interview with you. On Match Day, you will log back into D&D Digital. You will either receive a message saying “No Match” or will receive a message telling you which program you have matched to. We always recommend accepting the match, even if it is a program you ranked lower. You will need to contact the program director to inform them of your acceptance of the match by 6 p.m. the following day.
If you do not receive a match, do not fret! Later in the week, programs with openings will release their information to D&D Digital. Make sure you elect the option to release your information to programs. Doing so will put your name on a list for program directors to contact you about applying to their program. You will also be able to look over the list of programs with openings, and submit applications to them. MANY students receive a match during this second round process, so we highly recommend speaking with your DPD advisor and getting their input on programs to try applying to.
Submitting dietetic internship applications is a lot work and can be stressful, but having a clear idea of what to expect in this process can help set you up for DICAS success. Do your research before selecting programs to apply to, and remember that while dietetic internships are an important step to becoming a registered dietitian, it is also only one to two more years. Even if you do not match to your dream program, you are still taking an important step towards your future, and will get out of your internship what you put in!
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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