If You Don't Get in, Don't Give Up!
As every "future RDN" knows, trying to get accepted into a dietetic internship can be a challenging and stressful experience. Internships are required for anyone wanting to become a registered dietitian nutritionist, but there are not enough spaces for all who apply. According to the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics — known as ACEND, the accrediting agency of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics — in 2015, 5,192 students applied for only 2,864 open positions. If you are part of the group that didn't get placed in a dietetic internship on your first try, I hope my story gives you hope.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition in foods — not the dietetics track; I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a dietitian at the time — in 2010. After graduation, I got a job working under a dietitian, monitoring patients' diets trying to ensure compliancy. After a year, I knew that becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist was my calling and decided to go back to school.
I enrolled at an ACEND-accredited program, taking courses needed for a dietetics degree and retaking courses to improve my GPA to better my chances of being accepted into a dietetic internship. By the time of graduation, I felt pretty confident that my combination of grades and work experience would lead to acceptance into an internship. I applied for internships in January 2014, but unfortunately was not accepted. I was devastated; I felt lost.
Seeking guidance, I talked to one of my old professors, who reminded me of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. I discovered that WIC might be an opportunity for an internship and for a career, and was hired as a WIC nutritionist. Then, in June 2015, I applied for an internship — and got another rejection.
After this second rejection, I went searching for more resources. On the Academy's eatrightPRO.org website, I found tools for students and was able to connect with an incredible mentor who motivated me to not give up on my dream and to keep applying. That advice was exactly what I needed to hear. As a matter of fact, I just applied to the Texas WIC internship — my third attempt. And this time, there is a happy ending: I was accepted!
If there is any message that I could give to anyone applying to dietetic internships, it's this: If at first you do not succeed, do not give up, and keep applying.
Jessica Morton is a senior nutritionist for WIC in Houston and volunteers at Brighter Bites through the Houston Food Bank. She was recently accepted into the Texas WIC dietetic internship program.
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