All Dietetic students dread the Dietetic Intern application process. It is lengthy, confusing, and frankly your credentials ride on it. But, as a seasoned vet I am here to help by providing you with tips, tricks, and examples of what I used to get into my first choice program.
DICAS: The Centralized Application System
To be admitted into a dietetic internship you must apply through a the Dietetic Internship Centralized Application Services (DICAS). The application opens in December 6th and closes February 15th (This schedule is subject to change so click here to see the most up to date schedule). DICAS charges a fee of $45 for the first application and $20 for each thereafter. Many programs also require additional fees or materials so be sure to check each programs website to ensure you are not forgetting any materials.
In addition to DICAS there is a matching and ranking system called D&D Digital. Once you have chosen which Dietetic Internships you are applying to and have completed your DICAS application you will use this program to rank your schools from your first choice to your last choice. The programs you are applying to cannot see this information and it will not affect your chances of admission.
D&D Digital: The matching system
Here is how the matching system works. You will rank the schools from your first choice to your last choice. These can be adjusted upto April 1st (click here for most current date), in case your opinions on the programs are swayed by your interviews or experiences.
On match day, all of the programs will rank their applicants. So, say the program you are applying to takes 10 interns, they may make a list of their top 30 candidates in their prefered order. The matching system will start by looking at the schools #1 candidate, if that person has also ranked them as their first choice they are matched and one spot is filled. BUT, if the person ranked them as #2 and they were also accepted to their #1 then they will “match” with their #1 choice and and the spot will remain available. In this case, the internships #2 candidate is checked and so on until all of their spots are filled.
Everyone will find out at the same time on match day if they have been accepted into a program. You must call to accept your spot in the program within 24 hours to confirm admission.
Okay, so now that you understand the application system what goes into it?
Unlike in a traditional job search it is okay to make the resume lengthy but the format is still very important. Your resume says a lot about you and you need to start off on the right foot by making sure it is formatted correctly. It not only has the potential to share your experience, but your organizational skills, attention to detail, writing ability and more.
All of the information on your resume will be entered into DICAS individually so it may seem tedious to spend hours upon hours perfecting a resume, but, many of the internship directors I have spoken to acknowledged that they use resumes to examine their top choice candidates because the information is “theoretically” better organized than in the application system.
So, what goes on the Resume?
Needless to say internships are competitive so it is important that you spend time volunteering and working during your undergraduate career to build your resume. I have included a link to my resume here. As you can see I spent time volunteering teaching cooking classes, acted as an officer in my schools nutrition and dietetics club, helped run grocery store tours, completed multiple 3 month practicums, and worked full time throughout my undergraduate career. It is important to keep your resume well rounded, but you also don’t want to drive yourself crazy doing things you hate so find what works for you.
You can also access a PDF here which allows you to see what each program values most. The programs I applied to valued high GPA’s and paid work experience so I knew to focus my energy on those things in the years prior to applying the DI. I cannot speak to all programs, but the one I attended had an admission system which gave interns points based on their performance in these categories to determine which applicants earned interviews. Based on my own experience, and the interns in my cohort I believe that the internship stayed true to the ranking system outlined in this PDF.
You may also be able to attend virtual open houses for the programs you are interested in. The information presented in these seminars will help you get a clearer picture of what the programs are looking for and therefore help you tailor your resume. Some also allow you to ask the current class of interns questions about the program and their experiences so that you can decide whether or not the program is a good fit for you.
How do you organize the Resume?
The most important thing is to put the most valuable items at the top of the resume. As I mentioned above, my program cared most about GPA so the first thing you see when looking at my resume is my academic achievements.
My best tip here would be to use specific and bold headings to demonstrate how well rounded you are. For example, In my example resume I could have included both the sports nutrition and clinical experience under a “practicum” header. But I knew that the program I was applying to valued clinical experience so I wanted to make SURE that they knew I had clinical experience even if they were just skimming the document. I chose each specific header to make myself seem as well rounded as possible.
My final formating tip would be to pay attention to the white space. I often times see people overcrowd their resume because they want to make it seem as though they have accomplished a lot, but really this can overwhelm the reader. So consider the visual appeal, is there a reasonable amount of white space, is the font clean, is the size easy to read? Remember, each admin could be reading hundreds of applications each round, make it easy for them to find what they are looking for.
Personal Statement: THE KEY
Honestly, you are competing against a group of individuals with stacked resumes, so the personal statement is your real chance to stand out from the crowd and tell your story. Be real and honest about why you got into the field of dietetics. Don’t be afraid to tell a personal story.
Have as many people as you can PROOFREAD AND EDIT. But, also listen to your gut. My mom is an english teacher so I worked on mine with her and a few of her colleagues in addition to giving it to my husband, other students in my cohort, teachers, my DPD program director, and dietetic internship directors. I am pretty sure that not a single word stayed the same between version one and version eighty. That being said, people outside of the field may not understand the purpose of the essay so they may be helpful for grammar fixes but take content related advice with a grain of salt and listen to your heart. I had a few people tell me not to mention my eating disorder because DI directors may look at it as a liability but I knew that it was an important part of my story and a detail needed to get my message across so I chose to leave it in.
Just like the resume it is pretty important to tailor the personal statement to the programs you are applying for. DO YOUR RESEARCH! I spent hours looking at UCSD and San Luis Obispo’s website writing down words and traits that I saw were repeated. If you notice that their website mentions diversity, integrity, work ethic, etc multiple times be sure to mention that in your personal statement.
Make sure to keep a consistent theme throughout your paper. You can see everything in mine relates back to the relationship between the physical and the psychological components of food. You have to answer the questions, but you still want the paper to flow and transition well. Find a balance between ensuring everything you say has a purpose (use all 1000 words to do so) and not making it sounds like a robot wrote it.
And Finally, make sure that all your questions are CLEARLY answered. I had my husband go through and highlight the answer to each question in a different color so that I could ensure someone who wasn’t attached to the paper could easily identify all the answers. However, it is not enough to simply answer the questions, each answer needs to include an explanation of why it makes you a good fit for their program, or why the program appeals to you. Think of it as date, you need to let them know how great you are, but it’s also important to “stroke their ego” and let them know why out of 100’s of options you chose them. You can see plenty of examples for how I did this in my sample here.
Make sure to double and triple check each part of the application to ensure it is filled out properly. If you are confused about anything do not be afraid to ask a mentor, better safe than sorry!
It is important to lean on your support system and your peers. This is already a stressful time in your life so DO NOT make it a competitive one as well. Work with the other students in your cohort to strengthen your application. Let their progress fuel your progress and visa versa. Remember that there is room for all of you to be successful.
Best of luck to you all in the application and interview process. It’s only a few months of your life so give it your all!