I remember sitting in senior seminar class over a year and a half ago, stressed about what assignments were due in all of my classes, how I could manage to do one more nutrition-related volunteer opportunity, and how in the world I was going to finish my DICAS applications on time.
One day, I took a step back and realized that I simply wasn’t ready to apply to internships yet.
Flash forward to a few months ago. I found myself starting the dietetic internship process all over again, yet I could barely remember any of the tips I had learned in the senior seminar class.
I decided to come up with my own list of a few things that I found to be helpful during my dietetic internship application process. (Note: These are tips that I found helpful. Each person is different and some tips may or may not be applicable.)
1) Start early: Despite how ridiculous it sounds, I started the process around September for the February match. This time-frame may vary depending on the applicant, but I think starting early enough allowed me to research and outline all of the programs I thought I wanted to apply to and gave me enough time to be sure that I was ready to work on DICAS.
2) Make a timeline or checklist: This is a really helpful tool to utilize throughout the application process. I outlined each item that needed to be completed before the February deadline and gave myself individual deadlines for each item. By doing this, I could ensure I didn’t miss anything when it was time to submit my application.
3) Contact the directors: I was a little bit intimidated by this step, but I knew it was an important part of the application process. Early on, either call or email the directors of each program (I decided to email) and make sure you really know the programs you are inquiring about. Do not ask questions that can be answered from the program website. Personally, I asked to speak to current or past interns so that I could get a feel of the program from their perspective. All of the directors that I contacted were more than willing to do this for me and were very helpful.
4) To visit or not visit?: I found I simply could not afford to visit all of the internship sites where I wanted to apply. For the ones I did visit, I got a good feeling for the programs and it helped me scope out the medical facilities offered. For the others I didn’t visit, I was able to get a very good idea about them by speaking to current and past interns, introducing myself to the director, and by reading about each program on their website. Whether you can visit or not is a personal choice, but I think that showing extra interest in the program either by visit, email, or phone call is important.
5) Make a comparison chart: I found it helpful to outline all of the internships I was thinking of applying to, making a list of their pluses and minuses, and ranking them based on this chart. Be sure to choose internships based on your goals and what you want to accomplish, not just because of a stipend, location, etc. If those are the only options you have, make sure you tailor your experience and goals to those internships!
6) Get resume help: Unless you are an expert, I would recommend getting help on your resume from someone that has experience in resume revision. Luckily, I had a friend that teaches a resume class and got her to help me. Surprisingly, there are a lot of ways to revamp your resume that make yourself stand out!
7) Ask for letters of recommendation early: I asked for letters of recommendation in October, nearly four months before the application deadline. I asked if the references would be willing to write a positive recommendation on my behalf for the application (key word being ‘positive’) and once they agreed, I sent over a resume, a rough draft of a personal statement, and a list of my goals.
8) Thank those that help you: I personally sent each person that wrote me a letter of recommendation a small ‘Thank You’ gift. I think this is an important step that can be overlooked. The references are taking time out of their busy schedules to help out, so I figured I would show some appreciation for them. Who knows, you may need them for a job recommendation in the future!
9) Your first personal statement should be one of many: I’m pretty sure I lost count after draft number 10 of my personal statement. The personal statement allows your personality to shine through and is a golden ticket to interviews and internships, so perfection is key. I had a handful of people read and critique my statements in order to get different opinions.
10) Tailor your personal statements to each internship: Be sure to write a personal statement for each internship. It is important to relate your experiences and goals to the mission and focus of the internship.
11) Double check everything: Don’t go overboard on this, but be sure to double check your entire application before submitting. I did this and caught a few typos that I was glad I had the opportunity to fix before submitting.
12) Submit early: I wasn’t sure if DICAS would be overloaded near the deadline on February 15, so I made it a point to submit my application a few days early to avoid any hiccups in the process.