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You did not get a dietetic internship. Now what? [Part 2]

Applying for a dietetic internship is a nerve-racking process. The competition is fierce and there aren’t enough spots for everyone. If you’re like most students, this time of year makes you nervous and anxious as you wait for the results of your internship applications. You can’t help but think: “What if I don’t get accepted?” I was no different.

Then, my fear came true: I did not get an internship offer. I was devastated, but I knew I could not sulk forever. I wanted to be a dietitian, so an internship was a necessity. My only option was to try again. I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to improve my chances of getting in next year. So, before reapplying, I compiled a list of things that would help me achieve that goal based on the following five questions:
 
1. Is one course bringing my GPA down significantly?
 
Having a good GPA is one of the main requirements of internship programs, and with a GPA of 3.7 I was almost certain I would get in. I learned the hard way that, although marks are important, they are not everything. However, if there is one grade that is bringing your average down, I would suggest going back to school to improve it. There is no downside to re-taking a course. The knowledge acquired can only help in your future career, especially if it’s a nutrition-based course.
 
2. Are the internships I applied for the best fit for me?
 
I researched all the programs to decide which ones were the best fit based on my marks, experience, and interests. To decide which programs to apply for (or reapply for) I asked myself the following questions:
  • What are the requirements to get in?
  • What does the program focus on?
  • Is the curriculum something that I am interested in?
  • What is the geographic location of the program?

If you are able to commute or relocate, consider more remote programs. The competition is not as brutal, thus increasing your chance of getting in. A colleague of mine went to Nunavut to do her internship, and she says it was an experience of a lifetime. Moving was not an option for me, so I focused on the programs close by. I connected with internship coordinators, introduced myself, and asked questions. By knowing what specific internship programs were expecting, I was able to ensure I met all the requirements of the programs I wanted to apply for.

3. Did I choose references that were able to speak to specific program requirements?
 
Having good references is very important when applying for an internship. In addition to the content being positive, they need to showcase your strengths in a variety of areas. The best way to do so is to have diverse experiences and references that are tied into your academic performance, volunteering, and job experience. Look at program requirements and choose three references that will emphasize your strengths in those particular areas.
 
4. Did my application showcase my best self?
 
When reapplying, I started my application well in advance of the due date, and had a number of people help edit it. They helped with sentence structure and formatting, and eliminated typos and grammatical errors that I missed. In addition to fulfilling all the requirements and having an error free application, I needed to make a statement in my personal letter that would set me apart from other applicants and make my application memorable. In this statement, I wrote why I felt I was the best candidate. I talked about my relevant and unique experience and highlighted my strongest skills, and reasons why these skills would make me a great dietitian. Your application will make a lasting first impression, so make sure it is a good one.

5. Do I have diverse experiences?
 
This is where my portfolio was the weakest. To diversify my experience, I obtained a part time position as a dietary aide in a hospital. During that time, I acquired new knowledge and skills that made me a stronger internship candidate. I also met a number of people who played a key role in getting me to where I am now. My manager at the time was one of my internship references. I am certain she played a role in me being offered a spot.
 
Furthermore, working as a dietary aide helped me connect with the supervisor of the hospital’s Clinical Nutrition Services. After I was accepted into an internship program, she was the one that approved my elective rotations. These rotations provided me with unique experience and great contacts that enabled me to secure two contract positions at the same hospital after I became a registered dietitian. During those contract positions, my colleagues helped me get my private practice off the ground by sharing their knowledge, tips, and expertise with me.
 
Although not being accepted into an internship program on your first try can be heartbreaking, it can open doors to new and interesting opportunities. For me, not getting an internship the first time I applied helped shape my career and got me to where I am today. That part time position I held as a dietary aide served much more than just some experience on my resume that helped get me an internship. It offered lasting relationships, connections, knowledge, and experience that shaped who I am professionally, and I am grateful for it.

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Editor’s note: I would highly recommend applying for a more rural internship, as Hana mentioned. I completed my internship in Northern BC. While I admit that I was not thrilled when I found out I would be moving north, if I could go back in time, I would make Northern Health my first choice. I had a fabulous and unique experience, which made me a better dietitian!
 
This wraps up our two part series on not getting an internship. Did you miss part one? Read it here. Those waiting to find out if they were accepted to an internship program will be notified in just over a month. Do you know someone waiting? Share this series with them to (hopefully) help reduce their anxiety. 

Do you have an experience similar to Hana’s? Would you add anything to Hana’s advice? Please share below.
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