If you ask most people if they know what a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist [RDN] is, they’ll probably say no. The sad part about this is that most people could benefit from utilizing an RDN at some point in their life. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “RDNs — are the food and nutrition experts who can translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living.” Becoming an RDN is not an easy process, yet so many of us are entering the industry because we genuinely care about the health and wellness of others.
Being an RDN isn’t something kids typically dream of. Most kids hope to be professional athletes or celebrities, and they definitely aren’t thinking about becoming a healthcare professional. I was probably the same when I was younger, but then I realized just how much passion I have for food and nutrition sciences.
With the lack of nutrition education in the current school system, it took me a while to figure this out. Most people don’t get much exposure to how amazing and important nutrition is for everyone. It wasn’t until I got to high school, when I wanted to lose weight, that I started learning more about nutrition. My curiosity led me to want to learn more, to deepen my education and I learned the first step to becoming an RDN is to complete a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university. So, I enrolled at Ohio University.
During my first semester at Ohio University, I had my first nutrition class– Introduction to Nutrition. I was in love with everything about it. I had learned so much in just 16 short weeks and I was so eager to keep learning about how to apply what I was learning in the classroom to real life. Luckily, nutrition is something that can be implemented pretty instantaneously. During the fall of my sophomore year, I took a class called Professional Development in Nutrition. In that class, I learned I was on track to becoming an RDN and after undergrad, I would have to complete a dietetic internship before I would be eligible to take the Commission on Dietetic Registration [CRD] exam. This exam is how I would earn my Registered Dietitian Nutritionist credentials.
The application for dietetic internships is open twice a year — fall match and spring match — and is open for about three months. You apply through a website called Dietetic Internship Centralized Application Services [DICAS] where you’ll enter your entire life — work, volunteer experiences, extracurriculars, courses taken, transcripts, grades, references, personal statements, resume and any supplemental application materials a program requires. It’s a stressful process. I applied for spring match, which opened mid-December and closed mid-February. On top of DICAS, applicants must create an account on an additional website called D&D Digital, where they will rank the programs they’re applying to. The entire dietetic internship application is a computer-based matching system — an algorithm. Applicants rank the programs they apply to then internships rank applicants. The algorithm does its job and determines if an applicant and a program match.
The first Sunday in April is match day. Applicants are able to log on to D&D Digital at 6 p.m. to see their matching results. I had to wait two months to hear back about the possibility of getting matched with a dietetic internship and to find out of if I could continue along the path of becoming an RD. Did I mention the match rate is 49 percent? As if this isn’t enough stress added on top of the chaos of daily life and college, the internship is unpaid and costs to partake in, without the option for financial aid. As a college student on a budget, this is quite the challenge to face. There are scholarships for dietetic internships, but the internship itself is typically full-time, leaving little to no time to work on top of it.
Match day rolled around and I was out of town in Chicago for a work event, so I tried my best to keep my mind busy and not think about how my future was going to be determined by logging onto a website to either see the words “you have matched,” or “you have not received a match.”
I logged into the website and it told me to check back later. I refreshed the page. Check back later. Refresh. Later. Until FINALLY, I refreshed the page one last time and … I MATCHED.
I was ecstatic! The moment I had been waiting for for years was finally here. I’m a dietetic intern! When those three little words appeared on my phone screen, I did what any emotionally stable person would do … I cried. All of my hard word, the countless hours of studying, writing papers, volunteering, gaining leadership experiences on campus, it had finally paid off.
Nothing will ever top the pride I felt for myself in that moment.
This has been a long journey and it’s not over yet, but I’ve always loved learning and increasing my education about nutrition. I truly believe a balanced, healthy diet and exercise regimen can drastically improve one’s quality of life and I’m ready to show people that it can be enjoyable as well. If you’re considering a career in nutrition or dietetics, just know it’s doable and it will be worth it in the long run.
Personal note: If you or anyone you know is considering a career in the health and wellness industry and are looking for some advice, I am also always open to chatting about that! I can be easily contacted through my health and wellness Instagram @lemax_inCHAARG