I get this question a lot: When should I start my applications for dietetic internships? My answer is the Summer before you intend to apply! Most people’s faces drop at this point because who wants to spend time over the Summer cooped up inside working outside of work hours? Don’t shut me out just yet – I’m not really saying you should get a hard start on your applications over the Summer, I’m just saying you should use the spare time to your advantage to get thinking about the whole process and make some preliminary decisions. Some of these include the type of programs of interest, how many programs you’d like to apply to, whether a move could be in your future, and lastly of course, to explore your options, learn more about the programs and begin to narrow down which are of interest. So don’t panic, you don’t need to revamp your resume and pour hours into writing cover letters just yet!
A reminder that this is the strategy that worked well for me and of course may not work for everybody! You do you.
Decision 1: Internship vs. Internship + Masters?
This might be a no-brainer for some people, because a masters degree is not required to be a dietitian, and may not be of interest to everybody. Fair enough! I suggest just putting some thought into what works for you. Consider the time it takes to complete (not all that longer than a traditional internship in some cases!), the money it will require, and the outcomes that could benefit you.
Decision 2: How Many Programs Will You Apply To?
That’s a big question: How many applications are you going to slave over for the next 6+ months? This will depend on what your options are first of course. At the time that I applied, it went like this: I could apply for three programs through Dietitians of Canada, plus one program through my school, plus as many masters programs as I wanted (no limit). *Note: Some undergraduate programs have an internship program that is exclusive only to students of their university. These are of course less competitive but have their pros and cons as do all other programs, so make sure you do your homework to see if there is one available to you.
Of course, the more programs you apply to the higher your chances of securing something, but is it worth applying to a million and half-assing it? This is something I’ve seen students struggle with and totally did myself too.
Considerations when making this decision are Time and Money. Consider how much time you are going to spend on each application and how you will balance that with the other responsibilities you have ongoing at that time. Time spent on each application varies significantly per person so that makes this consideration a little more difficult, but I will say it is not a quick process and will take you longer than you think.
Remember that there is a fee associated with most, if not all, applications you will submit so if you apply to several you can rack up that bill pretty quick. When I applied, application fees varied from $25 to $150 each – quite a big range so make sure you check them out!
Decision 3: Where to Apply – Is a Move a Possibility?
This may also be a no brainer for you depending on your scenario, but if not, give some thought as to whether you are able to travel for your internship. Again, this could be a way to bump up your chances of getting something, because if you limit yourself to one province/area than your options are much fewer. However, a move can totally flip your life upside down, so make sure you don’t take that lightly. For me, I applied to programs in 3 provinces and ended up making a move to pursue one I was offered. I don’t regret the decision at all, but admittedly I put very little thought into the actual move before applying. What I mean is I was so mesmerized by the program itself that I never even considered where I’d have to go to do it, I just needed to do it! Is that a bad thing? Hard to say, hear more of my thoughts on the experience here.
Dedicate Time to Learn About Each One
Here’s the big piece – actually learning about each program to consider which you will apply to. After you make the 3 decisions above, you should have your list narrowed a little bit, and now you’re in a great place to dive deeper into your options. Here’s where you can find info about each program:
Program Brochure + Website
This was my first stop. On the Dietitians of Canada webpage, they have a link to the program brochure of each program here: https://www.pdep.ca/accreditation/accredited-program-list.aspx. These are kind of a quick-and-dirty about each program. You’ll get a sense of the focus (i.e. clinical focused vs. foodservice focused) and details about the length of program and start dates.
This is a new feature since I applied actually! On the Dietitians of Canada page, at the time of writing this, some programs have put together a little video to introduce some staff and chat more about their interns’ experiences.
If you know people who’ve completed some of these programs it is absolutely a good idea to reach out to them! You can deff learn some behind-the-scenes type info about the work culture and lived experiences in programs this way. For more advice on navigating these conversations and leveraging this resource check out previous posts here:
I think this is a super important point to make here. Learning about your options is exciting, but could also be stressful, and is most definitely time-consuming. That’s in part why I loved starting in the Summer because I knew I wasn’t on a huge time crunch to get this done so I could do it more leisurely. My advice is just the same as you would while studying, schedule in some breaks for yourself. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, especially in the beginning, but take your time, get some sun, and take small steps. I personally took it one program at a time, reading up on and considering one program for a day or two and then moving onto another later. I didn’t look at my list of candidates and try to cram them all in on one Thursday evening, and I hope you don’t either.
Listen to Your Gut
Sounds like a funny piece of advice but seriously, take notice to your innate reactions to the programs you’re reading about. I easily pinpointed my dream program by the excitement in my stomach when I read the brochure, how the words just lept off the page at me and screamed ‘WE MADE THIS PROGRAM FOR YOU’, and by how much I couldn’t stop thinking about it afterward. This reaction made it pretty obvious but it isn’t always that easy to decide. Something else more subtle you might want to think about is this: What are your reactions when telling somebody else about the programs you’re considering? Which ones make your face light up and your tone change? These are things you might be able to pick up on yourself but you could also ask the respondent what they think. Chances are if you say, “So mom, what do you think I should go for?”, she’s going to comment on what you sounded the most excited about. It works the other way too. When I was deeper into working on my applications and found myself procrastinating one in particular, sort of dreading it, and feeling lost when trying to imagine myself in it, then I realized I didn’t really care about that one as much as I initially thought. Taking notice of reactions like this will help you prioritize your time and spend it more effectively.
If you do have some time of the summer to start considering some of the factors and making preliminary decisions about your application process, I recommend it! This strategy helped alleviate stress for me in the beginning so I didn’t step into the process completely overwhelmed, on a time crunch, and unsure of my priorities. Trust me when I say you will feel much more relaxed and confident when the time comes to dive into those apps when you’ve done the research and know what you want.
For more info on next steps like considering references, resume building, and keeping things straight, check out the Internship Application Help section in our post directory here.
In the meantime, happy reading and happy Summer!