Does it Feel Out of Reach? Then Stretch.

Today I’m going to pass advice onto you that was passed onto me and totally changed my outlook and my approach to job hunting.

If it feels out of reach, then stretch.

You know how most job postings want you to have 3+ years of experience? You know how grad schools want you to have a ridiculous GPA? Well, basically what I’m saying is F#$! ’em. In the nicest way possible.

If you’ve been in this seat where you feel restricted by the listed qualifications and assume the position is therefore out of reach, JUST STRETCH. APPLY. APPLY. APPLY.

I have been blown away by the professionals who’ve told me that many of the listings don’t mean s#$!. Well, I mean, some can be rigid, but I think we all assume that ALL the listed qualifications are rigid and if we don’t meet them 100% we are not considered. That couldn’t be less true.

I’ve heard SO many stories now of people who’ve applied for positions they’ve felt were out of reach. One of the most successful dietitians I know told me when she applied for the Master of Public Health program at the University of Toronto (very prestigious and very competitive) her GPA was well below what was “required”. Out of reach right? You know what she did? Stretched. Applied anyway. Put herself out there and killed the interview. Graduated top of her class in the program and is out in the workforce now making waves.

If you have a strong skill set and a hell of a lot to bring to the table then bring it. Even if you lack in one or few areas if you totally make them fall in love with your other assets, then how could they say no?

The same goes for job postings. Don’t sit around and sulk about how everyone wants you to have experience and its impossible as a new grad, just stretch. Apply. Bring confidence. Kill it. It would surprise you how many successful professionals surround you who didn’t 100% fit the mold initially. We all have to start somewhere right?

Happy stretching folks! You got this.

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xox

CDRE Part 2: Exam Structure and How to Prepare

Hi again, Brie here! Welcome to Part 2 of my blog on the CDRE. If you haven’t yet checked out part one, you can by clicking here. This time, we’ll be going into a little more detail on the format and structure of the exam. Before we begin, I want to stress that most of this information can also be found in the CDRE Prep Guide.While I’ve highlighted some of the important points, I strongly suggest you still read the guide, too!

The CDRE Prep Guide

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You know how new appliances come with a disclaimer that says “please read the instruction manual before operation”? Well the CDRE comes with a similar suggestion, except this time you really should open it and read it thoroughly! It may seem tedious, but the CDRE prep guide covers everything you need to know about writing the exam. Every. Single. Thing. I’m talking so much detail that on their list of things you can bring in with you, it even lists your glasses!

Exam Format

Before you dive into studying, it’s important to understand the format and structure of the exam. The CDRE consists of 185 multiple-choice questions, which you have 4 hours to complete. There are some independent questions as well as passage-based questions with 3-6 questions related to a single case or scenario. It’s done completely through a computer-based system, but you do have a white board and marker to help you work through your thoughts. The good thing is that you definitely don’t have to waste time re-learning how to draw the Krebs Cycle!

Cognitive Categories

The exam is broken down into three cognitive categories, so different questions test varying levels of cognitive ability. When reading the exam questions, look for words that indicate the cognitive category. For example, the word ‘integrate’ indicates a higher cognitive level than ‘identify’.

  • 15% of questions demonstrate broad knowledge
  • 35% demonstrate comprehension of knowledge
  • 50% employ critical thinking (analyzing, interpreting, and applying knowledge)

Practice Competencies

The CDRE tests performance indicators from one of five practice competency areas. Pay close attention to each question and what it’s really asking, because it can be tricky. For example, the setting might be in a food service kitchen, but the question is actually testing a communication-related performance indicator. It’s really important to identify which competency area is being tested since it can influence your answer! (See How to Read an Exam Question in the prep guide).

  • 15% Professional Practice
  • 13% Communication and Collaboration
  • 35% Nutrition Care
  • 15% Population and Public Health
  • 22% Management

Knowledge Topics and Tips

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            If you’re here looking for a specific list of what to study, I’m sorry to disappoint… Not only is that impractical, I’m also not allowed to discuss any exam specifics! I can, however, give you a few tips that might guide your studying decisions and better prepare you for taking the exam:

  • Check out Appendix G: Knowledge Topics of the prep guide. This is the closest thing you’ll find to a study guide! Remember, while it is a long list, it’s not all-inclusive.
  • Crack open old textbooks and read over internship notes. I found my nutrition care and food service management textbooks especially helpful.
  • Know your clinical conditions. As indicated by the distribution of the competency areas, the exam is heavy on nutrition care
  • Do your research on clinical areas that you weren’t exposed to yourself during internship placements. The CDRE will touch on pretty much every condition and clinical area in some way, so be prepared for that!
  • Don’t memorize conversions or equations. All the calculations will be done for you so that you can focus on just applying your knowledge!
  • Be familiar with common lab values. While the normal range may be given to you, you should still be able to interpret the lab values an entry-level dietitian would deal with.
  • There might seem to be more than one right answer. When this happens, use temporal clues to figure out what answer is the most correct. For example, “What should the dietitian do first?”.
  • Do the practice questions in the exam guide!!! They are perfect examples of actual exam questions and will help you get used to the wording.

Exam Scoring

            Something I really struggled with heading into the exam is not knowing what “score” I needed. It’s not surprising – throughout our student careers, the value of a number or letter grade is drilled into our heads. However, the CDRE is simply pass or fail. It measures if you demonstrate minimal competence, not HOW competent you are. The actual passing score for the exam is not released, and since you don’t know what “score” you’re aiming for, it’s totally normal to leave the exam not knowing how to really feel about it. But the good news is, it’s over! There’s no sense in dwelling on it, or else you’re in for a long 6 weeks.

Remember, you wouldn’t have a degree and an internship under your belt if you weren’t capable of passing this exam! And for those who don’t, that’s ok too, it happens. Just pull yourself together and kill it on the second round!

Good luck and happy studying!

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CDRE Part 1: How to Register and What to Expect

In Canada, to become a dietitian you have to write the Canadian Dietetic Registration Exam (CDRE), so Brianna Kean, one of our previous guest bloggers is here to prep us! Thanks Brie!

We all know the journey to becoming a dietitian isn’t a short one. After five (or more) years of education and practicums, we finally emerge ready to make the world a healthier place. While this is definitely a means for celebration, there’s still one more step between you and that precious title– the Canadian Dietetic Registration Exam!

While applying for the CDRE isn’t quite as grueling as applying for internships, it can still seem intimidating at first. To make this last step of your journey a little easier, I’ve outlined some basic info that might help you along. But before I do – please note that this was my experience as an applicant in Nova Scotia. Every province has its own regulatory body, and so the processes and documents may be a little different.

Applying to Write the CDRE

In Nova Scotia, the first step to writing the CDRE is applying for a temporary membership with the NSDA. Since gathering documents can take some time it’s best to start as early as you can! Here are a few things you might need to gather before completing the online application:

  1. A verification letter from your institution – my internship director wrote and sent this letter for me.
  2. Your university transcripts– you can usually order these online through your school’s website and have them sent straight to the regulatory body. Keep in mind that this may take a few weeks.
  3. A copy of your birth certificate or citizenship document.

Be prepared to pay the membership/exam fee upon submitting your application. If you’re able to pay via e-transfer like I was, be careful to send the right amount, which I did not.The unexpected $50 refund months later was a nice surprise though!

Scheduling an Appointment

            Once everything is accepted, you’ll receive confirmation of your temporary membership and be assigned a membership ID. Congrats – this means you can now legally work as a dietitian in your province!!! Within a couple of weeks, you should get an email from the external exam company, with instructions on how to pick a date, time, and location to write your CDRE. 

            The CDRE takes place over a 6-day period. My advice is to choose your exam time carefully. At first, I planned on choosing an early date so I could get it over with ASAP. But because of the limited options available in my area, I ended up booking mine for the second-last day. Looking back, I’m grateful that I ended up having a few extra days to study!

Exam Day

            Fast forward to exam day. You’ve (hopefully) put weeks to months of your spare time into studying for this one test. Don’t worry, I’m not skipping over the exam prep period, I’m devoting a whole other article to that! For now, my advice is to make sure you’re well-rested and well fed on the day of your exam. Your brain is going to need lots of extra fuel today!       

Before leaving the house, make sure you have two pieces of ID with you. Also, leave with PLENTY of time to arrive and find the right room, accounting for any unexpected delays (ex. railroad crossings that make you sit in agony for ten whole minutes). It’s suggested that you arrive 30 minutes early so you can get registered and be ready to begin on time.

On my exam day, I woke up feeling slightly nervous but with an overwhelming sense of relief that it would soon be done and over with. However, I also woke up to a winter storm. In a place that shuts down with a single snowflake in the forecast, I knew my exam would be canceled. *Instant panic*. How do I reschedule it? What if they can’t reschedule me within the exam window? What if I have to wait until the next sitting, in 6 months?! If this happens to you, don’t worry as much as I did. The exam company will get in contact and reschedule your exam for you!

I hope this helps you wrap your head around the CDRE process – keep an eye out for my next blog CDREPart 2: Exam Structure and How to Prepare!

Guest Post: For Applicants Who Haven’t Landed an Internship Yet

I don’t think it ever seriously occurred to me that I actually wouldn’t get an internship the first year I applied (or the second for that matter). Even if it did, everyone around me told me not to worry about it, that I’d have something.

Unfortunately, they were wrong.

And once I didn’t have an internship spot that first year, there’s a handful of thing I wish someone had told me. (Spoiler alert: eventually I did get in on my third time applying, and I now work as a Registered Dietitian, and just passed my CDRE!).  

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Hi, I’m Mairead and this post is for all the applicants who there who haven’t landed an internship yet.

Here’s what would’ve been helpful for someone

to tell me four years ago:

This is not the end of the world. Yes, it feels like the end of the world. But it’s not. No matter who else is doing what or where you end up, it’s not the end of the world. 

You’re allowed to have a pity party. You don’t have to move on to the next step yet. Not getting an internship when you want one is so so so hard and it sucks so so so much. If you’re stuck on that for a bit, that’s ok.

Your education up to this point is not wasted. Whether anyone has told you so or not, the world does need nutrition majors. Not just as dietitians, but in other roles too. Whether you end up working in nutrition or not, remember you have education in science, counselling, physiology, psychology, foodservice management and food science, to name a few areas. You can apply this to other areas besides dietetics. 

No one else has the answer for what you’re supposed to do. You can ask every faculty advisor and career counselor, but they won’t be able to tell you exactly what to do or exactly what steps to take in the next year to be successful applying again. You do have to go figure that out for yourself.

You can go do anything you’re interested in! Instead of volunteering just for it to be on your resume, you can volunteer because an event or program sounds awesome and you have the skills for it! You can take courses or certifications in anything that interests you. These are the things that will give you more knowledge to pull on as an intern and will give you an edge applying for jobs both before and after internships. 

Focus on other things. Try new hobbies and take on new projects. If you’re not a student right now, you might actually have more time for these kinds of things. Enjoy that time. Don’t put your life on hold waiting for that internship. Move somewhere you want to be, take jobs you’re excited about, get engaged, get a puppy, keep moving. 

Meet people. Reach out to people who are doing cool things that you’re interested in and ask them how they got there. Be interested in their stories and have an answer when they ask you what you do or what you want to do. Tell them what you’re interested in. Tell everyone what you’re interested in. You want to be a dietitian because you love helping people and love food? What about it? Make sure everyone knows what kind of things you get excited about so when there’s an opportunity or a project, they want you in it. 

Don’t limit yourself because you’re not a dietitian (yet). Can you take a position as a dietitian or act within their scope? Obviously not. But that doesn’t mean whatever you’re doing is any less cool or any less important. 

You’re not a failure. You’re only failing when you’re not moving forward, whether that’s towards becoming a dietitian or towards something else, even if you don’t know what that is yet. As long as you’re trying to learn and grow and trying to find a path that you love, you’re not a failure.

If/when you finally get an internship: you belong here. You know your stuff. You have experience to pull on and you deserve to be here as much as anyone else.

You’re doing a good job and you’ve got this. 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Maude’s Reflection on the MAN Program at the University of Guelph

Here’s something I never thought I’d say: I’m a MAN, and I’m super excited about it.

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My name is Maude, and I’m writing today to tell you a bit more about the Master of Applied Nutrition (MAN) program at the University of Guelph. I received my diploma in the mail near the end of October, and that huge envelope stuffed in our tiny apartment-sized mailbox made me literally jump up and down. For me, the experience was so much more than building my toolkit of nutrition knowledge and resources, it was developing the personal skills I needed to succeed as a registered dietitian.

For many of you, as for many of us, exploring the options available to us after undergrad is an overwhelming and stressful project. It involves deciding where you’re willing to live, what sort of program you’re after, what experiences are make or break for you, and a million other things like distance from SO, family, and finances. These things are all important, and you need good information to make an informed decision.

The overview:

The practicum portion is broken down into three categories, or placements in: nutrition care, foodservices and management, and population and public health. For our cohort, a list of “streams” was created by geographic location and we got to choose our top 3. In the MAN program, each internship placement is attached to a semester and consists of 40 days. Each placement site has different needs in terms of how many weekly hours they require an intern, so some placements are 3 days per week, and some are 4. We went to class every Monday of the fall and winter semesters, from 8:30am to 5:30pm. In addition to the two semesters of classes, there is a research project runs the entire length of the program. It is organized so that each semester, one key phase of the research project is completed. These projects are pre-determined by the research advisor and you get to choose your top 2 or 3, and a topic will be assigned to you, and in my year, a partner.

The day to day:

Since all my placements were in the Niagara region, that’s where I decided to move when I began this experience. Because the program is course-based and practicum-based simultaneously, every Monday in the 10 week fall and winter semesters is spent commuting (for me) to Guelph for a 9-hour class day. This isn’t the case for all students in the cohort, in fact almost half of the placement streams made it possible to actually live in Guelph! I don’t need to tell anyone how terrible traffic can be in the GTA, so no need to explain why I was leaving home at 6:00am to be on time! Let’s not even get into driving home in rush hour traffic on a Monday night. Some placements had assignments to complete at home on top of the work day, and some did not. Class work was always on the back of my mind as I balanced group projects, individual assignments, and placement readings. Often, I ended up doing hours of work on the weekends, too. Not all placements are created equally! In my foodservice placement, I had a few weeks of being onsite for 7am, in primary care I was working 9-5, and in my community placement I was working evenings and weekends. There can be a lot of variety, but I hear that’s the spice of life.

The bonuses:

Do you need a vacation? Even though this is a very rigorous program where weekends become a thing of the past for weeks at a time, because it is semester based and each placement is 40 days, there are times when you can have 1 month to 6 weeks off depending on how many days per week your placements are. This is basically unheard of in any other practicum route!  

The research project in my year was in teams. It is can be very daunting to do an original research project on your own, but this made it so much easier! Not only do you have the support of an advisor, there is also a course, and a peer to back you up and see you through it.

Flexibility to diversify your experience – I got to tack on an extra placement to spend some time in inpatient and acute care. This was not built into my personal placement stream.

Three golden nuggets:

  1. Accept that this 1 year of your life is going to kick your butt, but it’ll be worth it. Get great at time management, self-motivation, flexibility, and improvisation.
  2. Nothing is worth losing sleep over, get those 7-8 hours and indulge in self-care where you can. A healthy you will make for a much more enjoyable experience.   
  3. Not everything you do will be for marks, and you’ll have to get used to the idea of working for the sake of self-development!

When I think back on those golden tips, it sounds like I had it all figured out when I was going through internship — definitely not! Those lessons and learnings are the key things I brought with me into my working life, though. Everything you learn about nutrition, coaching, and caring for others won’t serve you well if you aren’t your best self.

In an effort not to rant, I am happy to answer any further questions about this program!

Embodying Empathy

This post is for those who didn’t get an internship placement and could use a little more empathy themselves, those who got a placement and could be more empathetic to those who didn’t, and every other being who could make the world a better place by breathing more empathy into it… which is all of us. 

Firstly, 

What is ‘Empathy?’

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*Photo is not my own. Resource: https://www.lifehack.org/572189/empathy-sympathy-are-talking-about-the-same-thing

Sympathy is easy because it comes from a position of power. Empathy is getting down on your knees and looking someone else in the eye and realizing you could be them, and that all that separates you is luck.

– Dennis Lehane

In my own words, empathy describes that real human connection – that click – that comfort – when one person is going through something difficult and another listens, relates, and respects their feelings.

Think for a moment about a time when you shared something difficult with someone and they just didn’t ‘get it’….  

Now think about when you shared something difficult with someone and they totally got it.

What a difference in feeling hey?

Does this mean only somebody who has gone through the exact same experience as you can be empathetic? Absolutely not. I think it has more to do with that person’s ability to tune into human communication, verbal and non-verbal, and feel, even for a moment, even a fraction, of what someone else feels… whether that be because of reflection of a similar experience, or because of imagination. Either way, when one person puts themselves in the shoes of another and shows it, the power is remarkable.

So… Why does all this matter?

Remember last week when I wrote about things not to say to people who didn’t get a dietetic internship yet? Well, I feel like I left you a little high and dry, wondering what the heck you should do.

My answer: Be empathetic. Or at least, try through practice. I think to be empathetic in its truly full sense comes with time, practice, and the *sometimes innate* ability to tune into other people’s feelings. So how can you practice it, with others, and with yourself? Here are some quick tips to get you started, and I encourage you to read up further if this is something that is captivating for you.

Embodying Empathy For Yourself:

  • Don’t feel sorry for yourself – that’s sympathy. It’s OK to be sad, 100%, but please let it be deeper than that… be kinder to yourself than that
  • Acknowledge how you’re feeling, instead of ignoring it
  • Be understanding about how you’re feeling. This sucks. This hurts. This is tough. These are all true statements and your feelings about them are valid. They are okay. They are okay to have, so let yourself have them
  • Ask yourself what would make yourself feel better in the moment. This sounds silly because you are sort of talking to yourself in third person, but really, it kind of works. When you talk to yourself like a friend would, you are kinder to yourself. And kindness is what you need right now. Not questioning. Not ignorance. Not resistance. 

Embodying empathy for other people:

To be empathetic toward others means knowing your audience. (Again, my students are rolling their eyes because they’ve heard this so much. Hi guys!) But it’s so true. People seek comfort in various ways, and what works for one person does not work for all. Have you ever met an uber hugger? Have you ever met an uber hugger encounter an I’m-not-a-hugger-don’t-touch-me-ever type of person? Yep, that shits weird. Funny actually – my best friend and I are on polar ends of this, but thankfully we recognize it and make it work. One comforting the other with a hug just does not work – but for many people a hug can be the most comforting thing in the world, it really varies.

Here are some tips that you can apply regardless of if you are encountering a hugger or not (lol):

  • Acknowledge that this is hard for them. Don’t over-emphasize this point by always blabbering about how much things suck every time you see them, but at least in the first conversation, address the elephant in the room by acknowledging that things are tough and that you get that. By simply saying, “I know things are really hard for you right now. I can imagine XYZ is tough”, you have shown respect for how they’re feeling, you’ve validated how they’re feeling (so they’re less likely to resist it and the resistance is the most destructive part). You can decide where to go with the conversation depending on how they react to that.
  • Ask them if they’d like to talk about it. As heard from previous applicants, some feel like they need a lot of support and discussion about it, while some would like time to themselves before sharing their thoughts with other people. Both scenarios are totally understandable. To see which scenario is applicable, a conversation simply needs to be had.
  • Be aware of how they respond to you and use that reaction to inform your actions next time. Say you try to take an optimistic approach and spew out all kinds of inspirational quotes and TedTalks snippets, and your friend hardly looks up from their lunch… maybe optimism isn’t what they need right now. Save your inspo for later and try a different approach for now. Be hyper-aware of their verbal and non-verbal communications with you, to get a sense of what they need right now.

There you go folks, some quick tips to get you self-reflecting and thinking about how you can better communicate with people during this tense time. I’m no expert on sociology by any means but will happily remind you to please think before you speak ❤ 

 

XOX

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What NOT to Say to Your Friends Who Aren’t Placed Yet

Woah! That was fast. I hopped on here to write about transferable skills, thinking it would benefit those in the interview process for dietetic internships and masters programs, but look at that – the interview process is likely at its end and “Match day” is right around the corner! *Shutter*

Note: For those of you who may be new to the game and unfamiliar with this doomsday, erg, I mean ‘match day’, check out this post for some backstory.

This can be an incredibly exciting or gut-wrenching time. I personally felt both those emotions, sometimes simultaneously. Either way, it is an EMOTIONAL time, and especially on match day. Shit gets real this day. And you can cut the tension in the air with a knife. I think you know where I’m going with this… please, please, PLEASE, I am begging you please, be considerate of those experiencing immense emotion around you. Please be self-aware and empathetic. 

Some people will be better at this than others, no doubt, but what surprised me when going through the process was how hurtful people can be without even meaning to be. Hence the creation of this blog post: What Not to Say to Your Friends Who Aren’t Placed Yet. A huge thank you to those who collaborated with me in the creation of this post and shared examples of less-than-comforting things colleagues said to them post-match day.

“You can have my offer to ___ when I turn it down.”

Um OUCH!?! Even though this may have been said with sincere intention, can you imagine being on the receiving end of it? It feels crappy enough to be surrounded by peers who have multiple offers when you have NONE. Like, really crappy. Having them offer you their unwanted leftovers? Their charity? Their sloppy seconds? NO THANKS. Even if you wanted that placement, it just makes you feel super small to be reminded that it may only be yours if the real top applicants didn’t want it.

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“Maybe you can be a ___, ___, or ___.”

Again, may be said with the sincerest intention – your friend didn’t get an internship and you’re trying to remind them how smart they are and how many options are out there. But you know how it sounds to the receiver?

“Oh, too bad you’re not good enough to be a dietitian. That sucks because I am. You could be something else that’s easier like a ___, ___ or ___.”

YEP.

Having a conversation about a change of career path may be something to pull out down the road, but right now, in the midst of finding out that their plan A may be shot and their dreams are skewed, they likely aren’t ready to go there. And please don’t push them. Don’t push them to give up on dietetics now, or ever, if that’s what their dream is.

 

“OMG! I CAN’T BELIEVE I GOT ___!”

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Generally, the point here is just not to spew your excitement out all over those who are still patiently and nervously waiting for news. It is a very sensitive time for everybody involved, and your happiest day may be someone’s most heartbreaking day.

That dynamic is really hard to navigate because you don’t want to swallow your excitement and forget to celebrate yourself, but you also don’t want to crush someone else. Tough. My advice is to celebrate small-scale – sharing the news privately with a selected few.

Parading all over the university is bound to leave some of your peers in tears. Don’t be that person. 

“Oh, I’m sure it will happen.”

EASY FOR YOU TO SAY SALLY!

That is surely the thought running through the head of the receiver of this comment. I get it, you’re trying to be positive and that’s great, but the truth is you aren’t sure that it will happen. And we all know that, so please, don’t go there.

“What are you going to do now?”

Very similar to the above comment suggesting a new career path, the case here is that they likely aren’t in the headspace to have this conversation. 9 chances out of 10 their answer is a tearful “I don’t know.” Do you really want to be the one to elicit that? Give them some time to process this news and then to think logically about the next steps – they likely won’t be top of mind immediately.

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*Nothing*

This response was interesting to me but makes sense. A few colleagues chimed in and said their friends who avoided the topic entirely made them really uncomfortable. And I get that! When there’s an elephant in the room, there isn’t much room left for genuine conversation. Having this awkwardness likely makes the friends feel distant from each other, and the applicant feels even more alone. So what’s the alternative?

Well.. at this point in the blog post now you’re probably afraid to say anything, so what do you do? My advice is firstly to ask if your friend would like to talk about it. Some may not, in which case avoiding the topic is the perfect thing to do, but some may need your support. And there’s no way to know which is the case without having this conversation.

(I say this all the time to my students but it is SO true: Communication is key.)

Courtesy on Social Media

This is a big topic, and I won’t ramble too much about it here (though I may on insta so be sure to tune in) but I encourage you to use the same rule of thumb: Think about how those who haven’t been placed yet might feel about your public celebration. I’ll leave you with a quote to really drive this home:

“As someone who did not get first or second round, it was difficult to constantly get notifications on social media of people commenting on posts saying “hard work pays off” We are all in such a competetive program and we ALL worked hard to get here”.

 

That’s all for now folks. Be mindful, and be kind.

XOX

Acacia