Applying for a Dietetic Internship - Suggested Time Frame
Applying for an internship involves extensive research, time, and money. It is never too early to start preparing for this stage of your undergraduate education. It is important that you apply for an internship within five (5) years upon completion of your didactic experience. If you want longer, you will need to take a series of "refresher" courses.
Freshman to Senior Year:
It is very important to maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better. It is also very important to make the effort to know your department faculty. Often, they will be the individuals you will be depending upon to write your letters of recommendation. If you have not already done so, start developing a rèsumè. Some internship programs require a rèsumè as part of the application process. Give a rèsumè to those who are writing a letter of evaluation for you. The information you provide will enable them to write a more in depth letter on your behalf. Be sure to ask for extra letters of evaluation in case you need to apply to more internships than you originally planned.
Sophomore to Junior Year:
Research internship/AP4 programs to which you may want to apply. Ask returning students, faculty, and community professionals for the opinions/suggestions. If a Graduate Record Exam score is required, check into when the exam is offered. You might consider taking the exam in your Junior year in case you need to retake it.
Go to the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics Website:
http://www.eatrightpro.org/resources/acend/accredited-programs/dietetic-internships and check out the available listing of internship sites.
Second to Last Semester (e.g. Fall Semester - Senior Year):
Narrow your choices down to about 5 to 8 programs. Correspond with these programs and ask for more specific information, but before you do, read the fine print. Check to see if the programs that include a graduate degree require taking the Graduate Record Exam.
Gather your transcripts. Write to each college/university you have attended to and request a copy of your transcripts. These transcripts are an important component of the total internship application packet. A transcript must document all college/universities attended.
Mid-Point of Second Month of the Last Semester (e.g. February - Senior Year):
Applying to Dietetics Internships using Dietetics Internship Centralized Application System (DICAS)
The online Dietetics Internship Centralized Application Services (DICAS) is used for the majority of dietetic internship programs. Most application materials can conveniently be uploaded online and submitted. (Not all programs participate so itis your responsibility to check). There is a $50 fee for the first application and $20 for each additional application. This application, similar to the standard dietetic internship application, will calculate your DPD GPA and Science GPA when grades are entered. Transcripts will need to be sent to the DICAS Company to be scanned into your online application. An email via DICAS can be sent to the DPD director requesting a Declaration of Intent or Verification Statement. You will use an electronic signature for your application. DICAS and D&D Computer Matching are two separate processes. You still need to register with D&D Digital if the program you are applying to participates in computer matching.
D&D Digital Computer Matching
The dietetic internship selection process includes a computerized system that matches a student's choices (1,2,3, etc.) with the internship programs' choices for student interns. The matching process is administered twice a year by D&D Digital, https://www.dnddigital.com/, a private computer firm. Their website gives directions for submitting the required materials. The cost to you is approximately $50.
Mid-Point of Last Month of the Last Semester (e.g. Mid-April -- Senior Year):
Applicant matching results for each applicant will be posted by D&D Digital on https://www.dnddigital.com, in mid-April or mid-November. This is the only source of notification. If you received a MATCH, the dietetic internship program will be listed. A MATCH means that using your priority choices and the dietetic internship priority choices, you have been selected to accept an appointment to the program. This dietetic internship is planning on your being a part of their internship program. Only one match can occur. You must contact the internship program director within 48 hours to accept or decline the appointment.
Appointment or acceptance day is always the Wednesday closest following the notification day. If the applicant is MATCHED to an internship program, she/he must contact that program director on this date to confirm her/his appointment. Please also follow-up with the UHM Dietetics Program Director to share the results of appointment day.
What if you do not receive a match? Please contact the UHM dietetics program director and work together to determine the best plan of action.
Applying for an Internship - A Supervised Practice Program
Please note that even though the DPD is completed, this does not guarantee acceptance into a dietetic internship. Applying for an internship requires a lot of preparation time. As stated in the March 2009 issue of AND's Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), newsletter: "An analysis of data on dietetics programs from January 2007 through October 2008 showed that 3,795 individuals applied for 2,520 internship positions, a shortage of 1,275 sites or 33%. Effectively, one third of students paid for an education to become Registered Dietitians when there was no possibility of this ever occurring. Unfortunately, the situation is expected to only get worse." The good news is that UHM dietetic students have higher than average acceptance rates. The national acceptance rate for those who applied 2012 - 2014 averaged 50% versus Hawai'i which was 75%, 63%, and 73% respectively.
Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP)
The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) has made it a priority to assure that qualified students have opportunities to complete the supervised practice component of their education without compromising the autonomy of education programs. Individualized Supervised Practice Pathways (ISPPs)have been developed along with preceptor recruiting efforts to give students more options for educational experiences that will make them eligible to sit for the registration exam.
ISPPs allow 1) graduates who do not match to a dietetic internship, but who possess a DPD verification statement, 2) individuals holding a doctoral degree without a DPD verification statement to apply for an ISPP; however eligibility requirements and options may vary by program. You can see which Dietetic Internships, Coordinated, or Didactic programs currently offer ISPPs by visiting http://www.eatrightpro.org/resources/acend. Doctoral degree holders without a DPD verification statement must attend an ISPP that is approved to offer a track for individuals with a doctoral degree. Students interested in applying to an ISPP should research the eligibility requirements of the program where they intend to submit an application, including whether you are required to locate your own preceptors, and then contact the program director. Individuals with work experience should also inquire whether the program grants credit for specific competency requirements through an assessment of prior learning. For more information on the ISPP, visit http://www.eatrightpro.org/resources/acend/students-and-advancing-education/individualized-supervised-practice-pathways.
The UHM Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP) within the DPD provides students with the supervised practice experience needed to fulfill the competencies for becoming a RDN. Upon successful completion of the ISPP, each student will receive a verification of completion and be eligible to take the national Registration Examination for Dietitians.
The UHM ISPP is accredited by the Accreditation Council for the Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), accrediting agency of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and fulfills the same requirements of a Dietetic Internship. The program includes 1,200 hours of supervised practice in various rotation sites.
- The UHM ISPP is only available to graduates who were not matched in the D&D digital match in the current year or within the past 5 years (proof required) and possess a DPD Verification Statement.
- The UHM ISPP program prioritizes students who attend the UHM DPD or who are Hawai'i residents.
The UHM ISPP provides graduates of a DPD with an opportunity to increase their knowledge of food and nutrition science, and to acquire the competencies needed to practice dietetics in a variety of settings. Graduates of the ISPP at the UHM are expected to be able to function as entry level practitioners in clinical, food service, and community dietetics roles. Each is expected to operate independently with high levels of professionalism and integrity.
The UHM ISPP is focused on Hawai'i's unique community and therefore offers a community concentration. Through its activities, the UHM ISPP will promote the education of students in multicultural environment, service in a variety of community settings, and participation in various professional organizations.
The AND website, http://www.eatrightpro.org/resources/acend/accredited-programs/dietetic-internships, has a listing of all internships in the country. The number of internships to which you may apply is not limited. However, before making your selections, you need to assess your qualifications realistically and apply accordingly. The internships that are in more favorable geographic locations or pay higher stipends and are better known typically attract more applicants and are therefore more competitive. The cost per application ranges from $50 to $100.
It is highly recommended that you broaden your educational experience by applying to mainland internships. If it is a hardship to go away (i.e. leaving young children) there is one distance dietetic internship program now available on O'ahu, Sodexo, http://www.dieteticintern.com/. Usually, three students are chosen a year. So far, all students have expressed overall satisfaction with their distance internship experience and all who have completed their internships have passed the RDN exam. Be sure to also check out the distance internship listing at the end of the AND list of internships website http://www.eatrightpro.org/resources/acend/accredited-programs/dietetic-internships. New distance programs are added periodically.
The AND conducted a survey of graduates of dietetic programs who received appointments to dietetic internship programs. The survey helped to identify characteristics of successful applicants. Students who had been through the process reported that they wished they had known the following prior to the application process:
- acceptance to a dietetic internship program is competitive
- good grades are essential
- relevant work experience is important and involvement in volunteer activities is also important
What are the characteristics of successful dietetic internship applicants?
Although programs have varying selection criteria, applicants who received appointments to internship programs had the following characteristics:
Grade point average
- 79% had over 3.0 for all courses
- 89% had over 3.0 for food, nutrition, and management courses
- 56% had 3.0 for biological and physical science courses
- 85% had more than one year of paid work experience
- 54% had dietetics-related volunteer experience
- 53% had worked with an RDN
What other characteristics do dietetic internship program directors look for in applicants?
- 87% use volunteer experience as a criterion
- 96% require letters of recommendation
It is important to get to know the FSHN department faculty members as soon as you can because you will most likely ask them to provide letters of reference. These letters are commonly specified as one being from the dietetics program director, one from the food service professor and the other from an advanced nutrition professor. Often you will be asked to add an additional reference from your work experience. Your letters of reference should be detailed and give an accurate picture of who you are. Many internships provide a standardized reference form in their application packet.
"Prior work experience" determines who will get an internship if grades, references and letters of application are of similar quality. You need to develop a good work record in jobs related to dietetics and food service. Rather than taking classes in the summer, you might want to consider working or volunteering in a hospital, nursing home or restaurant as a diet aid or clerk, and/or in the production and service areas of a food service.
The dietetics faculty will assist you in assembling your application packet; however, the final responsibility rests with you. Your letter of application should present an articulate, dynamic picture of who you are. Internship applications should be neat and well written. It is particularly important to be able to start professional goals clearly and concisely. You should make sure that each application is filled out carefully. It is your responsibility to make sure that directions are followed, ample time allowed for references to be received, all materials submitted, and all deadlines met!