DICAS – Step by Step

Make sure you grab my free resume template download before you leave!

When I was filling out my DICAS application, I read every blog post and watched every video I could find looking for advice. And while there are a lot of great resources out there, none of them answered all of my questions or provided specific advice. So here are my own tips and tricks that I used while filling out DICAS in Spring of 2018. I hope it is helpful to you!

Still Far Out From the Application Process?

Great! You can start getting prepared now. The sooner you have this stuff in the back of your mind, the better! Helpful things that will set you up for success if you’re not ready to apply yet:

  • Every time you volunteer, keep track of the dates, how long you were there, the supervisor’s name and contact info, and a brief description of what you did.
  • Go ahead and create your resume and keep it updated as you go through school and gain new experiences.
  • Look for leadership roles, either through school or in the community.
  • Internship programs love innovation – if you have a cool idea, DO IT. Make it a reality! My friend and I had a crazy idea to start a nutrition podcast, and we actually did it. That really made us stand out as unique candidates.

Start Early

If you are applying for Spring like most of us, do yourself a favor by starting to get your stuff in order in September. You’ll need to start thinking about how you’re going to gather the following:

  • MONEY (for transcripts, application fees, etc.)
  • Recommendation letters
  • Transcripts
  • Inspiration for personal statement (like, why are you even doing this?)
  • Stuff to put on your resume
  • Emotional support (Who can you go to for a pep talk? Who can help you edit your personal statement? Which professors can you go to for advice?)

Once You’re Ready: Get Organized

I do not like the way DICAS is organized, so I made myself a personal checklist of every single thing I needed to do before I hit “submit”. Here it is in all its glory:

This helped me stay organized and helped me to be 100% sure I wasn’t leaving anything out. You can see I added check-boxes for each step along the way. Having this on the bulletin board above my desk really helped me stay on track, plus what’s better than checking things off a list?

I made sure to include all fees I needed to pay on that list as well as where that money was, which brings us to….

Start Saving For Those Fees!

Each part of the application process requires money from you.

  • DICAS requires $45 for the first school you apply to, along with $20 for each additional school. These fees are paid after you hit that submit butto, so make sure the money is in your account and you have a Visa or Mastercard handy (No Amex, checks, or cash allowed).
  • D&D, the matching service that you also need to sign up with, requires a $55 fee at the time you sign up.
  • Each internship you apply to typically has their own separate fees payable to the institution itself. Check each program’s website for specifications, but typically you need to have a check in the mail postmarked by the day the application is due.
  • Another thing to be prepared for is that many programs require a deposit once you get accepted in order to hold your spot. This can be hundreds of dollars, so again, check with your specific program so you don’t get caught off guard.
  • And of course, transcripts usually cost money. Some colleges offer a certain number of free copies, so check with your school.

First Things First: Transcripts

Do this as soon as possible! DICAS requires that you use their special transcript form, and they want a physical copy mailed to them directly from your institution. Not all schools are willing to provide physical copies, or allow you to attach a form to your transcript (which again, DICAS requires), so give yourself plenty of time to figure all of this out.

Don’t be afraid to call and ask for help from the institution you’re requesting a transcript from. Another good resource for figuring this part out is the DICAS help section on the website. You can even call DICAS and they’ll walk you through whatever you need help with. Use those resources!

Next Up: References

Another thing to do as soon as possible. Most schools want two letters of recommendation from academics (so a professor or the director of your program), plus one letter from a work colleague or boss.

You will send each person a request through DICAS; they will then be able to go onto the website and type their recommendation directly into the system. Also give a heads up to the people writing your recommendations that they will not be typing a free form letter. Apparently, DICAS wants them to answer certain questions about the student instead.

Make sure you’ve asked your chosen people if they are willing to write you a reference before you send the request, as it will email them automatically. And no, you can’t see what they’ve written =).

And here’s an important tip: don’t ask someone unless you’re positive they’ll write you a glowing review. Teachers notice when you’re consistently late or talk during class, and they will include that in your reference!

Here We Go: The Personal Statement

This is honestly the most time consuming and challenging part of the entire application process. DICAS wants you to answer:

  1. Why do you want to enter the dietetics profession?
  2. Discuss experiences that have helped to prepare you for your career.
  3. What are your short-term and long-term goals?
  4. What are your strengths and weaknesses or areas needing improvement?
  5. What other information do you consider important for the selection decision?

Make sure to check with your specific program’s instructions to determine whether you need to include anything else in your statement. You should start on your personal statement as soon as you can and work on it over a month or two … or three … or four. Give yourself lots of time to fine tune!

Since the personal statement is such a huge part of the process, I’ve written a separate post about it HERE (coming soon) – make sure you check it out!

Next Up: Session and Coursework

This is where you can really get yourself in a pickle! You need to list all of the courses you’ve taken that are listed on your school’s DPD Course List. This list can usually be obtained from the director of the dietetics program at your school – they will email it to you, and you will upload it into the DICAS system yourself. Make sure, if it isn’t already, to convert the DPD Course List into a PDF so that it cannot be altered in any way.

Again: You do NOT need to list each and every course you’ve ever taken! Just the ones on your DPD Course List.

Specific tips for this part of the process:

  • Make sure you list everything exactly as it appears on your official transcript, not how it appears on the Course List! I know, it’s so confusing.
  • I chose to order official transcripts from each school for myself just for this part. Print them out along with a copy of your DPD Course List.
  • Make sure you enter each course by term – semester or quarter. Classes you haven’t taken yet need to be entered into future terms.
  • Double and triple check that you have everything listed correctly in this section, as there are a lot of little pieces where you can make mistakes.

I found it helpful to go in the order of my transcript (since it was already in the right order). I started by crossing classes out on my transcript that weren’t on my DPD Course List. Then, I highlighted the course on both my transcript and the Course List once I had entered into DICAS.

A snippet of my school’s DPD Course List. I highlighted each course in yellow once I had entered it into DICAS, then again in orange once I had double checked it for accuracy.

Part of my personal copy of one of my official transcripts. You can see I crossed out courses not on my DPD Course List. Again, yellow highlighter when entered, orange when double checked.

On To: Volunteer and Other Experience

This is a biggie. Programs want to see that you are involved in your community and have taken on leadership roles. You can put experiences you’ve had in this section that are both volunteer and paid – I think a mix of both looks best!

If you haven’t kept good track of your volunteer hours, start looking for this information ASAP! Look through old planners, old emails, and your school’s social media platform (if applicable) for times you lent a helping hand.

If you work full time, have kids, or other circumstances that make it hard for you to volunteer, that is completely okay. You are not alone in that – the dietetics program is full of people with families and other obligations! One of the ways I gained experience was by freelance writing for health and nutrition websites. I did this from home when I could fit it in, and it looked great on my application (plus it was a valuable, paid experience!).

If you aren’t a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, now would be a great time to join! This looks good on your application (and it may even look unusual if you aren’t a member) and many internships require membership before you start anyway. Students get a discount, so take advantage of it while you still can!

A few ideas for ways to gain experience:

  • Volunteer at your local food bank
  • Shadow a local dietitian
  • Join the nutrition club at school
  • Volunteer at your school or community garden
  • Write health and nutrition articles for your school’s magazine
  • Attend FNCE or another nutrition conference
  • Attend meetings for your local AND chapter
  • Become a tutor
  • Develop a class on basic nutrition or meal planning (make sure you follow myplate) and teach at your local community center
  • Keep seniors company at meal time at a local assisted living center
  • If you can / want to, find a job in food service
  • Make some extra cash doing people’s grocery shopping or meal prepping
  • Help with or start a recycling program at your school

Next Up: That Resume

Use your resume to consolidate all of your education and experience. When looking at my friends resumes, my biggest advice was always to focus on the related experience you gained from each entry. This may not always be obvious!

For instance, my previous career was as a veterinary technician. I focused on my experience typing SOAP notes, creating a training manual, and working in a medical setting. I left out things like taking x-rays because, while cool, it’s not related experience.

Look for areas in your previous or current jobs where you:

  • were a leader
  • trained others
  • created materials (manuals, hand-outs, brochures)
  • communicated with clients/patients/customers
  • took accurate records
  • were an entrepreneur
  • worked with food in pretty much any way

Emphasize these points, and leave out less relevant duties. You want to stick to a few important tasks you were in charge of.

The fun thing is that resume is a place where you can really stand out. The formatting, style, and design are fully up to you! I chose to use my resume as a way to show a little bit of my personality, because I love being creative with design. Below is a downloadable template of the resume I used:

Just be sure that your resume lines up with everything you input manually on DICAS. I realized some of my dates weren’t consistent between the two, and I’m glad I caught it before I hit submit! Speaking of that…

Before You Celebrate: Triple Check Everything

Yes, really. Here’s how I went about this:

  • Once I had everything entered into the system, I went through each category on the computer looking for errors.
  • Then, I printed out my application (you can do this under “program designations”) and put it alongside printed copies of my transcripts, resume, and DPD course list to double check everything on paper.
  • After doing that, I set everything aside and looked at everything again the next day with fresh eyes.
  • And THEN, I submitted it.

You’ll drive yourself crazy nitpicking and rechecking everything one zillion times… plus, it can be really scary to hit submit. Once you’ve triple checked everything, you’ve gotta be confident and be done.

Finally: Be Confident

This application process can be really, really stressful. If you are in the thick of it, know that you will finish and hit that submit button. Reach out to fellow students to help you out. Maybe work on your applications together in a cozy coffee shop. You can do this! Once you break it down and look at one chunk at a time, it becomes much more doable.

And because I’m all about that sweet, sweet self-care, here are some ideas to keep you sane during DICAS season (because yes, there is always time for self care!):

  • Take a short walk outside
  • Play with you dog, cat, or kiddos
  • Leave a little early for school and grab a coffee at your favorite place
  • Give yourself a mani/pedi (Yes guys too! Take care of those nails!)
  • Take some deep breaths and roll out your shoulders
  • Make a dinner date with your friends who are also applying to DICAS (Broke? Share a plate of apps and a pitcher of beer / margs)
  • Clean up your desk space and add a bouquet of fresh flowers
  • Cook yourself you favorite meal
  • Go outside and put your bare feet in the grass (grounding!)
  • Have a warm cup of tea

Need More Help?

DICAS actually has a customer service number you can call! If you have any question at all, dial them up and ask. They’re the experts, after all! You can also ask your advisor, or the director of your dietetics program if it feels appropriate, although they won’t always have the answers (it’s probably been a while since they used DICAS after all!).

Also, don’t forget that each page of the application has an “instructions for this section” link at the top right corner of the page. They instructions aren’t always detailed, but it can be a good starting point if you aren’t sure what you need to do.

The End!

So there you have it! I wish I had something like this while I was applying, and I hope it’s helpful to you. If you have any of your own tips and tricks to add, make sure to leave a comment below! Let’s help each other out =)

Good luck and try not to stress out too much! This will pass, and at some point this will all be behind you. You can do it!


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The Nutrition Nerds Podcast

Did you know that I’m the co-host of a podcast? The Nutrition Nerds Podcast has been going strong since January of 2018 and we just released our 70th episode! I created this podcast with my lab-partner-for-life Jenn, and each week we discuss new research, dissect fad diets, debunk nutrition myths … and make lots of lame jokes!

If you haven’t checked out The Nutrition Nerds Podcast yet, below are a few of my favorite episodes:

EP70: Our most recent episode is one of my favorites because we talk about metabolically healthy obesity! AKA, living in a bigger body doesn’t automatically make you unhealthy.
EP67: We do a deep dive into the future of nutrition and medicine in general – if you’re a tech nerd, this one’s for you!
EP61: In this episode we talk about weight bias in my own profession, dietetics. It’s a hard subject but an important one. We also talk about misophonia, a disorder I have that can be a major bummer!
EP58: An intermittent fasting episode – it just had to be done! Get some science behind this latest “fad diet”.
EP44: Here we give you the low down on Keto! Is it good for you, horrible for you, or somewhere in between?
EP27: Did you know food can be counterfeit?? Tune in to this episode to find out which of your favorite foods may not be what they seem.
EP10: Literally everything you ever wanted to know about soy. We did the research so you don’t have to!
EP47: This is a very special episode, because it’s all about us nerds! Why we got into dietetics, things we wish we knew before starting school, and all about what a dietitian actually does!
EP63: And last but not least, this special episode is for our RD2Be listeners – all about how to get a coveted dietetic internship! Plus a fun and informative interview with Jenny Westerkamp, RD!

There you have it! If you want to find us, head to The Nutrition Nerds Podcast or find us on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud.

On Loving Food

Happy Valentine’s Day y’all!

I wanted to discuss something that I’ve been thinking about lately – emotional eating and love of food.

We all agree that emotional eating isn’t the best. You’re sad, or angry, or disappointed, or even happy, so you reach for food. Cue disordered eating.

But what about loving food? What about eating a slice of cheesecake because you love cheesecake? What about making chicken and dumplings because it reminds you of your mother and it makes you happy? What about buying yourself a box of chocolates on V-Day and savoring them, and screw the calories and the high-fructose corn syrup?

When I was in my years-long calorie counting obsession, when I moved on to my Paleo obsession and even up until (very) recently, I thought associating food with any emotion wasn’t ok. LOVING food led to binging, or weight gain, or falling off the wagon, or losing control. Food had one purpose, and it was to nourish your body.

But where’s the joy in that?

Food is such an amazing, fun, delicious part of life! We cook for others and ourselves to express love. We eat together and share stories and put our phones down for 10 seconds to look each other in the eye. Food is magical, so can we give ourselves permission to really, truly enjoy it without dismantling it into something scientific?

I bought that box of chocolates today and I savored them. I’ve done this for myself every year (except when I was Paleo…), but I usually feel guilty about it. I think about how I should be showing myself love in a different, non-food way like taking a walk in nature or getting my nails done. But you know what? I really love chocolate and it makes me happy. Buying a box of chocolates just for myself feels so lavish and indulgent and it literally makes my day. How fun and awesome is that?

There is a difference between food bringing you joy and emotional eating. So here’s your permission – you can love food! Food can make you happy!

Enjoy your holiday, celebrate love, and eat some yummy food.

Grace

I feel like I have done nothing but learn new lessons for the past nine years. I’m nearing the end of my twenties, and everything they say about them is true. It’s been agonizing, eye opening, magical, and horrific to discover who I am as a person and why I am that way. Thank god for therapy!

The lesson I’m working on right now is Grace. I don’t like identifying with a Type A personality, but I absolutely am one, and I’m not very good at cutting myself a break. Luckily, I have some really great opportunities to practice Grace pretty regularly.

I have dealt with chronic migraines since I was a child. I used to hold them off with ibuprofen until years of taking it frequently gave me a stomach ulcer (please be careful with Motrin friends!), and now I have no real effective way of masking the pain. I am fortunate enough to go to a school where there is free chiropractic care available, and it was through this that I discovered I have a severely rotated disk in my neck that causes the migraines. So that’s great – we know the cause now! The only thing is that it’s going to take YEARS of regular care to get rid of the migraines – or I may even be under regular care for life to keep them at bay. I’m ok with this. I’m actually ecstatic about it, because I have control over my pain now.

At least, I thought I would.

I still get migraines pretty regularly, because my body is getting used to a new way of living after over 20 years of being out of place. So once every week or so I get migraines, sometimes for days. My way of dealing with these migraines for over a decade has been to push through as long as I can, basically until I’m in so much pain that I’m throwing up and literally cannot force myself to function anymore. I feel like I have to do this, because the alternative is to lay in bed for days and watch the world pass me by. Jobs don’t like that option very much, and neither do professors. And neither do I.

But one thing my therapist has helped me see is that I have to allow myself Grace when I’m suffering from a migraine. In reality, if I gave myself a break when I feel one coming on, if I turned off the lights and rubbed some lavender into my temples and took a 20 minute nap, there is a very good chance it would go away. And even if it doesn’t go away… I have to be ok with that. Sometimes there is literally nothing I can do about them (other than go to the hospital and get an injection, which I refuse to do multiple times a month), and that is so scary. It’s also really challenging to “check out” because I have so much to do, and most of it is stuff I really love doing.

So now I’m practicing Grace. When I have a migraine that won’t go away, I surrender. I try not to push myself and ignore it until I’m in agony. To be honest I’m not very good at it so far (for instance I have a migraine right now… oh the irony!), but that’s the point of practicing. I also remind myself frequently that everything is temporary. I tend to get plagued with What If’s – what if this time it never goes away??? But it always does. And that knowledge gives me comfort and allows me to surrender more fully to what is.

I know this has got to be a struggle for others who deal with migraines, chronic pain, or other conditions that interrupt their lives on a regular basis. Take this advice or leave it, but if that applies to you I would highly recommend finding a therapist you like. In fact, if you’re reading this at all, I would highly recommend find a therapist you like! Therapy is amazing. All of us have weird stuff from our childhood that affects us in adulthood, no matter how “perfect” our younger years were. Shit, I was living with PTSD for years and had no idea.

So Grace. That’s the lesson for this season – allowing room for what is with no judgement. Not forcing things. And surrendering…. my lesson for this lifetime.

Happy Sunday friends ❤

Making Space When There is None

My life is pretty busy these days, and I’m guessing yours is too.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m in the process of making my way through a Dietetics degree. It’s… not easy. As someone who has a low tolerance for suffering and needs a lot of recovery time (introvert + long days surrounded by young college students = dead), I’ve made the realization that I can’t be “on” as much as others may be able to. Maybe you can relate? I’ll hear classmates talk about how they stayed up until 3 am studying and I’ll think Did I not do enough? I went to sleep at 10, is that bad? I’ll see people spend 10 hours in class and still have energy to volunteer the next morning while it takes me half a day to recover from that much activity… Am I being unrealistic? Am I supposed to suck it up and rest in… 5 years?

Yeah, no. I tried that. I tried working 20 hours a week while going to school full time (some people work full time, I should be able to work part time…). I tried squeezing in volunteering and meal prepping and budgeting and cleaning and being a wife and a daughter (some students have kids, I can handle this…). I tried staying up late to get things done (I did this in high school, why can’t I do it now?). I tried just “dealing with it” and pushing through while constantly comparing myself to what other people where doing.

But here’s the thing. I’m not other people. You’re not other people.

I need a lot of space and recovery time. I’ve always been that way, and when I just surrender and allow myself that time, I’m about 1000% more productive when I finally get back to work.

So how do I make space when there is none? How do I find time to relax and let go and recharge when I have deadlines, financial stress, a marriage to tend to and piles of dishes to wash?

– I surrender to the fact that I can’t do everything.

– I quit my physical job to focus on work I can do from home.

– I let everyone know that I’m not available on Sundays so I can recharge.

– I force myself to wake up at 6 am every single day so I have time for my yoga and gratitude lists.

– I allow my house to get a little messy (hint – keep the room you work in clean and close the freaking door!).

– I take less credit hours than I would like in order to maintain as much sanity as possible.

– And I make room for what brings me joy, like co-hosting a nutrition podcast and walking in nature.

I promise you, if you schedule time to STOP and refill your cup, you will be more productive when you get back to work. I promise. It feels scary at first because of the pressure (from whom…?) to be working or studying or doing every waking minute, but that’s just not sustainable. At least not for me, and if you relate to this, not for you either.

If you’re looking for a place to start, clear your Sunday mornings. Until noon, pledge to make no plans, answer to no one, and stay off of your phone and computer. Do absolutely whatever you’d like to do – sleep in, make a huge breakfast, do yoga or exercise, binge watch your favorite show, take a bath, meditate, bake, read a book, journal, wash your hair, organize your closet, lay in the sun, play with your dog, go for a swim, create, spend time with your spouse and/or kiddos…. care for yourself. If you can only give yourself this one pocket of time all week, that’s GREAT. You’re ahead of the game.

When I decided I was ok with not being perfect at everything, life got a little bit easier. Try it this weekend? Give yourself Sunday morning. See how great it feels to take care of yourself. You’re so, so worth it.

Owning Your Inner Warrior

The world of spirituality is a weird place.

I first found my way into a spiritual life through the divine feminine – a path full with flow, surrender, allowing, and receiving. That shit felt great, and I leaned way in. I fell into the river of femininity and flowed right along, allowing and being soft as hell.

And then I began trauma work.

Healing from a trauma is no joke, and it’s not soft. It’s not flowy, it’s not delicate, and it can’t be done whilst floating in a river of divinity. At least, that hasn’t been my path.

My path has involved hiding under a rock, trying to crush myself with the rock, and then….. unfurling. Anger that had to be pulled up from a deep well. Fighting, both myself and the trauma. Horror when I realized that I’d used my divine femininity as an excuse to protect and excuse my abuser. Anger that spilled over and flooded my whole being, that at once scared me and felt something like….

Peace.

It’s ok to be a warrior. In fact, I’m going to say it’s necessary. For a long time I laid down and allowed and surrendered and that’s all I did. Learning to fight and feel anger and rage and allowing those things- that has been a whole new experience. It’s a merging of the divine feminine and something new and delicious… the divine masculine. There is divinity in anger, and warriors can be noble creatures. They can fight for beautiful things like love, and humanity, and their struggle makes room for that softness after the storm.

I am a warrior. I don’t lay down anymore or float passively along. I’m fighting, and it’s messy and clumsy and I don’t quite know what I’m doing, but I know it’s divine work that needs to be done. I’m owning it, and allowing this masculinity to find it’s place among the feminine. Because without the banks, the river has nowhere to flow.