Today I got an email asking me about the path I’ve taken to become an RD. I get emails like this all the time but I really don’t have a dedicated post in this space for it and I thought it would be helpful for me to do that.
So. First off, if you are thinking of becoming an RD you should probably think about getting your Masters. The academy is pushing RDs to have a Masters Degree and I think that’s great! I always knew I wanted to further my degree after undergrad anyways I just didn’t know how it all would happen.
When I finally decided on the RD route my sophomore year of college, my academic advisor said there wouldn’t be any way for me to do that at DePaul. I went into her office looking for guidance and she basically shot down my dreams in 5 minutes. Cue the sprint to the bathroom to cry that I still vividly remember to this day with my mom on the other end listening to me sob about having to transfer to Purdue to make this work.
(There was no way I was leaving my gals- nope not a chance)
After I got myself together I realized there HAD to be another way. I loved DePaul and wanted to stay there so I started my research. I googled and googled and called and emailed and googled and finally found CSULA’s website for their CDP program. I looked at the pre requisite classes found here and decided I would just complete them all at DePaul to the best of my ability and meet the director of the program that summer. I was already a science major so it wouldn’t be too difficult. (lol organic chem and a year of gen chem anywhere succcccckkkks but I made it)
(Biggest reason I wasn’t leaving Chi)
I met with Dr. J going into my junior year and she probably thought I was crazy for planning 2 years in advance but I didn’t care. I became close with the administrative coordinator for the nutritional science department as well since she was the one who really answered a ton of my questions, and later dealt with all my transcripts. One time she even went to the giant mailroom to search for my CDP application because yup- it got lost. Bless you Marvic.
What did I do to prepare to get into CSULA’s Masters program and CDP?
I started searching ways I could up my application game because I knew only about 15 people got into the CDP and I had to be one of them. I was not about to give this my all and then fail so I got creative. I was accepted into the “College Volunteer Program” at Lurie Children’s Hospital my junior year after several applications, phone calls, and interviews ,and began working on the Neurology floor connecting nurses calls with the OR, CT scans or from the receptions desk, etc. It wasn’t too glamouros but I felt so inspired being in that hospital. I had done Dance Marathon for the Children’s Miracle Network a 24 hour dance marathon (no sitting allowed!) for the kids at Luries for years through DePaul so it felt really special to see some of them there.
(I danced at Demonthon for 3 years and was even a Moral Captain one year- my 4th year I led Zumba at 6 am for all the dancers and it was the last class of my little 3 year Zumba career- perfect way to end!)
After I had made some friends with some of the staff on my floor I felt comfortable enough reaching out to the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Luries and kindly asked her if she wouldn’t mind asking the RDs if one might be willing to take me under their wing for a day (I was already cleared through the hospital which is usually most people’s concern). Soon enough Ann emailed me saying she would be happy to take me and that was that. One day of shadowing turned into over a year of Ann showing me the ins and outs of Diabetes Education, Grand Rounds, PICU rounds, and charting! She even got me a seat in the Pediatric Nutrition Conference 2 years in a row at Luries where my brain was blown to pieces learning the research happening with some amazingly smart RDs, Physicians, etc that presented. I am so lucky to have had Ann and I realize not everyone gets this opportunity but if you can make it happen in any way (private practice, nutrition educator etc.) it gives you a HUGE one up from the rest of the applicants. She also wrote me a letter of recommendation.
Every time I got to go to the hospital I was more inspired to keep going. I often got down on myself just wanting to be an RD already and to help people. If this is you, KEEP GOINNNNGGGG. Even if you don’t get into whatever program you are applying to keep trying and if things change and if life leads you elsewhere then so be it but at least give it 100%.
Come April of 2016 I got my acceptance to the graduate program first and then 2 weeks later the CDP and I just about cried. I was in my Medical Humanities class when I got the email and sprinted out to call my parents who at the time couldn’t even remember the letters CDP they just knew I needed to get into a program with 3 letters in it and it was a big deal.
(My DZ sis Annie who worked for More Cupcakes in Chicago made the CUTEST cupcake for me to show off on constancelyeating- because I was proud of myself)
Fast forward to June 2016. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Depaul University with a Batchelor’s Degree in Health Science and less than 10 days after that I moved home to LA, purchased a parking pass from CSULA, bought new text books, a lab coat, new goggles, and I started my CSULA career.
That summer I had to take NTRS 210 and Nutritional Aspects of Biochemistry. I LOVED 210- we got to experiment with gluten and sugar and different flours and I made pie dough, biscuits, and a freaking lemon meringue pie and learned something from it! Biochem could die. It really would have been ok if I didn’t have a professor who was one of the rudest and most uncaring people I have ever met in my life. I got all As but it wasn’t fun to deal with him.
Fall semester 2016 I took Cultural Cuisine, Medical Nutrition Therapy 1, Advanced Nutrition 1, and Institutional Food Service. This semester I’m taking a Nutritional Assessment Lab, MNT 2, Advanced 2, Food Service Management, Maternal and Child Nutrition, and Experimental Foods. Everything is going swimmingly.
I’ve also been hired as a Teaching Associate to teach in the kinesiology department where I teach Nutrition for Weight Maintenance and Hiking! This is my second semester teaching the Nutrition part of the Weight Management class and I have LOVED it. I have taught a lot of stuff but I’ve never created my own syllabus and have had my own lecture schedule- I dig it- I really do. It beats being a TA (even though being an Anatomy and Phys TA was one of the hi lights of my time at DePaul shoutout to Eiron and Amira!) Between all the CSULA stuff I also have just been hired as a Nutrition Educator for a program within Los Angeles Unified School District called A World Fit For Kids. I have to keep busy guys and get as much experience as I can before I dive into my internship!
For the Future…
I will not be taking Summer 2017 classes- I will be writing my Thesis Project with the Y- duh! It only makes sense- a place that has given more more opportunities than I could have ever asked for- it’s my turn to develop something for them. I will also be traveling to see lots of family in Chicago and livin it up for my last free summer in a very very long time. Some of my friends say till retirement but I don’t want to think like that.
I will be taking only Masters level classes in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 and then come May 2018 I start my internships. I’m hoping for Huntington Hospital for my clinical, I want to do admin at Kaiser with some health education, and the last one is probably private practice! Who knows. I’m open to wherever life leads me.
After my year of interning I will take a vacation to some where sunny and pretty. THEN I will study my booty off for my RD exam and then you guys once I pass I will be Constance Weissmuller, MS, RD. UGH the day.
Your way of becoming an RD may be very different from me. You may have had a career before wanting to become an RD, you may have not studied science at all then then decided as you sit at your desk job that lol jk you hate it and you want to pursue your passion. The same things I did apply to you except you just might have to get creative with the way you do those classes. You may need to find several colleges to do them through.
My advice to you is-
- All science classes MUST be done with a lab.
- Save all your transcripts and request multiples.
- Kahn Academy on Youtube got me through all Chem classes.
- Reach out to people in the field. Most RDs are very nice people and I’m sure would love to answer questions if they have some time in their busy day.
- Be confident in your abilities and don’t compare where you are to where someone else is. Your life is different and you are unique and you will still have a kick ass career even if you took a different path, even if its far from glamours, and even if it takes you 7 years.
- Get involved in something. a 4.0 GPA can only get you so far. How can you show your soft skills (leadership, empathy, ability to work in a team etc) to the admissions committee?
- Get all your ducks in a row. I planned on CSULA while I was a sophomore in college fully aware that I wouldn’t be admitted into the program for at least 2ish years. Talk to real humans. Schedule phone calls, schedule an in-perosn meeting with the coordinator or director and make sure you know exactly what needs to be done. There is nothing like having 98% of everything done and that 2% preventing your acceptance.