Before going on I already have 2 posts about my RD journey. This one is more so my story with a little more elaboration on how the process of applying to school went and the acceptance process + a little more about what I did in hospital volunteering. This one is more an update (including some IE/HAEs people I follow and choose to surround myself with)- some of the big things I learned and what helped me through at this stage. I know I’ll be doing a rotations update for all 3- maybe 4 rotations but until then this is probably the last update.
I asked you guys if you had any lingering questions about the Coordinated Dietetic Program and MS in Nutritional Science at CSULA and these where some I received!
Q: Did you just set up an appointment with the program director to ask questions and get prepared? Also, did you apply to other schools?
A: Yes, I met with the director of the program around my sophomore year of college since I had finally decided what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was really confused with the process and especially had no idea what the next steps were so I set up a meeting to look at what classes I could take at DePaul or through extended education at CSULA to make sure I had everything covered. I was a Health Science major at DePaul so I had every ounce of science covered but what I didn’t have were 2 basic nutrition classes and econ. I enrolled in an econ class at DePaul and was the only science student in there my junior year and the other 2 classes I took online or over the summer my sophomore or Junior year- I sort of forget now. I also knew I had to study for the GRE so I took the summer before my senior year to do that. I took the GRE September 2015 so my application would be in by December 2015 to be accepted into the Summer 2016 cohort.
I only applied to CSULA. For a human who always has a backup plan this was really scary for me, but I knew in my heart this was where I was meant to be so I just put every bit of energy into getting myself into this program. April 2016 we did it! I then started 7 days after walking across that stage for my BS in Chicago.
Q: I guess my biggest concern is getting some volunteer work in. I know it’s tough to get a spot so I will have to work on getting into a hospital.
A: Yes, getting volunteer work under your belt is hard especially if you are already working a job and getting your Masters is happening later in life as a second career. It’s not like if you don’t have hospital experience you won’t get in, it’s just preferred that you have some exposure to the clinical environment be that as a food service worker or hospital volunteer. Honestly any experience would be awesome- shadowing or making a Q and A meeting to just hear from some RDs in the field etc. If you have been a server at a restaurant that’s great food service exposure.
I worked at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago on the Neurology floor connecting operating room and nurses calls for about 2 quarters or so- 4 hours every Friday after bio lectures. It was a tough application process with 3 rounds of interviews but I enjoyed my experience so much I would recommend it to anyone if you can make the time. I did Dance Marathon for DePaul for 4 years so I was already familiar with Luries somewhat and knew it would be a great opportunity. After volunteering I was able to kindly ask the Clinical Nutrition Manager if she had any RDs that would mind taking a student under their wing for ½ a day and before I knew it I had made a friend in the woman I shadowed who opened up some wonderful opportunities for me. I made a promise to myself that I would be willing to take students who wanted to shadow (as long as it is HIPAA compliant) in my future career as an RD because I want to pay it forward.
Q: What is the day to day like? Was it like class 9-5 type thing, or differing schedules throughout the program?
A: Every semester at CSULA has been so, so different. My first year I would say was really time intensive on campus and at home. We were in food labs that were 5 hours long twice a week on top of medical nutrition therapy and advanced nutrition plus 2 other classes.
ps. For 2 classes at CSULA you have 40 hours of volunteer work outside of class time (one food service class and community nutrition). So that’s 80 hours of outside work so be careful if you are taking those classes together.
It really was an information dump and we were on campus from 8 am every morning to 6-7 at night. The second year was a lot less crazy. First semester in the second year we had 2 full days from like 9 am to 9 pm with a 4 hour break on those days that we just used to study/nap/workout. This semester is only night classes. I’m on campus Mon 5:30 pm-8:45 pm Tu/Th: 4-8:45 pm and it’s been really nice to have the day time to work on my thesis in the mornings and get in my favorite 9 am workout classes. I started working as Robyn’s admin intern this semester and it seriously works perfectly. If it were another semester I would be too swamped to handle it. Starting August, we will be on campus Monday for our cohort meeting to go to over case studies etc. and work at our internships for Tu-Fri usually 8 am-5 pm or so at our disunited hospitals. We also snuck in a summer quarter – summer 2016 and it was just biochem and a nutrition class and that timing was ok- we just all loathed biochem so it was a horrible way to start off our career at CSULA but we pushed through!
Q: Were you working at the same time? (I’m taking this as was I earning money while I took grad classes?)
A: Yes- sort of. I worked very part time teaching 2 units (1 basic nutrition class for mostly undergrad non-majors and one elective hiking class) as part time staff at CSULA starting Fall 2016 and it has been wonderful. I was hired really fast and it feels like I’m meant to be a teacher. I don’t think I’ll ever stop teaching and I’m excited to have the opportunity to teach more at CSULA (upper level classes once I get my MS,RD) and maybe even other campuses. I also have been a nanny/babysitter since I was about 14 and haven’t stopped working. I babysit at least once a week if not 2-3 times. I love kids and baby therapy saved me in MNT- I’m telling you it made my DAY babysitting before a stressful MNT exam. I also make some money through blog collaborations- obviously not enough to support myself but it’s nice to have a little spending money sometimes- so thank you guys for allowing me to do that!
I have many friends who work weekends or on days we didn’t have class. It’s hard. I admire them!
Q: Is it possible to become an RD from an unrelated undergrad?
A: YES! It is just going to take a little longer. The thing is, before you apply to a Masters program you need to have completed the pre-requisite courses which look a little something like this
Once those are done you can apply and then take the 2 years of course work (below are the classes for CSULA) for the Masters program and your 1 year internship (1,200 unpaid hours) and THEN you can sit for your RD exam.
Q: What do you recommend to better chances of being accepted to an internship?
A: So this is a little complicated- I don’t really know the ins and outs of just applying to internships because that means you have already completed your BS or MS in nutrition and you just need those 1,200 hours. I applied to the coordinated program which means CSULA has contracts with the surrounding hospitals and institutions and I don’t have to do anything except have a great resume, possibly interview, and have a smile on my face with a can-do attitude. If you can find a coordinated program I would highly suggest it!
Q: As an RD, is it necessary for your first job to be in a hospital?
A: Nope! A lot of people think RDs just work in a clinical setting and yes, you do spend at least 3 months in that setting if not 6 months or longer (more outpatient or specialty rotation) but after that if you didn’t enjoy it and you want to work somewhere else you totally can! You can work in corporate wellness, in social media, in a outpatient setting, private practice, for a grocery store, for a gym, for a therapy center , the list goes on and on and on. The last place I see myself working is a hospital in an inpatient setting but I’m keeping a really open mind because I’ve surprised myself before and you just never know. I really see myself working in more of a community setting while slowly opening my practice.
Q:I’m a freshman! I want to help people but I don’t know it all yet- any advice for a freshman in college?!
A: I know the feeling. If you are far away from graduation this is my advice. Have fun. Meet people, get exposed to as many things as you can, get involved, study hard, make lasting friendships, and make goals. Take internships, shadow people, take a class outside your major. Whatever you do don’t take the present moment for granted because it goes fast. College is more than a time to prep for your future career. College is a time to learn about yourself! Ask lots of questions and be ok with being wrong sometimes. It’s ok to feel like you don’t know it all because no one knows it all. Yes, I may know a lot more about nutrition now than at the start of my higher education career 6 years ago, but I certainly don’t know it all and I know a lot less than a lot of people. Something I’ve learned is you will always feel like you don’t know it and that your brain is inferior to someone elses. Be a life-long learner and use every day as a place to learn something new about yourself, about another person, about nutrition, about how to be independent, etc. You will get to graduation and to your internship or your gradate school education and you will most definitely get those 2 letters after your name. Enjoy the ride!