Finding Meaningful Work and Volunteer Experience To Add To Your DICAS Application

I remember as an undergraduate spending hour upon hours looking for volunteer and work opportunities that would look good on my DICAS application. If you’re like most students, you’re piling on extracurricular activities and still wondering if it’s enough to be matched. Here are my top 5 tips to finding experiences to make you stand out on your DICAS application:

What Is Your Passion

Figuring out what you love can help you find organizations that you would enjoy being a part of. Of course, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of waiting to find the perfect job, but when it comes to volunteering, you’ll want to find a cause that means something to you; otherwise, you’ll get burnt out. While you’ll want to have some nutrition-related experience, it’s okay if not everything you do has to do with food or nutrition. Do you love theater? Great! By acting, you’re developing public speaking skills that will help you teach nutrition classes! Do you like to travel? Get involved with a cultural club on campus or learn a new language to develop your communication skills. Something else to consider is that if you’re not passionate about nutrition, applying for a dietetic internship might not be right for you.

Whatever You Do, Do It Well

Believe it or not, I didn’t have much nutrition-related experience as an undergraduate student. Unlike many of my fellow nutrition students, I didn’t work in a hospital and only worked in food service for a short time. Instead, I was a student assistant at my university’s international center for two years. How did I use my time as an assistant to help me snag an internship? In my personal statement, I talked about the cross-cultural communication and leadership skills I developed as a student assistant, which would help me succeed as an intern. The moral of the story is whatever job you have, find ways to make it meaningful. Take the initiative and help create new policies, programs, or materials. Train others, or stay with a job long enough you can be promoted to a manager position. It’s better to be heavily involved with one organization than never showing up to the 20 clubs you belong to. Directors aren’t looking for a list of organizations; they want to hear how your actions prove you’ll be a stellar dietitian.

Use Available Resources

First, talk to your professors and DPD director to find out if anyone is looking for a research or lab assistant. Do they know any dietitians in the area who would be willing to take volunteers? This will help you discover valuable opportunities as well as develop relationships, which will make finding people to write letters of recommendation so much easier.

Look up your local better business bureau for health companies or non profit organizations. Send them an email describing your knowledge, expertise, and the experiences you’re looking for. Instagram and Facebook can also be great tools to find health and wellness businesses in your area. Is there an Instagram account you love? Ask if you could write nutrition content for them.

Also make sure to become a member of your state’s nutrition academy. Don’t leave the emails you receive from them unread! Those emails usually contain opportunities for students to get involved and network.

Be Bold!

Often the best opportunities are the ones you create for yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask if they are willing to have you on board. The worst thing they can say is no. One of my first jobs was as a princess at birthday parties making $70 an hour. You know how I got that job? I saw the flyer for the princess company at Starbucks and emailed them, asking if they were looking for office help. Next thing I knew, I had a job!

Don’t Get Discouraged! 

You may be sending out a million resumes without any luck, but eventually something will happen. I applied for 15 jobs before I got hired at a pizza place. I didn’t love making pizzas, but I loved interacting with students from other cultures, so I continued to volunteer at my university’s international center. After a few months of volunteering, the international center was looking for a student assistant. The time I had previously dedicated to that department helped me get my dream (student) job. It’s surprising how many doors open when you’re out there being your best self and going the extra mile.

Don’t be discouraged if you see other nutrition students with more nutrition-related work experience. Sometimes you have to take jobs that aren’t ideal to pay the bills, and internship directors recognize that. What’s most important is that you are making the most of the opportunities available. Plus, during the summers when you’re not taking classes, you can gain more nutrition experience by volunteering at a nutrition organization and then working at your regular job. 

Here are some more volunteer/work ideas:

  • Foodservice
  • Diet Tech
  • Lactation Consultant
  • WIC
  • Student Government
  • Nutrition Club
  • Food Bank
  • Head Start
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Student Assistant
  • Community Gardens
  • Extension Services
  • Health Screening
  • Health Fairs
  • Personal Training
  • Duola
  • Retirement Community
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Senior Center
  • Health Ambassador
  • EMT
  • Medical Scribe
  • 4-H Volunteer
  • Girl Scouts
  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Sorority/Fraternity
  • CNA
  • Church Involvement
  • Peace Corps
  • USDA

What work/volunteer experience are you adding to your DICAS application? Check out @isabellabrownnutrition on Instagram for more nutrition tips!

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