For those of you new around here, the RD to Be Series is a series where I interview fellow dietetic students and/or career-changers to show you that following your dreams is possible! The nutrition community is absolutely wonderful and filled with supportive, encouraging people who are all working to make the world a healthier place.
Please give a warm welcome to Dana Peters from Sea Salt & Lime. Dana is a masters student in the coordinated dietetics program at the University of Illinois – Chicago. Our backgrounds and experiences are very similar: Dana also spent two years taking prerequisite classes, she went to UW-Madison for undergrad, and she’s a career-changer! Her program started four weeks ago and I’m pretty sure she loves it. It’s been really fun navigating a parallel path to Dana’s and sharing our experiences with one another 🙂
Grab a cup of coffee and let’s hear a little more about Dana and her journey towards becoming an RD!
Tell us three things about you that people wouldn’t learn by reading your blog:
1. I was a pretty picky eater as a child. Seriously, I considered the perfect meal macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and maybe some fruit. While I still love mac and cheese, it wasn’t until after I graduated college that I really started to branch out and try new things. Now I love sushi, fancy cheeses and trying new veggies.
2. I hate to sit still! I’m constantly fidgeting or moving around. I was on a few different dance teams growing up and was always off practicing for one thing or another. I love moving around! For this reason, I’m happiest and most productive when there is plenty of exercise/activity in my life.
3. My undergraduate degree was in Journalism, so I have a strong appreciation for excellent writing, proper grammar and reading magazines/books. I’d love to combine these interests as an RD!
Your perfect Saturday looks like:
I’d start the day with a delicious brunch with friends and then head outdoors for some sort of fun exercise — riding bikes, hiking, playing by the lake, etc. I’d finish the day with a home-cooked dinner and a nice glass of wine.
Tell us more about your grad school plans and why you chose to go to the University of Illinois-Chicago:
I’ll be a part of the MS Coordinated Program at UIC. This basically means I’ll take all the coursework needed to sit for the RD exam, earn my Masters and complete my internship all in one shot! Location (I’m from the area – hello in-state tuition) and the fact that I could accomplish everything together were huge factors in my decision to attend UIC. Plus their program is highly-rated by alumni and their pass rate for the RD exam is above average.
When did you decide you wanted to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) and what factors influenced your decision?
Probably about 2 years ago or so now. Time flies when you’re taking prereqs! I became interested in the profession through reading blogs written by RD-to-bes and RDs. I’ve always had an interest in food and health, but didn’t really know much about what RDs do until that point. I’ve always wanted to have a career that helped others and becoming a dietitian seemed to just fit perfectly.
What was your greatest challenge or setback you faced when applying to graduate schools?
Just keeping everything organized! Between prereqs, taking the GRE and application materials, there was a lot going on at once! My advice is to have a designated folder/binder for everything related to applying to graduate school and to not be afraid to ask questions. I don’t even want to think about how many emails I sent over to UIC while prepping for the program (shows initiative, right?).
Describe your dream job.
I feel like it changes every day — I love that there are so many opportunities open to RDs now. However, I think my dream job would be a combination of a bunch of different things. I’d love to work in nutrition communications and educate people about nutrition through writing, the media, etc. I’d also love to teach cooking classes to help people learn how simple it can be to create healthy meals at home.
What advice do you have for aspiring RD’s?
Just go for it! I spent about a year and a half debating whether or not to go back and start taking my prerequisites. I don’t regret that, but wish I had the courage to go after my dream a little sooner. Even though it could be scary to return to classroom/apply for an internship, if you have the passion and the dedication for nutrition, you’ll get there. Also, everyone I’ve talked to in this industry is extremely supportive and willing to help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other RDs or RD-to-bes!
What resources did you find particularly helpful while you were applying to schools?
Reading blogs written by dietitians (Fannetastic Food, Kath Eats Real Food, According to Elle, etc.). Many of them have a section that details their experiences as career changer RDs. Also, I found this resource a bit late in the game, but I think it’s awesome. All Access Internships focuses on improving your chances for getting a dietetic internship, but it’s full of great advice for anyone going through the process of becoming an RD.
How did you find balance during especially busy times?
I’ll admit this is probably something I should work on more. I tend to be very “to-do” list oriented and can’t relax until everything is checked off. That being said, I’m trying to get better about recognizing when I’ve done enough for the day. Taking me time to exercise, sleep longer or enjoy a meal out makes tackling everything I have to get done easier!
Did you include anything in your grad school applications that made you stand out?
Volunteer experience and my blog (different than my current. New adventure = new blog)! I think blogging or having some sort of online presence is advantageous because it showcases who you are, what you believe in and the type of impact you want to make as a dietitian. You could also establish this through volunteer work.
What nutrition-related experience (if any) did you have before you applied?
I volunteered for a few different organizations (which I highly recommend) and gained a bit of experience that way. One of them allowed me to work directly with a dietitian, so it was fun to pick her brain for advice. I also did my best to stay up-to-date with what was happening in the industry by following the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and other RDs through social media.
- Amanda Spoden (University of Washington)
- Shannon Hartley (Colorado State University)
- Olivia Bubri (Georgia State University)
- Bernadette Kilcer (Client perspective)
- Emily Walker (Winthrop University)
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN BEING FEATURED IN THE RD TO BE SERIES?
Please send me an email and I’d be happy to share your story!