Well, the application portion of this current Match cycle is coming to an end, so I really need to get cracking on the “DI Application” blog entries. I probably won’t get them done in time to be truly useful for the applicants who are on top of things, but I’ll keep plugging away since there still might be something useful for those applying this round and the posts can maybe help next cycle’s applicants.
So let’s talk letters of recommendation.
For this cycle’s (Spring 2014) applicants: By now, you should’ve already filled out the portion of DICAS that automatically emailed your letter writers. Applications close in a couple of weeks. If your letter writer hasn’t written your letter yet, take a deep breath and don’t panic yet. Many people who write letters of recommendation for applicants are writing a lot of letters. Many of them are RDs and understand the importance of the DI and the whole application process, so they will get them done. They remember the stress of the application process, too.
If you’re really nervous about a letter that hasn’t been written yet, you can always talk to a professor, explain the situation, and see if the professor would be willing to write a last minute letter for you. Sure, your original letter writer might get the letter done in time, but this way you’ll have a back up letter to submit. You can also send a gentle (and polite!!) reminder to your letter writer, or stop in and see them in person and ask on the status. You don’t want to be too pushy (be polite!!) because you don’t want to make them mad when they write your letter, so make sure you’re as polite as can be when following up on the status of your letter.
For future cycle applicants, I offer up these tips:
1.) Choose your letter writers carefully. You’ll want to make sure you pick people who will write glowing recommendations. And I mean, GLOWING. You don’t want someone to write a letter that states “This applicant passed my class without incident” or “I’m not sure who this person is, but they are listed on my class roster and they got a B in my class so they must be okay.” You’ll want to make sure the person knows you, knows your work ability, and likes you. You’ll also want to pick people who you believe will follow through and get the letter done.
Now, you don’t have to pick RDs to write your letters, but it sure looks good if all them are written about RDs and they’re all raving about how awesome you are. Some programs specifically state who they want to write your letters, but if the program doesn’t, you’ll want to pick a good mix of writers. You always, ALWAYS should have one letter written by your DPD director. (Or Coordinated Program director – whoever it is that verifies that you met the requirements to apply for an internship.) I’ve heard (and agree with) that the ideal mix is: one letter from your DPD director, one from a professor, and one from an employer. If you haven’t held a job recently, or don’t think your employer can write you a good letter, ask someone else. For example, if you’ve volunteered with an RD recently, ask that RD. DON’T ask your friends (even if they’re RDs) to write your letters unless you’ve worked with them extensively. You want whoever writes your letters to speak about your ability to be successful in an internship, not how awesome you are at being a running buddy.
2.) Choose your letter writers early. Professors and bosses have a lot of things going on in life. Ask a few months before the application even opens if they’ll be willing to write you a letter. (August or September is a good time, if you’re applying for Spring Match.) ASK THEM. Don’t just go, “Oh, Professor X loves me and will write a letter!” and put their contact info into DICAS. Ask your professor/boss/supervisor/etc, if they feel comfortable writing your letter. If they say no, tell them that’s fine, thank them for their honesty, and find someone else. Don’t push them to write your letter or to explain why they won’t (most will probably explain why, though).
3.) If your letter writer asks for something to help them write their letter, give it to them. It’s a good idea to provide your letter writer a copy of your resume. Even though they might know you, they might have forgotten something – like an award you won or the name of the group you volunteer with. It’s also a good idea to give them a few bullet points of what interests you about dietetics. I’m not talking about giving them a copy of your essay, but just a few key points you would like them to know and maybe try to work into the letter.
4.) It’s okay to ask more than three people to write letters. You’re required to have at least three letters, but with the way DICAS is set up, you can have 100 people write letters for you and then you can choose which of those 100 letters you want to send to each program. Don’t have a 100 people write letters, though – that’s just too much hassle and work for you. I would recommend no more than 5 letter writers. (I just had three – my DPD director, a professor, and a boss.) For example, let’s say you apply to Programs A, B, C, & D, and you have letter writers 1, 2, 3, and 4. You find out that 4 is a graduate of program C. So you decide to submit the letters written by 1, 2,3 to A, B, D, but then decide that to program C you’ll submit letters from 1, 3, and 4.
5.) Check the program’s requirements on letters. Some programs will tell you exactly who they want the letters from. If they tell you they want a letter from a supervisor, make sure there’s a letter from a supervisor. Some programs will tell you “three letters, but more may be submitted.” If a program says “No more than four letters,” don’t send them five. Always, always follow the requirements that the internship program states.
If you have questions about any of the above tips, or have tips of your own, feel free to leave comments!