The dietetics program in Texas Tech University's College of Human Sciences had a record year in terms of matching students with internships.
On April 12, which is Match Day for dietetics students throughout the country, Texas Tech had a 97 percent match rate, compared to the national average of about 50 percent. Additionally, two of the 32 students were matched with prestigious and highly competitive internships.
“I feel like a proud mom,” said Lydia Kloiber, an assistant professor of practice in nutrition and director of the didactic program in dietetics who is instrumental in getting students through the application process.
Texas Tech's program typically averages an 86 percent match rate, so exceeding the national average is no surprise. What made this year memorable is the almost perfect rate; 32 of 33 students matched.
“My mother and father always said to me, ‘hard work pays off,'” said Alberto Garcia, who matched with the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston. “I never believed them because at that instance I was not receiving any sort of payment, but this time it paid off, and it was huge! All the work, extracurricular activities, internships, volunteer and community service events and all the studying has finally paid off.”
Dietetics students must complete an accredited internship after finishing their undergraduate degree to become a registered dietitian. The process to match students with dietetic internships is similar to the process medical residencies use when matching doctors to programs.
Kloiber said students apply to the programs they want – she recommends choosing five programs – and rank those programs in order of most desirable. The internship coordinators in those programs rank the students who applied in the order they want.
“It starts with where the student wants to go,” Kloiber said.
The process is a little nerve-wracking for students.
“As soon as I read that I was matched with Texas Tech, I cried – a lot,” said Jordan Scott, a senior who will be one of 10 interns in Texas Tech's program next year. “I cried hard for a good five minutes. It was such a relief to know that my entire college career has paid off and I was going to be where I wanted.”
Much of her elation comes from being matched with her first choice, but some of it is simply the certainty. Until a couple of weeks ago, Scott didn't know where she'd be in a few months.
“I no longer have to tell people that I have no idea what I'm doing after graduation, because I know,” she said.
Doing the hard work
Applying for these internships takes most of the fall semester of their senior year. Students research programs, meet with Kloiber and other faculty to strategize on matching with the best internship and then actually put together the applications.
“My peers and I met up a lot to check each other's work and make sure everything looked perfect,” Scott said. “As dietetic majors, most of us are the same Type-A perfectionists. This is both a blessing and a curse because we want everything to be perfect.”
Garcia called the application process the hardest thing he'd done. Applicants need “amazing” grades, leadership experience, volunteer experience and good scores on the GRE, plus they needed to perform well during an interview. To that end, he has worked in multiple jobs, volunteered for honor societies and student groups and sat through mock interviews and resume critiques. That was in addition to keeping his grades above a B average.
A lot of people don't know how difficult and competitive dietetic internship matching really is,” he said. “Most of these students have multiple jobs, GPAs way above 3.5, various leadership positions and an immense amount of other things going on all at the same time just to keep up with the competition in our graduating class.”
His match with the VA Medical Center is a dream come true. He ranked it highly because the program has an excellent reputation, he said. Most of his classmates are staying in Texas as well.
In addition to Garcia's match, one student is going to the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, which has not had a Texas Tech graduate in years, Kloiber said. Three others were accepted to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, which just opened an internship last year.
Kloiber said many of the Texas internships have had Texas Tech students in past years, so administrators know they're getting well-educated dietetics students when they pull from this program.
“I cannot express how good these students are,” Kloiber said. “The difference between one and 20, it's miniscule.”