Yesterday was matching day for dietetics students applying for internships. I just happened to notice this pop up on my news feed on Facebook. It made me realize that I have never really talked about my experience applying for an internship. In fact, I almost feel like I have hidden it… almost been ashamed of it… and that’s not being real, now is it?
4 years ago I was a senior in college, and besides the stress of trying to get good grades in my most demanding classes, I was also stressing about applying to dietetic internships. I had spent the fall semester in a class preparing personal statements and resumes, adding up experience hours, and calculating my dietetics vs. overall GPA. I visited the internships that I was interested in and made connections with RDs, current interns, and internship directors. I walked the walk, and I talked the talk. Winter break came and went, and before I knew it January was almost over and application deadline was around the corner. I applied to 4 dietetic internships, and ranked them in this order: Mount Mary College (WI), Henry Ford Hospital (MI), Bowling Green State University (OH), and Central Michigan University (MI).
For those of you who don’t know about the dietetic internship matching process, well, I don’t know if I will be able to explain it well myself. It is pretty complicated. You apply to however many internships you want to apply to, keeping in mind that each application comes with a fee. You then rank the internships in order of not just which one you want most, but which one you think you have the best chance of getting into. After you send in your internship applications and do the ranking online, you get to hurry up and wait. Some internships (like Henry Ford Hospital) do a phone interview as part of the process. The wait is about 6 weeks before matching day. During those 6 weeks, selection committees review your applications and they do a ranking, too. Then all of this information gets put into a computer program that “matches” interns to internships. Well… at the time I applied for internships, it was a 50% match rate. So half of the students who applied didn’t get matched.
Worse than the 6 weeks of waiting is matching day. Matching happens late in the evening. You have to log on to the website and you will get your answer. Yes, congratulations, you’ve been matched to the following internship! Or sorry, you have not been matched. And by reading the title of this blog entry, I bet you can guess the answer that I got on matching night.
When I saw the words, I was with my dad. I got up from my computer and he looked at me and I just said “I didn’t get matched.” And I walked away. I was so upset. Part of me had thought this was going to happen. Part of me had expected it. I had average grades and average experience. I was just good enough, but not great. I called my then boyfriend (now husband) and I cried. I called my best friend in the dietetics program, who didn’t answer. She called me back later and shared that she hadn’t gotten matched either, and I was a little relieved. At least we could lean on each other and pick up the pieces.
Going to classes the next day was hard. I had to face my professors and my adviser to let them know I hadn’t been matched. My classmates were all buzzing about where they had gotten matched and talking with excitement. I was jealous, I was bummed, I was pissed. But I was also determined.
After match day, there is “round two”, where you can apply to internships that have vacancies. The list is pretty limited, and looking at the “round two” list after my matching day I wasn’t interested in any of the programs. It just wasn’t worth it to me to pick up and move across the country just to get an internship. So once I had decided not to participate in round two applications, I decided I needed to figure out what to do next. I was graduating in May, and what was I going to do? I needed to make money, but I needed to get more experience related to dietetics, too. I needed to get some leadership and management skills. These were the things that my adviser told me would help me to get matched next time.
During the week after match day, I went through every emotion imaginable. I questioned whether or not I was doing the right thing. I had put blood, sweat and lots of tears into this degree, but was it worth it? Was this really what I wanted to do? At the end of the week, I had to work a shift at Subway, my college place of employment. I got into an argument with Ken on the way to work, and I was completely drained by the time I got there. When I went in I found out that my manager had scheduled an extra person accidentally. She told another girl that she could go home early if she wanted to. I approached the girl and asked her if she minded if I left early instead. She took one look at me and said of course. She could see that I was ready to snap at any minute. My super short shift ended two hours later and I got on the road to visit Ken for the weekend.
As I was driving, fighting back tears, my phone rang. It was a 313 area code, Detroit… Henry Ford Hospital. I rolled my eyes thinking, “Wow, I wonder if they are calling me to say ‘Sorry we didn’t offer you an internship but you were a strong candidate so better luck next time!'” I answered, and realized I was talking to the internship director. She said “I saw that you didn’t get matched.” I swallowed hard. “Yeah.” She responded, “Well, we have an opening and I wanted to know if you’d like to take it.” Silence. My response… I will never forget… “Are you serious right now?” (Did I seriously say that to my internship director?) She laughed and said “Yes, I’m very serious.” And now I was fighting back not only tears, but squeals! I practically shouted “Yes of course!” And she told me that she would be sending me a confirmation email and waiting for my reply. I thanked her over and over again.
Like I said, I have kept the fact that I wasn’t technically matched to an internship a secret. I kept it from my fellow interns for a long time. And obviously I haven’t talked about it on my blog. During my internship at a conference, a dietetic student was asking me about how to get into the program and how I liked the internship. I told her that I hadn’t gotten matched, but that I had gotten a phone call from the internship director telling me about a vacancy and asking me if I wanted the spot. The student asked me, “What do you think got you the internship?” And I said I had no idea. My internship director overhead this, and she asked “Do you want to know what got you the internship? Your interview. When the girl who got matched turned down the internship, your name was the first that popped into my head. You left an impression on us with your interview and we knew that we wanted you.”
So if you are a dietetics student who didn’t get matched your first round, or even your second, don’t get discouraged. There are lots of opportunities to improve yourself, and if you keep trying, you eventually will succeed. You never know what kind of impact you might make on someone, and who will remember your face, your letter, or your interview. So keep your head up, put your best face forward, and put one foot in front of the other. Even though it might feel like it, not getting matched isn’t the end of the world. It just means that something better is waiting for you around the corner.