With the start of the school year fast approaching, many nutrition students are preparing themselves for dietetic internship and masters applications. One component of the application process is the letter of intent. This is a 1- to 2-page document (depending on restrictions and guidelines set by the schools) that outline why you are interested in their program.
Disclaimer: The information and insight I am providing is from the perspective of a student applying to masters programs.
Please also be aware that some schools do not require a letter of intent but may require a research statement – do your research so that you don’t waste time on documents you don’t need! However, this blog post is helpful for both a letter of intent and research statement.
How to Approach Writing a Letter of Intent and How to Make It Unique
Think of a letter of intent like a cover letter. You are trying to present yourself as someone who is well-suited for their program.
Be authentic. One of the biggest pieces of advice I received during my application process is that the committees aren’t looking for applicants who are trying to be the type of person they think the school wants. Don’t try to portray yourself as someone who loves everything about dietetics if you don’t. The committees will be much more interested in your application if you write about things you’re actually interested in and writing these letters will be much easier if you’re actually passionate about what you’re writing about.
Research the specific graduate program. Make sure you are familiar with the graduate program you are applying to. This goes beyond the duration of the program or the types of internship opportunities available. I researched the curriculum of each program I applied to and discussed why those specific courses interested me in my letters.
Explain why you chose the masters stream rather than the internship stream (or vice versa). The committees know that you are applying to their program because you want to become a dietitian. Everyone applying to these programs wants to be a dietitian. Why did you choose this stream and this particular program?
Apply the knowledge and skills you’ve gained in your undergrad, employment, volunteering, and extra-curricular activities to how they relate to dietetics. Masters programs heavily emphasize a client-centered approach, teamwork, and communication, so try to relate your experience to these aspects!
Do Yourself a Favour
Set enough time aside to write these letters! Especially if you’re applying to more than one school (which many of us do). As I mentioned before, simply saying that you want to become a dietitian is not going to cut it. I’ll be the first to admit that it took multiple sessions to perfect my letters of intent/research statements. Most graduate program applications are due the first 2 weeks of January, but do not make the mistake of leaving these letters to Christmas break. I recommend giving yourself 2 weeks per letter. This might seem like too much time for some people but hear me out:
Christmas break is supposed to be a break! Even though we often say we’re doing “nothing” during this time off, remember that you’ve just finished writing up to 5 exams and this time of year is already busy with family, friends and festivities. Don’t put yourself in the situation where your letter is due in a week and you can’t find the motivation to bother.
Writing about ourselves and discussing our strengths and experiences is draining. Give yourself enough time to take breaks as necessary so that your letters don’t become repetitive.
You want to have enough time so that someone can proofread your letter and you can revise as needed.
And finally, have you ever written an essay and then gone back a few days later and completely scrapped a paragraph or more of what you’ve written? The same applies to your letter. To ensure that you submit the best work you can dish out, you want ample time to write and rewrite as needed.
So that’s all I have to say (for now) about writing a letter of intent. I hope this was helpful in your journey to becoming a registered dietitian. I plan on writing these posts up until the application deadline, so please submit any questions you have to my email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or DM me on Instagram.