Quote of the day: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
Today, I finally heard about the status of my graduate school application. In a quick recap: I currently work a 9-5 job in finance, but am pursing my dream of becoming a Registered Dietitian. I applied to graduate school last year, and finally heard the results today.
The story of how I got here begins during my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In high school, I decided that I wanted to be a doctor and started college as a ‘pre-med’ major. The highly sugar-coated and unrealistic version of what that would mean came from my obsession with the TV show Grey’s Anatomy. It wasn’t until my classes started at Madison that I started to doubt my future aspirations.
Pre-med classes were difficult and incredibly competitive. I went from a top-performing high school student to an average university student. It seemed like no matter how hard I studied I was still getting low A’s and B’s. To my perfectionist self, this was not going to cut it because, well, doctors need A’s! As my confidence wilted, I started to explore alternative majors. I distinctively remember sitting in my room and waiting for my registration time to open so I could decide if I wanted to take ochem and biology, or completely change my schedule and take the business school prerequisites. I eventually decided to take a combination of both business and pre-med classes.
I changed majors from pre-med, to zoology, to agricultural economics and then I finally switched to regular economics. Still unsure of my path, I gladly accepted an internship as a financial analyst with a fortune 500 company and the rest is history.
I worked grueling hours as a financial analyst. Despite the late nights and lack of a work-life balance, I was successful. But I was exhausted – emotionally and physically – and needed a serious break. I quit my job after two years and started working as a financial analyst at a non-profit.
Over one-year later, I am still at the non-profit and feeling recharged. I work a 9-5 job and have the extra time and energy to devote to outside passions. However, I don’t feel like the work I am doing is positively influencing the greater good. Yes, the research that my company does benefits populations, but my role specifically only slightly contributes to the overall cause.
For months, I researched potential careers that I thought would fill my professional void. I looked into psychiatry, social work, counseling – heck, despite my phobia of veins and blood, I even looked into nursing. And then I stumbled across a healthy-living blog. The author was a Registered Dietitian who quit her desk job and went back to school. As I read the details of her career switch, I felt like I was reading my future biography. And there it was, my epiphany.
Nutrition became my focus. I researched nutritional recommendations, read diet and nutrition-related books and blogs, and watched documentaries. I improved my own diet by making small, but manageable changes and inspired friends and family to do the same. I became a Certified Spinning Instructor and taught classes 3-4 days a week so I could continue motivating people and make a difference in their mental and physical health.
I spent countless hours researching graduate programs and reached out to as many Registered Dietitians as I could. As I sorted through my various options, I decided that pursuing a combined MPH/RD degree would open up the most doors for me after graduation. There are only a few accredited programs in the country that offer this combined option, and given my personal circumstances, there was only one school that I wanted to go to: UNC.
UNC is one of the (if not THE) top nutrition program(s) in the country. They only accept 24 students per year and last year averaged ~20% acceptance rate. I knew going into the application process that I was facing a very uphill climb. I submitted my application in December and waited a grueling four months for a final decision.
In March, I found out I was wait-listed and today, I found out that I was ultimately not accepted into the program.
I am disappointed, but trying to focus on the positive. The good news is that I have one more year left in DC – I can save money for school, continue to teach, and pursue other hobbies. I will devote the next six months to improving my application before the next cycle and I will be eligible this year to apply to more than one school. If there is anything that I’ve learned from my negative experiences this past year, it’s that every failure is always offset by a better opportunity.
“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.” – Roger Crawford
And now, onward!