Nutrition Overload from a Struggling Dietetic Student

by Matt

Hi, I read your "How to Become a Dietitian" section and it was very informative. I've been traveling this same path, but have run into some problems along the way. I have some questions for you, but let me tell you a bit about myself first.

I'm currently a Master's student for a Nutritional Science program. I've been taking prerequisite classes for the past year (chem, organic chem, etc.) as well as general nutrition classes(received a B grade in the general nutrition, and a C in Nutrition Life Span).

Just recently I took a Nutrition Competency Exam, which is required to continue in the Master's Program. After taking it, I did not feel confident I knew enough general knowledge in nutrition to get the satisfactory score of 80% or higher. I have one more chance to pass this test before next semester, otherwise, I will be no longer be able to continue in the program. They would allow me to pursue a 2nd bachelor's degree in Nutrition, but I don't want to give up my opportunity for Master's.

My question is, how did you get a general sense of all the nutritional information you know now?

When I see information regarding vitamins functions, minerals, protein, fat, life span etc., I recognize it from the classes I took, but the information is so vast I didn't retain everything (did poorly in the short answer test). What method did you use to retain and apply the information you've learned during your undergraduate experience?

I love nutrition & health and I desire to be a Registered Dietitian more than anything. Any advice for this hurdle in my career would be more than appreciated.

Thank you so much for time.


Thanks for writing and congrats on pursuing a Master's in Nutrition.

You ask a great question! It's certainly challenging to stay abreast of all the current information available about nutrition. The more I learn, the more I understand that I really only have scratched the surface of what there is to know, even after 16 years! The amount there is to know can often feel overwhelming, even for me!

An advantage you have in the "real world," is that is you can't remember something, or just don't know an answer, you can always look it up!

Starting out as a dietitian is kind of like being an internist or "jack-of-all trades, master of none." That is, you have to know a little about a lot!

Once you get into the field and develop a particular area of interest (ex: sports nutrition, weight management, bariatric nutrition, oncology, etc.), you'll probably find it easier to retain info because you're sincerely interested and applying it regularly.

Let's face it, memorizing chemical pathways isn't always the most fun and exciting use of your time. However, working in a "functional medicine" atmosphere, you may have a case where you're looking at someone's blood work and trying to determine how a low levels of homocysteine might have gotten that way by determining possible nutrient deficiencies further up the pathway that leads to homocysteine. In this case, you'd be looking at pathways regularly and they would make more sense because you can see how they relate to someone's health.

Now all of this probably doesn't help you now, but know that it will eventually get easier!

For now, I'd suggest trying to teach the concepts you're learning to someone, dad, best friend, significant other, etc. Explain one concept/idea/importance of a vitamin,etc., everyday to one person. Note where you get stuck in your explanations. That's where you need to go back and study a little more. If you have no problem explaining, then likely you've got the concept down pretty good. (If you have any friends left after doing this, then please let me know LOL). If no one will listen, talk out loud (when no one is around) as if you were instructing a client/patient.

Hope that helps!

Keep us updated as to how you're doing.

Hang in there and whatever you do, don't give up!!


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