As you all probably know (and if you don’t, wakey wakey no eggs and veggie bac-y), I’m currently in my final stages of training to be a Dietitian. I’m in my last few months of a postgraduate diploma (level 7), but I often get asked what I did before!
To study to be a Dietitian, you must either do a 4 year undergraduate degree or a 2 year postgraduate diploma / masters before you can register. I opted for the postgraduate option, as I was unsure when I first went to uni what I actually wanted to do… so I studied another course for three years beforehand. Pretty similar field, just not Dietetics.
After a year of looking at universities, applying for very very different nutrition courses and receiving my offers, I decided to take up my place on the BSc Nutritional Sciences course at the Manchester Metropolitan University.
Yep, that’s little me! This was taken about a week after A-Level results and the confirmation of my place in Manchester. And yep, it’s my 18th. I was a fresh as you could get! I’d only legally (oops sorry guys) been out drinking once before Freshers!
Why Nutritional Sciences?
If you’re looking to apply for Nutrition, or any course in fact, you’ll know that not one course is the same. I’d got offers for courses such as Food Technology, Human Nutrition and even Animal Nutrition (yep I know, weird), but Nutritional Sciences stood out to me. It offered a mix of different specialities within the nutrition world and had a firm emphasis on chemistry in first year, which I really liked! It also offered practical sessions such as cooking and exercise physiology classes which showed variety in the course.
This course actually doesn’t run at MMU anymore but instead, three new courses, which I’ll go on to explain later.
Why Man Met?
Believe it or not, despite Manchester being my favourite place in the world right now, it wasn’t always my favourite. When I was 16, I had my heart set on studying in Liverpool… yep! Unfortunately though, because of my lack of science A-Levels (I only had one in psychology which isn’t considered a pure science), I only got onto their food tech course rather than both that and the nutrition course. I loved the tech course don’t get me wrong, but I just really wanted to study the nutrition side of it too, so Liverpool wasn’t really an option anymore.
But never the less, I still loved Manchester. The city was busy and amazing, the location of the uni is slap bang in the city centre and the uni itself was new and modern. The food labs were also fairly new and had a range of cool machines and technology such as bod pods, dexa scanners and my personal fave, disappearing oven doors like those ones on the Bake Off.
Man Met is a polytechnic university… much to my grammar schools disgust I actually went to one, yep. The thing is, Nutrition isn’t actually offered at many big universities (I mean except Kings and I did not have A*AA to get in there). I didn’t want to do anything else at university, so why should I have changed my course simply because of the negative stigma behind the polys. Polys are weird. Not everyone wants to learn, a lot are there simply for the “uni experience”, let me tell you. They’re not as strict regarding attendance and a lot of other major factors at other unis. Compared to my friends who went to red brick institutions, I didn’t have as much work either. But at the end of the day, how much work you put in is what you receive out of it. You may not be set deadlines formally by lectures as often, but it’s important to do your own set deadlines and extra reading – trust me, it shows now.
I have to say though, if you are a keen learner, don’t be dragged down away from it because everyone else is partying and going a bit wild. Towards the end of my degree, I spent more time going out and going to parties when I really should of toned it down. I remember my tutor actually saying I’d burnt myself out from doing so much work over the first and second years.
So, what’s the course like?
You know what, really, I loved my course. The course itself that was, at the beginning.
It was so fun at first and I was SO glad to be out of school and studying something new and what I wanted! I personally found first and second year really easy; I got firsts in most assignments and smashed all my exams.
By the time we got to the end of second year, I knew human nutrition was something I wanted to specialise in, but despite choosing that option, we had to sit in with all the sports nutrition lectures too… not my cup of tea at all. All those beefy guys in gym gear shaking their protein shakes… there’s nothing wrong with that at all, but I didn’t want to study sports, so why was lifespan nutrition shoved in with them yet food technology didn’t have to be? I know there is slight overlaps, but there’s so many things I wanted to know but didn’t have the option to do. Funnily enough though, I actually got a first in my sports nutrition module at the end of my degree.
The course is now different and runs as three different courses so that you can focus more on these specialities. For someone like myself, I think it’s a much better way of doing it, but obviously that’s personal opinion and I’m not studying there any more so I don’t know what the reality of it really is.
Otherwise, I really liked nutrition. Coursework was often fun (yep, fun), most of my lecturers were lovely and my course mates were angels (and are still some of my best pals to date!). There was a few issues however with some lecturers. Some lecturers are very set in their ways and even found some of them teaching us biased evidence. Yep, I know. But if you read around it then you will find the loop holes and it benefits you in the very long term. Critical analysis is an amazing skill we should carry through life, especially in the science world. One of my favourite lecturers from MMU actually ended up teaching me in the first year of Chester too which was brill! Some of the lecturers though, like in any instruction are poop. My dissertation tutor was actually ridiculous (she didn’t even teach my course) and I had such a bad dissertation experience because of it!
Support is what you make of it. Luckily, I had quite a big group of friends in my first year of MMU, so it was always good to get home and rant about your days. I also have a really good network back at home, so my friends was always on the other end of the phone if I needed them and I kept in contact with my parents daily. I also had good support from my course mates too. I think establishing just who you can, and can’t speak to when things are getting tough is definitely good whilst you’re at university. My tutors were wonderful as well – I had a soft spot for two of them and they’d always be the ones I’d go to if I was struggling. However, emails, they get lost so easily. If it was urgent, I’d often go into the buildings and wait outside the offices in case one of them was free! May not be quite your cup of tea, but if they’re not busy and it’s university hours, it’s their job to help you! Don’t be ashamed of disturbing them.
There’s also many general university support options, such as counselling and on site doctors service. I never used these, but I know they got good reviews from those people who did. The careers hub can be helpful too if you’re looking for a job, both part time and graduate.
Manchester is the actual Queen of the cities when it comes to social life. Don’t fight me on this one kids, edgy Leeds has nothing on 0161! There’s is so much for so many ages and genres. Trashy night clubs, cheap 80p drink clubs, classy clubs, all the bars and pubs you can think of. Whatever you like there’s something for you.
Socials and teams were also a massive thing at MMU. I was probably the only person who wasn’t in one, but I don’t know one person who didn’t enjoy socials. They were another friendship circle for many people, where they spend time doing an activity they all love, going to events, going on trips and ultimately, getting very very drunk. If you’re scarred of sick, stay away from rugby.
If drinking isn’t your thing, the massive array of coffee shops and indie food businesses is incredible in MCR. Something to cater for different tastes, foodie catch ups are the best catch ups in my opinion, with there being endless types of unique dishes to try! Personally, my favourite place in the whole of MCR is Alberts Schloss. Like food, drinks, music, fun. It’s da best! They even have a free photo booth downstairs which naturally, my whole photo wall was covered in them.
There’s also many shops and whacky activities to do in and around Manchester. Two shopping centres and lots of activities such as junkyard golf, trampolining, giant ball pits… you name it, Manchester has it! There’s also many gardens to explore outside the city, with it only being an hours drive from the beautiful Peak District if you’re feeling adventurous!
Just have to add, RIP Sankeys and classic Antwerp, we miss you xo
Whilst I can’t speak or say anything about student finance, I can talk about financial support from MMU – which they’re actually really good!! They offer everyone free money on their ‘MetCard’ when you start, which you can use to buy coffees, supplies and even.. MacBooks. Yep. Obviously, it depends on how much you receive, but it’s often a pretty nice amount. I achieved a bursary each year too for good grades, which was a lovely surprise and definitely funded my coffee addiction during dissertation times. They also have a really good financial help system for if you’re struggling, where they offer you grants if you’ve come into financial hardship over the years – I used it in my third year and it saved me from going into debt!
I also worked part time at my beloved Matalan over the course of the three years! This helped me earn any extra money for nice treats and nights out. Really, I probs should have saved a bit more money ready for my masters, but I genuinely wasn’t to know how hard finance is during your masters.
I definitely think whilst many people class Nutrition as a Mickey Mouse degree (which it’s not!!), if you don’t use it, like any other degree, it’s a bit pointless. There’s many options on routes to go. You can go into public health, sports, technology, product development, health and if you’re like me, Dietetics. I also know people who’ve set up their own successful businesses too which is an amazing achievement! My advice, if you’re determined to do something then do it. I know so many people from my time at university who’ve just gone and got completely unrelated full time jobs for money. I know it’s down to personal choice and what you need to earn to live, but if there’s options out there, grasp them. I think it definitely shows who’s truly passionate about their course and who was just their because they wanted to go to uni and ‘kinda liked the course’.
How I got a place to study Dietetics?
It’s a magic questions asked by many. Youuuuuu got a place? Yep I did. I was originally quite hesitant when I came to applying. I really wanted to be a Dietitian, but I didn’t know if I was quite ready. I really would of loved a year out working and travelling, but then I thought, what about if I lose motivation and interest and don’t fulfil my ambitions? Even my tutor said to me that because of my young age and lack of experience I probably wouldn’t get in, with most graduates who receive a place getting in on their second or third time of applying. Never the less, I went for it! I applied to three unis: Kings College London, Leeds and Chester. I obviously got rejected straight away from Kings (which I wasn’t surprised about, but I wanted to try anyway!) and I got offered a place at Leeds, but sadly not for Dietetics, but instead for the Human Nutrition MSc. Then, when all Hope was lost, a lovely little email came through awarding me an interview!!!! After a rigorous interview day, I found out about a month later that I had a place!!! I was so shocked and surprised but so happy all at the same time. Definitely my proudest achievement to date.
So, what helped me get on to the course?
• A good personal statement / application – this is the first step to getting noticed in order to get an interview. Luckily, I like writing and I don’t think I’m too shabby at it, but I got some assistance from my careers advisor too. Try not make it all ‘me, me, me’ and more ‘how will my skills allow me to help others’.
• Experience – now I didn’t have the most, but it was good quality and enough. I did two work experience sessions shadowing at Hospitals in the Dietetic departments, I’d visited open days and I also volunteered and worked for the wonderful MetMUnch, working with the community, writing for them and running events – if you’re at MMU and thinking of doing Dietetics, definitely join!
• Being Chatty and Confident – right, now I know that all people aren’t like this, but you do need some level of confidence in order to work with healthcare professions. You’re working with people, so you’ve got to show you’re a people person, without being too bossy of course.
• An interest in food – yep. You’d be surprised how many people aren’t interested in food when it comes to applying. Your job is to do with food, so some degree of interest is nice! It’s also good that you have basic cooking skills, you can be expecting patients to do different cooking tasks if you can’t actually do them yourself!
• Learn buzzwords. Dietitians looooooove buzzwords. Multi disciplinary team, teamwork, patient centred care. They love em! Learn a list of them before your interview to slip in where you can (but don’t over do it, don’t want to look like a walking buzzword list).
So, I hope that helped with giving an insight to my university experience and how I got a place on Dietetics! If you have any further questions, please drop me a line over at firstname.lastname@example.org !
Emma is a Registered Dietitian and Registered Associate Nutritionist based in Cheshire, England. Emma works in community healthcare and writes freelance alongside her work: topics including Dietetic life, nutrition, mental health and lifestyle. Emma also writes and photographs recipes for the platform, as well as being the author of the ‘Mummy and Me’ series for SR Nutrition. Emma’s Food Stories is PR friendly brand.