Everyone knows that studying and hard work is the key to success. Highlighting your notes, re-reading the chapters over and over, and even making up songs….we’ve done it all. But what if there was something else that we could do? I picked the brains of professors of notably tough DPD courses for their secrets to success.

1. Study a little bit each day

Even when you think you know everything, keep going! Overlearning is key to knowing the ins and outs of intricate concepts.

“It is important to learn to study effectively – one method I used as a student is still considered a useful strategy: overlearning. Even when you think you know the material, keep studying – that is, keep reciting the information and keep writing out the information in text form. It will make more and more sense when you do this – you will start seeing the connections better and understanding will improve.”

Dr. Carol Johnston, PhD, RD, Director of Nutrition Program and Professor at Arizona State University. Instructor of Advanced Micronutrient Metabolism and Research Methods.

2. Go the extra mile

You can’t expect your teachers to feed you everything you need to know; be sure to do the assigned readings and don’t be afraid to go beyond your textbook and lecture slides to really learn the material.

“As a student in the DPD classes is very important you come prepared to class. Professors can’t go over all the information in class so students need to take ownership of their learning and read the assigned chapters and do some extra research to learn the material.  Just showing up for class is not going to be enough to be successful.  I know it is easy to memorize the information for the exam but learning how to apply the information will better prepare you for your internship.”

Dr. Sandra Mayol-Kreiser, PhD, RD, CNSC, Clinical Associate Professor at Arizona State University. Instructor of Medical Nutrition Therapy II and Geriatric Nutrition.

3. Not the best at test taking? Start by making your own!

Testing yourself will make you think outside of the box and help you see things from your professor’s perspective.

“Essentially, I would like to remind students that studying for tough DPD classes should be viewed as a ‘marathon rather than a sprint,’ so instead of cramming a day or two before they exam, try setting aside an hour or so each week to review the content from that week. When studying, try to not only reading over your notes but also practice actively engaging in the content by making and answering your own practice questions, i.e. “test yourself” before the instructor tests you!”

Dr. Christy Lespron, PhD, RD, Clinical Associate Professor and Director of Student Affairs at Arizona State University. Instructor of Advanced Micronutrient Metabolism.

4.  Your professors double as a mentor

Your professors aren’t just there to teach you the course. They’re there to help you make connections in the field, get you to your next step, or become a confidant and mentor.

“Ace your DPD courses.  You should be going for the “A” in these core courses so make sure you put in the extra time to get the best grade possible.  Also, keep in mind that the professors that teach these core courses may also make outstanding references for you.  Get to know them!”

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, Clinical Associate Professor at Boston University. Instructor of Community Nutrition.

5. Go above and beyond

Talk with your professors, rewrite your notes, but it’s also important to enjoy what you’re learning! Enthusiasm leads to excellence so let your passion fuel your desire to succeed.

“DPD courses can be tough but with a few key tips all students can succeed. Here are my suggestions for success:
  •   Study a little bit each day…or at least each week. Never wait until the last minute! Even short 10 minute sessions going through notes make a difference! So put down your cell phone when you have a break and pick up your text book or notes!
  • One of the most helpful things I did as a student was rewrite my notes in my own words and pictures. My goal was to reduce the number of note pages from class by three-quarters so that I had a smaller stack of notes to study from. It can be overwhelming with a giant stack of notes so this made me feel better. The act of creating my own version of the notes was a huge help in learning the material because after making this new version, I had a much easier time remembering complex information. I used different color pens too. Color has been shown to improve information retention so give it a try!
  • Constantly ask yourself “why” when studying. If you keep asking this question when studying it will force you to dig deeper and really understand the information. It also assures that you can apply information to critical thinking questions come test day and will prepare you well for future dietetics internships.
  • Be brave and talk to your professors. They really do want to help you so don’t assume they don’t care or don’t have time to help. A few minutes during office hours can go a long way if you are struggling with a complex concept or need help with particular information from class.
  • Revel in the wonders of human metabolism and nutrition. Our bodies are amazing and due to a unique set of reactions and biochemical products, we see unique complexities which result in various states of health and disease. These differences among people keep dietitians and nutrition professionals striving to help our families, friends and communities. Enjoy learning all aspects of nutrition science and let it fuel continued curiosity because this will keep you enjoying what you do and take you further than you ever thought possible“.
Dr. Corrie Whisner, PhD, Assistant Professor at Arizona State University. Instructor of Advanced Human Nutrition I and Nutrigenomics.