You’ve traveled, interviewed, cried, lost sleep, cried, been rejected, probably drank a sizeable amount of alcohol, and checked the forums daily against your better judgment. Now you have had your questions answered and shown your best side to DCTs, and it’s time to create your rank list.
APPIC says to rank sites in order of your true preference. They say that the order of your list will impact where you are placed, but will not change your odds of getting placed. Personally I agree with their sentiment but do not believe their rationale. You can read more about how the algorithm works and APPIC’s tips for creating your list here, since I do not intend to try to explain it. (Honestly I barely understand it myself.) But from what I have gleaned from their information, if a site ranks you as their first choice and you rank them, say, #12, and their second, third, fourth, and fifth choices rank them number one, it stands to reason that you would not get that site, and if you are either not ranked or ranked too low to match at your first 11 sites, you could end up not matching due to the order of your list.
Then again, I’m no computer expert.
Anyway, despite this anxiety-inducing reality, there is not a lot you can do to increase your chances by modifying your list. Sites are not allowed to tell you where you are being ranked, although they can choose to tell you that you are being ranked. So your best bet is to honestly choose which sites you would most prefer. If you are unsure of whether or not you should rank a site, remember, internship is like signing a one-year lease on an apartment, not buying a house. Can you see yourself doing it for a year? Then by all means, rank a site that doesn’t contain every aspect of your dream internship.
You can always factor in the feeling you got from the interview in your rankings. If a site seemed off-put by you, or seemed very excited about some aspect of your CV, you can definitely take that into account in submitting your list. But this can be hard to determine with any kind of certainty. A classmate of mine was convinced after one interview that the site would never rank her, and she ended up matching there. The only thing you can know for certain is how you feel about the site, so that’s all you can truly rely on when making your list.
Regarding unaccredited sites, it can be very tempting to complete an unaccredited internship in order to graduate. I hear a lot of conflicting information about whether or not an unaccredited internship is “acceptable.” The field is constantly shifting, so even if there are jobs that will accept unaccredited internships now, this could change. Also, you could become interested in a job at a VA down the road. It’s always best to keep those doors open. That being said, APA will not accredit a site in its first year. If you know a site is close to accreditation, it can be an acceptable gamble to rank it if it is a “good fit” for what you want to do. My DCT told me that a site that has already received a site visit by APA, the odds that they will then be denied accreditation are about the same as a fully accredited site losing funding or accreditation without warning.
I actually matched at a site that is pending approval from APA after its site visit. Since accreditation is retroactive to the site visit, we have what I’m calling Schrodinger’s Accreditation: Once APA approves the site, we will have been accredited since December of 2013. I knew this site was a great match for me, and I knew I would love interning here. Sure, moving to rural Arkansas is an adjustment, but my experience will include things I would not get anywhere else, and my supervisor and I completely clicked in my interview. The gamble was worth it because I knew I would have an amazing experience here.
Just a few more posts in my Internship series. If there’s a topic you want me to cover that hasn’t come up yet, please let me know.