So You Matched!

When I underwent Phase II for the second time, I was completely emotionally wiped out. I have talked before about my strategy of applying to every site that had an opening. Faced with the prospect of a third round of applications, I was burning out fast. Then something amazing happened – sites were offering me more interviews than I had time to schedule them. (I do not care how stressed out you are, this is the best possible “problem” you can have while applying for internship. Complaints about finding time for all of your interviews will be met with hostility and being punched in the face, and no one will feel sorry for you.) My point is, I went all in on this phase. I was like someone running away from a serial killer who sees a ravine a head. You take the last bit of energy you have and throw yourself forward, knowing you will either fall to your death or be safe from harm on the other side. (In this scenario the serial killer is not very good at jumping.) I made comments to friends and family after my second Match Day that, if I didn’t get an internship in Phase II, I did not think I had it in me to apply a third time. It was this or dropping out of my program. And now that I am on the verge of starting my internship, I honestly do not know what I would have done had I been put in the position of making good on that promise.

I essentially coasted into the Phase II match on fumes with no energy left for anything else. Then, after the celebration ended, I realized that the journey was far from over. I had to move and figure out how to adjust to a new town. The transition takes energy – save some. Maybe you will be fortunate enough to not have to move for your internship. For a lot of people this is the most feasible option for completing their degree, but if you have the flexibility to relocate, I do recommend considering trying a new place. Having spent my entire life in Minnesota, four years of schooling in Connecticut pulled me out of my shell in a way that staying put never would. For my internship I headed South and am excited for another unique experience. However, moving is stressful.

When I was researching my move, the easiest and most affordable option was to ship my belongings and drive myself and my cats. Side note, cats do NOT like long car rides. I also suggest, if finances allow, taking a trip to apartment hunt prior to the move. Knowing exactly where you are going, and being able to see a place in person prior to signing a lease, is a huge stress relief.

As far as engaging in your new community, it is hard to make friends in adulthood! As someone who has been a full-time student since I was five, I have never had to actually go outside and meet new people. Social situations and friends have always been provided for me by my school. For the first week that I was in Arkansas, I barely left my apartment. Where was I supposed to go? Enter Facebook, of all things. I found a couple of local groups focused on some of my interests, met a couple of people, was introduced to more people,  and now I’m not sure how I will work my internship into my busy social schedule. 🙂

So, thank you for bearing with me as I rambled through my expertise on the internship process. This concludes my series for now, unless someone points out something that I missed. Good luck!

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So You’re Re-Applying

Match day comes and goes, Phase II comes and goes, the PMVS closes, and you are still without an internship. You have to add a year to your projected graduation, and you have the financial strain of re-applying. Now what?

Based on my research, internships post minimum hours requirements and tend to look at totals in terms of whether or not you meet this threshold and nothing more. You want to be able to show diversity of experiences, which you should have after completing three or more practicum experiences, but it seems that there is little to be gained from taking on more and more unpaid experiences simply to inflate your totals. If anything, once you pass a certain point, your totals may arouse suspicion that you either exaggerated your totals, or that your experiences are not well-rounded. My point is, if your hour totals meet the minimum requirements for the types of sites where you are applying, consider getting a job where you are compensated for your time with money and not just experience.

As far as finding said job, it can be difficult to get something related to the field if you are not either licensed, or know someone who can recommend you. My mentality in financing my graduate education has always been that I do not consider myself over-qualified for anything. Unfortunately, employers do not always agree, and I was turned down for a job at a group home simply because I already had my Masters. Anyway, I was able to continue boosting my CV and pay my rent by taking nanny jobs for children with special needs and working for an academic coaching agency.

One thing I wish I had done during my first round of applications was to reply to my rejection emails to inquire about how I might improve my application. Most training directors will either ignore you or decline to provide feedback, but a few might respond. They may give you valuable feedback as to how to improve your application, especially if you decide to re-apply to that site. This might be easiest to do after the match has ended – that way, they are more likely to have time to reply to you with a more thorough analysis of your qualifications.

Also, save everything. There is a good chance that, due to the nature of the imbalance, you did not match either due to bad luck or to minor details with your application. You do not need to start from scratch with your materials the following year. The APPIC portal closes sometime in April, so I recommend downloading copies of your applications early.

Remember that not matching is not a reflection on your abilities or intelligence. Self-esteem takes a hit when you don’t match, and it is difficult to keep this from showing in your subsequent applications. Hang in there.

So You’re Doing Phase II

I think I have been over this before, but in case I haven’t, I will recap. As the discrepancy between number of applicants and number of available internships increases, students are panicking. We are applying to a greater number of sites, and so sites are receiving double and even triple the number of applications they are used to. Blah, blah, blah, longer rank list, blah, blah, blah, computer, blah, blah, blah, math, and a higher number of sites are finding themselves with vacancies on match day.

APPIC’s website says that, unlike in Phase I, the number of interviews you have and the number of sites you rank has no impact on your chances of matching in Phase II. This does not make sense to me, and I have a theory that they are just saying that so they don’t have to run the numbers, but the point is that this information is not available.

Both years that I found myself filling out Phase II applications, I saw that sites that had denied me an interview in Phase I had post-match openings. It can feel awkward to re-apply to sites that have rejected you, but I absolutely recommend trying. Because sites are getting such a high volume of applications, they often deny qualified applicants simply because they cannot interview everyone. One site that I felt was an exceptional “fit” for what I wanted from an internship happened to have Phase II vacancies both years that I applied, and yes, between Phase I and Phase II, I applied to that site four times. I was rejected by that site three times. During Phase II this past year, they offered me an interview. (“And that, kids, is how you turn a no into a yes.”) I had to resist the urge to tell them that if they chose not to rank me, they could look forward to receiving my application again this fall.

Phase II is an incredibly condensed version of the application process. You have about a week to research sites, compile your materials, and submit applications. Then sites have about two weeks to conduct interviews. If possible, I strongly suggest trying to get a few days off of work, class, practicum, etc, since Phase II can become practically a full-time job. On the plus side, it is a much more affordable process. If you registered for a match number in Phase I, you can apply to as many sites as you want in Phase II with no application fee. I suggest taking advantage of this. When compiling your initial list of sites, you think about ruling out sites that don’t meet a specific list of training standards, but in Phase II I would recommend broadening this criteria. When looking at the list of openings, ask yourself, “Would I rather have ________ as my internship, or re-apply next fall?” Again, remember, it’s only for a year. I ended up matching at a site I hadn’t considered applying to in Phase II, and the more I learn about my placement the more I think this is the best place I could have ended up.

Regarding interviews, I have heard rumors that there are sites that request that you come in person during Phase II. My understanding was that APPIC does not allow them to require that you drop everything, buy a last-minute ticket, and fly out, but I have heard from others that some sites do ask for this.

It’s easy to get down on yourself for not matching. Hundreds of perfectly qualified applicants do not match every year. It’s most likely not a reflection on your skills as a clinician but a product of a bad situation that is beyond your control. As someone on the forums said, “What a great opportunity to practice my frustration tolerance!”

PS: Netflix added the Animorphs TV series to their line-up. If you are a product of the late 90s and early 2000s like I am, join me in my nostalgic self-care of the week. 🙂

So You’re Ranking Your Sites

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.

So You’re Preparing For Interviews, Part II

To help illustrate my points about presenting yourself well in interviews, I made a video of my tips. One tip I didn’t bring up in the video is this: When you are skyping with a site, they can’t see much below your chest. When I did my skype interviews, I used this to my advantage to make myself more comfortable and wore sweatpants to every interview. (I don’t recommend wearing no pants at all, since there is always a slight chance you’ll have to stand up, and it’s easier to mistake sweatpants for slacks than to not notice that someone is naked from the waist down.) Could you tell I was wearing sweatpants when I made this video? Probably not, because I kept it classy where it counted. 🙂

PS. Sorry for the background noise – it’s the south in the summer. I couldn’t bear to have my AC off long enough to even make this video.

PPS. I am not sorry for the cat in the background. He’s fabulous.

So You’re Preparing For Interviews, Part 1

Hello readers! I apologize for missing last week’s post. I arrived at my new apartment, unloaded my belongings from the trailer (thank you UPack for servicing the Middle of Nowhere so that I didn’t have to drive the truck myself!), and learned that my shower was not working. My landlady worked with me and got it foxed promptly, and then a combination of thunder storms and bad wiring knocked my power out. I got lights back quickly, but my outlets were still down, so I couldn’t plug in my wifi router or charge my laptop. Fortunately I am back online, although I am still waiting for an electrician to re-wire a couple of my outlets so that I can get both AC units up and running again. Ah, the joys of relocating to a new town.

Anyway, as promised, I will be writing today about interviewing. Over the two years that I applied, I participated in in-person, skype, and phone interviews. I interviewed one-on-one, with a group of other applicants, and alone against a panel of clinicians at the site. It’s all terrifying, stress-inducing, and generally not very much fun. Below is a list of common internship interview questions. I was not asked all of these questions, but my research has shown me that these (or variations on them) are most likely what you will hear in interviews.

Professional Development

  • Tell us about your professional development – what brought you into this field and what has influenced you?
  • What assessment measures have you used?
  • What psychologist has influenced your development as a psychologist?
  • What is your theoretical orientation?
  • How many publications do you have?
  • What clients have you liked or not liked working with, and why?
  • What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses? What do you do to compensate for your shortcomings?
  • What are the qualities of a good psychologist?
  • What is the role of a psychologist in a multidisciplinary team?
  • Tell about an ethical dilemma you faced and how you handled it.
  • What is your opinion of psychologists having prescription rights?
  • What is your experience providing informal consultation?
  • How will you know when you are ready to complete your training?
  • What is your theory of change?

Treatment

  • Describe a difficult case and how you handled it.
  • How can you tell when a client is ready for termination?
  • Tell about a good experience you have had with a client.
  • How do you work with clients who present with many issues?
  • What further training experiences do you need?
  • What empirically validated treatments are you familiar with?
  • How do you work with and understand clients from different backgrounds?
  • How would you respond if a client came on to you sexually / how would you handle it if a client disclosed a previous sexual relationship with a therapist?

Personal

  • How do you handle change?
  • What are your career goals?
  • What sets you apart from other applicants?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • What hobbies do you have? What do you do in your free time?
  • What would you do if you weren’t in psychology?
  • What would you like me to know about you that is not listed on your CV?
  • What articles have you read recently?

Graduate Program

  • Tell me about the most difficult thing you have experienced in graduate school.
  • Why did you choose your graduate program?
  • What are the strengths and limitations of your graduate program?
  • Tell me about your dissertation.
  • How to translate dissertation to other populations?

Supervision Style

  • What is your favorite form of supervision and why?
  • Tell about a good and bad experience you’ve had with a supervisor?

Assessment:

  • What is your opinion on projective tests?
  • What does ______ represent on the Rorschach?
  • Conceptualize a recent case (or conceptualize a case presented to you as a vignette).
  • What further assessment training do you need?

Site-Specific

  • Why us? What drew you to this site? / Why do you want this internship? / What do you want out of an internship experience?
  • What makes you a good fit for this program?
  • How do you feel about relocating to this area?
  • What questions do you have for us?

When I was waiting to hear back about interviews, I used the time to come up with general answers to most of these questions. Practice saying your answers out loud, to a mirror, to a classmate, to an adviser, to a web cam, over the phone. Try to keep your answers concise (interviewers hate rambling!) and get your responses down to under two minutes at most. Specific examples and stories make you more memorable, so try to come up with an anecdote rather than a more vague description. For example, if you are asked “How would you handle a client who…”, talk about a similar case you had.

You will most likely give similar responses to many of these questions across several interviews, so you do not need to know which sites will be interviewing you in order to come up with answers. (Your reasons for choosing your graduate program or your assessment experiences are not going to change at different interviews, for example.) I recommend having multiple examples of case conceptualizations to draw on, since some sites may ask for more than one. Also practice thinking on your feet with vignettes assigned to you. Have a friend or classmate present you with cases you have not personally seen, and practice coming up with treatment recommendations, conceptualizations, or assessments you might use on that case. Most sites will only ask for one or two conceptualizations, but I did have one interview in which I was asked to conceptualize two previous clients and FIVE vignettes (no that is not a typo). Be prepared to go with the flow.

Another thing to be prepared for is training directors who want to “test” you during your interview. I personally do not agree with this practice or the logic behind it, but it happens. Those who use this technique claim that they want to see how you handle pressure or difficult situations, possibly by contradicting everything you say or trying to twist your answers in ways you clearly did not mean. However, I maintain that the mere act of being at the interview shows how you handle pressure, and this kind of manipulation is more of a power trip than anything else. They know they can get away with this rude and frankly unprofessional behavior because, with the match crisis, most of us would rather take a less-preferred site than no site at all. When I was ranking sites, I still submitted a site that behaved this way as my last choice. Was I indicating that I would prefer not to go to that site? Absolutely, but I was also demonstrating that I was still willing to go to that site just to be done with the process.

I could write a novel on all the ways that this process, for lack of a better word, sucks. Only you can decide what would cause you to rule out a site altogether. In the four rank lists I submitted, there was one site where I interviewed but chose not to rank. As with everything else, it is a highly personal decision. I will discuss ranking in more detail at a later date. For now, I will point out that it is never too early to start thinking about your answers to the questions above (although maybe focus on getting your actual applications done first), and next week I will talk about the nuances of in-person, phone, and video interviews.

So You Need Letters Of Recommendation

I know these posts about each section of the APPI are not up to my usual standard of entertainment. Heck, I’m bored with writing them. The good news is, this is the last of my application posts. Starting next week we will focus on the interview process, and then the match. When I started this series I did not realize how extensive of an undertaking it would become. (Sometimes I don’t think things through before starting a project. I occasionally wonder if that is how I ended up in a doctoral program.) I may well still have posts about the internship process coming out when next year’s applicants are interviewing.

Anyway, letters of recommendation! Almost every site I have researched requires 3 letters. A few give you the option to submit a fourth, but I do not know of any sites that require 4 letters. You can request as many letters as you would like; for example, if you are applying to VAs and college counseling centers, you might choose to send a letter from a VA supervisor to the VAs but not to the UCCs and vice versa. You also have the option to have your writers submit more than one version of their letter. (If you have an adviser who is willing to personalize your recommendation to each individual site, then she or he needs to evaluate their professional boundaries, but they might be willing to tailor two versions of the letter for specific types of sites.)

When should you ask for letters? I maintain that it is not possible to ask advisers, professors, and supervisors to write you a letter too early. The first time I applied for internship, I wanted a letter from a college counseling supervisor, but I had just started that practicum. The question of a recommendation for internship was the topic of our very first supervision session. He was surprised, but he got it done. Just make sure that you confirm that they received APPIC’s email requesting the letter. I had an instance where I had to re-submit the request because the email fell into one of the internet’s black holes, and I could have saved myself some time if I had followed up sooner.

When will your letters be uploaded? This depends on the writer. Both years, my dissertation chair had my letter submitted more than one month prior to the deadline. My former supervisor, on the other hand, uploaded my letter on exactly November 1 both times. It was nail-biting for me, but he got it done. If you are worried, or if you have not heard from the writer in a few weeks, or if the deadline is tomorrow, there is nothing wrong with calling them to follow up and make sure they are not having any submission issues.

Can you read your letters? APPIC does not have a way for you to read your letters after they have been submitted. I believe you actually agree to waive your right to see them. However, I have been advised by multiple parties that you should never agree to let someone be your letter writer unless they are willing to let you view the letter before it is submitted. At the very least, when you ask someone to write you a recommendation, clarify that you do not want them to accept unless they are willing to write a strong letter. Due to the internship crisis and subsequent metaphorical arms race among applicants, letters of recommendation for internship are not typical of the rest of the world. Generally, a strong recommendation includes an assessment of the individual’s strengths and areas for growth. For your applications, you will need your letters instead to be glowing tributes to how awesome, amazing, and perfect you are in every way. Indications of room for improvement are often taken by sites as a sign of weakness and lead to your application being moved into the rejection pile. Make sure that your letter writers are on the same page as you with regards to the content of the letters.

And, as usual, remember to take care of yourself despite the ever-increasing stress levels and burdens of responsibility on your time and mental health.

Next week I will move on to the dreaded Waiting Period, followed by a series on nailing your interviews.