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.

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So You’re Using The Post-Match Vacancy Service

As if the crushing disappointment of Phases I and II was not enough for you, sites with different fiscal calendars have been able to add more intern spots throughout the summer. I would argue that this is probably the most stressful phase of the application process, in that you are engaging in what is basically a free-for-all of openings, applications, interviews, and offers. When I did the Post-Match Vacancy Service during my first application cycle, I was also starting a job and moving forward with the next year of my life. To be honest, I was almost relieved when sites either rejected me or failed to respond to my application all together, because it meant not having to pay the $2500 fee to break my lease, leaving my roommate high and dry, and quitting my position almost immediately after starting. Not to mention the possibility of moving across the country with as little as one week’s notice (this has happened in the PMVS. Sites will sometimes get approved for more interns in mid-June but want a July 1 start date). Then again, if it weren’t going to involve an inhumane amount of stress, it would not be graduate school.

That being said, I do wish I had been more aggressive in applying to post-match openings. For one thing, I might be finishing up my internship in the next few months rather than starting. For another, the cost of relocating on such short notice is probably about equal to what I had to pay to re-apply.

If you do choose to use this service, your best bet is to be quick and thorough. Many openings are first come, first serve with applications and do not set specific deadlines, and so if you choose to take the weekend to polish your cover letter, that position could be filled by Monday morning. Also, if you happen to have a connection at a site, PMVS is the time to use it. Sites are looking to fill positions quickly, and if someone can recommend a good fit, they will jump at the opportunity to at least offer you an interview. Does a site have a history of taking students from your program? Did a former supervisor work at a particular site? Do you have a classmate who matched there and might be able to put in a good word? I have heard of at least four people getting placed in the PMVS at sites that never submitted the opening to APPIC. At this point in the game, it is more about who you know than what you know.

Finally, keep in mind that not everyone uses this service. Many people are not in a position to drop everything, even if it is for an internship, on the kind of notice they often get in this service. When I was considering sites, I assumed I would be up against the 600 or so other unmatched students. But this year, I have been privy to some inside information at a couple of sites and was surprised to see how few applications are submitted. One APA-accredited site in a popular part of the country received only four applications for their opening. (Granted, this could be an anomaly – I was not able to get information about how many applicants they have gotten in previous years when they have used this service.) Compared to the up to 500 applications some sites get in Phase I, how can you not apply with those odds? And as with Phase II, there is no application fee. You are merely submitting materials you have already compiled. Why not go for it?

I have followed the PMVS for the past three years – once for my own research, then because I needed an internship, and now in solidarity with my friends who were left unmatched. I’ve noticed that the number of post-match openings, especially APA accredited post-match openings, seems to be increasing. It is becoming more and more possible to get an internship outside of the typical match process.

Next week I will tackle the dreaded process of re-applying. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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 Calculating Your Hours

This week I am writing from out of town as I search for apartments for my internship year. I am pleased to announce that I signed a lease yesterday afternoon, on a pet friendly one-bedroom with a huge kitchen, 5 minutes away from my site, and everything is falling into place.

Returning to my series on the application process, our next step is to discuss calculating your practicum hours. Hopefully you planned ahead and tracked your hours over the past few years, so most of the work has already been done for you. Most programs require that you have hours logs signed off on by your practicum supervisor at the end of each placement, and your DCT has to verify whatever you input in your APPI. Below I list my personal nuggets of wisdom for this step of the process.

  1. Make the most of each of your placements. From well before you apply for internship, you will be tracking your hours. When I completed an externship in a therapeutic school setting, I made a plan for myself at the beginning of the year to get as much as I could and immerse myself as fully as possible in that clinical environment. If I was filling out paperwork and heard that a student was having a difficult time, I chose to prioritize accumulating client hours and spend time helping that child. This often lead to me staying after the end of the school day to complete my other work, and at the end of the year I had significantly more hours from that placement than I would have otherwise had.
  2. Follow the APPIC guidelines to calculate your hours as accurately as possible. When you prepare your application, APPIC provides you with very specific guidelines as to how to count each of your hours. You might have to do some math, since they tweak the categories every year (my second year applying, some hours that had been categorized as therapeutic client time were re-classified as assessment based on the descriptions I read on the site). Having a high number of hours is important, but sites will be able to tell from talking to you if you are exaggerating your experience. Sell yourself…but stay honest.
  3. When in doubt, ask! You can’t go wrong if you do what your supervisor/adviser/DCT tell you to do. I sometimes brought home my assessment reports to revise, and I did this for months before my adviser told me that I could count this time even though I was not physically at my practicum site. In hindsight it does make sense – I was spending time writing an assessment report, after all. There tend to be a lot of rumors and misinformation about how to calculate hours, so I kept a line of communication open with my supervisors and adviser to make sure that I was tallying my hours based on what they told me.
  4. Don’t psych yourself out too much. Like I said, there is a lot of misinformation about how to calculate hours, and everyone has a slightly different system. If you discuss your hours with too many different people, you will over-think, and a relatively simple process suddenly becomes overwhelming. Keep it simple, because it does not need to be overly complicated. After all, whatever computer program you have been using to track your hours has done all of the math for you, and all you need to do is copy over the totals.

We are almost through the different components of the application. Next week I will touch on letters of recommendation. For now, I need to start packing!

So You Have To Submit Supplementals

There was a time not long ago when APPIC had few to no restrictions on what sites could request as supplemental materials. Sites began to demand more and more, and the application process became even more unreasonable than it already was. Some training directors were requesting individualized recommendations, additional essays, multiple essays, work samples, and more. I think this was partially so that sites could try to lower the number of applications they received by making the process even more demanding than necessary. (It must be terrible receiving so many applications that you have trouble choosing which of the overly-qualified candidates you will choose.)

The year that I applied to internship for the first time, APPIC mercifully put their proverbial foot down and announced that the only supplemental materials allowed are 1) a sample redacted assessment report and 2) a work sample/case conceptualization. Luckily for you, you probably already have these! I guarantee that, by the time you apply for internship, you have written at least one work sample for class, and if you are applying to the kinds of sites that require a sample assessment, you have had a practicum experience at which you have written several to choose from. Just double-check with your supervisor that you can use these reports.

With your supplementals, make absolutely certain that you have removed any and all identifying information about the client before you submit them. The many urban legend-horror stories about internship applications include several tales of solid applicants who were rejected because they accidentally left the client’s name on their redacted assessment. This means remove first and last names, addresses, home towns, et cetera (I left the state that the client lived in and that did not seem to be a problem). Refer to your client by first initial only, or by a fake name and clearly state that the name has been changed.

I also recommend having more than one sample for each of your supplemental pieces and choosing based on the type of site requesting it. I had two assessments: one of a young child whose primary issues were behavioral, and one of an adult with severe developmental difficulties. As usual, you should have extra sets of eyes look for style, format, and typos.

Good luck! Your application is almost complete!

So You’re Writing A CV

In the world of psychology, your CV is comparable to a certain part of the male body. Everyone seems eager to whip theirs out at conferences to see whose is the longest. There are about a dozen different approaches for writing a CV. APPIC’s applicant portan recommends including the following categories (if applicable):

  1. Identifying information
  2. Education
  3. Training
  4. Clinical experiences; Practicum; Psychotherapy experiences
  5. Supervision experience
  6. Research experience
  7. Publications, grants, professional presentations
  8. Teaching experience
  9. University and professional service
  10. Related work experience
  11. Volunteerism
  12. Awards/Honors
  13. Professional memberships, leadership positions held
  14. References

Don’t panic! Almost no one has experience in every single category when they apply. I certainly don’t. You do not have to include every category; this is just a starting point to make sure that you include all the impressive things about yourself. My final CV, the one I sent to the site at which I eventually ended up matching, had the following categories:

  1. Identifying information
  2. Objective
  3. Education (including information on my dissertation progress and the fact that my program is APA accredited)
  4. Practicum Experience
  5. Relevant Work Experience (paid positions relevant to psychology)
  6. Other Clinical Experience (my advocacy work)
  7. Research Experience
  8. Professional Presentations
  9. Electronic Media (my contribution to Dissertation Diaries)
  10. Teaching Experience
  11. University Professional Experience
  12. Volunteerism
  13. Trainings
  14. Honors and Awards
  15. Organizations and Memberships
  16. References

I have no publications or supervision experience at this point, which initially terrified me until I learned that the average applicant has zero publications at the time of internship. I also chose to break down some of the other categories in order to highlight my experiences, like highlighting my advocacy work rather than listing it under Volunteerism even though it was an unpaid position. Make sure to emphasize your responsibilities at each position listed in such a way that it highlights your readiness for internship. The good news is, thanks to practicum and job applications, you probably already have all of this information written up in some form. The other good news is, if you are thinking of applying to multiple types of sites, you can tweak your CV and submit more than one final draft. For example, if you are applying both to child/adolescent sites and college counseling centers, you can submit a CV that provides more in-depth recounts of your skills working with children and another that emphasizes your experience with college students, and send each site the the version that demonstrates your “fit” with that particular site.

Also, when writing your CV, proofread, proofread, PROOFREAD. Then proofread again. Then have your friends and professors all proofread in case you missed anything. Not just for typos, but to meticulously guarantee that every aspect of your CV has identical formatting. Just before I uploaded my final, FINAL draft during my first round of internship applications I noticed that one of my sections was underlined instead of bolded. How embarrassing. Hey, we would not be in graduate school if we were not a little bit obsessive-compulsive.

With regards to including work experience that is not directly relevant to your degree, I have received mixed feedback on this. When I was first applying to graduate school, my advisor strongly urged me to list my jobs as a bus driver and an usher on campus because my GPA was slightly lower than average for the types of programs to which I was applying, and she felt it would emphasize that I could have gotten higher grades if I had not been working to help pay for my education. At this point in grad school, though, your GPA is most likely not a concern. I would personally only list those positions that you can at least link to your graduate work in some way, and leave your part-time retail job off for now.

Just remember, your CV is a list of all the ways that you are fantastic. Instead of focusing on those categories where you have little or no experience, look at all the great things you have done to get where you are and showcase them to help you get to where you are going.

A great additional resource from APA for writing your CV can be found here.

Oh, and for the record, my CV is 7 pages long. Aw yeah.

Tune in next week for my thoughts on your internship essays! Also, click on this link to see the third installment of Dissertation Diaries.

So You’re Deciding Where To Apply

As I start this series, I am inviting any readers who are in the process of applying to internship, have successfully matched, or who are undergoing the Clearinghouse/reapplying for next year who are interested in writing a guest post to share their internship experience. As with my posts about the writing of my dissertation, my perspective is one of thousands, and I would love to be able to share others.

The first step in the application process is figuring out where to apply. There is an abundance of vague advice about deciding which sites to apply to. According to the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers, 744 internship sites offered 3,501 spots in Phase I of this year’s match. APPIC recommends that students apply to no more than 15 internships, and if you want to stick to this guideline (I personally didn’t, but the average applicant submitted 16 this year), you have to rule out 729 programs. It is completely overwhelming, and advisers, classmates, DCTs, and sites all encourage you to find sites that are a “good fit” for you.

After completing both Phase I and Phase II of the Match twice, totaling 4 application cycles, I have come to believe that “fit” is a mythological term with no real meaning. During Phase I of my first application year, I applied to sites that were consistent with the type of work I wanted to do after graduation. In Phase II, I applied to sites that fit with my previous training experiences. In Phase I this past fall, I applied to sites that fit with the specific training experiences in which my application could clearly and quantifiably demonstrate my interest. Three attempts to understand “fit” and three soul-crushing rejection letters from the National Matching Service telling me that I was not placed at an internship.

At the start of my fourth round of applications, I took a different approach. In Phase II, there is no application fee, and anyone who is registered for the Match can apply to any participating site free of charge. Since none of my strategies had worked, I decided to apply to any and every site that was either accredited or in the process of becoming accredited. For the first time, the interviews rolled in, several from sites I never would have previously considered – sites that do not fit with my training experiences, sites that are not a picture of where I see my career in ten years, sites I had completely overlooked in my first three application cycles.

Of course, this complicates things for anyone trying to follow my process. I am certainly not suggesting that anyone attempt to submit 744 applications for internship. What I am saying is that “fit” is a generic, empty term. Keep an open mind. Do not get stuck on a particular “type” of site. Do you want to work in an inpatient hospital for the rest of your life? That is a fantastic goal. That does not require that you spend your internship at that type of site. When I was applying unsuccessfully, I lost site of the fact that internship is only one year of your life. Why not try something you have not previously considered? It could round out your training and give you a new perspective on your skills that you would not have realized otherwise.

The use of the arbitrary nature of “fit” does, of course, go both ways. When the rejections started rolling in during Phase I this past fall, I began contacting training directors to ask what I could do to strengthen my application. Many cited that my interests were not a strong fit for what the site had to offer. I want to clarify that, due to the nature of the internship crisis, sites have begun receiving more applications, which does make the process of selecting interviewees more difficult. Sometimes fantastic students are overlooked in the flood of applicants. But it seems that “poor fit” has become the “he’s just not that into you” of internship: it gives no real explanation as to why a site is not ranking you, but lets the site off the hook for being more specific. As long as the internship crisis continues, sites will have to cite this reason regardless of its truthfulness, and it is not fair to anyone.

So let go of your expectations for finding a “perfect fit” for your internship year, and keep an open mind. I guess I have no real advice about choosing where to apply beyond that. We need to develop a new formula for what constitutes an ideal training experience, one that is not reliant on such vague criteria. We also need to find a resolution to the discrepancy between the number of applicants and internships available, but let’s take this one step at a time.